NEW ORLEANS — The soul of New Orleans is in a trumpet and a low-ceilinged bar. It’s in the free red beans in the back. It’s in the art hanging near the food that has two dogs howling at a New Orleans Saints moon. It’s in the voice of Kermit Ruffins, two hours into his standing Thursday night gig at a packed club hidden in the neighborhood behind the French Quarter, the place weathered and peeling like the side of a workingman’s boat.
He plays a song he wrote, “All I Want for Christmas Is the Saints in the Super Bowl,” and the crowd dances and sings all the words. When he takes a break, he calls me in closer. There’s something he wants to show me. He undoes his thin black tie, and the top two buttons, then pulls both his collared shirt and T-shirt down just enough so I can see. I notice the top point first, and slowly, the entire tattoo comes into view, a month old, enormous, covering his entire chest. I start laughing, and so does he. A symbol of the city adorned with a symbol of the city. Kermit Ruffins has gotten an enormous fleur-de-lis, the Saints’ helmet logo, tattooed on his chest.
“Only in New Orleans,” he says, winking. “I’m killing ’em when I take off my shirt at the beach. Especially at the Super Bowl.”