Waiting for a bus into New Orleans from the Louis Armstrong airport I met a lady who was in town for the Rock & Roll Marathon. I had never heard of such a thing, but it turns out these marathons happen all over the world and this elderly Asian lady travels all over participating in them.
Her husband is an airline pilot and an avid runner too, though they never do marathons together.
“Why not?” I asked her.
“Oh, he runs so fast. I like to take my time,” she told me.
“Sometimes I’m running by a restaurant that looks nice so I’ll stop in for lunch, or maybe just a coffee,” she explained.
“You actually stop to eat during the marathon?!?” I asked incredulously.
“Oh sure. Maybe even go to a movie!” she squealed. “I don’t care about my time so much.”
I learned a lot about marathons on that bus ride, and in particular I learned that the Rock & Roll Marathon had hired Trombone Shorty to play a free show at the finish line and all were welcome. There would be free beer for runners (oh, the things I learned) and drinks for sale for nonparticipants, and it sounded like a great way to spend an afternoon.
So on January 25th, 2015 I hopped the streetcar to one of New Orleans’ wonderful green spaces where I found a big professional stage set up, a bunch of packed beer tents and a huge crowd of tired, happy-looking people with numbers on their shirts.
No wonder they were so happy. Most of them probably had a nice meal and perhaps stopped for some bowling or during their “marathon”.
I grabbed a beer and a patch of lawn and settled in for Trombone’s set.
Mr. Shorty (who is anything but short) is a demigod around New Orleans. I saw forty-foot tall billboards of him at the airport when I arrived. And why not? He blends pure, old-school New Orleans jazz with a cutting-edge updated rock sound that pushes his music beyond the bounds of authenticity into a new, true sound. It’s rockin’, it’s jazzy, it’s loud and brash and it sounds just like Trombone Shorty.
There will one day be statues of this guy is what I’m saying, if there ain’t already.
And all of it was under a pleasantly hot, sunny, blue sky in a park rife with vast willow trees exuding a thick, fragrant humidity.
Not bad for free, and I didn’t even have to run (or walk, or go to a movie).
I don’t recall what I did with the rest of my afternoon, but I do know what I did with my night: I went to see the Hot 8 Brass Band at The Howlin’ Wolf. But that’s a whole other ticket story (that also has no ticket).
My friend seems to be friends with Trombone Shorty. He has a giant float of him, that he features in Mardi Gras every year.