Archive | June, 2019

Hurricane and Jazz in Voodoo Land

30 Jun

Thanks to my son Ajoy, who did all my internal flight bookings in the US, The flight from New York JFK to New Orleans with DELTA AIRLINES was sheer privilege and comfort. My ticket said, 14 June 2019, DELTA 2972, First Class (I), NYC-KENNEDY 4:00pm NEW ORLEANS, LA 6:36pm.

The smart white American hostess asked if I would like a Bourbon with soda, but I emphatically asked for a Gin and Tonic. She looked puzzled but smiled and got me what I asked for. She wouldn’t have understood that my order was in memory of the late Jock Whittaker, who made such an impact on me during my early years (1969-71) in Malayalam Plantations…

After lunch, there was time for a quick nap before the plane landed in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA).

My host who shall remain anonymous… let me invent a name… say “Louis” (From Louisiana and Louis Armstrong) for the purpose of this blog… had sent a WhatsApp message to say that he was caught in traffic and might be slightly late.

I collected my baggage and walked to the Exit area and waited between Pillars 8 and 9.

I was soon picked up and off we drove to what I was told was the French Quarter, which is 17 miles (27 kms) due East from the airport on the Mississippi River.

After parking in a public parking lot, we made our way on foot through the narrow streets of the Old French Quarter, bursting with life.

Soon we were outside Preservation Hall, where jazz music is performed every night, with tickets priced at $20 per head.

It may be because I got my earliest introduction to music through Classical and Church music, that I have never seriously enjoyed “jazz”. I learnt that New Orleans style jazz music is collective improvisation. Classical music pieces have passages called “Cadenza”s which allow the soloist (usually) to improvise and show off his skill with the instrument, within laid down limits. The orchestra is never never allowed to improvise… or all hell would break loose in a philharmonic orchestra which might have a 100 musicians!

Before the Preservation Hall opened, we stood in a row outside. Louis my host got me a drink, which was a lurid red with a cherry and slice of orange on the rim of the plastic long drink ‘glass’.

I later learnt that the “Hurricane” was invented during II World War with rum instead of whisky which was in short supply. The recipe for the drink is given below:

Here is the ‘Traditional Hurricane’ Recipe

2 oz. light rum
2 oz. dark rum
2 oz. passion fruit juice
1 oz. orange juice
½ oz. fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon simple syrup
1 tablespoon grenadine

Garnish: orange slice and cherry

. Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a hurricane glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

When I went to Singapore in December 2018, I made a beeline for the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel where I met my classmate (1983/85) Rohit Bhatnagar who treated me to my first “Singapore Sling”. This drink too is served in a hurricane glass, after Pat O’Brien’s bar in New Orleans. It is called a “Hurricane” glass because it resembles the glass chimney of a hurricane lantern.

Readers will have to forgive my ignorance of jazz music when I merely say that the orchestra consisted of a trombone, trumpet, clarinet, double bass, piano and drums. I counted piano last because it was used more to provide rhythm and could hardly be heard. The piano was played by the only lady and the whole ensemble blended well without any direction or conducting…

Unfortunately for me, photography was not allowed inside Preservation Hall once the concert started. Date and Time stamp on photographs are IST.

By the time the concert was over, I was too knackered to explore the Reverend Zombie’s House of Voodoo. We walked back to the car careful of dodgy characters and drove about 100 miles (160 kms) to Baton Rouge for the night.

59th Bridge Street Song

28 Jun

One of the most important links we had with the American music scene in the Fifties was the radio.

I would have been just thirteen years old when I first heard Simon & Garfunkle’s 59th Bridge Street Song on VOICE OF AMERICA’s Breakfast Show. At the time I did wonder why the song was named after a street.

When I was in New York between 7th and 14th June 2019, my son Ajoy asked me if I would like to go for a Broadway Show. I said no and asked if we could hang out at a cafe on 59th Bridge Street in Manhattan.

“There are no cafes on the 59th Street, Dad” Ajoy said… “its a cantilever truss bridge between Manhattan & Queens. But if that’s where you want to hang out, I have another idea. Lets get some bagels and go sit on the riverside and eat them.”

“‘Bagels’? I dont think we get them in India, although I am sure I had read about them and ‘Pretzels’…”

So what are bagels? These days the information is just a few clicks away… “a bagel is a round yeast roll with a hole in the middle. The shape is important — the name translates to “bracelet” in German. There’s no egg in the dough, and malt is used in place of sugar.” It is said to have been brought to America by Polish Jews, but has become part of New York’s food culture. We went to Bagelworks, the store that specialises in Bagels and Ajoy stood in a queue.


So, we made a father and son excursion out of it… sat watching Manhattan’s East River flow past, and the occasional speedboat or barge as it puttered by.

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy…

What does ‘feeling grooy’ mean?

“The more casual you were, the groovier you were. The groovier you were, the cooler you were. It’s what everyone aspired to [during the Sixties].”

The song was included in S&G’s album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966). It was Paul Simon’s musical interpretation of the energy and movement on and around Queensboro Bridge. A call to take it easy in New York where everyone is busy and moving around purposefully on the roads.

I was glad to be on the Street, 60 years after the song was written, in the company of my son. He gave me a brief presentation on the history of the Bagel in New York as we had a relaxed breakfast.