NEW ORLEANS -- It's possible that New Orleans is as far from Santa Cruz as you can get. Or, put another way: New Orleans is a place, unlike Santa Cruz, where the words "politically" and "correct" never get uttered together.
The weather is different here, too. Unseasonably cold in Santa Cruz; in the mid-80s here. And that's good, at least for a visit during the French Quarter Jazz Festival. This is different from the other Jazz Fest, the one that has big names like Elton John and Kid Rock. This one is all New Orleans talent. It's also all free.
Then there you are, at 11 a.m., and 80-year-old Pete Fountain, post-stroke and all, is on stage in Jackson Square, and doing a sterling job on the clarinet in an unannounced appearance with the Connie Jones Band. He sounded like the old-pro that he is, especially on standards like "Lazy River" and "When the Saints Go Marching In."
He may the last of the big-name traditional jazz players left in the Crescent City. And my is the city in love with the gentlemen. His short -- 12-minute -- set was a kind of 12-minute standing ovation.
As for the post-Katrina recovery -- it still progresses. But the city has never taken too much time to worry about its own problems. The crowds are here -- smart visitors who know about the French Quarter Jazz Festival and music-loving locals who are lining the venues in the French Quarter to revel in the sounds.
Ah, New Orleans.