Monday, May 3, 2010

A very Jewish Jazz Fest

Usually, I don't let mere coincidence push my reason beyond normal expectations, but yesterday's last day of Jazz Fest was a notable exception. I found it to be filled with all kinds of Jewish connections, moreso than in other previous years. First of all, there was the fact that I attended with a friend of a Jewish Scouting friend from Atlanta, Marcy, and her cousin Jack, who happens to live in the area now. Both cousins were originally Pennsylvanians. I had talked to Marcy at length over the telephone over the course of the last two weeks, but I had never met her in person. There was something about her. I could tell we had real simpatico, born out of a common love of music and the charms of the City That Care Forgot. It turns out that her cousin was a contemporary of mine who shares a number of friends and business contacts. Why we never connected before yesterday is probably best explained in that he arrived in New Orleans just after college. That meant he was new to New Orleans around the time I was entering college at Tulane. Had he lived here during his formative middle school or high school age, I am sure we would have gravitated toward one another. Nonetheless, as we were walking up to buy a ticket for yours truly, we happened upon a fellow selling one for $35, approximately $20 less than the Festival was selling them. It looked like an offer too good to be true, but when he explained the reason, it seemed plausible. He had purchased this ticket as part of a pair just prior to being offered an even cheaper set of tickets. I spotted his necklace. Sure enough, it was a magen david and I showed him mine as we settled the deal and I gave him the cash. It turns out he was one of Jack's younger charges when he worked for the Jewish Community Center back in the 1970s. The two were so excited to see each other again, it was almost like a homecoming. Once inside we saw several common friends who Jack knew from the Northshore Jewish Congregation or from his work at the JCC or his earlier affiliation at another synagogue in Metairie. Once inside I also met Rabbi Uri and Dahlia Topolosky along with their mother-in-law/mom, Tovah. The rabbi was there because it was Lag B'Omer the first day since Passover that he could listen to music and do a host of other things like shave. He was there to make sure that everyone at the Jazz Fest knew that the WWOZ Mango Freeze tents were all certified as kosher! I had one and the frosty concoction went down even a little bit more smoothly knowing I was sharing a kosher experience with others at Jazz Fest. By the time the Neville Brothers ended their set with "Amazing Grace" and Bob Marley's "One Love," the communal experience of being a part of an event, albeit a very wet experience, was defined by we three Jewish souls enjoying the music of African American rhythms with a heavy dose of Caribbean influence. There was a lot of mazel and simcha at this year's Jazz Fest. I can't wait till next year.

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