Life is not to be endured.
Time unmarked continued to slip away with every note, crash and lick, and the night’s final stage was overflowing like the costumed frenzy on the street. At least five saxophones took turns scaling up and down with support from a standup bass and a jangling drum kit. Each musician had his turn to unleash a great fervency for a dwindling Sunday night crowd, and somewhere between the gradual transitions from dusk to dawn a slow trumpet shined under the stage lights.
He didn’t look tall enough to sit at the bar. In nondescript dress, his legs dangled like a child’s and his droopy drawers cried for a belt. His eyes were wide, not lost to stormy liquors, and his mouth hung partly open, inviting sensitive thoughts to stumble through the mind. After not too long, he jumped off the stool and headed towards the big, brass sound.
He approached the lights and frantic, propelling rhythms, and took a step or two to the left. Nestled in a pile of clothing and a stash of cases, he picked up a trumpet and now summoned thoughts of prediction and curiosity. He stepped on the stage and took his place in line with the others waiting to deliver nothing more than passion, something that is never less than perfect.
When his turn came, he licked his lips while stepping forward, puckered and began to play. The unyielding bass and rap-tap-tapping reinforced his crescendo. His fingers popped up and down in time with rise and fall off his puffed chest, forcing hearts to pump a little faster and the soul to go a little deeper.
After giving way to the next musician, he jumped back down off of the stage and walked over to the few left sitting in the dark corners of the Frenchman Street bar. In contrast to his performance, his words spilled out and they were not easy to understand. It hardly mattered because his smile - the one thing that means the same thing in every language - translated the jumbled reverberations of his speech, inviting once again such sensitive thoughts, pangs of curiosity and the desire to make sure such a delicate man had a safe place to sleep at night.
Again and again he took his place on the stage with the New Orleans jazz masters and, with eyes shut, he filled the space with such unforeseen beauty. It was his voice for when he put the instrument down he was without the gift of clarity and the blessing of the ordinary.
When it was time to leave and join the others in the streets winding back to places of rest, he was on stage. Through the window, he could see the comings and the goings and, with the speed of a saxophonist’s fingers dazzling a woodwind’s long neck, he ran out the door. Nearly tripping over his sagging pant legs, he made it before the notes, crashes and licks became nothing more than memory and offered thanks for listening to his music, his stuttered speech and the opportunity to make something of himself and to give something of himself in a world that is big and not so easy.
Lauren Krizansky is taking a break in New Orleans. She will see you all next week.