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Social Aid & Pleasure Club Second Line: A New Orleans Story

You start at Big Man Lounge where everyone’s gathered in the street listening to the ReBirth Brass Band, which is a guy rigged with a marching drumset, two trombones, a bari sax, a sousaphone chugging along on a debaucherous walking bass, three trumpets already squealing the high stuff even though the walk hasn’t started, and being a trumpeter yourself you wonder how the hell they’re going to keep that up for the three and a half miles to Diva’s Lounge, not even factoring the syrup air and sun.

Two trucks are hitching wagons with the king and queen of the 2010 Annual Easter Second Line of The Original Pigeon Town Steppers Social Aid & Pleasure Club, and behind them four mounted policemen, drinking water and smiling while everyone below is drinking, too, water or soda or beer, one sign reading, “COLD ASS SECOND LINE,” two bucks for the beer, one for the water and soda, and before you know it those trucks start moving across Clairborne and everyone falls in behind the king and queen who are decked out in yellow and white and more yellow and plumes and flowers and everyone around is wearing all manner of stripes and plaids and flower prints and things you can’t even label in purple and pink but most of all yellow, all of them moving and dancing and shuffle marching forwards and sideways and pretty soon you can’t but help do it yourself, and then somebody sings “MOVE!” on the upbeats and a white guy with a bum beard starts banging on some unidentifiable chunk of metal with, no joke, a rusty old wrench and somebody else has a cowbell and somebody else starts yelling something on the downbeats that sounds like “High Schooool!” but probably isn’t and you just go along, turning down Clairborne to Toledano for half a mile till you get to Rocheblave, the ReBirth Brass blasting and squealing the whole time and everybody dancing and marching until you reach Foxx Lounge and the band finishes its tune and everyone slows and stops.

Makeshift vendors in the street outside Foxx Lounge sell barbeque or snow balls or beer and water and soda and there’s one guy hanging on the back of an SUV whose hood is covered with all manner of hard liquor calling out your favorites and people are lining up at the vendors or just standing and saying hey or smoking and every now and then but not too often you smell a spliff and a guy nearby you has a quarter stuck in his ear for some reason and you buy a cherry snow ball but before you really take it all in the parade is off again, with renewed soul, everyone, and some people are rapping and others shouting and a bunch of people nearby start chanting “Papa was a rolling stone” and a guy jumps up on the railroad partition and starts strutting down it, blowing a whistle to a rhythm comprehensible only to him and people are throwing their hands in the air and you’re high fiving and some guy with a full gallon of whiskey in one hand slings the other around your shoulder and tells you about the Saints, how it was Mardi Gras till Mardi Gras when they won, and now you’re down Washington, down Earhart, down Broadway, down Fig Street, down Walmsley, Carrollton, Apple, Monroe, and the houses here are mostly all old wood and half the people in the houses stand on their porches or behind their screens just watching and the other half are out there dancing with you and a woman near you dressed all in white and a turban kicks off her shoes and keeps walking street in white socks and even the people that aren’t drunk are drunk and you stink but it’s a spent kind of stink and everyone has it and it’s okay.