Tennessee Williams is quoted as saying, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”
After spending four very full days exploring New Orleans, I have to agree that there is something very remarkable about this city, which manages to cram 400 festivals into a 365-day year.
We were not surprised at the music, but we were surprised at the diversity and ubiquity of it all. (For the non-English majors, ubiquity means it is everywhere.) In three days in the French Quarter, we heard jazz, rock and roll oldies, rap, gospel, patriotic songs, percussion music made with hands and a bucket, Irish jigs, Cuban rhumbas, and a steamship belting out tunes on its steam-powered calliope. The event that cemented this in my memory was walking into a candy shop. Suddenly, the people working into the store burst into song, engaging everyone in the shop into joining them. I missed the first part of the song, but managed to get the cell phone turned on in time to capture the latter portion. Check this out:
And tell me, where else are you going to find trees dripping with Mardi Gras beads, above ground cemeteries that have been used for 300 years, and a 24-hour café where people will stand for an hour just to get in to experience a menu with ONE food item (Café duMonde, which only serves beignets and drinks).
One other thing about those cemeteries. These are family crypts, with two chambers. When a person is buried, they are wrapped, but not put into a coffin. Instead, they are placed in the upper chamber. Inside, the hot, humid climate decomposes the body quickly. When the next family funeral comes along, they take a long pole, push the old remains off the shelf to fall into the bottom compartment, and put the new body on top. This is how one crypt can house an entire family. The 10′ pole used in this process is thought by many to be the origin of the phrase, “I wouldn’t touch that with a 10′ pole…”
Here then, is a brief overview of New Orleans in pictures. By the way, the cover photo for this blog entry is a golden statue of Joan of Arc, referred to by locals as “Joanie on a pony.”