My friends and I usually caravan to the New Orleans Jazz Festival every spring, but one year, my friend Tommy Calk and I were unable to clear a long weekend. T.C., a pediatrician, studied this emergency and quickly prescribed a solution: “We need to make a surgical strike.”
As part of the tradition, our friend Charles Driebe was in charge of accommodations. Each year, he would meet and woo a New Orleans woman, maintain a relationship with her at least long enough for T.C. and me to come crash in her apartment, and then find another for the next year after she inevitably grew tired of us and threw the three of us out in the street. This particular year, Charles had secured excellent accommodations: His girlfriend’s apartment was within walking distance of the festival.
Another important ritual involved the first night in town. We would have a dozen oysters, soft-shell crabs and beer at the Acme Oyster House, followed by a performance by the famous local musical family, the Neville Brothers.
This Friday night found T.C. and me dashing by taxi from the airport to Acme and then dropping off our bags at Charles’ base camp. We were unable to hail a taxi to the concert at the coliseum uptown, so we stopped a bus, asked the driver how to get there and he waved us on board. A few blocks later, he flashed his lights at a bus at an intersection and told us to run catch it. We were then deposited at the auditorium front door.
But tragedy struck: We found the ticket booth closed and doors to the auditorium locked. We could hear a warm-up band playing, so we banged on doors until an employee appeared.
“We need a ticket to the concert, but the booth is closed,” we pleaded.
“We’re all sold out,” she said dryly, closing the door.
“But, but, you don’t understand. We drove all the way from Atlanta just to see the Neville Brothers.”
She looked skeptically at us, said “Wait a minute,” and closed the door.
T.C. and I stood there wondering if our luck had run out. Minutes raced by. We were about to bang on the door again when it suddenly flew open and a very authoritative man looked at us and yelled, “Are you the boys from Atlanta who drove down to see the Nevilles?”
“Yes,” we said nervously.
Then he smiled, gave us an envelope and said, “Here. Two of the best seats in the house – on me.”
T.C. and I tried to contain our glee. We raced inside, grabbed a beer and ran to our seats near the stage. Just as we sat down, the lights lowered and the Nevilles were announced. It was as if they were waiting for the boys from Atlanta to take our seats.
After the show, we walked outside to the taxi stand, but we had to get in a line of people perhaps 50 yards long – all waiting for taxis, which were nowhere in sight.
Suddenly, a man walked up to the line and yelled, “Anybody need a ride into town?” T.C. and I took a nano-second to run up and volunteer.
As we enjoyed our quiet ride home, through the streets of New Orleans, we giggled as we recounted our luck. The driver asked if we had tickets to see the sold-out Allman Brothers show at the same auditorium the next night. “No,” we said and then discussed our prospects of banging on the doors and saying, “We drove all the way from Atlanta just to see the Allman Brothers!”