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."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Not Good.

That's a cat 5 you're looking at there before landfall, though they're saying it'll go down to a cat 4.
This is looking very grim.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stay or Go.

As of twelve noon tomorrow, Tulane university will be closed, as will it's dormitories. Those students unable to leave town on their own will be bused to Jackson Mississippi on Saturday. I've heard, from two sources (one of whom claims to be tight with someone high up in the Nagin administration) that tomorrow (friday) at noon the mayor's office will order a mandatory, city-wide hurricane evac.

My opinion (and it's one shared by many native New Orleanians) is that this is nuts. At this point Gustav has not even entered the gulf and is technically still a Tropical Storm. The storm track and cone of probability (oh my gawd! We're in the cone!) show a possibility of landfall anywhere between Galveston Texas and Jacksonville Florida, and the little red hurricane symbols notwithstanding (the ones that always make it look like the damn thing is headed right down the mouth of the Mississippi) the statistical probability of Gustav making landfall at New Orleans is no greater than that of it making landfall anywhere else on those 700-plus miles of coastline.

Still, you never know, right? Better safe than sorry. And since the storm is currently travelling at a breakneck speed of 7m.p.h. (reminiscent of that scene in "A Fish Called Wanda" where Michael Palin is attempting to kill Kevin Kline with a painfully slow-moving steamroller) it really does beg the question, so often posed by right wing pundits after Katrina, "how can you be too stupid to get out of the way of a hurricane?" Because, in neoconservative-land, everything is simple. Up, down. Right, left. Black, white...especially black, white. Here in the real world of course, things are messy and complicated. I'd like to offer up a couple of personal anecdotes to illustrate.

I have a co-worker whose father is dying of bone cancer. He's at home (here in the Land of the Uninsured a hospice is of course out of the question, unless you're lucky enough to be John McCain and get free healthcare) and is actually more or less able to take care of himself, with a little help from my co-worker and her husband. However, if the 'Cane hits and we lose power, he could go downhill pretty fast. On the other hand, a 22 hour stop-and-go drive in a hurricane evac could kill him. If they leave today, before the evac is called, they might miss most of that traffic from hell. But both she and her husband have work commitments that will keep them here through friday...at which point the evac will have produced the Traffic Jam From Hell.

Their solution? Wait. And pray. The truth of the matter is, no hurricane track prediction really means very much until the storm is about 18 hours out, which will likely be monday afternoon. Thirty six hours before landfall just east of New Orleans, Katrina was predicted to hit Florida.

Darlene and I are in a slightly different pickle. We have a standing offer of a place to stay from our friend Candace in Dallas (I bunked with Candace for a week after Katrina, and Darlene and I both stayed with her on the evac from no-show Ivan in '04). We also have an advisory from Mr. Donald, our mechanic, to avoid long trips in our on-its-last-legs 17 year old car. If we leave now, we could maybe avoid the traffic jam that turned a two-hour drive to Baton Rouge in '05 into a 14 hour stop-and-go nightmare. But, we both have work commitments that keep us here at least till friday night, and in Darlene's case possibly until saturday. When, you guessed it, traffic may very well kill our car. My friend and mentor, Tulane jazz history professor John Joyce Jr., who has lived in New Orleans nearly all of his 68 years and never left for any hurricane, including Katrina, says, "the worst place to be during a storm, worse than up to your chest in water in the 6th ward, is broke down by the side of the road."

So there it is. My feeling is in the end it'll be a big to-do over not much. But the story is much too juicy and literally writes itself; "Mayor Calls City-Wide Hurricane Evacuation on the Eve of Third Katrina Anniversary." You can practically hear the print reporters and cable-news gas-bags licking their chops. And gee, just think what a black eye it'll give the republicans if there's another Katrina on the first day of their convention.

You'll of course forgive us if we're less than anxious to take one for the team.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Ever get the feeling you've inadvertantly pissed off somebody higher up in the pecking order?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I'm here, continued...

I've had several readers point out that I never did get to the point of my last screed, which is, essentially, why would someone with options choose to live in a place like post-Katrina New Orleans.

The short answer, that this place, even in it's damaged state, is like no other isn't quite enough. Contrarians always argue that every place on earth is unique unto itself, and this is of course true. Evanston Illinois, or Port Coquitlam British Columbia are both unique in their own way. They even have their own distinct cultures. Sterile, barren, mass-produced post-modern cultures, but culture nontheless.

I've spoken at some length previously about the pre-modern agrarian-cycle nature of New Orleans culture. It is also a participatory culture in that being a New Orleanian is something you do as well as an identity you carry. All the cornball, "What is New Orleans" litanies, red-beans and rice on Mondays, Creole Gumbo for lunch at L'il Dizzy's, shrimp po'boy (dressed) at the Parkway, Kermit Ruffins at Vaughn's Lounge on Thursdays, Rebirth at the Maple Leaf on Thursdays, St. Joseph's altars, three pennies at the crossroads for Papa Legba, Indians on Super Sunday...all present and accounted for. Food, music, ritual. Things both the native-born and the newcomer can participate in without hesitation or embarrassment, if one simply comes with a open heart. And while there is sometimes a touristy element to some of these things that tempts cynicism, if you've ever seen, say, a real neighborhood second-line (as opposed to the fake ones at jazzfest, or at rich people's weddings or corporate functions) or seen the Indians come out on Carnival Day, your deepest instincts will tell you you're in the presence of some serious, hardcore shit. The kind that doesn't come around too much anymore in our smart-ass, been-there-done-that 'ironic' world.

So really, bottom line (as the been-there-done-that smartasses like to say) am I coming out ahead by staying here? In the area of straight-up money, no. Even by the luke-warm standard of arts faculty salaries, I could probably do better in Dallas, or Los Angeles, or Chicago. New York City too, but the insane cost of living would more than cancel out any salary bump. And New Orleans, while it has plenty of places to play, is not immune from the kind of cliquey-ness that makes getting a gig a rough slide in other cities, and straight-ahead jazz is as tough a sell here as anywhere. The real action is in more commercial genres; funk, for the college kids, trad jazz for the tourists. And post-Katrina booking policies have gotten tight, with some rooms shutting down and some pushing play-for-the-door policies.

Then there's the crime, the weather, and the ever present possibility of getting flooded out again.

So, am I crazy? Maybe. But I'm inclined to think that my decision to make my life here has less to do with any big-picture laundry list of "quality of life" items than a profound appreciation of the moment, or more properly the continuing string of moments that are the actual stuff of life. Money is a fine thing, and I think we should all have scads of it, but as Redd Fox used to say, you ain't never going to see a Brink's truck following a hearse. And when the sum of any individual life is totalled, it's got squat to do with how many CDs you played on or who you gigged with. What counts is the connection you made with the people in your life.

There comes a time when you reach a certain age...you start thinking about death in a different way. Not the tragically romantic but nevertheless abstract way that young people do, but as a conceivable certainty. You develop a bone-deep understanding of the inevitability of that D.W. Rhodes funeral carriage, the one that, literally or figuratively, waits for us all. No exceptions will be made. No you can't cut some kind of deal. You, yourself, your physical person, will get stuck in a box and buried underground, or roasted in an oven. And who has "the most toys" does not mean shit.

We're all going to be dead someday. New Orleanians understand this better than any other people in America. The time we have on earth should be spent with each other in ways that matter.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's August 29.

Today's post is by our first ever "guest columnist," my good buddy Lou Maistros, who offers up what I think is en excellent plan to offset the crepescular gloom that sets in every year around this time since "the Thing" happened.
"So it’s August and the big anniversary is coming up. Me and the family usually head to Gulf Shores, Alabama to lie on the beach, count our blessings, and forget. We really don’t need a flashy annual reminder of what turned our lives upside down.

I understand the desire to commemorate what happened, and to pay tribute to the lives that were lost. But that’s really not us, y’know? This is the land of jazz funerals; where the usual drill is to look death in the eye, thumb our collective nose at it, and strike up the band. All this commemoration stuff is a just a flat-out bummer, and it’s out of character.

This year, let’s do what we do. Turn the beat around. Take a sad song and make it better. Transform the blues into a turbo-charged, sugar-frosted luv-mo-sheen. Let’s take the anniversary of the worst thing that’s ever happened to this city and make it a day that promotes change for the better and celebrates the power of redemption over catastrophe. Let’s be a city of wise-aching smart alecks. Yes, this is what we do.

I have a proposal for my fellow New Orleanians.
This year, on August 29, instead of mulling over our misfortunes, let’s take a cue from the president. Let’s follow his lead – with an act of solidarity and tolerance that will push the boundaries of human comprehension.

This August 29, let’s shuffle off the collective gloom by having a citywide party that celebrates the birthday of John McCain.


Pop quiz: Where was President Bush when the big storm hit, on August 29, 2005?
He was in Arizona having a piece of birthday cake with his buddy, John McCain.

The president didn’t get caught with his pants down, the storm did not take him by surprise. Everyone saw it coming, knew exactly when it would make landfall. The president’s master plan for zero hour was, apparently: Gotta get me summa that cake!
I’m not sure if I blame the president. Think about it. John McCain, in effect, lured a mentally-disabled manchild to Arizona with the promise of a tasty hunk of birthday cake. How can we expect a feeble-minded person to resist such yummy temptation?

I’m not sure if I blame Senator McCain either. When you reach his age, you really have to celebrate each birthday as if it might be your last – bodies floating down the streets of a major American city be damned!

So this August 29, let’s follow the example of these two great Americans – one who is president, and the other who will be the next president if we’re not careful.

Let them eat cake. And let’s have some, too!

Start making plans. I want to see McCain birthday parties popping up all over the city this August 29. It will be a chance to turn a frown upside-down, and to provide the sort of high-minded, outrageous political mockery that New Orleanians have always been famous for.

Start blogging about your McCain Birthday Bash plans, set up websites, and spread the word!

Come as you were: life preservers and air-mattress-as-flotation-devices are optional but recommended! Don’t forget those pointy little paper birthday hats – and be sure to bring lots and lots of candles!

If our citywide McCain Birthday Bash makes the national news (as it should!), it will be an opportunity for us to remind the rest of the country (in a very important election year!) what Candidate McCain really thinks of American citizens who are staring down the darkest moment of their recorded history: Not much!

He didn’t let us ruin his party, so let’s not let him ruin ours!

If we play our cards right, we can: pass a good time, make a point about the common-decency-deficit in the Republican party, help get Senator Obama elected, let the world know we’ve still got a sense of humor, and wish an old man a happy birthday.

Everybody wins!

That’s right, New Orleanians, this August 29th we can save the human race with a good old-fashioned hunk of birthday cake. It’s not been done before, but there’s a first time for everything…"