Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Orleans, Louisiana: Saint Louis Cemetery Number One


I had so many random things I wanted to post, but this evening I'm sitting in an Atlanta hotel room, completely exhausted, unable to stop thinking about the New Orleans cemetery...

We blew into the French Quarter by car, this afternoon, just for a cafe au lait and some beignets--we spent less than an hour there all told--but it was one of the most intense hours I've spent in, oh, perhaps years. Chicory coffee--delicious. Oh, so very delicious. Beignets--well, I'm still finding powdered sugar, like sand, 12 hours later. In the car. On my nose. Everywhere.

A serendipitous parking spot in front of an above-ground cemetery yielded one of my favorite moments in life so far--perhaps it's the Goth in me, I don't know, but even in broad stark white blazing daylight, this place was--well, for some reason, I don't have words for my feelings about it. Unusual for me, to be struck speechless. I love graveyards anyway, and this was the very distillate of graveyard--the crux of it--stumbling about in the crowded crumbling little death houses was like making one's way through a crowd of the dead themselves...

I wanted to linger, but thought that if I did, they might catch me and keep me...even this little bird, the only other animate thing around, came to perch and was instantly held like a piece of statuary:



I tried hard to capture the heat and existential claustrophobia of the place, but couldn't quite...




43 comments:

nick said...

I'm fascinated by graveyards too, and I've never worked out a convincing reason. A lot of people think such a taste is weird and morbid, but after all, in the midst of life there is death etc. I can see from your pics there was something very atmospheric about that graveyard that drew you in.

Candie Bracci said...

I love old graveyards too!In U.K. and Ireland,you got plenty of those!

Mr London Street said...

I too love graveyards, I did a post about them a while back. If you're interested I'll put a link in a comment (but I wouldn't just spam your blog indiscriminately with links to mine).

PI said...

My favourite is Pere La Chaise in Paris where Oscar Wilde and so many other greats are buried. When I was more mobile I enjoyed paying homage to some of my heroes - Florence Nightingale, Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Gertrude Stein et al.

Brian Miller said...

ah, too cool! sounds like it would be quite the adventure. graveyards hold that sway, calling, but just for a visit mind you. nice pics!

kylie said...

graveyards are fascinating and frustrating places for me.
why did that person die at 29?
why is that grown man buried with his parents?
what happened to that baby?

what is the story here?

i dont mind a wander around a cemetery but i havent seen an above ground one....


sorry i've been a bit quiet of late but i'm here, following your adventures :)

savannah said...

*sigh* atlanta is only 4 hours away from here, sugar! ;~D but seriously, we thought about moving to NOLA before we decided savannah was home and NOLA was were we went to play! i think i know where we're going for our getawy trip...
xoxoxox

merelyme said...

Blazin Pics!


(Didn't think cool pics would be the comment you were after!)

Be safe. Be safe.

just bob said...

Hi Leah!

Scarlet-Blue said...

I think I saw a grave yard like this in the film Double Jeopardy, with Tommy Lee Jones. Very atmospheric.
Sx

JGH said...

Great graveyard photos, Leah. You've got me longing to visit New Orleans again. I used to see that Cafe DuMonde coffee in the grocery stores sometimes, but not lately, so I can't even get a taste of it!

mapstew said...

Meself and the Youngest did a grave yard tour a while back! She loved it, as did I.

We have some really good old ones here, must post some pics someday.

Happy travellin'.

xxx

Holly said...

I Love Love the stories about graveyards....I too hold on to those same unanswered questions and as a amateur genealogist I stand before those granite markers continually asking questions that utlimately go unanswered. Thanks for the photos!!

mago said...

You are tagged. Grab a pencil ...

Madame DeFarge said...

Yes, like others, I'm fascinated by graveyards, especially seeing long standing families and wondering about the lives they led. However, New Orleans cemeteries make me think of Anne Rice novels.

Baino said...

They're just big fields of plaques here. Lawn Cemetetaries so I rarely visit There's a huge one in the centre of Sydney that's a bit more interesting, divided into denominations, must take some pics of the Jewish quarter sometimes. It does look hot!

Suzanne said...

GOD I LOVE THE PHOTOS!!! I'm not kidding. If I ever get my damn package in the mail to you and Hedgie, you have to promise to repay me with prints. I don't even care if they're color copies. First, the bird. Gorgeous. That is truly a beautiful photo. Second, the first photo. And the bricks. The bricks are beautiful. When did you become an artist? Thank God you don't have that PhD yet, cuz honey, you'd just be wasting your money. Shutterspy has to see this post. Absolutely beautiful. Oh, and the writing's not bad either!!! HA!!! Just yankin' your chain. The writing's always great.

The photo with the above ground crypts is gorgeous but I couldn't have it in my house. Makes me claustrophobic. I never realized they were placed so close to one another. Wow. And I had no idea I was claustrophobic until I was in the hospital of your people...Cedar Sinai (yes, I know you're laughing) in the early 90's. I had to have an MRI. My first. This was before they realized if your stick someone in a freakin' tube they're going to think they've been buried alive. Morons. In I went and out I came within seconds screaming and crying. I have never been so scared in my life and I realized I was claustrophobic. The doctors were all there, the techs trying to convince me to try again. I pulled my open hospital gown over my ass and walked out. Nope. A few days later they had me try again with an air tube to hold near my nose and blinders on. It worked. It was the air. And since then, if you've had to have an MRI and noticed, air in now pumped into the tube and the tube is bigger. I've had probably 10 MRI's since then and they've all been fine.

As an expert in criminal justice, you know you'll never hear about me on CNN being buried alive. I'd kill the MF. Now you may hear about that!!!

Leah, happy travelin', but I hope you come home soon because I miss your comments. Wow, it sounds as if I live just around the block. I wish! Thanks for your kind words about my new avatar and I expect yours to be up soon. I'm going to leave mine up a week or two and have fun with it. I commented after your comment on the one below my current post. (That was just too much fun to write.)

I love you darling. Stay safe please. Oh, and eat like you're eating for me too!

XO

Suzanne said...

Baby do you realize you can take a piece of paper and a pencil, place the paper over the gravestone and with the pencil rub the words on to the paper. I hope you did that in New Orleans. I really do because it's art. Framed it's just beautiful.

And Kylie, I agree.

XO to you both.

P.S. I really do have to learn to edit, but I suck at it. So,

1) All our friends are here! HI!!!
2) PI ~ Be careful what you wish for...I admire so many you do.
3) Look at Bob. He looks like a young boy. Has he been toying with us? Has he been using hair dye? You bet your ass I'll drive to San Jose to unravel the mystery, even if it takes me to the local high school. No, they'll never pry my hands from that little 14 year old neck. See you on CNN or in court.

Tom said...

We walked thru a graveyard just like this 18 years ago in N.O. My favorite memories of the place? The Beignets and streetcar, which we rode every day for a week! And i still dream about the alligators we saw up close and personal in the swamps! Frightening.

Karen ^..^ said...

Absolutely FANTASTIC!! If I ever visit New Orleans, I always planned on seeing those old graveyards and cemeteries. I'm fascinated by them. I visited a very old one on Block Island last year and it was equally compelling.

Great post Leah! Great pictures, too!

Auntie, aka Dog Girl said...

ooooooh!
You had coffee at the Cafe du Monde!!!
New Orleans is a fab place to visit. Did you know that it is actually below sea-level?

The French Quarter is fine, but the cemetaries are awesome!
Cool pics.

Ronda Laveen said...

I have wanted to go to this cemetary ever since I first saw the movie "Easy Rider" in the 60's. I am so glad to hear about it.

About the beignets and powder sugar on your nose, little one, you are supposed to eat them not snort them. Cheers.

Leah said...

nick--I have no convincing reason either--I guess I just like to commune with the dead, even if it makes shivery. Sometimes being a little scared like that makes me feel more alive, if that makes sense...

Candie--I would LOVE to see some of the really really old cemeteries in Europe. That's my next stop on my graveyard tour!

Mr LS--I would love a link to that! I wouldn't consider it spamming at all, link away!

Pat--yes, my sis says Pere La Chaise is absolutely haunting--I cannot wait to see it myself.

Brian--oh yes, just a visit...I did have to hurry away...

Kylie--don't worry about being quiet, it's nice to hear from you, but never any pressure among friends! And yes, I always wonder and dream about the stories there.

savannah--It would have been amazing to meet you! Our stay was rather brief, alas. Next time! And I am planning to take Sarge to New Orleans--in all his many travels, he's actually never been there! And I'd like to hang out there for more than an hour...

merelyme--we have been safe...but I'll admit that the last two hours hurtling at high rates of speed down dark Virginia highway with nothing but forest on either side...not my favorite way to spend an evening...my sis and I took turns scaring each other in order to keep me awake!!!

Bob--hi Bob!

Scarlet--yes, very atmospheric! I've never seen that film, but it was also the very cemetery from "Easy Rider," which if you haven't seen, you should!

JGH--thank you! And I bought a pound of that chicory coffee to take home and recreate the really delicious cafe au lait. Yay!

map--thank goodness, I arrive home tomorrow! Road tripping is fun but utterly exhausting and a wee tad disorienting. I do hope you'll post the graveyard pictures, I would love that!

Leah said...

Holly--yes, so many unanswered questions. I guess that is part of the thrill and mystery of it!

mago--thank you for tagging me for the best ever meme, I will have it up quite soon!

Mme DeF--I believe Anne Rice had to move from New Orleans because the unwanted fan attention got to be too much! Now it is untainted...

Baino--the Brooklyn cemeteries are immense, but with their own rowdy charm. My grandparents are buried in one of the more famous Jewish ones, and it is always very interesting to visit.

Suzy--thanks for the compliment, sweetie! This cemetery was more emotionally claustrophobic than literally. The tombs were all crowded together, but it had a strange open feeling over all, as they are rather short and the sky is so wide and bright overhead--that's part of the curious feel of it, I think.

And yes, I'm eating for two~I shall have to return to starvation rations of tiny yogurts and lettuce leaves after this adventure...

Tom--The beignets were sublime! And I did so want to see an alligator, but wasn't able to coordinate with my own inertia...more's the pity! Maybe next time, and there will, I'm sure, be a next time!

Karen--you must, if--when--you get the chance. Old cemeteries in general, I agree, are wonderful and strangely enlivening!

Auntie--I'd forgotten that strange fact that it is below sea level! I guess that was a great deal of the problem during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, compounding everything else that went wrong.

Ronda--yes! that was the very cemetery in that movie, we were so excited to discover that! I love that movie.

But you're right--I did inhale the beignets~ ; )

Leah said...

Suzy--I didn't mean that I was pregnant (re: eating for two), I just meant that I was eating for me and you--haha--just wanted to clarify--

MJ said...

I've been to almost every one of New Orleans' "Cities of the Dead" and oh the many cups of chicory coffee and beignets I've ingested too.

I could go on and on and on...

She's my favourite city.

Leah said...

I believe she could become my favorite as well.

Megan said...

Excellent. Just excellent. That's all.

Abi said...

I would absolutely love to visit New Orleans..

Now I will have that song in my head all day 'There was...a house...in New Orleans....' :D

I absolutely adore cemeteries, until I see child graves and then I feel a bit tearful (I'm so soppy) I should take some pictures of our local ones, we have some really ornate places nearby. Nothing like that one though! Above ground! Wow....like a maze, a maze through the dead. *shudders delightfully*

Leah said...

Megan--it was SO EXCELLENT!!!!

Abi--I always get a little funny too when I see child graves--and there were so very very many of them in the 18th and 19th centuries, which seemed to be the general time period of many of the family tombs.

Poetikat said...

I can't read about this cemetery without thinking about the movie, "Easy Rider". It must be amazing to be in such a place.

Kat

Betsy said...

Is there a 'shoe' in here somewhere? :)

nick said...

Oh, graveyards don't scare me at all, they make me feel very peaceful. I think it's because so many of those people may have had difficult and tragic lives and the graves mean their struggles are now over. It's sad though to see the graves of children and those who've died prematurely.

supernana said...

Great photos! I remember being in a certain NOLA cemetery and taking pictures only to be stopped by a crazy thunderstorm. A certain Mommy got very scared after that and did not want o go into the Voodooo museum. It is an amazing city. Enjoy.

Cinnamon said...

Mmmmm...never thought of 'visiting' graveyards. It certainly looks atmospheric, but i don't think I would have stayed longer than an hour there either.

California Girl said...

New Orleans is one of our favorite cities. It's been so long since we visited now. Nice to read about it. I LOVE beignets and chicory coffee. Did you have them at Cafe du Monde? (I think that's the correct name of the most famous beignet place).

My husband would also love the cemetery now that he's a photographer. I love the jazz cafes, the food (oh the food!) and the Garden District. Oh, I guess I love it all.

Suzanne said...

I want a photo of the "fro."

Those of you who don't know, Leah and I have been blogging friends a long, long time. She's a rascal. She puts up with all my crap and forgives one hell of a lot of shit. That's what blogging friends are for!!! Here's what you don't know. She has really curly hair. Really curly. She's in the South with lots and lots of humidity. What? You don't think that's funny? She at the point where she could play basketball for the Celtics with that fro.

XO

subtorp77 said...

Leah, what AuntieDG said about NO being below sea level, accounts for the literal "City of the Dead", above ground. I think it's a city ordnance...interesting walking along with you( scratches head wondering if any ancestors are buried there... )

Leah said...

Kat--my sis especially was thrilled to discover it was the Easy Rider cemetery! I can't recommend it highly enough as a fascinating experience.

Betsy--I manfully intended to do my "shoe" post but then petered out and fell asleep...but thanks for stopping by!

nick--yes, that's a poignant and interesting way of looking at it. You're right.

supernana--ha! your comment made me giggle. And did you read that we were in San Antonio at the same time? I think we were even on the Riverwalk the same night...but I had a crappy dinner, oh well...

Cinnamon--I do love visiting graveyards--not even just the one in which my loved ones are buried (although I do like to wander there too and look at some of the older graves).

California Girl--it was Cafe du Monde--my goodness, the beignets there are INCREDIBLE. They must be eaten piping hot though.

Suzy--my dear friend, my hair is OUTTA CONTROL. I'm back in Bklyn tonight, and the wildness shows no sign whatsoever of abating. HELP!!!!!!!!

sub--my sis told me about that ordinance--very interesting indeed. I'm glad you came along for some of the walk!

bindhiya said...

Wow! Leah, you having a great trip.. I love to travel.. but not now..
are you back in NY?
I am sorry, i got busy with my life..but i loved that mariachi music and photos of graveyard.

♥ & ((hugs))
bindi

Suzanne said...

OH MY GOD, YOU'RE HOME!!! THANK GOD! Baby cuz you're never gonna believe this one. I just won something. I know, hard to believe, but true. I won tickets to the Bach Festival in Carmel. Hedgie...Aunt Suzy just won tickets to the freakin' Bach festival in Carmel!!! Someone better play a damn violin because I deserve it. No really, bust a gut.

XO

P.S. Welcome home darling.

Poetikat said...

Leah, did you know it was Toni Basil of "Hey Mickey" fame who was the actress in those cemetery scenes?

Kat

Leah said...

Kat, I had no idea~now I must see if my obsessed sis knows that fact!