Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Orleans + 1: After

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans,
and miss it each night and day?
I know I'm not wrong, 'cause the feeling's getting stronger
the longer I stay away.

I woke up in New York this morning--okay, okay, at around 2:30 this afternoon--not quite knowing how I felt. On one hand, I had slept on a real mattress in my own bed. When I had to pee, I didn't have to wait on line for the bathroom for twenty minutes and barter with people trying to shower. I ate what I wanted when I wanted to. I watched some of the TV shows I'd missed during the week. I took a shower that lasted longer than four minutes, and took my sweet time shaving. I put on clean clothes.

And then I felt alone, a vague sense of something lost, the hard thud of Life As Usual falling back into place. That's the on-the-other-hand.

I keep trying to hold on to as many moments as I can before my memory blurs them at the edges:

little girls singing their songs for me and asking for mine,

boys who fancied themselves tough, hard-edged men laughing and working together while
learning Steve Reich's Clapping Music,

James tapping the potential of a bunch of young jazzers at NOCCA and igniting their sense of possibility,

a bunch of dancers, actors, and musicians--aren't we supposed to be delicate?--raising FOUR HOUSES AT ONCE and wailing the holy hell out of thousands of nails,

the INCREDIBLE performances we witnessed, from jazz on Bourbon Street to crunk brass on Magazine Street to the First Street Methodist Church Choir to original songs and dances by some of the kids we taught,

the cheers and smiles and tears of joy people gave us when we performed for them--hell, the cheers, smiles, and tears of joy we gave each other when we performed.

And oh, my god, those performances. All free, some outdoors, two in cafeterias, one in a gymnasium, one in our house's living room, all for small groups of people, all thrown together either the night before or in the vans on the way, and every single one more moving and more rewarding than the most prestigious performances in the fanciest venues I've been a part of or seen. I am in awe of every single member of our team.

If those shows are what we can do in twenty minutes, maybe art really can save the world.

Lots of love and hope,
Jeremy Beck

* * *

One of our houses the day we arrived--just a foundation and a floor. We stopped work for a few minutes to raise the first wall, helped by the woman whose house this will be. By the time we left, the entire first floor was complete.

Bree (a dancer), Christina (an actor), and I (a musician) harness the power of all three Juilliard divisions to sheath the second floor of a house-in-progress.

Team leader Chelsea dances for the Habitat crew.

Kris, Mike, James, and Melissa play some jazz.

Jamal and Bree dance a duet.

Returning team member Christina reads Maya Angelou's "I Rise"

Jeff dances as part of our Habitat lunchtime show.

Returning team member Alejandro reads an original slam poem about art and action.

Lekeisha (top) and Shawnell (bottom), the two young composers in my group. I am in awe of their openness, honesty, and kindness.

No comments:

Post a Comment