Mardi Gras in Newport

“Lots of booze and boobs,” said my friend Tim, describing his Saturday working the Knights of Columbus booth at the annual Newport Seafood and Wine festival. Church choir rehearsal stopped dead. Boobs?

It seems some well-built tourist took the Mardi Gras Theme to heart. Apparently in New Orleans, everyone wears beads and if a woman shows her charms, she earns a chain. She asked one of the beaded Catholic gentlemen if she could buy a chain off his neck. No, he said. Well, what if I do this? And before they knew it, she’d lifted her shirt. He gave her his beads.

Tim said that by the time she left, she had a huge collection of beads around her neck.

Ah, Mardi Gras, the days of celebration before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. This isn’t New Orleans, but we do know how to have fun.

Yesterday, I attended a concert by the Central Coast Chorale and the Calamity Jazz Quintet. The chorale, of which I was a charter member long ago, sang good old gospel songs like “In That Great Getting’ Up Mornin’ and “Steal Away.” Packed onto the altar of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, they sounded glorious. And the Calamitys rattled the stained glass windows. The music just poured out of them, especially Vicki Cox, leading them on trumpet. It was impossible to sit still. A little girl in the pew in front of me was on her feet in the aisle shaking her ponytail, waving her arms and having a great time. Occasionally her mother pulled her back onto the pew, but in a minute she was back on her feet doing what we all wanted to do.

As I sat there clapping and bobbing in my seat, I thought this couldn’t happen in a big city or a big church. The music might be just as good or even better, but the feeling wouldn’t be the same. I knew many of the people on the altar and in the audience, but we were all friends by the time the concert ended.

My friend Georgia had this blissed-out look on her face the whole time and she dragged me up to meet the quintet after the concert. As they played, we never did see the piano player, just the top of a gray-haired head rocking like crazy. I was amazed to discover the owner of that head was a woman in a wheelchair and then to realize this was Meg Graf, who had played flute beside me in our church 12 years ago when we first moved to Oregon. She moved to Eugene shortly after we met, so I hadn’t seen her in over a decade.The joy of music on her face lit up the whole church, and she was still playing as I walked across the parking lot toward my car late on that rain-darkened afternoon. Rock on, Meg.

Checking out the Calamity Jazz website, we learn that Meg and Vicki are sisters, and that there are other Calamity Jazz players who gather from all over the state. Plus, they have CDs to buy, so you can have Mardi Gras all year long.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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