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Musicians Bunkhouse
March 22, 2009

The Musicians’ Bunkhouse
By: Bethany Garfield

The neighborhood's appearance is scattered, a bit schizophrenic - some houses are well put together renditions of New Orleans architecture, complete with vibrant paint jobs and Mardi Gras beads hanging from the trees. Others, however, are of the run-down, Post-K breed - a washed out brown or gray tone seeped into the wood, faint remnants of paint, a chip here or there, some broken windows and crooked porches in desperate need of structural repair. In the middle is 712 Alvar in the Upper Ninth Ward, Ms. Pearl's house.

Ms. Pearl calls herself a “folk historian and patron to the arts,” but she is really much, much more. For years she has helped house people in New Orleans by taking them into her home. Following Hurricane Katrina, her side yard was filled with New Orleans' natives and folks from all over, living together in about five tents put up there. Now that the tents are gone and her garden grows once more, her house has again become a refuge, housing the many musicians who color the French Quarter.

The Musicians' Bunkhouse, as she calls it, consists of only one room. When I first visited Ms. Pearl, the room had no insulation to keep out the cold, just exposed walls consisting of beams that were barely covered by the outer shell of the house. While there were four beds in the room, laid flat onto the floor, it was apparent that at least two people were also sleeping there, on blankets between the mattresses.

On the bright side, she was able to acquire new insulation and siding from one of the musicians she offered a home to, J, who had been working in construction prior to leaving the city in January of this year. During one of my visits in October of 2007, J and “Washboard Shawn,” another musician staying in the Bunkhouse, were replacing some of the insulation in the bunkhouse which had been removed following Katrina.

"Today, she houses a new set of musicians. There's Jock Alexander (yes, Jock, although he is French by descent) who plays guitar and harmonica and just recorded a CD. Also living in the house now is "Sir" Steve, a magnificent mime according to Ms. Pearl, but also a worrier. Sean, or "Mazipan," as Ms. Pearl calls him, is another resident of the house. He is a phenomenal guitar player who has been written about by the New Yorker's Dan Baum. David, Ms. Pearl's husband, has returned to help with repairs along with many of the other members of the bunkhouse. And finally, Butch Trivette, a well-known musician who is unable to walk, requiring the use of a wheelchair and the help of his bunk-mates who happily provide him with whatever he needs."

Day after day, Ms. Pearl attempts to post on Craigslist, seeking materials to make the house more livable. “We need bunk beds desperately. It's hard to get help unless you're a non-profit. I'm not asking for money, I'm asking for stuff!” she said. In addition to needing bunk beds, The Musician’s Bunkhouse is in desperate need of materials to bring Ms. Pearl’s home up to city code. They need gutters, siding and other items to help make the house they live in structurally sound. Ms. Pearl has the skilled labor under her roof to complete the upgrades; however, she does not have the $1,200 for the materials.

The Musicians’ Bunkhouse is home to many in need, those who help to make New Orleans what it is and what we all hope it will be. Helping Ms. Pearl obtain money for materials will allow her to continue to open her home to anyone who would like to advance the colorful community of New Orleans.  Heart

Ms. Pearl
Ms. Pearl's Roof
December 22, 2009
This morning, with help from our partners at Red Shoe New Orleans, we were able to deliver funds to fix Ms. Pearl's roof! Read on ...
Posted by: Mike