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A Dyke About Town: New Orleans, Jazz Alley, and Ham for the Holidays
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A Dyke About Town: New Orleans, Jazz Alley, and Ham for the Holidays

by Mercy Moosemuzzle - SGN Contributing Writer

New Orleans Trip
As part of their Sweet Caribbean Cruise, Mercy and Cuteness spent three days in New Orleans, where the trip originated, which allowed them some time to look around. They were saddened by how little the city has recovered from Katrina blowing through there more than four years ago. They stayed in the French Quarter, which they had heard had been relatively untouched by the hurricane, and were struck with how many buildings there still looked damaged.

Their taxi driver volunteered to take them through the 9th Ward, which was still mostly devastated. Only a few people have started working on their houses. Because the folks who lived there were very poor to begin with, they don't have many resources to work with. The driver reminded Mercy and Cuteness that survivors had swum from their houses to the levy, only to be turned back by Jefferson County police with guns. Mercy wonders whether that action was ever investigated as to who gave that horrible order.

One high point of the 9th Ward was Fats Domino's house and studio, which has been restored. The driver took them past some of the environmentally green homes that are being built by Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation. The houses look higher, which makes sense. Visually, they look like they don't fit in the neighborhood, but the fact that they are likely to survive future hurricanes is good. She showed them a Musician's Village constructed by Habitat for Humanity in cooperation with Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr. She explained that people who were the recipients of those homes had to work on their construction as well as volunteer on another person's home. Also planned is the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.

The taxi driver herself had lost her work as a housecleaner after Katrina. She talked about her parents having to deal with insurance companies not offering to pay very much for the damage. Also, she and family members have had mysterious illnesses probably related to the environmental impact of the hurricane. And her father, who had to relocate to Florida with a terminal disease, had trouble establishing the legitimacy of his requests for pain medication because his records were lost in the flood.

One of the driver's cousins managed to make it to the roof and survive the inundation. Another relocated without being able to find his cat. It took him a year to make it back there, and, when he did, the cat came to his call. Someone must have been putting out food for abandoned animals. Other good news was that Angelo Brocato, who is a relative of Mercy's ex, managed to reopen his bakery and gelato shop after considerable flood damage. Mercy and Cuteness verified that he does make the best cannoli in the world.

When Mercy asked the driver what was the cause of the breaks in the levy, the answer was that the 16 breaches that were found were a "suspicious number." The taxi woman had heard that there had been a similar high-water situation about 100 years ago in which the city politicians had decided it was essential for New Orleans that the French Quarter survive, so they had purposely created breaks in the walls. In that case they had let the people in the 9th Ward know what was going to happen (giving them time to evacuate), and offered to pay for their land, which turned out to be a lie. The driver thought the holes had been dynamited for the same reason.

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal and his trio are going to be at Jazz Alley all of Thanksgiving week. Band members include Bill Rich on bass and Kester Smith on drums. Taj Mahal is a two-time Grammy winner and one of the most influential American blues and roots artists of the past half-century. He celebrates four decades of blues, roots, reggae and beyond with his latest release, Maestro (Heads Up).

A self-taught musician, Taj plays over 20 instruments including National Steel and Dobro guitars, and his remarkable voice ranges from gruff and gravelly to smooth and sultry. His music remains a well-seasoned gumbo, spiced with influences that originate in the Caribbean, West Africa, the Southern States, and the inner cities of America.

In addition to his regular work, Taj has acted in films and composed motion pictures scores. He wrote the Grammy-nominated score for the Broadway production of Mule Bone. He has appeared in films such as Outside Ozona. In addition, he has recorded a number of Grammy-nominated children's albums and provided voices for popular cartoon characters.

For tickets go to http://www.jazzalley.com.

Ham for the Holidays
Mercy and Cuteness are looking forward to seeing Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt dish up more ham with Lard Potion Number 9, opening November 27 at the Theatre Off-Jackson.

Written by Koch and Platt, Lard is the ninth incarnation of the ever-popular Ham series (Son of Ham, Bride of Ham, Glazing Saddles, Cinco de Porko, Swine, Women and Song). The talented cast includes Koch and Platt, multi-talented musical director/actor D.J. Gommels, and versatile actor Michael Oaks.

Directed by veteran Seattle actor/producer David Koch (Cabaret de Paris), Lard is a daffy concoction of dysfunctional, screwball characters. Country superstars The Spudds host "Trailer Park's Got Talent"; Archie and Edith Bunker (plus cousin Maude) travel to Game Show Land in "All in the Family Feud"; '70s lounge act The Colonel and Shenille warble about light rail; and the tiny Sequim Gay Men's Chorus sing with Pride.

The artists assure us no hams are ever harmed in the creation of this show.

Koch and Platt have collaborated as sketch-comedy partners since 1990, and have toured extensively as Dos Fallopia. A London Connection review declared, "Could they be the long-lost love child of Doris Day and Divine? Big, brash, and completely mad," and a San Francisco Bay Times reviewer proclaimed them "two of the funniest, most irreverent comedians I've seen in years."

When they're not performing together, the two women pursue busy solo careers. Koch has recorded four solo CDs, is an alumnus of Seattle folk-funk quartet Venus Envy, performs regularly on Olivia Cruises, and tours her one-woman shows (Two's Company, I'm a Crowd, Return to Planet Lisa). Platt is well known to Seattle audiences as a standup comic, radio personality, and actor/playwright (Fat Girl Follies, Rocky Horror Show, Holiday Survival Game Show).

For tickets and information, contact www.brownpapertickets.com / 1-800-838-3006.

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photo: Taj Mahal
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