Ever since moving to New Orleans, people have been asking why I – someone who swore I’d never again live in the South, who is a fan of neither heat nor humidity – moved here. I’ve never really had the answer. Until meeting a woman named Etta at last weekend’s Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Fest, held annually by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation.
Etta’s one of those women who is as voluptuous in spirit as she in shape. The kind who wakes up every morning, grins from ear to ear and says ”Hot damn. I’m here for another one!” The kind of soul sister who can clap without damaging her preternaturally long (and, yesterday at least, diamond-studded) gold nails. I’m not sure of her age. I think she was born, and shall always remain, 40…something.
The Universe brought Etta and me together at Terry & the Zydeco Bad Boys’ set on Saturday. We were standing near the front of the Ursulines Stage, dripping hot from the oh-so-New Orleans combo of summer sun and swamp humidity, stomping our bare feet (you hear the music better if you’re bare-footed), and shaking any and every thing that would – and does – shake.
All of a sudden, I was aware that some poor puppy dog of a man was trying to make a move on Etta. In the middle of a song (I don’t remember which song; it doesn’t matter. When the band’s called the Terry & the Zydeco Bad Boys and you’re stomping and shaking, the song is always good). He was saying, “Baby, you’re looking good,” and, “I’m gonna cool you off with a daiquiri,” and other such lines that I am sure someone somewhere thinks sound real suave. To someone. Not any someone I’ve ever met, but….
After about his third or fourth “baby” this or that, Etta had had it. She looked at him, channeling all that energy that had gone into shaking her groove thing into her now cold, steely eyes, and said, ”I left a man for interrupting my music.”
That was it. That poor pup tucked his tail and his lines between his legs and walked away.
I not only was floored by Etta’s powers at animal control, but was blown away by the clarity of what she said. And as I shook my groove thing, I got to thinking: Forget the different political parties, the different religions, races, incomes, physical abilities, sexual orientations, and all the other silly ways we divide ourselves up these days.
What it comes down to is this: There really are only two types of people in the world. Those who listen to music. And those who talk over it. Those who let music’s mystery seep into their bare feet and open hearts. And those who who are too busy managing the moment (or the past or the future) to hear it.
When Etta said she had left a man for interrupting her music, she didn’t mean a particular song. She meant he had interrupted the very rhythm of life that music connects us to. He had tried to keep her on the surface, where people squawk their lives and hawk their wares.
Etta would have none of it. She kept her feet planted and her long nails snapping to the beat of the mystery, the one that runs deep below the surface and ties us all together in the steady drumbeat of existence.
And, right there, on that blazing hot Saturday, as zydeco filled the steamy air, I got my answer.
I moved to New Orleans for the music. To listen to the music. To receive it. To surrender to it.
Wanna join me? It’s great if you do … just don’t get in Etta’s way!
This article was submitted to NolaVie by Brett Will Taylot, author of The Story Blog. If you have something you’d like us to consider publishing, submit it to nolavie.com/submit.