Sunday, October 14, 2018

Letters To Patti Ann (Chapter 7) "Two Bags And A Lot Of Nerve"

"hello patti ann,

nice to hear from you.  nice to hear your legs finally arrived.  i'm sure you'll be able to feel better now that you can progress everyday.  it's no fun not having the chance to move on in our daily lives.  you have some major challenges that you will come up agains't.  i think you've proven to yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to.  just go back and look at the tapes from when you were on t.v.  it's amazing still to think that we could talk, after that long coma you were in.  i
definitely want you to hear my album.   i really meant what i said in the letter.  acceptance will set you free.  i was on the beach one night playing my little drum and it just hit me.  something told me you must hear it.  easier said than done, i know.  when you get my album, i would love it if you could hear it alone, from start to finish.  just keep your mind opened.  it is a story of me trying to make sense of indigenous cultures, life and death, and of grand point.  the last song was written for you and everyone when you were under that spell in the hospital.  i couldn't believe it happened to us again.  i was crying in my plate of blue runner red beans, thinking of you, mamere and papere, thinking of joey, pour bette.  i was thinking how sad it is that we all slip back into the normal daily life after someone passes on and we forget all the beautiful messages that death teaches us.  it teaches us how precious one minute is.  it showed me all the things i have inside to discover.  music has given my spirit a voice and has given me a purpose beyond myself.  anyway,  i'll get you a copy soon.  i'll send you one in a unique package, so be on the lookout for it.  just send me your mailing address.  hope you're well and fighting.  i'm fighting too.  life will always be an uphill climb, that was God's intention, a slow steady fulfillment.  there will be no happily ever after for anyone.  rich or poor.  take care.



I'm not going to lie, I ran from Grand Point.  I ran away.  There were long days as a child and they were strung together with no meaning and hot as hell.  Most days we let our imaginations run wild and built cabins in the woods and sometimes I thought if I walked far enough through the woods, California would be on the other side.  I had an imagination and liked building things.  Of course the adults would take note and say how good I was with my hands and that I was great candidate to work in the factories, totally ignoring my imagination.

They spoke in French when they spoke about us.  Always.  I wondered what they were saying about me when I'd come in for some cold tea but then I'd go back into my imagination.  At first it was imagining that I was Joe Montana and then a few years later "Ta Ta Jones".  Women couldn't vote until the 1920's and black folks couldn't play quarterback until the 1980's.  We humans are a funny herd of beings and we live on a moving ball and take space ships to the moon and plant flags and divide ourselves into classes and races.  Well Terrence "Ta Ta" Jones definitely took me to the moon on Fridays in 1983.  I planted my flag of swagger on Saturday's when we practiced our run through with no pads on.  Brent Poirrier was our coach, the oldest son in the Poirrier family.  "Wing left, Longview right" was my favorite pass play to the tight end Nuck Brignac.  Nuck was a natural talent and had size but had no use for games.  He'd sit on a lawn chair, away from everyone on the sidelines and his mom brought him Slushes.  Years later when I got into playing piano and classical music, Nuck told me I liked that crazy music with no words.  I look back fondly on those Saturday mornings in the fall.  Short practice, white shoe polish on our shoes and we'd pick up some sausage at Norm's.  Fall was in the air with the scent of burnt sugar cane.

We are all molded by our own experiences and environments.  It was a major experience for me to see Ta Ta play on Friday nights.  He was the first African American I'd ever seen play quarterback and he redefined the position right in front of our eyes.  He taught me what it meant to improvise and trust your instincts and push your outer limits.  It's a serious piece of info to receive as a kid, but it's an entirely different thing to train yourself to be yourself.

The first song I ever wrote was a song called "Art" and it was all about fighting to be yourself.  It lived on a cassette tape in my old four track recorder for about 3 years before it was born to a brand new beat that Donovan had made.  The first song we recorded in a professional studio was a song called "Perique".  "Preacher" Leblanc was the first sound on the record.  I had recorded him in the fields on one of my visits from New York.  He recites his social security number along with things in Latin from mass.  Older generations were tied to the land and to a reverence of the higher spirit.

But what about that beat.  There was the Choctaw beat under the tobacco shed when we'd beat the dust off of the tobacco stalks agains't the log.  I'd get so infected by the beat of the tobacco under the shed that it was sort of a revival.  Teddy Boy called me the Child of the Wolf in those moments.  Then there was the African beat in the stadium on Friday nights.  I was born into a unique set of circumstances right there on the Mississippi River just after desegregation.  It took me years to understand the complexities that took place in the centuries leading up to the 1980's.

It was pure joy when I put on my suit and picked Donovan Guidry up at the airport the day he moved to New York.  Living in the East Village was like making it to the moon for two Cajuns.  We celebrated that night at "Jules" in the village with some French film makers and dreamed our asses off.  Anything was possible now.  We treated this time in the late 90's like if we were delivering something.  If we didn't do it, no one ever will.  We never met other Cajun artist in New York the whole time we were there.  We were alone on the moon.  On Fridays there were no sounds of the high school marching bands, the city marched on.   It was a rare opportunity to be living right in the middle of the world.

We could hear the sound but needed some help getting it to come out of the speakers.  We knew things were about to change the day my brother Daniel sent us an old computer and we rigged it to record on.  It was like receiving the Arc of the Covenant.  Much resilience was needed night after night, crash after computer crash.  To help offset the cost of recording, I helped to build the now famed "Headgear Studio" in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  In fact, I was the first artist to record in that old warehouse.  Over the years, many great records would be made there and people like David Bowie were showing up.

Insecurity was a constant.  Every day I was in over my head, surrounded by smart and talented, accomplished people.  I didn't know what I was doing but I knew for sure that this was what I was supposed to be putting my energies into.  Of course I'd lose perspective but when I'd sit down to write Patti, my nerves would settle and I could see clearly what needed to be done.  Small steps, don't look down the row.  It's ok if you're from Grand Point.

We often recorded into the wee hours of the night and I'd walk about 11 blocks home to the south side of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  One night I was walking triumphantly but tired and heard a light cough from the window above me.  I could see a shadow, a silhouette.  It was Joey, I swore it was. But he was a little boy.   He had hair that came down to his ear lobes.  He died in a fire due to the smoke and this shadow was coughing.  "Sky King" always said to remain open.  Things were going my way in the studio and I couldn't believe my good fortune, so maybe it could be Joey in that window.  He wouldn't answer me so I kept walking.  It gave me the chills.  I just assumed he returned to tell me he was proud of me, like the time we beat Riverside and I floated passes all over the field.  He was so happy for me that night.  He taught me well.

 No matter how late I stayed up, I always hopped out of bed around 8:00.  I could feel my dad looking at me and telling me to get up.  I could feel the pull of expectation of 10 generations before me.  There was no coach on a table inspiring me.  No teacher showing me how to take to the path.  We were blind but trusted our instincts and were dead serious about succeeding.  The computer allowed us to try many things without wasting tape.  We hated working with most studio engineers when we first started out.  We wanted to break the rules.  We actually didn't even know the rules and it allowed us to reimagine a way of working.  We had a drummer come in and play and then Donovan went to work pushing and pulling the beat until we had this heavy pocket of a rhythm.  I was in the vocal booth for the first time.  Everyone was looking at me through the glass and my heart was pounding.  We had that Cajun dub sound in the headphones and I opened my mouth.  "Take me humble man, cry me a river away....."

My melodies had their own rhythm and the songs that were coming out of me sounded foreign.  I didn't know what it was but it seemed connected to all my life experiences up until that point.  There was something about Reggae music and the delivery of the vocals that felt like home.  It had the same cadence as a gang of Cajuns in the kitchen.  But Cajuns from Grand Point were a unique mix.  We had some Native customs mixed with many African recipes and melodies from the river, along with the French.  Everybody in Brooklyn thought I was a foreigner and would ask repeatedly where I was from.  They'd eat my gumbo and would ask again.  Our music was a new mix and we were well on our way.

The arrival of the Acadians in Brooklyn can be dated back to 1997.  They arrived by plane with two bags and a lot of nerve.  I had arrived with the secret in my heart and was committed to the cause to find beauty, to live simply and resilient.  To find the wolf.  Sleep tight Patti Ann.

Take full responsibility for your actions.

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