A day in New Orleans

  (Photography by Lee Celano / For The Times)

Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Fausset guides you on a day in the life of his former hometown, from daybreak to closing time, with diary entries that capture the faces and voices of a battered city that lives nonetheless by the defiant credo of its Mardi Gras Indian troupes: "We won't bow down."

The night time. The right time.
11:50 p.m.
Frenchman Street, Faubourg Marigny

The New Orleans Jazz Vipers are set up in the corner of this dark little bar. They're over in the corner, crowded on a stage a third of the size of a small FEMA trailer - saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, violin, acoustic guitar, stand-up bass. They play in a strong, swinging style. Bodies move as if they had a drummer, and they don't.

This is music perfected and played by countless musicians before them. They owe a heavy debt to Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhart. This is genre music. And yet, it is anything but stagnant. A man in a hat stands up and accompanies them on melodica. Girls dance with boys and girls dance with girls. The bartender wanders over, says cheers to a few strangers, and downs a shot. They're here every Monday, she says. It's her favorite night to work.

This is the kind of Monday night people have been living around here for longer than anyone can remember. The couples fly on the dance floor, and the musicians grin when a phrase or a rhythm zags where it might have zigged.

Bruce Brackman, the 30-year-old clarinetist, plays in at least three different bands, and he mostly plays this old stuff. It's out of step with popular taste and it's not making him rich. But it never bores him, and he thinks he knows why.

"It's alive," he says of the music, though he might be speaking of his hometown. "Yeah-that's what's up about it."

Kerlerec Street Scandal
11:35 p.m.
Corner Kerlerec and Chartres Streets, Faubourg Marigny

There is a wild drunken man's holler: AHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh!