15 Retard toy run. At truck stop

The Flavor of New Orleans

Posted on 25. Jun, 2015 by in Gypsy Bikers

by Scooter Tramp Scotty Kerekes

It had been weeks since my arrival in New Orleans, and by now waking at camp in the tiny bamboo infested backyard of B.B.’s little house in the French Quarter seemed perfectly normal. After the coffee she’d soon bring to my tent-door on this sunny morning I’d laze a few hours away before walking through the French Quarter to offer my service at the local police station.

3 B.B. brings coffee to my tent The grinning face of an older white girl, her long dreadlocks weighted towards the ground, soon appeared at my tent door. As I offered a return smile and reached for the steaming mug she offered, thoughts of last week’s adventure with her came to mind.

B.B. at the wheel, I had ridden in her police van as we’d visited the hospital to pick up an 80 2 B.B. St. Roman in her office year old man. I’d then sat in the backseat listening to his seemingly deluded story of how the power company had shut off his home until, eventually, he’d simply wondered away. Now the man no longer knew where he lived. In his pocket was a check for $7,000.

1 B.B. St. Roman The shelter to which we delivered him was a crowded place and most seemed genuinely happy to see B.B. Three staff members hugged her. Once she’d told of the old man’s plight, he was admitted. This place was filled with the city’s ragged people and many of their faces lit up at the sight of my host. For although B.B. works for the police, wears a cop suit (I kid that she smells like bacon) and drives a cop van, she is technically not a cop. B.B. carries no gun and her only job is to help those unfortunate or homeless people who occupy this city. It’s a job for which she seems to exude great passion and, because she’d helped so many, most vie constantly for her attention and it took quite some time get out of there.

Days later, B.B.’s research confirmed that, without family, the old man resided alone and had outlived most of his friends. Although he did have money with which to pay utility bills, this senior had simply forgotten that such things exist. Dementia maybe. In time they’d find him a home in which to finish out his years.

So is the daily routine of this city’s happy little Mother Teresa (whom I often kid, “Sister Teresa”). Yet in her off-time 4 B.B. St. Roman B.B. is into motorcycles, parties, and other things that the real Mother Teresa would never have considered. Still, B.B.’s the most altruistic person I’d known and this opportunity to spend time in her company was a unique and wonderful experience.

After two sips and a groggy, “Good morning”, I promised to be down at the cop-shop soon. B.B. headed off to work.

5 Dr. John and myself Eventually I arrived at the station. It seemed strange that I should have become so familiar with this place, but I’d been coming and going for some time now and most of the police knew me by face, if not name. They’d become familiar to me as well.

Under B.B.’s influence to community service, I’d offered to help set up the big metal Christmas 7 Xmas tree at cop shop tree that’s traditionally erected in the N.O.P.D.’s yard this time of year. I was told that a parade (oh, how New Orleans loves its parades) of children, proceeded by cops on horseback and a brass band, would soon be coming to place their homemade decorations on the tree. Made little sense to me then but, over the course of four days, I’d spend considerable time getting that damn tree ready anyway. The afternoon passed easily as I worked with two other volunteers.

6 Dr. John & Dali Lama Three days later a famous New Orleans musician stopped by B.B.’s home. It had been for 10 years that she’d traveled the world while acting as this man’s road manager and B.B. knew him well. I’d been listening to his music on the radio since boyhood, and had seen him on TV only last week. Dr. John walked slowly into the house and took a seat. In this most personal setting I enjoyed the great pleasure of spending time in his company and took a liking to this guy right away. I think the feeling was mutual. He seemed an easy going, shit talkin’ type of dude with very kind eyes. In fact, his whole demeanor felt kind. B.B. later confirmed that this observation was correct.

At the age of 73, Dr. John’s still touring the world playing music, and still sells the house out at almost every concert. 8 Kids come ot my xmas tree 10 Truth is Dr. John doesn’t know if he’s 73 or 74. He told me that long ago the governor had gotten in trouble with a woman and burned the House of Records down—and Dr. John’s birth certificate with it—to cover his tracks.

Originally from New Orleans, Dr. John carries only a modest 10th grade education. He told me that, in those early years, he’d play two gigs a night in the French Quarter, or its vicinity, then be too tired for school in the mornings. He said that back then these night clubs were only fronts for prostitution in the back rooms. Then, in 1962, a new District Attorney closed these places or, “Padlocked the joints” as Dr. John put it. This pretty much wiped out the New Orleans music scene and probably 90% of the musicians left the city. Dr. John went to California, New York, and ultimately on to play around the world.

11 Kids at my xmas tree Turning to B.B., he told her that Bonnie Raitt said hi. I guess they all used to work together. Dr. John then told me he knows many who say that B.B. saved their lives. I’d heard this from others who live in this city as well and believe that living in the company of Mother Teresa for two years really influenced her. In fact, B.B. later told me that Mother Teresa and Dr. John have been her biggest mentors.

An interesting note is that, both being dropouts, it was somehow arranged that Tulane university would grant Dr. John and the Dali Lama honorary degrees and a graduation ceremony on the same day. I have a photo of that event.

So Dr. John left us. For me, it had been a very interesting afternoon.

With the nearing of Christmas it was decided we’d make a local toy run. Although I’ve attended a million toy runs 14 Retard toy run. At truck stop and seldom write of them, this event was unique.

I pulled the old FL into the truck stop/casino and shut ‘er down. The day’s cold air hindered attendance today and only a smallish crowd of motorcycles graced the lot. We dismounted and went to join the others. It was then that B.B. told me story of this run’s origin: B.B.’s late husband Pops, founder of Louisiana ABATE, had started this ride to place a direct contribution into the hands of those in need. And although he’d been gone for 20 years, the rally still lived.

12 Kids at my xmas tree In fact, for his relentless service to the community in years past, there’s even a public park dedicated his name.

Another old Electra Glide sat among the bikes and I moved to make conversation with its 16 Retard toy run. At truck stop owner. Evan Delahoussaye’s a serious gear-head and this shared interest granted plenty of fuel for conversation. Evan had boxes of old FL parts and said I should come check them out. He also offered the use of his garage/shop for any maintenance Betsy might need. I took his number.

17 Retard run. Ariving at Magnolia school Eventually a police motorcycle escort led our bike procession onto the highway. The ride seemed long as it wound slowly beside the Mississippi riverbank. It was fun to see that, besides the riders, the cops were having a great time playing with their sirens and otherwise entertaining the families that lined the streets to watch us pass.

As we entered the driveway of Magnolia School I noted a most unusual sight. Near the front 19 At Magnolia school. CMA table entrance Santa and Mrs Clause stood beside their decorated red bagger with sidecar full of toys. But it was the unusual crowd that caught one’s attention. For there, among a few staff members, one young man stood wearing a leather vest and helmet as he jumped around screaming and shaking both hands. Beside him a girl sat in her wheelchair grinning excitedly at us. There were other’s too. Magnolia School is home to the mentally disabled and, although ages ranged from young to 60, there was hardly a mentality among them beyond the age of six.

20 At Magnolia school. Bikes were parked in the lot and we ambled inside to meet a huge room filled with “children” of the same description. Some seemed stoic while other’s were overcome with joy at the sight of so many bikers in their midst,—and the coming of Santa Clause too! For all believed in Santa. Why should they not? And here he was in the flesh! A thing I enjoyed about these “kids” was their complete inability to temper emotional expression; and the happiness that beamed from many was surely contagious.

After passing through the line to retrieve drinks from the CMA’s display, then jambalaya from the staff, we set at a 21 Santa gives presents. Magnolia school. table to eat and watch the action. Before long Santa, Mrs. Clause, and three elves took the stage beside a huge pile of presents. Long before the run, each child had made a list of the thing he most wanted from Santa. These lists had then been distributed among members of the CMA, ABATE, and a few others. In this way each kid would receive exactly what he’d asked for. When Santa called a name that kid would approach the stage to receive his/her present. Some were so excited they ran and, on two occasions, hit Santa with a hug so big I thought might knock him over.

What fun it was!

24 Old friends at Magnolia School When the last present was handed out we ambled outside. There, among what was left of the crowd, I ran into friends I’d known since that first trip to N.O. back in the 90s. After catching up, we all took a ride.

A week passed.

I looked through the window of my little French Quarter coffee shop in time to see a parade of children pass. They could only be going to my tree! After grabbing the camera I started after them.

In the cop-shop yard a card table, staffed presumably by parents, offered drinks and donuts. Near the fence a four 25 Ralph & Evan. Rat rod man brass band played as the children hung their handmade decorations upon the tree. Of course, Santa was in attendance to take present requests. Everyone seemed to be having such a great time as I observed quietly from the sidelines. And although I’d only worked that Christmas tree in service to B.B., my emotion at the happiness its outcome had produced was powerful.

23 Santa gives presents. Magnolia school. With donuts in hand, the children next settled upon the ground at yard’s center while an officer stood beside my tree to give his safety speech on the dangers of strangers. After the band had played some more, all began to filter out and I returned to the coffee shop.

Although I seldom stay in one place for longer than a month, it was approaching the seventh week since arrival in the city of New Orleans. It was time to go. But there was motorcycle maintenance to consider so I called my new garage-junky friend, Evan Delahoussaye. Although Evan used to build and race cars, he’d grown tired of the expense and pressure associated with racing and had taken to building rat-rods instead. Of course he built his own Harley’s, and was also into stupidly powerful (I rode one) racing minibikes too. This weekend however, Evan and best friend Ralph would lock themselves in the garage to work on the latest rat-rod project and I’d been invited to join that party.

I slept in Evan’s garage all weekend. Betsy got a new clutch cable, oil change, and a few other odds and ends while 26 Sleeping in Evan's garage the boys labored on the new car. These two grease monkeys love nothing more than garage projects and the atmosphere was that of excited children with a new toy. Starting with an old V8, some ancient rusted out auto body, and two double wide semi truck wheels, the car, frame included, was being sculpted together from scrap metal and other junk. I found it fascinating that anyone could actually build such a thing.

27 Evan's garage Gwen, Evan’s wife, fed us well and by evening we hung in the living room watching the tube. Close friendship came to pass quickly and I’ll always visit again when in the area. Besides, it’s good to know a tool laden garage-junky when one is a homeless vagabond with an old motorcycle.

The air had grown cold this late in the year and it was to the promised land of Florida that I 28 Evan's garage pointed the front wheel. I was to rendezvous with a man who’d only recently moved aboard his motorcycle. We’d ridden Idaho together some months back, and would soon tour the Sunshine State for a while then hang in the intense heat of Key West through the hardest months of this uncommonly cold winter.

But then, that’s another story.

Scooter Tramp Scotty

 

 

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