Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jazz and Pictures

I had opportunity to take J to New Orleans recently while on a business trip. My first time in a city I have always wanted to visit. I wanted her to experience the city in what little time we were able to carve out. This is not the first time I noticed that J loves to take interesting pictures but never wants any of herself from her travels. So there are these shots taken in the French Quarter often without any people in the frame. Stark and empty without reference or anchor. Looking back through the pictures I see New Orleans through her eyes and experience the trip in a new way. J tells me having people in a picture disturbs the harmony created sometimes by nature and man made things. I have learned to keep out of her frame though sometimes the color of my coat may make me interesting to shoot from a distance.

We ate a lot of street food, struggled to remember the names of things we tried, soaked in the music in small concert halls and on the streets. J loves jazz far more than I do but listening together has warmed me up to the genre over the years. I have some favorites too. So she had a religious experience listening to Leroy Jones play at Preservation Hall - I was glad I was able to create this memory for her. The intimate setting, people seated cross legged on the floor in front of the musicians evoked memories of classical music soirees I have attended in my childhood in India. The music could not be more different but the way we enjoyed it transcended time and cultures. There is an aura of sadness about the city - something I could relate to from my years growing up in India. People find and give joy in small ways - brightening the day of another person while their own maybe far from perfect. 

So if you are only passing by you catch the flashes of brightness while surrounded by a misty bleakness not caused by any one thing. The sadness about New Orleans does not seep into someone who is only visiting. I think it takes time to percolate past the amazing food and music - the traditional harbingers of joy everywhere. The sight of the blooming bougainvilleas on our way from the airport to the hotel connected this wonderful city to my hometown in India. Later next day a woman sitting by the street corner sold us home made pralines not unlike someone just like her who may have sold me sweets in Kolkata decades ago. For J New Orleans is apropos of nothing and special on its own. I seem to connect deeper to an experience if it invokes childhood memories.