Only 3 or 4 years old at the time, Thierry remembers "the energy was crazy — in a good way. It was just like a big house party, with a lot of French-speaking people and in the '60s and '70s there would be the hippie crowd in there, too."

He was immediately drawn to the accordion "because the keys were flapping and stuff and it was kind of mesmerizing. I just wanted to know how to do that."

By 9, Thierry was pumping his own squeezebox and by 13 he'd put together his own zydeco band.

"It's happy music. It's drama-free," he says. "So people — the rest of their lives they have all this kind of drama and they can let it all go when they come to hear zydeco. It's this mixture of every other kind of music — jazz, blues, R&B, country. It has all of that and you can put anything into it."

Over the years, he's played "weddings, festivals, carnivals, fairs, birthday parties, bar mitzahs, beach parties — you name it."

But there's no mistaking that time of year when Mardi Gras comes around — the culmination of the carnival season before Ash Wednesday and Lent kick in the next day, all leading to Easter.

"It's that big last hurrah before people have to chill out for 40 days," he says. "You gotta get it all out because after that you can't do nothing."

Bay Area freelancer John Beck writes about entertainment for The Press Democrat. You can reach him at 280-8014, and follow on Twitter @becksay.

California pot: Smoke it (or eat it) if you can get it

OAKLAND — It wasn’t exactly reefer madness Monday as California launched the first legal sales of recreational marijuana, but those who could find the drug celebrated the historic day, lining up early for ribbon cuttings, freebies and offerings ranging from cookies to gummy bears to weed with names like heaven mountain.

Jeff Deakin, 66, his wife Mary and their dog waited in the cold all night to be first in a line of 100 people when Harborside dispensary, a longtime medical pot shop in Oakland, opened at 6 a.m. and offered early customers joints for a penny and free T-shirts that read “Flower to the People — Cannabis for All.”

“It’s been so long since others and myself could walk into a place where you could feel safe and secure and be able to get something that was good without having to go to the back alley,” Deakin said. “This is kind of a big deal for everybody.”

Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo used a giant pair of scissors to cut a green ribbon, declaring, “With these scissors I dub thee free,” before ringing up the first customer at a cash register.

Sales were brisk in the shops lucky to score one of the roughly 100 state licenses issued so far, but customers in some of the state’s largest cities were out of luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco hadn’t authorized shops in time to get state licenses and other cities, such as Riverside and Fresno, blocked sales altogether.

Licensed shops are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, around Palm Springs, San Jose and Santa Cruz, where the KindPeoples shop tacked up a banner Monday declaring, “Prohibition is Over!”

The state banned what it called “loco-weed” in 1913, though it has eased criminal penalties for use of the drug since the 1970s and was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996.

California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn’t legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.

The nation’s most populous state now joins a growing list of states, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.

The signs that California was tripping toward legal pot sales were evident well before the stroke of midnight. California highways flashed signs before New Year’s Eve that said “Drive high, Get a DUI,” reflecting law enforcement concerns about stoned drivers. Weedmaps, the phone app that allows customers to rate shops, delivery services and shows their locations, ran a full-page ad Sunday in the Los Angeles Times that said, “Smile California. It’s Legal.”

Travis Lund, 34, said he’d been looking forward while working the graveyard shift to buy weed legally for the first time since he began smoking pot as a teen.

“I’m just stoked that it’s finally legal,” he said after purchasing an eighth of an ounce of “Mount Zion” and another type of loose leaf marijuana at Northstar Holistic Collective in Sacramento, where the fragrance of pot was strong. “I’m going to go home and get high — and enjoy it.”

—Associated Press


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