Tuesday, November 29, 2011

CocoCoco Robicheaux; Reflections of a Single Facet

Coco & Danielle, at French Quarter Festival
Coco Robicheaux was my friend. Which is not to say I knew him more or less than anyone else, of course. Coco knew everybody. And they knew him.

He had an amazing knack, one of many, for remembering someone's name & face, some particular elements that were peculiar to them, always something interesting. He saw that thing that stood out in you. And he reminded you of it, in his own way, and often. Sometimes in the strangest, yet simplest ways.

For several years, Coco lived in the guest house behind Dr. Fred's, both while my friend, Howard, & I were painting it ("I'm livin in the Red House, now!" he would proclaim) and while I was building the Rookery Studio in the garage there. One day, hearing some of my material through the open door, he told me, "You're a Voice."
  We sat at the out door table, and I, thinking he was remarking on my singing, mumbled something or other about 'scratch vocals'.
"No, man, you ARE a voice. You got some things you wanna say. Every body is part of the Body of Humanity, but we all play different parts. You're a Voice."

I remember feeling strangely complimented and weighted down by this. It seemed like a gift and a responsibility, but then if everybody played a part....

"So, what does that really mean?" I asked.

"Well, it wouldn't hurt to find some people that are Ears," he said, and went back to his paper, doing his New York Times cross word puzzle. In ink.

I met Coco in perhaps 1996 or '97. Mimi could tell you. It was the year she opened Esoterica on Dumaine Street. Her associate, Gina, introduced me to Coco, simply because I asked, "Who's the cat in the purple suit?"

His name was Coco, he told me, and we discussed the grand opening of that occult & esoteric shop in the Quarter, one that was far more than a tourist trap.
"Useful things!" he said with sweeping motion of his arm, holding that twisted cane of his. "So many useful things!"

 That first night, speaking as just David & Coco, we traversed Aleister Crowley & Edgar Casey, Hitchcock & Hawking, Coco later offering his opinions on which of Valikovsky's books Einstein was reading when he died (Earth in Upheaval), how to hypnotize snakes, what color eagle feathers are on different parts of the wing, and the proper way for a gentleman to wear leopard skin pants.
  It was only later that I learned he was that Coco Robicheaux (He hadn't had a last name to me until then), and few weeks later until he discovered I, too, was a musician.

 Over the years, there were literally thousands of conversations like that. And by the early 21st century, a whole new venue was opening up.

I had partnered up with my friend, & cohort, the late Jimmy May, for several years, running Sin City, on St Philip St. All things run their course, and Jimmy wound up on Frenchman St, tending bar at the Apple Barrel, for Doug & Liz. There were shows at Snug Harbor & d.b.a., but the Spotted Cat was still a dream, and the upscale bars on lower Frenchman were just dark, foreboding derelict buildings. Jimmy insisted on bringing music to the Apple Barrel, something acoustic, local, special...

Re-enter Coco Robicheaux. His sets in that tiny room were, and are, in fact, the stuff of legend. Lives were changed, lovers met, hearts were elevated and the Truth of the Spirit was literally on the walls. And that was where it started... This grew into a scene, drawing musicians who craved this action, rather than the safe & steady gig, folding themselves into a new chapter of New Orleans music.

Coco, Mike Hood & Jimmy May on Jimmy & Mike's birthday
 It was there that I first saw Dave Easley play both electric & pedal steel guitar like nobody I had ever seen before him. Mike Skallar, Mike Hood, Sam Price, Smokey Greenwell, Tom Chute, they all came through that room. On several occasions, Coco would not only say my name as I waked in, but urge the crowd to make me play; whatever my condition. I once refused, due to the guitar they had, and Mike Hood, laughing, said "Well, I know you'll play mine," pulling his strat out from behind a piano. And so I did.

Mike Hood & Coco, French Quarter Fest 2011
Many people are familiar with the various incarnations of Coco's bands, from his solo acoustic shows, to the full blown gospel version, every year at French Quarter Fest, where he would stand, arms extended to each side, there by the river, and invoke the Spirit for all of us, and in all of us. His spiritual leanings are no secret either. He rarely, to my knowledge, separated the two. This was part of his power, as a healer, a musician, and a creative force. Those bands that came together around it saw that the  vortex that he & Jimmy created was demonstrated full force when Jimmy & Michelle were married at the Skull Club, with Coco presiding as resident Holy Man. They were all there, Hood & Skallar & Price, and Lani & Lynn Drury & the amazing Irene Sage, one of Coco's dearest friends. It was a session to end sessions, and they were there for the love; of Jimmy, for creating the space to do this, of Coco, for pulling it all together, and for the music, more important than the money or recognition such a group could have commanded in a public setting. They played for Jimmy & Michelle & Coco, and they did it for free.
Coco Robicheaux & Irene Sage

 Snakes don't like choppy rhythm. And the Dali Llama likes bacon & eggs for breakfast. And if you tune the top five like Keith Richards and double the bottom like John Lee Hooker, you don't really need a bass player sometimes. I know these things because Coco Robicheaux found them out, remembered them, remembered that I love this shit, kept an eye peeled for me, and made sure I knew about it.

  I walked up to the coffee shop, and saw him at a table, reading the paper, like a shark, pretending not to see the NY Times crossword, until he & his pen were ready to go in for the kill, leaving no hope to the poor boxes, doomed to be correctly filled.
Without really looking up, he announced me; "Lord David!" Then a peer around the paper & over his glasses, "Hey now..." he'd say.

Sometimes we'd talk right away, and briefly. Other times there would be comfortable silence for a bit, and then...

"You know, it was the Germans who introduced the tuba to Hawaii many years before the G.I.'s took spam there. That wasn't until the second world war.
Maybe that's why they figure so prominently in Hawaiian music."

"Who, the Germans or spam?"

"What's another word for 'one of many faces'? Oh, never mind... facet..."

And that was Coco Robicheaux. A man of many facets, in fact, so many of them that all of us caught but a glimpse, from a different angle, of the same man. A man who once crawled in to a cave, like Johnny Cash, waiting for the end, only to hear a voice of salvation, and spent "two weeks on a bus with Marianne Faithful one night." It was always a surprise, and it was always Coco.

Some might say that they didn't always like what he had to say. Many times, it was because of the truth of it. Some might say he never made much of career, but those people measure in money and that was not the coin of the realm.

Coco Robicheaux made music & art, it's true. And more broadly, he made friends with almost anybody who would join him in that, truly remembering, caring, making contact at a base level, where the heart lives. And there is something more...

 Coco created a character with and of himself, stripping away the confinements of economics, upbringing, education, career and every other misconception that we carry like monkeys on our backs. He got down to the real deal, evolved beings, carrying spirits in the flesh, with no reason not to say hello to someone, anyone, as no person held more or less sway, except for how they comported themselves, what they were willing to find inside to offer back. How clearly he could see that, sometimes.

Now there is this legacy of music, of magical whimsey, of love & acceptance, of healing and seeing beyond the game, to where we are elevated by each other, hands joined, voices raised, the whole world, that bar gig, with everybody invited.

Coco Robicheaux leaves us with a legend, a catalog of music & video, and stories, oh god the stories; they haven't even yet begun... But this is also the proof that it can be done. That one man, with the right kind of spirit, can live that life, right up until the very last minute, and never blink, never back track and say he regretted it, never give up on living his life they way he chose to live it, pure to himself, to the very end.
And create so much joy, so much love, so many stories, and songs, videos & photographs, art & poetry, bringing so much happiness to so many in the process.

I loved him tremendously, and I can hear him chuckling at my saying so, as I do it, followed by "Well, I love you, too man." Because he did. He tried to love everybody.
 And in doing so, he became our friend, our mentor, all of us, together, each one of us special in some way. He made us the legends, to ourselves, while he was here.

I think it's time we return the favor, don't you?

Coco Robicheaux's official second line will be held Monday, December 12th, starting at 3:30 pm on Frenchman Street, and ending at the House of Blues. There will be a night of music dedicated to Coco from 6pm-till. 

Buono viaggio, mio fratello.
I'll catch up later.


Photo by Hubie Vigreux

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Passing of a Legend: Rest in Peace, Coco Robicheaux

There are now words, right now, other than to say I am heart broken by the loss of a very dear friend. On a grander scale, the world is lessened by the passing of a blues legend, a world class story teller and spiritual guide.

Go here, then, until such time as somebody can do him justice, and take a glimpse into the amazing life of Coco Robicheaux.

Buono viaggio, mio fratello.
I'll catch up later on.

mad love;
Lord David

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mad Process, Life in New Orleans & the H.F.B.

Every time I see Meschiya Lake on that Chip Forstall commercial, in close up, replete with the ink from her Traveling Kid days gracing her lovely face, my faith in the Mad Process that is Life In New Orleans is restored. A minstrel singing girl, from 'out there' somehow has the power to legitimize an Attorney At Law. 
H.F.B.  (How Fucking Brilliant)
Meschiya Lake on Facebook

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Open Mind

The Open Mind was awake. It was everywhere, and everything, all at once. It had either been there for ever & ever, or it had just started to be. It didn’t really matter which, since things like Time and Memory were all part of it, so any way you went about it, things all led back to the same place. I know that sounds a bit dicey, and there are very smart people who have formulas to prove one thing or another or a bunch of stuff in between, but they and their thoughts and mathematics and matter and measures and history were all part of it, too, so figuring it out was like herding cats. As pointless as it is impossible.
So, anyway, the Open Mind was awake. And it was everything and everywhere all at once.
 Contained in the fabric of Everywhere were some impenetrable areas like little round ball bubbles. Some were quiet and smooth. Some were almost ethereal, as though they would become part of the Open Mind at anytime, dissolving in to the Entire Fabric with a refreshing breath of release, satisfying some certain longing that only the Open Mind could understand and appreciate. Of course, since Everything is part of the Open Mind, there was certainly enough refreshment to go around. Some of the little ball bubbles were hot beds of irritation, red and scratchy to look at or feel, and seemed almost to boil inside, like some festering thing, ready to explode. These were all part of the Open Mind, but separate somehow. While everything was part of the Open Mind, not all of it was under control by the same thought processes. The areas inside these little ball bubbles were special. They contained something called Free Will. The Open Mind could go and look around inside these ball bubbles by looking out through the eyes of any one of billions and billions of facets of itself that lived inside of many of these ball bubbles. It had to be careful doing this, because if it looked out the eyes of any one of these for more then what seemed like an instant, the others seemed to know, and act differently towards the one it looked through. The facet whose eyes it used would most certainly start acting funny. This could prove to be difficult and defeat the entire purpose of Free Will altogether, so the Open Mind would sort just peek around at specifics a little bit, from time to time, and occupy it self with being Everything All The Time, which is pretty much a full time job.
Of course, any one of those billions and billions of facets could turn around and look out at the Open Mind, and watch Everything All The Time, too, but they hardly ever did. Go figure. Many of these ball bubbles grew like seeds, gestating at their own rate, developing according to their own basic guidelines, until they became one of those refreshing breaths of release, blending in to the Entire Fabric, further quenching the longing of the Open Mind, or they went the other way. They became so involved in their own inner festering, that they just burned away until they were but a hard and crispy little crust, which of course, couldn’t flow with the Entire Fabric, so they eventually just disintegrated back in to the Open Mind to be redeveloped at a later time. The Open Mind was used to this, as Every Part of Everything That Would Ever Happen was part of it, too. It came with the territory. So, anyway, during one of these occasional specific peeks inside one of the more troubled ball bubbles, the Open Mind saw that there had developed a New Facet, just within the last moment or so. They called themselves people, and they lived on a tiny speck in remote corner of this particular ball bubble, which they called The Universe. They thought that Everything In Existence was right there inside their particular ball bubble, and that the inside of this ball was actually the outside of everything else. As ridiculous as that may seem, they believed it, for the most part, and these people weren’t very accepting about new ideas. They even thought that the Open Mind lived entirely inside this tiny little ball bubble, The Universe, which was really so small that the Open Mind didn’t really give it much thought, except in an Open Mind Everything All The Time sort of way. They also had given the Open Mind a series of pet names, in a wide variety of languages, some of them even claiming that the Open Mind had a beard and robes. Being well groomed in Everything and wearing whatever it imagined All The Time, the Open Mind paid little attention to such vivid descriptions, knowing that these people were only seeing the Open Mind in terms they could understand; as themselves. The Open Mind loved all parts of itself equally, which is considered healthy, even those parts with Free Will that became irritated by themselves, sometimes. So it had a look inside this particular ball bubble to see what these momentary people were up too. Peering way down into that distant corner, deep inside the space within this tiny fragment of a ball bubble, the Open Mind could focus on the little sliver they called a Galaxy. There, just about where you’d expect, was their little solar system, and spinning around really fast, was their tiny blue ball of a world. Now, these people, as they’ve decided to call themselves, were mostly limited to just a few languages, some of them only one, which was disappointing, but even worse, they had decided not to trust too many of each other who looked and talked differently then whoever was doing the looking and listening. They had, in fact, divided up their tiny blue ball in to areas which were restricted to certain groups alone, and others had to ask permission to go there at all. Why anyone would want to visit such a place is too big a question to deal with here. Most unpleasant was the fighting they did with each other. It seemed to go on and on and on, destroying huge portions of their Blue Ball, and killing off vast numbers of these strange beings who had only moments ago been created and crawled out of holes in the rocks. What was really unbelievable was why they were doing it. Their use of the gift of Free Will was to claim that certain people had windows through which they could look and see the Open Mind. They said they ‘talked to it’ and that it ‘had a plan for them’. This was just plain silly, of course, as the Open Mind had created all of this to exercise Free Will in the first place, and these people used Free Will to take it away. Free Will, that is. So anyway, these momentary people would point at their own windows, calling them by various names and in a multitude of languages, and claim them to be the Only Window. This seemed to be what a great deal of the fighting was about. There was also a lot of trouble over stuff. Some people wanted more than they needed, and they hid it away to rot, while others got none. Not being a very nice way to get along, the Open Mind would have frowned on this, as it spread itself pretty equally Everywhere Forever, but that’s what Free Will is all about. At the moment, the Open Mind is waiting to see if this particular ball bubble with the littlest galaxy and the tiny blue ball will turn it’s momentary people around and begin to nourish their fellow creatures, habitat and future, eventually becoming a refreshing breath of release, and joining the rest of the Open Mind, or if it will just irritate itself into a crispy little crust and fade back into the Open Mind, for redevelopment at another time. The word on this is not yet in….

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What is it, really...

I am leaving breadcrumbs in the forest.
Follow them, if you like...