For one last January we’re packing the old man off to college in New Orleans. Once graduated, who knows where our Giles will be a year from now. Personally I’m bucking for Canada, but will miss him in any event.
As has been melodically portrayed in a number of his autobiographical songs, Randall Stuart Newman was born in Los Angeles “in November ’43”. According to his rousing song, “Dixie Flyer” Newman’s father “was a captain in the army, fighting the Germans in Sicily.”
Since his “poor little momma didn’t know a soul in L.A” they boarded the “Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans” where she’d been bred. The somewhat sardonic story continues with this selection about Newman’s early childhood in the Crescent City during the Jim Crow-era.
“Willow Street in the Garden District” runs right through the Tulane University campus. The long-gone Sugar Bowl was Tulane’s football stadium (they now play in the Super Dome). Right across St. Charles Ave. is Audubon Park, where you’ll doubtless still find macaroons and red balloons and people reading the “Picayune” (now the “Times-Picayune”) but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who even knows what an octoroon is.
And that’s progress.
New Orleans Wins the War
Don’t remember much about my baby days
But I been told
We used to live on Willow in the Garden District
Next to the Sugar Bowl
Momma used to wheel me past an ice cream wagon
One side for White and one side for Colored
I remember trashcans floatin’ down Canal Street
It rained every day one summer
Momma used to take me to Audubon Park
Show me the ways of the world
“Here comes a white boy there goes a black one,
That one’s an octoroon
This little cookie here’s a macaroon,
That big round thing’s a red balloon
And the paper down here’s called the Picayune
And here’s a New Orleans tune”
In 1948 my Daddy came to the city
Told the people that they’d won the war
Maybe they’d heard it, maybe not
Probably they’d heard it and just forgot
‘Cause they built him a platform there in Jackson Square
And the people came to hear him from everywhere
They started to party and they partied some more
‘Cause New Orleans had won the war
(“We knew we’d do it, we done whipped the Yankees”)
Daddy said, “I’m gonna’ get this boy out of this place
Bound to sap his strength
People have fun here and I think that they should
But nobody from here every come to no good
They’re gonna pickle him in brandy and tell him he’s saved
Then throw firecrackers ‘round his grave.”
So he took us down to the airport and flew us back to L.A.
That was the end of my baby days
Blue, blue morning, blue, blue day
All your bad dreams drift away
It’s a blue, blue morning of a blue, blue day
Lose those bad dreams
Those gray clouds above you,
What you want them around with you for?
You got someone to love you
Who could ask for more?
It’s a blue, blue morning, of a blue, blue day
All your bad dreams drift away…