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Jazz Fest redux: Fais Do-Do with a twist

Ned Cheever

From my vantage near the Fais Do-Do Stage at Jazz Fest, the accordion and fiddle playing had stimulated most of the audience to break into dance wherever space allowed.

Nowata Gal

Beside me stood a small, attractive woman who was physically inspired by the Cajun tunes, pulsing in a near-dance to the after-beats.  On her shoulder a tattoo identified her as “Nowata Gal.”

(Worldly wise, I am familiar with the small town in Oklahoma called Nowata, which, legend says, produces the meanest women in the badlands.  With this knowledge I should have drawn away, but alas, life moves quickly.)

“Mamou Hot Step” was the next song up, and as it seemed to brush away the heat, the crowd set in motion.  As the music became more stirring, a need to trip the light fantastic swept over me.  Quickly, I found myself proposing a dance to the Nowata Gal, which she seemed pleased to accept.

Suddenly we were spirited away, united in the throes of the Cajun two-step.  Writhing rhythmically we traversed the track, artfully turning and spinning like dervishes to the pounding percussion with the perfect blend of fiddle and squeezebox.  Untold minutes passed as we sashayed and twirled to the music.

(It is important to note at this point that I am one of advanced age, and my dancing partner not.)

The Nowata Twist

As the music swelled in crescendo, the timbre of the tune signaling the climax, the time for a last tumultuous turn was upon us.  Timed as if by careful choreography, we faced each other for the finale, raising our coupled hands to create a human arbor.  As I sought to initiate the culminating component of our dance, the winsome wench suddenly seized control, and rather than release her hand to facilitate the requisite rotation, she clutched both my hands with a fierce grip.  Now grinning fiendishly, Nowata Gal was in the lead.  The momentum of our motion was such that I had no choice but to follow.

“Here’s the Nowata Twist,” she giggled, as the demonic dwarf invoked the menacing maneuver.

Described in my subsequent research as “skinning the cat,” the dance move cum wrestling hold forced our counterpoised bodies into opposing revolution beneath our enjoined grasps, causing every connection of my skeletal system to react in diametric opposition to normal kinesiology.  Wrenched by the terpsichorean torture and then released, I found myself suddenly restored to the original juxtaposition that had preceded the diabolical distortion of my rhythmic repose.  Only a split second had elapsed, and the music ended.

Owing to the brevity of the event, the senses had not yet caught up with the body, and there was no response to indicate trouble within my tired torso.  Wildly laughing, Nowata Gal celebrated the moment much in the fashion of a Black Widow having just ended the life of her spent mate.

Numbed by juniper elixir to excess, I, too, joined in the laughter, unknowing of the consequences yet to follow.  Innocently, I retired to my room, literally feeling no pain.

The Morning After

It was the next morning that a sudden signal from the sanctity of the sacroiliac brought to bear the terrible trauma that I had unwittingly sustained.  Lumbar functionality was noticeably lost, and spinal manipulations were no longer under the direction of the central nervous system.  Wishing to rise from my bed while wincing in pain, I repeatedly attempted bodily motion without success.  Slowly I gained the ability to make minimal manipulations of my moving parts.  More juniper elixir is applied.

Time is a healer though, and the discomfort later subsided to the extent that I could right myself without assistance.  In a few days, I would resume normal activity.


That is the simple end to the unromantic story of an old man and a young woman.

But, I must add a warning to those of my ilk who might also fall to the siren’s call:  When the music mesmerizes, and the will is weakened by the allure of the lass, take heed of this tale and of the Nowata Gal.


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