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Road Trip to New Orleans

img.jpg“Guess what, Sebadoh is playing New Orleans tonight and Birmingham tomorrow night.” My girlfriend at the time, Tara exclaimed.

“Oh man!” I replied, “but we can’t see them can we? What with the final dress rehearsal tonight and our first performance tomorrow. Well, I could maybe go tonight. I mean I’m not actually in the play, the set is totally finished, and my only other tasks are putting on your old age make-up and doing a few minor set changes. Someone else could probably pick that up for me.”

“If you’re going, then I’m going too. It’s not like I don’t know my lines or anything. I’ve got my little role down pat. They won’t even miss me. Do you think Stephen will be mad?”

“Yeah, but he’ll get over it. What can he do, fire you?”

And with that Tara and I were off to find a way to New Orleans. We had a few minor obstacles to tackle: We didn’t know exactly where or when the band was playing. Then there was a little business about not having a car. It’s a 300 odd mile journey from Montgomery to New Orleans and we had to be there within a few hours.

We decided to impose upon our friend, and fellow Sebadoh fan, Devon. Maybe he could get some info and a ride. He was duly excited by the news, but had no information and was also automobile-less.

This was all pre-internet, or at least pre-internet for myself and the university, mind you so we couldn’t do any fancy Googling to gather venue information and direction.

We decided to hunt down Michelle, a student originally from New Orleans hoping she might have a phone book, or at least friends she might obtain information from. She had nothing, but did add that everybody who is anybody plays Tipitinas when they play New Orleans.

In several hours we had managed to pick up an extra person, but had no transportation, no time or directions and only a vague possibility of a venue.

We found our other New Orleans native and drilled her for information. She was even more clueless than Michelle. She did however have a phone card (for there was no long distance plan on campus) and thusly dialed her friend who looked up the number for Tipitinas. Dialed again and confirmed the nights show.

Bingo, we had a venue. Some quickly jotted down directions and we were on our way.

Well on our way without a way to get there.

We leaned on our friend Green Day (thusly dubbed for his fandom of the band and our lack of knowledge towards his real name) who amazingly agreed to go though he had never heard of the band and would have to work the next day.

Wandering the streets of New Orleans after dark with only a vague idea of where you’re going is an interesting experience. From what I could tell it was a beautiful city filled with tree lined streets and a pulsating vibe even miles from any real scene.

A cabbie honked and hollered out his window to us in greeting. He yelled to us that he was a member of the church of Christ. An odd proclamation to make in the middle of the night down a busy city street, or so we thought until we realized that Green Day had a “The Churches of Christ Salute You” bumper sticker riding the tail of his car.

I remember very little about the actual show. We arrived late, and my inexperienced little body cringed as Tipitinas seemed more like a dive bar than a hip music club. Devon brought along a little mini office recorder and dubbed the show for his later listening pleasure.

We made it to Tipitina’s a little late. Sebadoh was already perfoming. We pushed our way up close as Devon got out his little mini-recorder and newsman style made announcements while he then proceeded to record the entire show.

Afterwards we hung out on the side of the venue, near a van that surely must be the bands for an hour or so hoping to see Lou Barlow and the rest of the boys. We dreamed of hitting it off and going someplace for coffee, waffles and good times.

When the band did come out and Tara managed to say something cheeky like “great show” while I stood in the back smiling like a fan boy too nervous to actually talk.

Green Day decided he was too exhausted to drive home and I volunteered to make the trip. Before conking out it was explained that the speedometer was broken and that I should let the RPMs be my guide.

Somehow I managed to make it back to Montgomery, though I didn’t know the way, and had to wake Devon up for directions back to school.

I finally hit the bed well into the day’s morning light. The director gave us a right ribbing for missing dress rehearsal and threatened to kick us out of the show, but in the end all was forgiven.

We didn’t see Mardi Gras, nor sample the excellent cuisine, nor take any the sights and sounds of the Big Easy. But we heard its call just the same, and took a mad dash trip through the wee hours and made it back with a great story to tell.

I hope the city will do the same for someone again, someday.

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