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A Geezer’s Journal: Acceptance, Louisiana

The Spotted CatI live in New Orleans.

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve taken up the trombone and am playing with jazz great Irvin Mayfield in his nightclub.

Just a few more practice sessions, and then, yes. Need to buy the trombone, though.

I came here two years ago to take a teaching job at the University of New Orleans. It’s a tenure-track job, and I think, at age sixty-eight, I may be the oldest tenure-track professor in the history of higher education. Someone fact check that. I think I deserve something for that. Maybe a gold-plated eraser.

What I have discovered in my wanderings around the city, particularly at various music spots, is that I don’t feel like some kind of interloper amongst the various young people there. The other night I went to hear Lucinda Williams at Tipitina’s, a great club, where the floor was packed with standing fans. They were from all age groups. I think I even saw some older than I. We all fit in, moving and grooving to Lucinda’s wonderful raspy vocals, as one.

Because the fact is, you can tell if you feel alien when you come into a place that’s full of young blood. They don’t even have to look at you. It’s in the air, like an odor or like some low-sounding alarm. You do not feel welcomed, much less accepted. Nobody wants to feel that, and, in my case, I usually leave soon. That’s a downer, because it’s all about age.

But that’s not what happens when I walk into most joints in New Orleans. Like The Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street, a casual bar where musicians play, it seems, around the clock. And where people swing dance like nobody’s business. I fit in.I stay. I have a great time.

That’s the way it should be. But, in the rest of the world, it hardly ever is.

Richard Goodman is an assistant professor of creative nonfiction writing at the University of New Orleans. He’s the author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France.


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