My friend and I went to a church a few weeks ago in New Orleans, and it was a trip to be sure. I joked with him, which Blues Brother are you, because we were the only 2 white people in the place. Which, because we’ve allowed ourselves to regress back to 1960 levels of understanding on the topic, I have to say is not the point. It’s just an interesting fact. When I say these people were black, I’m not talking about black as in black people, I’m talking black as in motor oil, leather jackets, night. It was some serious Africans we were dancing in the aisles with, which, since I’m white, means slightly bobbing my head in time whilst clapping anachronistically behind the relative safety of the pews. That’s a joke, because my time isn’t that bad, but I sure as hell wasn’t dancing in any kind of aisle, I can tell you that for sure. But they were. And we were in Algiers, which is just across the river from the been-there-done-that madhouse of the French Quarter, which, you’re going to hate me, but filled me with almost inexplicable boredom, having been there
drunk off my ass and fried out of my wits on God-knows-whateverall else that it’s pointless to try to count, the wildest time being the one time I was standing on the bar in a clown suit while some girl dressed only in whipped cream was being ravenously disrobed by the wagging tongues of several naked men, and I did end up dancing that time, in front of the stage with some girl dressed like a bird, and it was a wild time indeed. This time I spent most of my time SW of the quarter in the district off Magazine Street, near Audubon Park, which was a lot more interesting, if equally populous and sweaty.
Which is where I wrote this tune, “My Church Is In The Trees,” in my submersible space-dirigible under trees festooned with hula hoops and Mardi Gras beads (they never take them down I don’t think; why would they?), in a marinade of anti-mosquito napalm and sweat, in the hot and swampy night. I wrote it because I had to get out of that church or die. It was great and all, but if that lady screamed at me about power for another half an hour while I’m evaporating in my shoes from lack of love & oxygen, I would have quite simply lost my mind.
And so I walked outside into the underwater streets of Algiers and sat on the giant, prehistoric root of some twisted, fleshy tree that resembled a psychedelic circus tent, and looked up at the birds, and let myself go quietly insane. And it was indeed quite pleasant. The heat had no effect on me at all.
© Nathan Payne