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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Coincidences on the Road

It's 1:30 AM and I just got back from bowling with my boys and Erin. The bowling alley had kept its 1960's era motif - none of those automatic pin counters and monitors above the lanes. We kept score with paper and pencil. Next to the very weathered lanes was a large dance floor and a little stage with a live blues band. Snooks, the bandleader, was as old and battle tested as the antique bowling pins, but nimble as a track star on his keyboard. People danced waving white white napkins and cloths as I guess they do in the "second line" brass bands that play for funerals in New Orleans.

On Christmas, when we exchanged Hannukah and Christmas gifts, Zac gave me a framed photo he'd taken of a "hippie looking woman" dancing at the New Orleans Jazz Heritage Fest last April.

Who do we see at this bowling-blues place, dressed much more demurely, but still partying hard, but this same random woman from Zac's photo. We introduced ourselves and told her how her likeness would now grace a home in California. She loved it. Turns out she lives in Austin and was just visiting her sister in New Orleans which makes it an even bigger coincidence.

Long ago I learned that when traveling, expect coincidences. Some cork gets unplugged and as routines get spilled out on the ground, the unexpected pours in - finally free to show its face. Or we're finally free to turn and notice.

Two days ago I went for a jog and stopped to walk through one of the many cemeteries lining both sides of Canal streets. Cemeteries with their countless stories etched in stone are always a draw for me, but New Orleans cemeteries, with their above-ground crypts and monuments are an amazing site in themselves. After a few random twists and turns through crowded rows of crypts, whose family do I come upon, but the Nevilles - ancestors of my favorite New Orleans band! A year or two ago I read a spellbinding oral history of the Neville Brothers. There before me was Arthur J. Neville Senior and Arthur Junior. Out of easily 10,000-50,000 graves in those neighboring cemeteries on Canal Street, I end up at the foot of the Nevilles. What's more, Arthur Sr. has the same birthday as me, or vice versa. I'm not sure how distant these Nevilles are from the brothers in the band, but the oldest of the Neville Brothers is also named Art.
Tomorrow is my last day in New Orleans. What a treat to have spent so much time with Alex and Zac and so myuch better than phone calls.

Alex the organizer. new Years.

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