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Easing Troubles with Zydeco at a Louisiana Cafe

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At the Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge, La., you can eat beignets and crawfish bisque and listen to Thomas Bighat Fields and his Footstomping Zydeco Band. You will dance... even if you don't know how... and might even forget your troubles for an hour or two.


If you cross the bridge over the Bayou Teche into the town of Breaux Bridge, a few hours by car from New Orleans, and stroll a couple of blocks along Bridge Street, you'll come to the Cafe Des Amis(ph). Go there on a Saturday morning and you can eat beignets and crawfish bisque and listen to Thomas "Big Hat" Fields and his Footstomping Zydeco Band. You will dance even if you don't know how and forget your troubles for an hour or two. That's what some evacuees from New Orleans did this weekend. NPR's Christopher Joyce was there and has this story.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DICKY BREAUX(ph): My name is Dicky Breaux. I was born here in Breaux Bridge, grew up in Iberia Parish. I'm an owner-partner in the Cafe Des Amis here in downtown Breaux Bridge.


Breaux's a compact man, light on his feet, wearing a crisp white shirt. He started the Zydeco breakfast seven years ago. Between dances, women come up now and then give Dicky a kiss on the cheek.

Mr. BREAUX: The thing that makes it work is the fact that the dancers show up every Saturday and the performance is the musicians and the dancers. And then the visitors come from literally all over the world.

JOYCE: Today, many of those visitors are refugees from New Orleans, people who've left homes behind and come here because they knew somebody or knew somebody who knew somebody. Ricki Planche(ph) lived in the city's French Quarter.

Ms. RICKI PLANCHE: You know, when I come here and I hear the music and I'm with people from New Orleans and all over, as we are in the Quarter, then it feels like home.

JOYCE: Planche got out with her mother and that's about all.

Ms. PLANCHE: A picture of my mother and father when they were married, the most precious things I had. All the things that were big problems before this storm are so small. I just hope that we can find all the people we love. Willie Smith(ph) sweeps in front of our street, and has for the last 15 years, and our trashman and Matassa Grocery where we all get our little groceries bike down from. And if you need to cash a check or you forget your money and you just sign an IOU and say, `I'll be back later with the money, honey.' You know, it's good to say these things because after you say them, you feel better because tomorrow's going to be better.

(Soundbite of music)

JOYCE: The dance floor's too small to swing a cat, but the dancers seem to have a sixth sense about where they are. Mannie Colms(ph) and Whitney Coolance(ph) sit and watch. She says it took her two days to convince Coolance to abandon his home and come here. Now they're in what's known as Acadiana drinking mimosas.

Mr. WHITNEY COOLANCE: I know very little of Lafayette. I used to date a girl from here back in '38, '39.

Ms. MANNIE COLMS: We've never seen Cajun dancing or anything. We're from New Orleans, and I've never seen anything like this. It really is enjoyable. I just wish we could get up there and do it with them.

Mr. COOLANCE: I had major back surgery two years ago, and I have trouble standing up. I have a walker. I can walk without it, but I look like Groucho Marx. I used to love to dance.

Ms. COLMS: Whitney and I have been friends over 40 years. He's a widower and I'm a widow and...

Mr. COOLANCE: How many years?

Ms. COLMS: Around 40 years. I'm not that old.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: Hey, Joe, you going to come or not? Come here.

JOYCE: People come up and ask you if you're from New Orleans. They've opened their homes to refugees and raised their spirits. Wayne Boudreaux(ph) lives in the city and works for the Hilton Hotel there. He weathered the hurricane, but left when the water rose. People he didn't even know took him in.

Mr. WAYNE BOUDREAUX: We came on down. We were fed by the most wonderful people in the world. We're in New Roads--I'm sorry, New Iberia, and these folks here, the lady in black, Suzette(ph)--they've been entertaining us and showing us the local culture. You know, we're from around New Orleans, but this is really the hard-core, you know, Acadiana, and now we've had a great time. I mean, we feel fortunate.

JOYCE: Boudreaux hopes to go back to New Orleans; others here aren't so sure. Ricki Planche already has a new job at a bank in Lafayette.

Ms. PLANCHE: New Orleans and Lafayette have the same spirit, the same (French spoken), love of life, the same appreciation of music and the culture here. So I think they're the two most similar cities in the state. And I've always loved Lafayette when I visited, so I'm looking forward to my new home. I have a map. It's a little hard to get around, but other than that, it's not a big thing.

JOYCE: Christopher Joyce, NPR News, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: This is Zydeco. This is "Big Hat" Zydeco. One more time. Whoo!

(Singing) Let's go. Zydeco ...(unintelligible).

HANSEN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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