I'll save the storm story for later because it's Carnival Time! Happy Mardi Gras!! Fat Tuesday is a day to "do what ya' wanna," and it marks a crucial stop along my path toward journalism.
(Sidenote: The cigarette ads paid more. Bars paid late. And Genevieve handed over the money upfront).
While most of my news colleagues began small-market reporting jobs in their early 20s, I sat in the publisher's office as she threatened to castrate me if I didn't reach my sales goals and collect on past due accounts. (Sidenote: I'm not entirely sure this was a metaphor).
In the midst of a female-led, Louisiana style "Mad Men" work place, something unpredictable was happening that would become formidable in my reporting career.
You see, the Frenchmen Street office building held a culture-soaked staff obsessed with New Orleans. They knew where the best live music was playing, the spot for the most delicious po' boys and even the route of that jazz funeral that ended with ashes laid to rest over a bar cash register so the deceased can eternally watch over his money….
Everything New Orleans lived and breathed within the halls of Offbeat. I absorbed every drop I could, but I wanted to do more than just hear about it from the writers.
Over drinks at some French Quarter hideaway with brass band or swamp pop on the jukebox, I committed to split the cost of a $400 video camera and make a Mardi Gras documentary with two close friends.
And so it began.
We shot the Mardi Gras experience from a locals' point of view, as told by the the city's musicians and general in the-know-it-alls. I learned their names in the pages of OffBeat Magazine. The documentary gave me the excuse to introduce myself.
This film wasn't beads and Bourbon Street. It was Louisiana heart, religion, excess, youth, tradition, history and, of course, a good party all in one.
John Sinclair, the subject of John Lennon's song by the same name described the annual battle of the Mardi Gras Indians.
The full interview list included Irma Thomas, Stanton Moore, Marva Wright, Rosie Ledet, Jeremy Lyons, Morning 40 Federation, Irene Sage, Charmaine Neville, Jason Marsalis, Benny Grunch and more.
Making my first documentary was an excuse to get to know them all, and most importantly ask anything.
What I discovered was how to learn through a lens. It's still my favorite way to experience something new. I certainly never dreamed those Mardi Gras days would be so paramount in my reporting career, but they taught me so much.
I liked the Times-Picayune review better. Dave Walker wrote that the film "feels like a miracle."
So this Mardi Gras I am giving it away online to those kind enough to click.
Enjoy! And... Happy Mardi Gras!!!