Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dancing in the Streets

 A second line parade is a uniquely New Orleans experience. I'm not sure anything like it exists elsewhere. One occasion for a parade is to close out a celebration, whether a solemn funeral or a joyous wedding, when, after the ceremony musicians and revelers alike pour out into the street. Another equally common occasion is the annual celebration of one of the many Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, or Benevolent Organizations formed in local communities.

This Saturday was the second line of the Black Men of Labor. It convened at Sweet Lorraine's bar on St. Claude Avenue. We got there at the beginning, when the group was posing for photos in front of a huge backdrop. Dressed all in matching festive attire, the group was in fine form.

Already, there were street vendors set up - a guy with a barbecue on the corner and a card table with blender smoothies. While we waited for the parade to begin, a guy navigated the crowd with a giant picnic cooler on wheels, stuffed full of ice and cold beer, soda, and water. Not much later, a woman rolled a smaller cooler holding a basket of baked goods and pralines.

The music for a parade is provided by a brass band, and players mingled in the crowd before the start. Everyone had phones or cameras, and there were at least three professional-looking film crews there. At one point I looked over to see them interviewing my next door neighbor, David, AKA Who Dat.

When the music began, the crowd surged forward to the door of the barroom. The Men came out one by one, dancing. People in the crowd started to boogie to the beat.

Four standard bearers led the way, followed by the Men in a ceremonial carriage (drawn by a pick-up truck, not horses.) The band marched behind, leading the crowd.

Original hat trick
We proceeded down St. Claude Avenue - not an easy thing, since St. Claude has been torn up for construction for the past six months. The orange traffic barrels matched the Black Men of Labor color scheme.

The crowd surged along, dancing, shaking it to the beat. Along the way, people waved from their front porches; one man even came out with his baritone horn and played along while the band passed by.

The crowd was young, old, all races. Some folks were dressed up in bling and glittery attire, or coat and tie, while others just wore jeans and t-shirts. Parents pushed kids in strollers or balanced toddlers on their shoulders.

Off we went, into the 7th Ward, navigating the narrow streets under the spreading limbs of giant oak trees. On one corner, a man had parked his pick-up truck and was cooking hamburgers on a grill mounted in the bed. This being New Orleans, where you can drink openly on the streets, on another corner, a man was selling drinks out of his truck, the roof holding an array of liquor bottles like a well-stocked back-bar. A woman sold jello shots, one for a dollar.

I got a blue one.
Here's some more sights:

Love how this guy is styling.

Look how intently the young trombone player watches the older one.

How awesome are these guys?

We wound up beautiful Esplanade Avenue, with its wide neutral ground and historic homes. The crowd was so joyous, everybody smiling at one another. If you bumped into someone by mistake, they'd say sorry and call you baby. The snack and beer vendors rolled along behind the band like an accompanying armada.

We called it quits at the corner of Robertson and Esplanade, since the parade was turning uptown and our car was downtown. My legs were tired, but oh so happy.

Another tired parader
Second lines take place almost every Sunday between now and Mardi Gras. We'll catch another one soon, that's for sure.


Ellen Bloom said...

Yeah, You Right! THAT's what I like to see! Celebrations in the street. Thank you for posting the great photos and description, Glennis!

Jeanne H. said...

What a BLAST! The music, food, cool people, and those jello shots!!Thanks for sharing!

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

I missed this when you first posted it. So glad I came back for a look! This would definitely be something every visitor to NOLA should experience.