"Madame" ~ New Orleans, LA (c) 2011 Skip Hunt
Rode along an easy 4-lane highway all the way back South. Passed plantations and tourists lining up for the annual pilgrimage of homes all along the old parkway. A short ferry ride back over the Mississippi river and we were back in Louisiana.
The first thing I missed was the almost aggressive level of hospitality. I'd be walking along with my headphones in and looking for fresh images when time and time again some gentleman or dame would come almost rushing over to me with appearing to be warning me of some impending danger. I'd quickly take out my ear buds to get the scoop, only to discover they merely wanted to wish me a fine morning. A little unsettling at first but it wasn't long before I began to appreciate the dramatic gestures.
New Roads, Louisiana was a pretty little town along the river. They had a fishing competition going on and I watched a little boy toss his line out like he'd been doing it the same for at least 3 lifetimes.
Looked to be a great place to live, or visit for some fishing, but a few photos and a short walk was all I needed to see what else lie down the road.
There's a pretty little state park called St. Bernard in Madisonille just the other side of lake Pontchartrain. Decided it might be nice to ease into the "Big Easy" and check out the lakeside cajun food and sweet lake breezes for a couple nights beforehand.
I really liked this area and could see myself lazing about just staring for hours over that massive lake. Strolling along the trees dripping with spanish moss and a slight hint of crawfish étouffée wafting about is just about all one would ever need I suppose. That and perhaps some fluffy beignets washed down with strong chicory coffee to cap another easy day.
It was just prior to leaving this peaceful hamlet that I asked a few seemingly benign questions regarding my travel partner's faith and practice of observing to the sabbath. It seems to me that the "rules" for this are fairly vague, and it appeared to me that they were being fashioned out of personal desire and interpretation rather than any real holy law. As you might imagine, this conversation didn't go as well as I'd hoped and ended in my friend claiming he can understand only because he was "chosen" and I of course am not. That seemed like a cop out and arrogant ta boot.
This futile conversation went on a good couple of hours longer than it should have and I eventually ended it with a snarky claim that I'd "pray for him."
Matters were stained a bit more when it was discovered that the state park we planned on camping in was besieged by giant industrial crews working 24 hours a day pounding the ground with huge pile drivers to fix a levee they were behind schedule on.
We considered a hotel but the rates were outside of what we were prepared to pay for staying in the ghetto side of town and so we thought we'd see if we could acclimate to the offensive all-night pounding.
Sadly, we could not acclimate and along with the armies of mosquitos all vying for residency within any moist holes they could find... well, let's jus say any sleep at all was more than a bit of a challenge. On the flip side, the pests and audible attacks distracted us from silly religious philosophy squabbling.
I know it sounds horrible, but it wasn't really all that bad. A short 18 mile ride through he ghettos that I wasted to see anyway, and we were smack dab in the lap of the ol' dame New Orlean's French Quarter.
Not quite as much of an abuse to the senses as New Delhi, India was for me... but not so far off. You've got the onslaught of urinal vapor coming off the sticky boulevards around Bourbon street that are dancing right along with the gumbo and jumbalaya fragrances to a sexy mix of rusty trombone dixieland jazz fighting with disco bumping and grinding to drunken country-fried kicker music. It's at once offensive and ever so seductive.
I found myself wandering off into dark alleys and far away from the noise until the shadows began to tell of something shameful going on. A rot-iron park bench, busted on one end and nearly rusted out on the other beckoned for me to sit a moment... that she had "chosen" me and I should give the spell time to take. The last stained light of the day began to reveal her secrets and I was hopelessly bewitched within Madame Laveau's hot voodoo chambers.