I Hear the Blues

Artwork by Naomi Young, Saugus resident and author. Courtesy photo

By Naomi Young, Saugus Community Contributor


Let the good times roll!

New Orleans. The celebration of Mardi Gras down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter is beyond anyone’s imagination. It is a parade of exquisite, colorful costumes, a masquerade of entertaining characters. The music and the dancing add to the party atmosphere of this jolly carnival.  The upbeat music of the drums and the trumpets add to all that jazz. Nothing but joy is in the air.

When I visited New Orleans for the second time, once again I was enjoying the music all around me.  Bars and clubs were open around the clock and filled with people standing and listening to jazzy tunes. At 2 a.m. people were still pouring in. Every once in a while a new couple take to the floor, dancing and twisting, turning and kicking their feet up in the air, just like they were in the roaring 20s. She would take off her shoes and increase her steps with her flowing dress to the cheering, clapping crowd.

In another club, the room filled with smoke, a couple is dancing in tandem cheek to cheek to the low and deep sound of a trombone. The couple is surrounded by a crowd that would follow their every move and they would feel with them their heart beats to the soft sound of the blues. The soulful sound of the trumpets touches your heart and pulls at its strings.

A ride on the trolley to the plantation homes shows another side of this diverse city and reminds you that hundreds of years ago masters owed slaves in these mansions with their incredible architectural design. On the verandas the masters sipped on cold lemonade sitting on a rocking chair.  Nowadays, these homes sell for millions of dollars. Their manicured, gorgeous green lush lawns don’t tell you much of their past.

When I visited New Orleans for the third time it had lost its charm. Yes of course I visited Bourbon Street again and enjoyed the music that was coming out from every club, bar and restaurant.

Once again youth were having fun and engaging in drinking from long plastic containers and exposing their breasts for a cheap necklace of plastic beads. Canal Street was hustling and bustling more than ever, just like any other big city. People were crowding restaurants and cafés enjoying shrimp gumbo, jambalaya, and all big meals ended with the traditional French desert called Beignet, a fried pastry with a lot of powdered sugar on it.  Life seemed pretty sweet.

In preparations for the 300 years of the city of New Orleans next year, the Mardi Gras festivities are promising to be at their finest. Bourbon Street is undergoing major construction of its pavement. Sadly, 12 years after the aftermath of Katrina hurricane devastated this city, it is still not fixed. Being built below sea level, the infrastructure is less than perfect. The city depends on its pumps to drain the massive amount of water that pours in even during the hot muggy summer days. Often these pumps don’t work as well as they should.

This time, In spite of the rowdy atmosphere on Bourbon Street I could hear the blues coming out from every corner of this broken city.

I could hear it in the people who were lying on the cracked sidewalks, too drunk or stoned to know that they’re even laying there.  I could hear it in the silence of the too many poor, forgotten souls who live here in great desperation, gloom and despair. These disheveled homeless people, wearing tattered clothes, often do not know where their next meal is coming from.

I could hear the blues when I saw their bodies shake and move with madness and hallucinations in their eyes and in their silent desperation and feelings of loneliness.

I heard it in the muffled sound of a trombone that was coming from a small room, sounding like an outpouring of pain, joining by a sound of a loud trumpet as if it was crying in protest, cutting through the hot air as a siren.

I could see these lost souls’ hopes, illusions and dreams hang in front of their eyes like colorful, shiny beads of necklaces, almost at hand’s reach, yet so far away.

I heard the blues coming from every corner, couldn’t you?

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