Saturday, October 29, 2022

Ital and Livity

There's a concept, originating in Jamaica, called Livity - that there's an energy flowing through all people and living things. Practitioners strive to live harmoniously with the environment by eating Ital.

Ital means natural, organic, from the earth, food in its original state. It's similar to a vegan diet but more encompassing, like a code of conduct or style of living. The idea is that eating pure and natural food increases one's bond with earth and nature and therefore increases Livity. 

In addition to avoiding meat and most, if not all, animal products (cow's milk, butter, cheese, eggs), those eating Ital avoid processed food, additives, preservatives, flavorings, canned foods, even salt, believing that salt intake reduces one's ability to feel the spirit because salt repels the spirt. 

Italists also abstain from alcohol, knowing that alcohol clouds the mind and has destructive effects on the body. They also limit or exclude caffeinated beverages such as coffee and soda, preferring herbal tea and natural liquids/juices.

In Ital, emphasis is placed on food in its original state. Plants, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils. One pot meals. Common ingredients include all spice, thyme, scallion, spicy peppers, coconut milk, garlic, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, mango, avocado, pineapple, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, yams, curry and nuts.

I want to return, for a moment, to the exclusion of alcohol. In our language we already have a word for a person that does not eat any food derived from animals: vegan. However, we seem to be lacking a cool word for someone that does not consume alcohol. The best terms we have are "teetotaler" or "non-drinker". This doesn't do it for me.

That's why I like Ital as something you can hang your hat on. Not only is it a variation on vegan, like a vegan+ (rejection of consumerist society, rejection of the Standard American Diet, a borderline spiritual practice), but it also provides a foundation or platform for those that want to fill in this blank: meat is to a vegan as alcohol is to a ____________. It takes two separate practices - abstinence from animal products and abstinence from alcohol - and blends them into one belief system has no interest in acts or behavior that curtails Livity. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

A Week in New Orleans Without Drinking...Not!

I had ambitions of being able to write a post titled "A Week in New Orleans Without Drinking". That ended up not being the case. There was also a remote chance of being able to title it "A Week in New Orleans Eating Vegan". That definitely didn't happen. I think that's OK though, for my first time visiting The Big Easy, to get to experience it more fully as Jah intended.

Day One involved catching some drumming in Congo Square, preceded by a drink at Hotel Monteleone's revolving bar, and seeing music at Kermit's Treme Mother In Law Lounge, including an appearance by Mr. Kermit Ruffins himself. Finishing with a cheesy piano man at the hotel.

Day Two started with a long walk to a delicious breakfast at Elizabeth's in the Bywater (9th Ward) followed by more footsteps over the Rusty Rainbow bridge and a stroll through Crescent Park. A light lunch was had at Alma Cafe before seeking out Banksy's "Umbrella Girl". This led to a fortuitous side jaunt into Priestess Miriam's Voodoo Spiritual Temple. After a mid-day nap, a classy dinner was experience at the esteemed Commander's Palace, with a post dinner come down at Joey K's over on Magazine Street. But before any of that we snuck in a glimpse of the ghost table at Muriel's. The evening was completed with attendance at the weekly Super Jam back over on Frenchmen Street led by drummer Gene Harding, and getting to know Josephine - a 75 year old life-long N'awlins resident who we met outside Cafe Negril. A chance meetup with a well-dressed elderly reefer man on the walk home and a Deadhead named Ellen and her little dog too caused things to take a late night New Orleansy turn. 

Day Three's eating began tentatively with a curry burrito consumed before the church bells struck noon. I believe Dr. Bob's Folk Art was next, where the man himself gave us some Crescent City insider tips. A walk through the French Market led to an impromptu trip to Algiers via the ferry. The Bywater Brown ale at the Crown and Anchor pub tasted to me, in that moment, like the best beer I have had in years. After returning to the city proper, dinner got a little spicy at Silk Road in the Marigny. We briefly saw some music in the Spotted Cat before taking a long walk and leap of faith up to Sweet Lorraine's which resulted in randomly meeting a couple famous - and I do mean famous - musicians, and actually hanging out with one of them who proved how "not sober" he was! 

Day Four started with a poignant walk through Treme to view the Tomb of the Unknown Slave and a tour of the recently relocated Backstreet Cultural Museum. An early lunch at Dooky Chase's was probably the best meal of the week! Finished off with peach cobbler, of course. The rest of the day included stops at the Jazz Museum, a local brewery, and a risky yet remarkably good spur-of-the-moment for-lack-of-a-better-option meal at a Mexican/Honduran(?) restaurant somewhere in the French Quarter that I'll never be able to find again.

Day Five started with a checkbox: beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde! Then another quintessential NOLA requirement: riding a streetcar. This one led to City Park which afforded us the opportunity to see nearby Holt Cemetery before communing with nature in the park's lush botanical garden. Lunch was had at the world renowned Willie Mae's Scotch House and it was worth the wait. After lunch, we returned to the French Quarter for an afternoon cocktail at Hermes Bar (Antoine's). Another afternoon cocktail or two was enjoyed at May Baily's Place. The not-so-secret restaurant/bar Coop's hit the spot for dinner. The remainder of the evening included encounters with old-time street musicians, music at the Spotted Cat, and meeting a local named Randy who helped continue the good-vibe streak.

Day Six involved breakfast at Cafe Envie. Next on the list was a daytime walk along Magazine Street in the Garden District. A little bit of shopping, a check-in at Simon's art gallery and seeing some famous homes before ultimately landing in a too comfy neighborhood bar called Tracey's to watch a baseball game. Dinner was back in the Quarter at the only place we could find agreeable: Hermes Bar. As the dinner hour turned to evening we secured balcony seating at a nearby bar/restaurant at the intersection of St. Louis and Royal to people watch and bend an ear to listen to violinist Tanya Huang down on the corner below. Eventually, after some requisite Voodoo Juice, we made it back down to street level to get a closer look/listen to Tanya and met a nice fellow named Larry. 

Day Seven. The last day. A slow start. Six days of being a tourist in New Orleans had started to leave its mark. For breakfast, which was actually an early lunch, we returned to Coop's which didn't let us down. They don't fuck around at Coop's. Then it was off to Loretta's in search of pralines. The best in the world? Yes, maybe. An early unexpected dinner at Nonna's made sure our bellies were full for the evening's final act: a couple three sets of music by the incredibly talented Aurora Nealand!

This write-up has mostly been for my reminiscence. In Summary:

Restaurants: Commander's Palace, Elizabeth's, Dooky Chase's, Willie Mae's Scotch House, Coop's, Nonna's, Alma Cafe, Silk Road, Cafe Envie. 

Pubs/Bars: The Crown and Anchor (Algiers), Tracey's, Hermes Bar, May Baily's, Muriel's.

Clubs: Kermit's Treme Mother in Law Lounge, Cafe Negril, The Spotted Cat, d.b.a., 30/90, Sweet Lorraine's.

Musicians (to name a few): Charlie Halloran, Aurora Nealand, Kermit Ruffins, Yoshitaka "Z2" Tsuji, Jason Neville, Meschiya Lake, Russell Batiste Jr., George Porter Jr., Tanya Huang. 

Local personalities: Dr. Bob, Simon of New Orleans, Priestess Miriam. And salt of the earth locals by the names of Ellen, Josephine, Randy and Larry.

Furthermore: Banksy art, Holt Cemetery, Rusty Rainbow Bridge, Algiers Ferry, Tomb of the Unknown Slave, Backstreet Cultural Museum, Congo Square drumming, balcony table at Royal House Oyster bar, ghost table at Muriel's.

The main things that I had on my list that I didn't do or see: a steamboat cruise on the Mississippi, the Tree of Life (Etienne de Boray Oak) and Labyrinth in Audubon park, street musician Doreen Ketchens on Royal Street, a really good po' boy, a muffaletta, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Folk Art Zone in Algiers, Vaughan's Lounge, and Snake and Jake's Christmas Club Lounge. Next time. 

Next time.


Saturday, October 1, 2022

A List of 2022 Albums

To prove that I've been listening to more than just live Goose shows recently, here's a list of 20 new or newish albums that have been my favorites from January 'til now. My taste in music is always in flux, especially this year. I'm tired of hearing what I'm hearing and I'm tired of liking what I like. What that in mind, here's where where my search has temporarily touched down.

Scary Goldings featuring John Scofield - IV
As good or at least almost as good as A Go Go.

Nathan Salsburg - Psalms
Hebrew psalms set to music that is highly listenable, singable and playable.

Jake Xerxes Fussell - Good and Green Again
The song-catcher is back with perhaps his best collection to date.

Los Bitchos - Let the Festivities Begin
An all female band bringing back memories of Laika and the Cosmonauts - totally in my wheelhouse.

Black Flower - Magma
The Belgian ensemble continues to work within and expand upon Ethio-jazz.

Ilhan Ersahin, Dave Harrington, Kenny Wollesen - Invite Your Eye
Post-buzz, late night, Nublu music.

Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder - Get on Board
The best blues album I've heard in a long, long time.

The Smile - A Light for Attracting Attention
Radiohead for poseurs like me.

Symphonic Tone Poem for Brother Yusef - Bennie Maupin and Adam Rudolph
Just listen, just slow down.

Horsegirl - Versions of Modern Performance
Strong contender for album of the year.

Jasmine Myra - Horizons
England is a hot-bed of jazz right now.

Shabaka Hutchings - Afrikan Culture
England is a hot-bed of jazz right now.

The Magic Beans - Unzipped
These cats are beating other cats at their own game.

Michael Houser - Door Harp
Some of the prettiest melodies I've ever heard are on this reissue.

The London Odense Ensemble - Jaiyede Sessions Volume 1
London jazz meets Danish jams.

Felbm - Elements of Nature
I have a soft spot for DIY music.

Amir Bresler - House of Arches
Talk about a planet of drums.

Vieux Farka Toure & Khruangbin - Ali
Appointment listening.

Marisa Anderson - Still, Here
This is what I call Americana.

Flock - Flock
London is a hot-bed of jazz right now? Ha!

Seeing Goose for the First Time

Goose fans are a happy bunch. And why shouldn't they be? Rather than racking up yet another lifetime achievement award, their band is winning the World Series this year. Could this 2022 team beat the best that 1997 or 1977 had to offer? That's not worth debating or comparing. That's because Goose fans are living in the now. This very present moment, riding a wave that is showing no sign of a crest.

Goose fans are also a very friendly and talkative crew. By observation, it's hard to discern between close friends who know each other well and folks meeting for the first time and bonding over their favorite subject. They definitely speak a language I'm familiar with, although it has tinges of a foreign tongue only because it stems from an earth-like planet that I haven't made that many voyages to yet. I'm in no hurry to shake off that dewiness. I want to relish in it as much as possible.

My contrary nature doesn't always make it easy for me to engage, but whenever anyone learned that it was going to be my first show they were very excited for me. "It'll change your life," I was told. It kind of felt like a time warp to the year 1994, being in on a not-so-well-kept secret called Phish and welcoming new guests to the party. Only this time I was the Oldy Olson being ushered into the flock.

My first Goose show was now two days ago - 9/29/22 at The National in Richmond, VA. Being a local, I've been to The National many times before but I had never sensed anything like the pre-show energy or excitement of this crowd. Apparently, the line outside had started forming that morning, but it still wasn't all that long by the time I got in line at about 5:30pm. After a 90-minute wait, the doors opened and I went straight down and stood close to the stage. Not on the rail - that space was already spoken for - but not too far back from that. I managed to stay in this spot all night, even as it got tighter and tighter packed to the point where it seemed like the 1,500 capacity venue couldn't have held another human.

The only pic I took. The stage before the show.

Jamband aficionados call their concerts "shows", so that means that Goose is in the show business. Showbiz. Since it was my first time seeing Goose I tried to take it all in and probably over-analyzed some aspects of it. I'm fairly convinced that Goose has a formula or a reason behind everything they do, on stage or off. The marketing side of their collective brains never really shuts off, but there is an equally strong artist persona that also shines through. And just a drive. A professionalism. A blend. A mix. A need to create and perform.

In general I think I pretty much liked all of it. All of it was awesome. Do I like being in a crowd of sardines like that? Definitely not. But I tried not to let that bother me. If you were aware of your personal space and surroundings it made it troublesome to dance freely because there simply wasn't the space to do so without bumping into your neighbor, or being bumped into.

I most dug the parts where Goose seemed to let the music breathe and let the moment dictate the compositional path of an improvisation. I can respect the allure of falling back on a patented and crowd-pleasing jamband 101 tension/release build that uses the lights to help induce a jovial and cathartic release, but those moments are to be expected and weren't really what I would consider the highlights. If that was all that Goose was about then it wouldn't be as good as it is.

Goose played two nights in Richmond, but I only went to the first of the two. Despite only going one night, I don't really feel like I missed anything. I was perfectly content and happy to watch last night's free webcast from home. Loveseat tour. At this point for me, Goose simply has an overall sound and I got a good dose of that in-person on Thursday. Enough to last for a couple months at least. Or at least until my ears stop ringing. Next time is going to be in a much larger venue. The intimacy may be gone but I'm going to enjoy being able to spread out.

Will Goose change my life? I don't know. I feel like I'm already living a changed life, changed for the better. Goose wasn't the catalyst of this change but it complements it. Hmmm. Adding Goose to the recipe doesn't really feel like a change but more of a return after a 30 year detour. Circuital. Maybe me and Goose - our relationship - can remain pure and untainted. That would be the best outcome of all.