The Digital Journalist
A Letter From New Orleans:

Gandhi and Cocktails
June 2007

by Jim Gabour

"You know, Jim-Jim, this nonviolence shit really pays."

This from the mouth of the infamous "Mad Dog" Salvatano, semi-retired bookie and gambler extraordinaire.

The setting: happy hour at Tujague's Bar on Decatur Street, New Orleans, on a classic spring Monday. I made note of the occasion immediately onto a cocktail napkin. I wanted to research later to see if some heavy-metal planet oozing radiation had slipped from orbit, reasoning that there must be some cause for what I had just heard. Contradiction on such a cosmic scale does not often occur without a substantial prompt.

And The Dog is not known as a master of self-restraint in any portion of his life. Thus, his name. This man was embracing nonviolence?

He had more to say.

"Yeah, me and my lady we was watching Gandhi last night..."

I felt another slip in the universe.

"...and there he was in prison..."

This I knew he could relate to.

"... wearing a uniform with the numbers 189 on the pocket."


"So I got up right then and there and drove to the Cracker Barrel Mini-mart and put a buck on the Lotto Quick Pick 3, betting the numbers 1, 8 & 9..."

Oh, no.

"I tell the cashier where I got my numbers, and she's cute and laughs. Seems to like me, I mean, but who doesn't? Who can resist The Dog in his prime? Though she has these dimples, which are making me crazy. So I buy us each a beer out the cooler, and we have a little talk about this philosophy stuff. We drink a second beer. Almost no customers, you know, on a Sunday night. Even let me sit behind the counter with her while we was sipping our brews. Very classy dame. I got her number.

"Then I figured I'd go finish the movie and get some more of the scoop, but by the time I get home, this Gandhi guy is dead, and Linda smells somebody else's perfume on me and asks me where I been and isn't any too hot about giving me a recap of the plot.

"I figure it can wait and go to bed. Alone.

"So I get up this morning, look at the paper, and sure enough, there it is: the Quick Pick 3 winning numbers are 189. Natch. I won me five hundred bucks because a dead Indian went to jail in South Africa. I'm gonna watch that movie all the way through tonight. Maybe he sent me some more messages, huh?"

I added that to my notes. The Dog looks to Gandhi for messages, I wrote.

Looking at the wadded, marker-stained cocktail napkin now, I have decided to add the flimsy piece of paper to my mojo altar. It's best to pay attention when these things happen, and I am.

Gandhi probably did, too.

© Jim Gabour

Jim Gabour is an award-winning producer and director, whose work focuses primarily on music and the diversity of cultures, such as directing a four-hour worldwide BBC broadcast live via satellites from the carnivals in Rio, Trinidad and New Orleans. Twice named the featured director of the year at the International Broadcasters' Conference in Amsterdam, Gabour produced and directed Norah Jones' multi-platinum DVD concert, and counts subjects as varied as Jamaican hip hop duo Floetry, famed Memphis soul singer Al Green, and recently a concert celebrating the post-Katrina return of traditional Creole jazz families to New Orleans. Gabour received a 2007 Grammy nomination for his film on composer Terence Blanchard, and is currently scripting a feature documentary film on the history of New Orleans music. He serves as Artist-in-Residence and Professor of Music Technology at Loyola University.