Saxophonist John Doheny was born in Seattle Washington in 1953 but has spent much of his adult life in Canada, primarily in Vancouver and Toronto. After early experiences accompanying strippers in bars and cabarets he became a professional R&B sideman in the late 1970s, touring and recording with artists both prominent and obscure. In 1991 he returned to Vancouver and began a program of intense musical study, both in academe (Vancouver Community College, the University of British Columbia) and in the more informal area of performance. He asserts that "all human intercourse is either an opportunity to learn or to teach. Everything that I know about jazz performance (to the extent that I know anything at all) I owe to those players, teachers and students who have suffered to share the bandstand and the teaching studio with me." Since 2003, Mr. Doheny has been a permanent resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, but makes every effort to spend summers in Canada because "it's too damn hot down here then."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Out Of New Orleans

My apologies in advance for the occasionally incoherent and opinionated nature of this, but these are difficult times for me and my fellow New Orleanians. We've always known that we are exotics, not "real Americans," more a part of the caribbean social and political orbit than that of the United States (the best descriptive I ever heard of New Orleans was "it's like a combination of Port Au Prince, Haiti and Patterson, New Jersey"). The things we dig, music, food, offbeat lowbrow culture, hedonism, eccentricity, are not the things George W. Bush's America places value on.

Our alienation from the mainstream was a source of pride for us. We'd joke about driving over to Texas or Florida to "discover America," and say how much we didn't like it, how the food sucked and there were too many white people and no music in the streets. Dallas? Unfit for human habitation! Atlanta? Just try and find a decent Ettoufe! But the shit ain't funny anymore. Not when you've received a giant Go Cheyney Yourself from your own federal government, and been left for dead in the flooded streets.

The absolute shamelessness of these bastards astounds me. To suggest that 'penalties should be considered' for those who couldn't leave, who 'excercized poor judgement' (why didn't they just load up the Range Rover and head up to the summer place?). I'm left speechless and with murder in my heart.Penalties?! Drowning in toxic waste isn't penalty enough? When I first came to new Orleans, people in the 9th ward used to tell me that their neighborhood was flood prone because the white power structure wanted it that way. At the time I wrote this off as hyperbole; benign neglect seemed a more reasonable answer. But now I know this was genocide by design. Wiping out the 9th ward suits Bushco just fine. Dead or dispersed, doesn't matter, as long as they're gone, because all those poor people were seriously getting in the way of Operation Gentrify America. Back before container shipping and other technological advances, they had a use for those folks (a strong back is a terrible thing to waste). But not no more. Just a bunch of unsightly Negroes getting in the way of Disneyfication.

As for me, I'm in better shape than a lot of my friends. Our house apparently got some wind damage but no serious flooding (although black mold is now a threat. I fear for Darlene's art work, and my music library). A glass brick in the bathroom wall was knocked out, probably by flying debris, and the skylight on the roof was torn off.

After week long stop-overs in Dallas/Fort Worth and San Francisco, I'm temporarily back in Vancouver, freezing my ass off.I still have a job. Tulane is going to re-open in January. Darlene and I plan to return to NOLA in late November.

I'm slowly re-establishing contact (mostly by e-mail) with various New Orleans musicians and shit-disturbers, and we're all, each and every one, determined to return as soon as we can. A difficult task stands before us. The Bush administration's "rebuild it better than before" is of course code for "no Negroes," and that cannot be allowed to happen. The soul of New Orleans is not in it's architecture but in it's people, who have now been scattered all over the country. They must be allowed to return and rebuild the cultural communities which have continued to produce vital art and music all these years, in spite of the larger culture's attempts to turn our city into another shopping mall horror.

I'm troubled by nightmares, mostly involving drowning in confined spaces. I still haven't fully processed my father's death in March, and now I'm trying to comprehend the almost total destruction of my adopted city, and the life I had built there. Many of my friends and colleagues are among the missing, and I fear for them.

But I'm determined to go back, and rebuild. Though these are terrible times, change always brings opportunity. And I feel I owe a debt to the city and people of New Orleans, who welcomed me so warmly when I moved there two years ago. And so, if the powers that be wish (and I guess that would be you Brian) I'll continue to be Your Man in (temporary exile from) New Orleans.

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