Adventures off the beaten path in NOLA

Earlier this month, a friend of mine realized a long-deferred dream and moved from Wisconsin to New Orleans. We had Good Friday off from work, and I drove to the city to both take her to a “welcome to Louisiana” lunch and to photograph a couple of things on my list.

Fort Macomb is in the Venetian Isles neighborhood, and although it looks like the country it is in fact within the city limits. (You may remember it from the last episode of the first season of True Detective, where it stood in for Carcosa, the mystical/cursed city of the King in Yellow.) I’ve been there before, but only shot the outside from the adjacent marina dock. While I was able to get around a couple of chain link fences this time, alas, the front entrance had been padlocked and it would take someone a lot more athletic than I to actually get inside.

Fort Macomb

Fort Macomb

Fort Macomb

Fort Macomb

It probably doesn’t look much different inside than Fort Pike, which is only a couple of miles away. More overgrown, probably. I was fortunate enough to get inside of Pike during one of the brief periods it was open to the public—it’s always getting shut down due to hurricane damage and/or budget cuts. It’s the only Third System fort in Louisiana that’s even sometimes open to the public, and a perfect example of one of the things that makes me deeply angry about this state: they view “lock it up to keep out anyone who might be interested and then ignore it” as the depth of their responsibility to the historic places in their care.

ANYWAY. So then we went to the Luling Mansion, built for a cotton merchant just after the Civil War and somehow managing to survive into the present day, the former grounds surrounded by modern development and the house itself carved up into apartments inside.

Luling Mansion

Luling Mansion

Luling Mansion

Oh, and we also made a quick stop at the St. Roch shrine, because that place is awesome.

St. Roch chapel

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Vacation #2: Bayou St. John, NOLA

This is a neighborhood in New Orleans that’s bounded by the waterway of the same name, where Marie Laveau used to conduct Voodoo rituals. The banks are one of her possible resting places–her body is commonly said to be in plot 347 in St. Louis No. 1, but although some of her descendants are known to be buried in it, there’s no real proof that she is.

Pitot House, 1790s

Pitot House

Pieux fence

Pitot House - pieux fence

Magnolia Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that sometimes hosts Voodoo/Vodoun rituals.

Magnolia Bridge

Max Planck commemorative plank

Magnolia Bridge - Max Planck commemorative plank



Magnolia Bridge

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Vacation #2: St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, NOLA

This was the only St. Louis cemetery in NOLA (there are three) that I hadn’t yet photographed. It’s where Henriette deLille is buried, the first American-born person of African ancestry to be declared Venerable, which is like 2 steps away from full-blown Catholic saint. (It goes Servant of God -> Venerable -> Blessed -> Saint.) It’s also the St. Louis that most tourists think is No. 1 when they’re driving into the city, because it’s visible from the freeway.

St. Louis No. 2



St. Louis No. 2

St. Louis No. 2

St. Louis No. 2

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Vacation #2: Rosalie Alley, NOLA

Between Piety and Desire in the Bywater is Rosalie Alley, which you’d probably pass and not even know was there. It’s where the peristyle for La Source Ancienne, the Vodou society headed by Sallie Ann Glassman (who also owns/runs the Island of Salvation Botanica), is located, and the fences are covered in art.

Rosalie Alley

Rosalie Alley

Rosalie Alley

Rosalie Alley

Rosalie Alley

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Random stuff: Kodak Ektar in the Ultra Wide & Slim

Adam's Fruit Stand

Adam’s Fruit Stand in Matthews

New Canal Lighthouse

New Canal Lighthouse, Lake Pontchartrain, NOLA

Leeville Cemetery

Leeville Cemetery

Moresi Foundry

Moresi Foundry, Jeanerette

St. Roch shrine

St. Roch Shrine, NOLA

Steamboat house

Steamboat House, Holy Cross, NOLA

Association tomb

Association Tomb, Valence Street Cemetery, NOLA

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Metairie Cemetery, NOLA : slightly expired Fuji Neopan in the Yashica MG-1

This weekend was rainy and thus no good for photography; I spent a good chunk of it uploading photos that were taken over a period stretching back to last September. These were taken a few days after last Christmas, when I took my sister to New Orleans. If you’re ever in the city and only have time to visit one cemetery, I recommend Metairie (which yes, is actually in NOLA and not Metairie). St. Louis No. 1 is more famous, but for sheer volume of weirdness, you can’t beat Metairie–it’s one of those enormous cemeteries that you can drive around in. And you don’t have to pay to get in there, unlike St. Louis.

Egyptian tomb


Angel in the trees

Grieving woman with wreath

Tomb of shipwreck victims

Tomb of Josie Arlington

I always found black and white film to be particularly well-suited for graveyard photography. The grain really goes with photographs of carved stone, and the subjects don’t have a lot of color anyway.

Neopan was my go-to 35mm B&W for years, and when Fuji announced they were discontinuing it, I panicked and bought a few dozen rolls. Which I then felt like I didn’t want to use, but of course film doesn’t have an infinite shelf life and now it’s all expired, although it’s been in the fridge since the day I bought it. Anyway, I need to just let it go and actually use it before it gets too much older.

When I went to that camera shop in Lynchburg last November, I was delighted to find that they carried Ilford, the film (and paper) that I cut my teeth on back in high school. I bought a few rolls, since I knew I’d need to find a new black and white film soon. I need to shoot a roll of that and see if it’s as good as I remember it.

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Krewe of Muses 2015: Are you there, God? It’s us, Muses.

That was actually the title of their theme, in honor of their 15th year. Muses, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in years past, is an all-female krewe whose coveted signature throw are shoes that have been decorated with glitter, feathers, and beads. It’s the one parade that I’ve been to every year since I moved to Louisiana (barring the first year, 2010, because I arrived about 10 days after Mardi Gras). It’s actually kind of my Carnival season highlight, as I have zero desire to deal with the insanity of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or even Lafayette. I don’t even get the day off where I work now, because our customers/vendors are all over the world.

I was hugely disappointed to discover that Muses is apparently now drawing large enough crowds to require crowd control barriers all the way down St. Charles Street, where in the past they’ve always been limited to the intersection with Canal Street and maybe the first block down. This makes it harder to catch the throws, particularly when it’s as windy as it was on Thursday night. I know, I KNOW parades are not just about the throws. But the throws are what makes you an active participant in the parade, and not just a passive observer watching it roll/march by. It’s not about having the plastic beads and old shoes, which no one actually needs. It’s about catching them, and there’s something just sad about watching them fall short into the street.

Plus, the barriers kept me from catching another shoe. I KNOW she was aiming for me, we made eye contact, and some total douchecanoe threw his arms in my face and snatched it away. Fuck that asshole and I hope he dies a slow and lingering death of testicular cancer. That wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a barrier, because she could have dropped it right into my hands–which is how I got my shoe last year. I was at the start of the parade route last year, around Magazine Street, and I may try going back to that next year. It’s a more residential area and hopefully they won’t have barriers up.

Maybe I’ll try to find Airbnb accommodation in the area, instead of staying in an Uptown hotel. In the past I stayed at the Iberville Suites, but when I went to make my reservation the first week of January, they were charging over $600 a night! I about fell out of my chair. It’s expected for hotels, especially if they’re near big parade routes, to jack up their fares a bit during Carnival season, but that was more than 3 times what I’ve paid in the past. Totally ridiculous. I wound up staying at the Astor Crowne Plaza; they didn’t offer a free breakfast, but the room service breakfast I ordered did not cost $500, so I still saved money. Un-fucking-believable. It was so NOISY, though; my room was on the 2nd floor facing Canal Street, and all night it was police sirens and people yelling and cars blasting hip-hop. I don’t think I got more than 20 minutes of sleep at a stretch, until it finally quieted down around 4:00… for about 2 1/2 hours.

Anyway, I don’t want to imply that the parade sucked or I didn’t have fun. Muses were amazing as they always are, and I actually did catch a respectable amount of non-shoe throws. I’m sure the fact that I did a sign this year helped. I spent weeks mulling over possible phrases, before settling on “Throw me something Muses-ter!”. (“Throw me something mister” is a traditional phrase that’s shouted at the krewes.) I did a Google Image search for each letter in the phrase, printed out one I thought looked interesting, cut them out, and glued them onto a piece of posterboard. Except for “Muses”, I used their logo. I was pleased with the result, which was fun-looking and big enough to read from a distance without being too large to easily hold. I gave away most of what I caught, to kids that were behind me and also to a couple from Chicago I got to talking to that were at their first parade. I just kept a few things that I didn’t already have from past parades.

I didn’t have any concrete plans for my Friday in New Orleans, other than eating at Elizabeth’s and avoiding the French Quarter. My first stop was Valence Street Cemetery, which was satisfyingly old and decayed, all crumbling tombs and busted wall vaults.

open wall vault

Society tomb

Then I explored the Holy Cross neighborhood a little bit, and took some photos of the Steamboat Houses on Egania Street.

Steamboat House (color effect)

Steamboat House

Then I had lunch at Elizabeth’s (fried chicken livers with pepper jelly, fried eggs and country potatoes), did some shopping at F&F Botanica (dressed Steady Work candles, Road Opener Oil, Fortune Incense), and by then I was feeling the effects of standing all night and getting about 3 hours of sleep, so I headed home.

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