Oleanders in June

I hadn’t heard the song, “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” until after Katrina.  So many New Orleanians, including my soon-to-be husband, were scattered to the winds, staying with friends or relatives, or starting up new/temporary lives in far-flung locales.

It was the incomparable Connie Jones who sang it.  This New Orleans cornetist and trumpeter is the real deal, truly a musician’s musician.  He was performing at the Central Illinois Jazz Festivial in January, 2006, just a few short months after he and his wife, Elaine, had lost everything in the cataclysmic flooding and its aftermath.

His gravelly voice quavered with emotion, and evoked happier, more innocent times.  “I dream of oleanders in June, and still I’m wishing that I were there.”  Later, my husband incorporated the tune into his Philadelphia band’s repertoire, and each time he sang it, a heavy certainly settled more deeply upon me, knowing eventually he’d find his way back to the birthplace of jazz, bringing me along with him.

Meanwhile, it is June in the Crescent City, and indeed, the oleanders are in bloom.  There’s a spectacular display on the neutral ground along Canal Boulevard, which is where these photos were taken.

I didn’t know this plant before moving here, and it is not at all what I imagined, which was a sort of wispy, ethereal, fragrant, white blossom.  These things are seem insanely hardy.  Awhile ago, the city chopped all of these back to mere stumps, and I imagined it was an effort at removal.  But here we are two years later, and the massive bushes tower over me at twice my height.  The blooms are gaudy, colorful and as far as I can tell, have no scent.  Apparently they are one of the most poisonous of commonly grown plants.

Connie Jones retired from playing in 2016.  In his usual, understated style, he made the announcement after a smoking-hot set with his big band at Jazz Fest, offering little opportunity for a proper chance either to mourn or celebrate.  Life’s seasons continue, and Connie can be found on occasion having coffee at Lakeview Brew.  Do you know what it means?

 

DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS?
(Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter, 1946)

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
And miss it each night and day?
I know I’m not wrong.
The feeling’s getting stronger
The longer I stay away.

Miss the moss-colored vines,
The tall sugar pines,
The mockingbirds seemed to sing,
And I’d like to see the lazy Mississippi
A-hurryin’ into spring.

Oh, the Mardi Gras, the memories
Of Creole tunes that fill the air.
I dream of oleanders in June.
That’s when I’m wishing that I were there.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
When that’s where you left your heart?
And there’s one thing more:
I miss the one I care for
More than I miss New Orleans.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
And miss it each night and day?
I know I’m not wrong.
The feeling’s getting stronger
The longer I stay away.

Miss the moss-covered vines,
The tall sugar pines,
Where mockingbirds used to sing,
And I’d like to see that lazy Mississippi
A-hurryin’ to spring.

The Mardi Gras, the memory
Of Creole tunes that fill the air.
I dream of oleanders in June
And still I’m wishing that I were there.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
And miss it each night and day?
And there’s something more:
I miss the one I care for
More than I miss New Orleans.

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Two things. The storm was half a year away in January 2005. And, there is only one version the song that matters. It was recorded in 1947. Armstrong and Holliday.

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    1. Oops, typo! Corrected that, thanks, Ray! I’ve not yet seen that 1947 movie, New Orleans, where I read that “Do You Know What it Means” was first introduced, but now it’s on my list. I guess first and best, eh? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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