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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Am Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong


Saratoga is a pile of snow. We’ve dug out from under at least three times in the past two weeks. Anyone with a snow blower knows there’s no place to put the stuff. I’ve learned the value of a roof brake and how hard they are to come by. Allerdice Hardware ordered more; I paid in advance. Perhaps the roof brake will avert the ice dam damage, rivulets running down my red walls in March. And the COLD. It won’t quit. Which brings me to FOOD, comfort food and Louis.

He loved RED BEANS AND RICE. He signed his letters, Am Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong. Beans and rice for February a la Louis. A friend recently served me her delicious beans, dry beans cooked in a broth. They came from Rancho Gordo. So many beautiful beans with alluring names—I ordered immediately. 

Cargamanto Cranberry Beans, Eye of the Goat, Rio Zape—which one will I choose for tomorrow’s supper after the StopTime planning committee meets?

While you’re thinking about Red Beans and Rice, the possibility of eating some tonight, you can listen to one of Louis’s favorite songs, “Dear Old Southland.”  This recording is from the 1947 Town Hall Concert, a great moment when Louis played with a new band, Jack Teagarden, Dick Carey, Bobby Hackett; Peanuts Hucko, Bob Haggart, and Sid Catlett. They didn’t have time to rehearse. “Dear Old Southland” was early on, fourth number when the band was just getting the hang of playing together. Nevertheless, it’s fine and especially Louis’s slow, meditative rendition.




In 1970 near the end of his life, Louis added segments to his autobiography. His recollection of his childhood and youth in New Orleans was published in 1936. Throughout his life he filled in the blanks. Here he writes about falling in love with Lucille, his fourth wife, the beloved one, the last one. They married in 1943, just five years before he recorded this “Dear Old Southland.”
 
……..I stopped her from Talking by slowly reaching for her Cute little Beautifully Manicured hand And said to her, “Can you Cook’ Red Beans and Rice? Which Amused her very much. Then it dawned on her that I was very serious. She—being a Northern girl and Me a Southern boy from N.O. She could see why I asked her that question. So She said: “I’ve never cooked that kind of food before. But—Just give me a little time and I think that I can fix it for you.” That’s All that I wanted to hear, and right away I said’ “How about Inviting me out to your house for dinner tomorrow night?” She said “Wait a minute, give me time to get it together, or my wits together, or Sompthing. We’ll say a Couple of days from now?” Gladly I Accepted. Two days later I was at her house on time with Bells on. Also my best Suit. I met her Mother Mrs. Maude Wilson. Then later I met, Jackie, Janet and Sonny. They all impressed me right away as the kind of Relatives that I could be at ease being around for the rest of my life.
 

The Red Beans + Rice that Lucille Cooked for me was just what the Doctor ordered. Very much delicious and I Ate Just like a dog. I said forgive me after I had finished eating. I Just had to make some kind of excuse. She accepted it very cheerful. Because I am sure that Lucille has never witnessed any one Human Being eating So much. Especially at one Sitting. I had her to save the rest of the Beans that was left over. Then I’d come another time and finish them. We commenced getting closer “n” closer as time went by .[1]

Like Lucille, when Louis first caught her eye, I’m not well versed in cooking beans and rice. But I’ll give it try for tomorrow. We’ll be talking location for StopTime, the streets of Saratoga, in and around the bus stops and shelters and in the Saratoga Train Station. I’ve been meeting with people in city organizations, Chamber of Commerce and Saratoga Arts, Skidmore College individuals as well since we’re looking to partner with The Jazz Institute which takes place on Skidmore’s campus, June 25 through July 9. Precise place and the date are still up in the air. I also see how complicated planning an event is—the many permissions, even licenses that may be required. I’m choosing to think of this as a fantastic unexplored excursion into the life of a city instead of daunting work.

We’ll also be discussing performers. Several people have already signed on. Now is the time to review the whole spectrum, music to visual art, storytelling and poetry. 



[1] Louis Armstrong in His Own Words: Selected Writings, Thomas Brothers, ed. (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1999), 139-140.

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