Saxophone guru Steve Goodson in his Uptown showroom holding one of his handmade creations, the Voodoo Rex Tenor. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)
New Orleanians possess a presence that in my experience remains unparalleled, and we know our neighbors no matter what. By this I mean we all participate in the characterization of the city, and we do so seemingly effortlessly. Whether you’re John Goodman, John Georges, or John Fitzgerald. You live here. We know who you are and to a degree we don’t care. This remains one of the reasons the celebrity set can be drawn to the Crescent City. Anonymity in the light of day. We don’t care if you throw Super Bowl touchdown passes, win Grammys, or sautee garlic. It’s all the same, and you put your pants on one leg at a time like everybody else.
For years in my early days of slinging coffee at PJs on Maple I used to wait on this super nice guy. He came in generally in the late afternoon / early evenings and always ordered a cappucino. He was tall and real lean, salt and pepper hair usually kept under a beret or similar chapeau, and always a smile and a greeting. But I didn’t know his name or what he did. And it went on like this literally for years. One day, a co-worker said to me “You know who that is, right?” I didn’t. It didn’t matter really. “Charles Neville,” he said. “Oh. (pause) Oh! (pause) Oh, okay. Well,” I thought, “he’s a cool guy.” And good for him. He’s Charles Neville without being “Charles Neville.”
Years later after Katrina I moved to a new neighborhood, and I met another noteworthy saxophonist in my new neighbor, though like Charles, at the time I had no idea who he was or what he did. Initially Steve and I met while my wife and I began renovating the house next door. He and his wife Sharon were just as welcoming and warm as could be. And the more we got to know them, their presence became so ordinary and familiar, you could almost take it for granted. I knew Steve was a saxophonist, but I didn’t know much more than that. At home sporting a Monster Magnet tee or overalls or both and usually in Crocs, Steve comes across fairly unassuming, despite any distinctive eyeware or his wildish white mane a la Doc Brown.
So I began to wonder. I know those in his industry know Steve, but do his neighbors, neighborhood, and city on the whole? Maybe. Maybe not. But here’s a little insight into “the man in the purple house” next to me, a man my girls know simply as “Mr. Steve.” Continue reading »