My journey in pictures

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dixieland & A Tear Stained Cheek (The Paulin Brothers)

Ricky & Aaron Paulin
You know, you walk around a place like this hoping to soak it up and experience it as best you can and then you just luck up and stumble into somebody else's lives (and hopefully) leave a better person for it. That happened to me about 4PM on Friday. I introduced myself seeing Ricky and Aaron on a break from 
Ricky's solo gig. Aaron was just stopping by "post gig" at the Cafe Du Monde.

Ricky and Aaron Paulin.
They've played on the New Orleans Streets all of their lives. Their dad "Doc" Paulin had one of the best Traditional Dixieland Jazz Bands that had played the "Quarters" for 7 decades. He died in '07 at 100 years old (and still had a "good right cross" on his death bed, Ricky said).  
The Paulin Brothers played the night before (with their 5 other brothers) at Preservation Hall and have for years. I had tried to see the show but there was a really long line and didn't look like I'd be able to get in~They kept givin me shit for not waiting in line~ I asked do you guys always play on the streets like this? Ricky says "You HAVE to...if you wanna live"
Ricky says "we even played a Bar Mitzvah. We put our twist on it (Tradition Bar Mitzvah songs). They ain’t NEVER had nothing like that!  “Oooooh, it was a change...for the better!"
Ricky says of playing on the streets that "when I’m out here on the street, I’m gonna give these people something…to make 'em happy. I try my best not to make 'em sad."
He'd said how the "oil spill" had really slowed down business and people didn't understand that it hadn't really been as a big a deal as tourists (and the press) were making it out to be.
About this time a lady who I'd seen out here many nights come up to claim "her spot" (PRIME place in front of the Monteleone Hotel). I hear Ricky tell her "I'm aaall night! You had it all week long and I can't get one night??!! (she keeps arguing) and then he says "Lemme tell you something.... I'm SO sorry. ~Turning back to me as she stands there for a few more minutes and glares at him~ "Now moving right along. How long you been out here (on vacation). TWO and a HALF MONTHS!!?? You ain't goin' back AAHHHH!!!" (he hollers and rolls around to look at Aaron)...which made me laugh at how long and loud he was hollering. Then he says something SO special. "You gettin pollinated....You don't get it, do you?" (me) "Yeah, I do..... Uh, no I don't". "I know" (he says bluntly). "Now look, the deal with the pollen, you gonna get a good (dose of life) and a lotta (good) things develop behind it".
Ricky goes back to playing after Aaron goes and get's us some beer. Me and Aaron keep talking. I asked him about playing funerals. He says that a lot of people nowadays don't play the Hymns and Dirges (like they suppose to) at the 1st part (of the funerals). Aaron says (making the sound of the bass drum) "Boom....Boom,boom" (he says it real solemn and slow). "That's the saddest sound" ~I don't look at him when he saying all of this cuz it's gotten pretty sad and when I finally do look up at his face in a little bit he's got a tear stain down his right cheek ~  Anyway, then he tells me about "the second line". It's what they play after they lay him to rest in the ground. It's the happy stuff. Aaron says they usually go past the bars or places that the deceased used to hang out and the music is meant to say: “Don’t worry about me… I’m good to go, You take care of yourself and on the way back..... have a beer for me”.
Man, you can't get that shit from a book.
Aaron (on his first Mardi Gras):                         
I was 16 years old. One of the guys called up (his dad), 4 o'clock. Got drunk. He couldn’t make it. My dad ranting and raving up and down the house…. you coming with me today.It was 30 degrees outside.
Look,  I’m shaking like a leaf and I’m sweating buckshot. At that time I was playing snare drum…. The whole world watching. Matter of fact I was sitting 1st chair (in High School), but that didn’t make no difference, NOW we playing professional!
Mile and a half in (to the 4 mile parade) Snare head breaks on the other’s players (drum). He was kicking it and rollin with it. In the winter time (with the old lambskin drum heads) you gotta loosen the heads (to keep from breaking) cause the cold makes it brittle (he apparently hadn’t and it busted). My dad looked at me, I looked at my dad and I told my dad…. Let’s go!. It was on St. Charles Avenue. You know, you have it thrust upon you and you have no alternative… “We made it through…I had to feel my way but bout a mile from the end of it, I was straight. I was still learning and sweating (long laugh!). He (his dad) said "look, you alright."
Last coupla things:
Aaron: Here in New Orleans, they call it I guess The Big Easy. It’s The Big Easy for those who’s already "got" (money). It ain’t easy in The Big Easy, like they say.
Ricky has been playing choruses of standards this whole time to the passerbys. Songs like "That's The Story Of Life", "If I Only Had a Brain", "Pink Panther Theme" and a bunch of others. He (obviously) was such a great player and would sing a little and cut up with people and wave and talk to their friends coming to and fro.
I asked for a picture and they obliged. Ricky said “We don’t say cheese here, we say 'who dat' ”
Ricky and Aaron, I REALLY may take you up on the offer to meet you guys over at your momma's house. Richard said "You go home and think about it". I truly will.
You know, I think they may not have even have given me the time of day if they hadn't thought that I could help them out in some way (telling 'em I'd been in the business) like management or something. I understand. Their trying to make a living but I’m glad they let me talk to them for a little a while. And who knows. Hell, it wouldn't be the first job that I was unqualified for...


  1. Read this again... it's my favorite so far.

    I think they would have given you the time of day regardless of what kind of job you've had. You have one of those faces where people want to talk to you and tell their story. You're the consumate kindred spirit and you have such a wonderful way of relaying those stories gifted to you back to us, the reader. I think you just may be on to something. :)

  2. Aren't those Jamie Paulin's brothers?

  3. John, second cousins (on the mothers side).