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."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

An Interesting Year, So Far.

Well, it’s been, as Incurious George up in the White House might put it, a heck of a year, so far. I’ve been appointed Director of Jazz Performance Studies here at Tulane University.. John Korsrud (AKA Johnny Reno, AKA Styles Bitchly) came to visit. Wynton Marsalis delivered a great speech, and a great performance, at Tulane’s Mcalister Auditorium. Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra are now officially Artists in Residence at Tulane. Krewe De Veaux, the Carnival organization that specializes in irreverent political and sexual humor, paraded through the Fauborg Marigny and the French Quarter. Phil Dwyer brought his Krewe of Kanucks to town. Our landlords’ house burned down, and we are without gas and electricity. And the United States of America (or at least its’ federal government) of which we are presumably a part, continues to ignore us.

The directorship gig is mostly just a title; I’m still doing the same stuff I did last year, with the addition of a little extra work in taking on the newly resurrected jazz orchestra. The university has let a lot of people go post Katrina, and those of us who are left are all being asked to take on extra work. So far, no one’s complaining. We’re just glad to have jobs. An awful lot of people don’t.

And as of today, an awful lot of people won’t have a roof over their heads, either. Today is the day the brain trust at FEMA stops picking up the tab for about 12,000 people in the New Orleans area who are staying in hotels at government expense. The agency claims to have found housing for ‘about 80%’ of those folks, but that still leaves over 2,000 people out in the cold. And it is cold right now, almost went down to freezing last night (perhaps Mr. Dwyer brought some Canadian weather with him?).

Since a large number of police and firefighters and their families were being housed this way, I figure it’s a good bet that some of the firefighters who responded to the fire at our landlords’ house yesterday will soon find themselves on the street. Frank and Carol got through the storm and the flood all right, no water and minimal roof damage. The roofers were just putting the finishing touches on the repairs when a torch they were using to heat gum sealant on a flat part of the roof set it afire. Normally, the fire department would have been there in five minutes. Post Katrina response was forty five minutes. My wife Darlene, Frank and Carol, and various neighbors all tried to extinguish the fire with garden hoses, but water pressure is still very weak in the system, and the house is a write off. Our landlords are now staying down the street in a guesthouse, and at the end of the month will move into one of their son’s properties. Meanwhile, because our meter was on their property, we have no gas or electricity.

Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra is normally based out of Dillard University, but since Dillard’s campus was trashed by the flood, they are now headquartered here at Tulane. It’s a little early in the game to know how this will shake out in terms of benefits to my students, but I can’t imagine how having a big-band’s worth of some of the best players in New Orleans around would be anything but a benefit. Stay tuned for more on this as the situation develops.

Mr. Korsrud was only here for a couple of days, but I’m pleased to report he was a model house-guest. A light snorer. Doesn’t take up too much room on the couch. Knows how to make a bar tab disappear. Perhaps he’ll post his take on the trip over in the Forum?

John, the ball is in your court.

Carnival season technically starts January 6th, at the Feast of Epiphany (know to all good Catholics as ‘the day Mary got her stitches out’), but the first really big parade this year was the Krewe De Veaux this past Saturday night. Unfortunately that was the same night Phil Dwyer brought his Krewe of Kanucks to the House of Blues. Sorry Phil, but a gig’s a gig. I had to give the Kanucks a pass to freeze my butt off with the Hot 8 at Krewe De Veaux..

The Krewe De Veaux’s theme this year was “C’est Levee.” Lots of blue-tarped roof-hats. Not surprisingly, lots of phallic/sexual imagery (My wife Darlene exclaimed, more than once, “I’ve just been poked by a giant penis!”). And flyers urging the French to repatriate the state of Louisiana (“Buy Us Back, Chirac!”). Fifteen, count ‘em, fifteen brass bands. And a float in the shape of a giant vagina labeled “MANDATORY EJACULATION.”

My personal favorite though, is a small business card reading “Bush and Brownie Reno Contractors: Funky. Like Your Fridge.” I shall treasure it, always.

In the midst of all this, the city is still deeply, deeply damaged. Large areas are still without electricity, almost six months after the flood. Mail service is spotty, many other government services are nonexistent. Only one hospital (Touro) is open in all of Orleans Parish.

Everyday, I deal with people who have lost everything. Irvin Mayfield lost his own father to the flood. They are still finding the odd corpse in the lower ninth ward.

People here feel abandoned by their own government, and who can blame them. Many thousands more still cannot return, because there is no housing for them.

The United States cannot allow this situation to continue if it wishes to be perceived as a civilized nation.

Comments on "An Interesting Year, So Far."


Blogger JLash said ... (6:34 PM) : 

Just a note to acknowledge your writing...interesting, heartbreaking. In an odd convergence of circumstances, I lived in NOLA, as a working musician, from 2001 til March of last year, and am marrying a Canadian woman later this year and moving to Vancouver. I still keep in touch with some people in NOLA and am amazed at the stories I hear of the continuing incompetence of the government. Amazing that this happens in this country in this day and age. But....this is what supposedly the choice of the American people at election time. Sad indeed.
Coincidentally, I am playing near NOLA this coming week and am flying in a day early to have a look for myself. I am bracing for the worst.


post a comment