Skip to main content

Growing Up (Quickly) in New Orleans

New Orleans is an interesting place to spend one's childhood ... especially during the 50's and the 60's. The neighborhoods were melting pots of color, dialects and humidity. The drinking age was 18 ... which translated to "if you can reach the bar you'll get served a drink". In our neighborhood that meant the Raven (I'll save Raven stories for another time).

We lived in a lot of neighborhoods. In the early years, we lived in the Uptown area (General Pershing St., Octavia St., Belfast St., Jena St. ... for those who know the area). Dad worked for a furniture store in the French Quarter (Holtzman's ... not around anymore) as a salesman and bill collector. In those days, he used to go door to door to collect from customers. I remember as a little boy tagging along when he'd ring doorbells. We didn't have much more money than the customers that were late with their bills. In fact, I think there were a few times that bill collectors came to our door too. (Maybe that's why we moved around alot.)

My favorite neighborhood was Belfast St. I remember the Quinlans, Roger and Tommy ... Tommy had a double "ah hernya" operation one summer that he was proud of. The Fishman's across the street ... I was over at his house alot. Nobody visited me ... they were all afraid of my mother. Down the street were the Gumas. Paul Guma was a musician and arranger for Pete Fountain and I was friends with his daughter, Crystal.

A few blocks away were "the projects" and living in one of the shotgun houses on the periphery was Alan Toussaint. For those that are not aware, Toussaint is one of the premiere musicians/songwriters in the world and was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My Uncle Smitty introduced me to him when I was about 7 years old. Uncle Smitty was Irvin Smith who owned Smith Records on St. Charles Ave. and Instant Records (a small recording studio that had artists like Irma Thomas and Benny Spellman).

I used to visit Alan Toussaint from time to time and he was kind enough to listen to my feeble attempts at songwriting at that age. He always had a couple of singers hanging out on his porch doing a cappella harmonies that ... to this day ... I can still hear.

We had an old upright piano in the basement of the house on General Pershing Street. The former owner of the house must have left it there. I stuck thumbtacks on the exposed hammers and got that honky tonk bluesy sound that Toussaint had when I'd listen to him play. The piano was probably way out of tune ... but I wailed out tunes and thought I was the best piano player that ever lived. Allan Toussaint taught me some great riffs and ... as I stumbled through them ... he used to say how great I sounded.

What a wonderful liar and a brilliant musician he was.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SAMMY: The Novel (An Overview)

I finished writing Sammy:The Novel. 

So ... I called my good buddy and excellent writer, Dave Scheiber, to help me write an overview to pique the interest of publishers. The stuff that Dave wrote made me want to read my own book! We combined our efforts and here's what we came up with:

SAMMY (An Overview)

Sammy Levine, 86-year-old resident of Star of David nursing home, was not happy with his daily existence and dreamed of taking one last trip with his wife Esther (presently residing in an urn on the third shelf in his room). Sammy was careful about not exposing his plan to anyone, especially his son, Barry, who dutifully visited regularly and tried to make sure that he lived out his remaining days comfortably.

Through a carefully choreographed plan, Sammy managed to access personal information on three recently deceased residents from the nursing home’s computers. Then he applied for and obtained three new credit cards. Armed now with available cash and credit, he loaded up Esth…

Close Call

I was just putting the finishing touches on my new novel, Sammy, which will be available to order in November (shameless self promotion!) ... when I started thinking about some of the characters in my past life. One character I've actually written about in the past just popped into my head. It's a repeat story but I hope you enjoy it ... again.

When I was a Freshman at LSU, our dorm was set up like a suite with two adjoining double rooms and a common kitchen and living room. "Suite" really makes it sound much fancier than it was. Actually, living room makes it sound much fancier than it was. The walls were cinder block and the living room was about 100 square feet. I don't think four of us could even stand up in there at one time.

One of the four guys in our suite was the place kicker for the LSU Tigers. His name was Phil and he was from Bogalusa, Louisiana. He had the bed next to mine. Phil was about 6'8" and weighed well over 300 pounds. He was a big …

Princess Grace's Diary

We surprised our little princess, Grace on Friday with a last minute visit to Savannah. She and her BFF Stella had a joint princess birthday party.

It was of course no surprise to Deb and me that the trip had a few surprises for us, too.

It started out with a light show at the airport (we chose to fly rather than drive the 12 hours back and forth for one day). Lightning strikes were coming fast ... so the tarmac was closed until it settled down. We had to get to Atlanta in time to catch what had become the LAST flight of the night to Savannah at 11:20 PM.

We made it ... barely ... and fell asleep at 2 AM.

Up at 8 and out the door via Uber to The Landings (a mere 45 minute drive) and just in time to see this adorable duo.

Big brother Cole was  one of the "hosts".

Pony rides were there for the guests.

Matching Princess cakes (of course).

Lots of fun.

At about 2, Deb and I headed back to the airport with Nikki driving and made it in PLENTY of time to find out that there were n…