Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Current note : feeling unmotivated. :( Kinda woogy and just not particularly perky. I start work tomorrow, and school next week. yeehah. And I just found uot I'm there for another full year. :P Now, onto more fun things.


We woke up later than usual, having been out past 2:00am the night before. We had wanted to hit a tour, which was looking like the 1pm cemetery voodoo tour as we missed the others which happened around 10am. (we always take the historic new orleans walking tour, which actually gives you facts rather than sensationalized vampier fiction as some other tours might.) took us a while to get going, but we got showered and dressed and headed for Cafe Beignet where the tour was supposed to meet.

Cafe Beignet is indeed more like a coffeehouse than DuMonde, although they do serve beignet. Their menu is substantially bigger. We both went for spinach quiche and some caffeinated drinks. We saw not only our present tour guide, but the older Cajun guy we'd gotten on our other tours and the guy who founded the tours as well as authoring a book on NOLA cemeteries.
We all got stickers, made sure everyone was paid up, and headed out.

Our guide was a middle aged lady who told us that the current weather was mild for NOLA, wearing a light 3/4 sleeve shirt and jeans. We were all sweating. The sun was going full blast, so she was trying to keep us in the shade as much as possible. She explained, before taking us too far, about the history of the place, how the native americans thought the french were crazy to try and build a city where there wasn't supposed to be one.

(When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England. )

Anyhow...the city is below sea level and sinks something like an inch every three years.Our guide told us that in 100 years, the place migt no even be there. So, since I plan on dying in the next hundred years, I figure I'll get to live there before it goes under. The history is full of all kinds of horrible disease and death - yellow(putrid) fever, black plague, cholera, malaria, etc etc etc. But, people just didn't learn. htye wanted to live there. well, more like the place was a great strategic point, and a place to send unwanted prisoners and those who were out of work for three days. yes, it was a prison colony. Not a surprise really.

The people who managed to live and settle there were very catholic, and became known as Creole, which basically meant you were French one day, Spanish the next, and Italian on weekends. These people tended to be laid back and celebrated life (gee, wonder why) as compared to the crazy americans who settled there later and wanted to make a profit out of everything. Damn americans. There was slavery, but if you were a slave you'd fare far better in NOLA, as over time there were free people of color, as well as mixing of races. (Quadroon)

We ventured into a catholic church and browsed the interior, taking time to stop in a little grotto? type area where stones of thanks were imbedded in a wall around a statue of Mary, and Holy water could be dispensed from a metal container with a tap.

We heard about the infamous goings on at the Storyville district (red light), and saw where it once was. Bourbon street has replaced it, and while it may be a cleaner version, people from NOLA are not the least bit proud of it.

We braved the heat and sun in St. Louis #1, which at the time was built just outside the city limits as all the decay was believed to be contributing to the sickened population. Miasmas were said to come from a dead person, and were blamed for others falling ill. Our guide explained the reason for above ground burials (we knew this already, but still find it fascinating) mainly being the water table and the fact that underground burials result in floating coffins and decaying corpses.

We visited famous toms such as Homer Plessy and Marie Laveau - the latter's tomb being marked with XXXs and gifts left at it due to people praying to her and asking for her assistance. From what we learned, she was a healer, a priestess, and an unsavory character all in one.

From there we went to Louis Armstrong Park and rested in congo square, where the height of voodoo activity took place. We moved on, optionally, to the voodoo temple, where we bought cold drinks and were more than happy to be inside. The temple was a fascinating and holy place, but Priestess Miriam talked very much like the classic oracles do and was very cryptic. She warned us that she did not give a textbook talk on voodoo, and that was fine with me. She did make some good points, not that any of them were connected. Channeling God and spirits can do that to you though. Or maybe we were just woozy from sunstroke and that's why we didn't get it. In any case, I figured that actually praying at the temple would be a more enlightening experience than Miriam's disjointed attempt at a speech for tourists.

So we were just exhausted. We lumbered down rampart and wound our way back into the quarter to get back to the hotel. I wanted to hit the pool, but we wound up napping, and after being in the frigid hallways and cool room for such a long time, my pool craving was dissolved.

Even with a nap, and some TV time out of the sun, we still had plenty of time to play with. Tonight was our night of drinking, although it was important that we have a nice dinner as well. We remembered a restaurant from last year that, although it was a small chain, it was an excellent one. We labored to find it during our first couple days, but like most things in NOLA that are worth anything, we happened on it by accident.

We headed over to Ralph and Kacoos at the beginning of what would be dinner rush, and found it wasn't too full at all. This place is big and has several rooms with themes - One has Mardi Gras stuff all over it, one is all about the sea, with boats, ships, captains, anchors, etc. We ate in the front room which had a Mardi Gras mural. I'm almost positive we had the same waiter as we did the previous year, to boot. we both ordered hurricanes - which were made well. Nice and slushy, asn hardly tastes like alcohol at all until you try to stand up. We had both blackened and fried alligator bits (YUM), and terrible trouble trying to order something as EVERYTHING looked so good.

I got the Shrimp trawl - which the description was not unlike the Bubba/shrimp scene in Forrest Gump. Ginat srimp stuffed with crab, shrimp Au gratin, jambalaya...drool. At the moment, I've forgotten what Mike ordered, but I remember that it was horribly tasty. The place gives you so much food that you cannot possibly leave without a take home box, which of course we got. I'm sure their desserts are fabulous too, not that we've ever had room.

We needed to waddle off the food, so we decided to roll ourselves down Royal and we wound up in Bryant Gallery, where they were having another exhibition of Juan Medina paintings. Mike had been entranced by an angel painting the year before - and so we went in to look at the rest of the work. We liked it so much that we couldn't pass up going back in. One of the gallery consultants started talking to us and Mike, having a hurricane in him, almost got himself in buying a lovely but expensive reproduction of the painting he saw the year before. The consultant took it upon himself to find this painting - which apparently had been bought up fairly quickly. He was going to try and see who bought the painting and find out if a digital image had been taken of it, so a reproduction could be a possibility.

Meanwhile, he talked to us as we were browsing the collection upstairs, which was fascinating in both a technical and subject aspect. I decided I wanted to paint again. The consultant got our info and would call us if he found out anything about the painting. If nothing else, he insisted that we at least leave with a poster or book since we'd decided to come back again a year later.

That done, we decided to start the drinking.

Monday, September 13, 2004


We woke up in the usual way, weather channel and NOTV. We still did yoga and gym stuff, but not as long this time to spare Mike's knee. We showered and got dressed, planning to hit the cemeteries. For lunch, we went to Cafe Maspero, which was a well priced little place that served a variety of stuff. Very no frills. The interior was all wood with some wall murals. It was fariyl busy for lunch rush. Mike had jambalaya and I had a shrimp sandwich. The quality of the food was ok, nothing to write home about (never mind that I'm logging the exprience anyway) but it was extremely BIG in the sandwich area. HUGE in fact as we saw buns the size of tanks slathered with meat go by. My sandwich was hard to pick up since the shrimp were trying to escape, so I resorted to a fork.

I needed an image card with lots of room on it, as the one I had was going to fill up quickly, so Mike and I went to fetch the car from the valet so we could check out Best Buy. After having to run back to the room to grab my camera, as Mike already thought I had the thing, we tried heading back to 10, (the highway). Not the easiest thing to do when they are so laid back that they don't put enough signs on the road to tell you where you are going. Mike hates driving anyway, and after a couple days of not, he got cranky until we finally found our way.

I got my image card, we headed back towards canal at the one end, as most of the cemeteries are grouped there. We wanted to get in to Odd Fellows rest, as it seemed to be one of the most interesting cemeteries, being founded by an exclusive organization and laid out interestingly. We found a place to park, basted ourselves with lotion, and then re-parked to be closer to odd fellows. We went in a back gate that was obviously open, along with another local guy who was just on his way somewhere and curious. No sooner did we step in and start looking, then this younger lady in a blue bug convertible rolls into the driveway behind us and says we can't be in there. We look puzzled and start to shuffle out, asking why. She asks if we'd talked to anyone in the office. There's an office? She doesn't really answer any questions, she just tries to herd us out, not even telling us when the hours are.

We are very disappointed. it's only 2:30 in the afternoon, there's no reason why the place should be closed. Nonetheless, there are still other cemeteries, and since this is only our third full day here, we figure we'll be back again.

So we manage to take some pictures through the fence from the neighboring St. Patrick #1 cemetery, but they really don't do the place justice. We wander around St. Pat's for a while, making sure not to touch the blue stuff they are spraying to help control weeds, and get some interesting pictures. Plenty of good irish names in here, of course. As we are coming near to a corner of the front gate, we see a tall skinny guy in hugely long dreads that we had passed the first time on our way to try to enter Odd Fellows.

He smiles and Mike asks if he's doing laps. The guy laughs and says he lives in some apartments just on the other side of the cemeteries. He's played in the cemeteries his whole life, and when movies like Interview with a Vampire and Dracula 2000 came through to film, he got to be an extra. He was a mortician at one point, but quit so he could pursue some of his own filmmaking and other endeavors. We never got his name, but he was really friendly and could point in any given direction to tell you what cemetery was where, which ones never closed, and how good they were or weren't.

We told him about our experience - or lack thereof - with Odd Fellows and he went on to explain how they'd been having a lot of problems with drug dealing and vandalism in the cemetery, so that's why it was closed.

We thanked him for the info and watched as he left through the nearby Jewish cemetery to get to his place.

He had advised us that the Masonic Cemetery never closed, and we found it about a block away. At first we had trouble finding a gate in - but soon enough we discovered a side entrance. It makes sense if the owners are worried about the goings on and preservation of their cemeteries to have the entrance not so noticeable, but fairly frustrating for tourists who only want to take pictures.

I got both a picture of and from the top of the "Stairway to Heaven" style monument - a big stone staircase that housed a group of the deceased. Perhaps we were lucky that Stairway to heaven guy wasn't in here with his damn guitar. Masonic seemed fairly well kept, but as it seemed to be the case even in the nicest cemeteries, there is always a handful of decrepit crypts.
One in particular that had vault areas in the bottom with marble slabs over them had one of the slabs pulled back enough to see a femur and a vodka bottle. So apparently, someone was cavorting with the dead for a bit as they had also left a shirt on the other side.

The sheer age and artistry of the burials in NOLA as opposed to many below ground cemeteries (and the sheer amount due to disease) is what makes them all so impressive. Chicago and Cleveland cemeteries are like parks. NOLA cemeteries are like cities.

It was a hot and bright day, so we weren't going to be spending too long digging up history at the hottest part of the day. We wandered around a little more, being sure to get a shot of the DEAD END sign on a street with the cemetery sprawl behind it, and then headed back through the nearby Jewish cemetery, where as our local guide had pointed out to us, all the headstones were facing east. And indeed they were, even if they were right up against a wall or a gate. Funny, as this occurence is not one I necessarily recall from my other cemetery visits in Chicago.

When we got back into the car, it was just as hot outside as in. This was our first real day in the heat AND direct sun, so we were a little woozy. We drove back through the downtown area in search of cold beverages, and made the mistake of getting out where there were no convenience stores around and had to get back into the car. We saw some restaurants that might be nice to visit later on - a Thai on in particular, and we sniffled as we passed La Pavillon, the hotel we stayed at one our very first trip here.

After aquiring beverages, it was time to go crash in a nice dark hotel room for a while, and we managed a nap before dinner.

We watched the weather channel post nap and decided that we should contact some friends who were in the path of the hurricane and check on them so we made a phone call from the room and visited an internet cafe. We of course had some caffeine to go with our small serving of email time as we planned on going clubbing later. It's hard not to have coffee in NOLA for some reason, and I think as a result I've developed a semi-caffeine addiction - as writing about coffee now is almost making me crave some.

By the time we finished checking email and online comics, it was dark and we needed food to absorb the caffeine.
We didn't have a place in mind, just somewhere that seemed nice and was still serving. We wandered down Royal as always until we hit Chartres, and saw the Chartres House. It was a nice open air bar with tables that had few people in it, and they were still serving food, so we had ourselves a quiet dinner there. Their crawfish etoufee was wonderful. We ate, had a couple drinks, and after looking at their martini menu that we were going to have to stop there for our planned night of drinking later on in the week. Mike had an apple martini that night with dinner. YUM. We got to watch our favorite TV show "Where's Francis this time?" and watched as it walloped everything in it's path.

We walked a little bit before heading back the hotel to get ready to go clubbing, noting the singing guys were in their spot again as well as other musicians. We passed the Bryant gallery which we had vowed to enter to visit some artwork before our time there was over.

We took our time getting ready for clubbing, it was still way early by NOLA standards anyway. Mike wanted to know if I was up to looking spooky and scaring the people on Bourbon street, but I wasn't really in the mood. Wednesday night was still slow, even though Southern Decadence had officially started. Most people were likely on their way down or still at work.

We strolled on over the Decatur towards the Whirling Dervish - and establishment that always had some kind of alertnative/punk/goth/whatever/ dance night and seemed to change names every year. Wednesday, as I had looked up, was supposed to be an old school Goth/industrial night so it sounded promising. There was no cover, which was nice, but we bought oursleves some cider. It was a shame they were no longer serving Ace pear cider, as we had been introduced to it here. The bartender informed us that Faith and the Muse were playing at the 735 club on Bourbon. We grumbled, having no previous knowledge of any bands being in town, and even thoguh the bartender would have let us take our drinks in plastic cups to ge see them, I decided to stay we'd just gotten there and I really preferred to dance.

There were four people already on the floor, one of them breakdancing, the other trying to breakdance - to SNOG nonetheless. It was amusing and fascinating. We sat down and watched for a bit until they left, waiting for some good music. It was kinda slow until the DJ played a song I knew from Cryonica Tanz Vol 2. I wouldn't say his playlist was old school by any means, but it wasn't bad either. Mike and I danced until the second DJ came into rotation.
This guy Was obviously supposed to be playing more Goth stuff - the problem was what he played was hard to even droop to, and the timber was so gratingly loud that we had to hold our ears during several songs. Mike was almost to the point where we were going to leave - the DJ wasn't pulling anyone out onto the floor, besides this guy in a white shirt and black suspenders who had danced to more of the previous DJs set. We hung on, hoping the other guy would come back and thankfully he did. (As I was drinking rather quickly to help the pain)

The set got kicked up in tempo by a bit. Wherewas before I heard some bellydance speed kinda music and Delerium, and slower Covenant, it was now Brudeschaft - or somesuch, a side project of Ronan and some other EBM people that we took for VNV. we got the DJ to play the new Assemblage 23 Single, and he also played some Wumpscut and newer Peter Murphy. We were out on the floor for a while, burning calories. Mike's knee seemed to be doing ok.
But then the other DJ had to rotate back in. Argh. There were only 2 songs that gave him a reprieve - Coil - Love's secret Domain, and a goth version of gangster's paradise.
We waited a little longer to see if things were going to improve, but we were both quite tired so we shoved off.

The club stayed very unpacked with people, even though flyers touted a Faith and the Muse after show party there. Perhaps people just weren't willing to be out that late, or if they did, they all headed to the Dungeon. Who knows.

We walked leisurely back to the hotel, stripped off our skanky clubwear and crashed for the evening. For tomorrow would be a day of drinking....