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 30, 2009

Another Year Gone...

...in this delightful, horrifying place.

I've never been able to explain the appeal, really, when I'm away on the road and people ask why I live here. The fact is that after six years in residence, the things that are an easy 'sell' to tourists don't interest me at all. The French Quarter wears pretty quickly, I seldom go down there unless I have a gig. It's full of t-shirt shops and obnoxious tourists; sometimes it seems like every jerk in America is there for the express purpose of getting blind drunk and acting the fool. The Garden District is physically beautiful but devoid of streetlife, everyone hiding inside with the air-conditioning, guarding their money. The St. Charles Avenue streetcar makes for a scenic ride, but you'll get where you're going a lot faster on the Freret Street bus.

Don't get me wrong, all this stuff still blows me away. I was recently reading a blog written by a guy who moved to Argentina a year ago, and he was saying that the trouble with actually living in a place like Buenos Aires was that after a while, it starts to seem normal, even mundane. I'm guessing Buenos Aires must have a better functioning infrastructure than New Orleans then, because here, mundane don't enter into it. What with all the shooting and cutting and hurricane evacs and the general sense of insecurity, like we could all be flooded out again at a moments notice, or blown away, or take a stray round through the head, there's never any chance of things feeling ho hum. But get up in the morning and go to work? Wait in line at the grocery, pick up the dry cleaning? We all do that. It's just that in New Orleans, the conversation is a lot more entertaining.

I guess that last sentence catches the corner of it. I could (and often do) go on about "da cultcha," the music, the food, the architecture, the various elements that create the lived experience of being here, something everyone in town walks out the front door and into every day. But it the end it's just that simple; it's the people, the sense of engagement, the feeling of every human encounter and transaction being something to be savored and enjoyed, not rushed through so one can get to one's 'real life.' All that mundane shit, that is your real life, and if you don't get that, you're gonna miss it.

That's it, isn't it? I put up with the weather, the violence, the poverty, the diminished lifespan and career expectations, all because I had a funny and enjoyable conversation with a stranger on line at the Post Office this morning.

Well, that, and parades like the Young Men Olympian last fall:

(warning: turn down the volume on your computer playing this video. This is pure, uncut, hardcore New Orleans street shit, bruh.)

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