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."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Crescent City Steakhouse Up.

It ain't all gloom and doom, apparently.

I try to vary my routes to work at Tulane, the better to keep an eye on the city's glacial pace of recovery. Today I drove down Ursuline to North Broad and took a right, and noticed the Crescent City Steakhouse was open.

It must be some kind of indication of severe emotional instability, but this absolutely delights me. Pre-Katrina, the Crescent was just one steakhouse among many, distinguished mostly by it's decor (old-school to the max, with beautiful, wooden John-Garfield-style private booths with a curtain you could draw if you so desired) and by it's popularity as an after-Carnival spot with a wide range of clientele; black, white, rich, poor, and everything in between. The real big-time machers, the political movers and shakers and Chamber of Commerce types, tended to gather up the street at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, which remains boarded up, head office moved to Miami, not coming back etc.

Crescent City joins a handful of other businesses which are gradually lighting up the strip of North Broad that runs from Ursuline to Orleans Avenue, places like the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club (a little mini-complex that contains the clubhouse, a lounge, and a gift shop) the Boss Soul Aquarius barber and beauty salon, and the F&F, a supermarket sized place that sells all manner of candles and charms (including "follow me" oil and "boss fix powder") associated with the practise of Voodoo and Santeria.

My new Mid-City neighboorhood was hit hard by the flood. Not damaged on the spectacular level of the Lower 9 or parts of Lakeview, but decimated nonetheless. This hurts on a number of levels. The neighborhood was composed mostly of folks of modest means, many of them African-American, and these are people who often don't have the financial resources to rebuild and return (the guy in F&F told me that none of his regulars from the immediate neighborhood have returned) and, from an aesthetic point of view, this is one of the great, beautiful old New Orleans neighborhoods. Most of the housing stock is around a century old, much of it with wonderful Victorian Gingerbread detailing. Up towards our end of the neighborhood, along Bayou St. John, there are a number of old, French plantation houses that are around 300 years old. Our house itself is about 120 years old, and was probably built to house servants working in the 'big houses' fronting the Bayou. Although it is modest in size, it is exquisitely detailed, with 14 foot ceilings and cypress floors.

Our block is up on a slight ridge and was spared the worst of the flooding (we have a floodline on our front steps that reaches up to the third of six steps) but the more you walk towards North Broad, the deeper the water got. At the corner of Orleans and North Broad it was chest high.

It's heartening to see these businesses opening up, but for the foreseeable future it looks like it'll be a lonely walk back from the steakhouse.

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