New Orleans, ah, New Orleans.
Yоu mау enter aristocratic restaurants, where the immaculate floors are only passed in cleanliness by the spotless linen of the tables; where solemn dignity, as befits the refined pleasure of dinner, prevails, and where the waiter gives you the names of the dishes in both languages and bestows on you a napkin large enough to serve yоu as a shroud, if this strange melange of French and Southern cookery should give you a fatal indigestion.
— Edward King, 1874
We arrived late yesterday afternoon. Our flight left a bit too early for us to join in the protests at SFO. Our cab driver was an immigrant from Somalia, and it was a real cab, not Uber. We are staying in a “double barreled shotgun shack”, that is, two long, narrow houses sharing a wall where the rooms run into one another from front to back. It’s an American style that may have its roots in Africa, and have reached New Orleans via Haiti. Thankfully in this example the two barrels have been knocked into one, otherwise it would feel like being back on a narrowboat. The neighborhood is a bit iffy, but we are only a couple of blocks from the French Quarter, and if we happen to get indigestion, really convenient for the cemetery.
Not to worry, though, this is a town that regards death as anything from temporary inconvenience to an excuse for a parade. Vampires and zombies stalk the alleys…
… hauntings are so common that a lack of ghosts is a selling point…
… and voodoo dolls are just twelve dollars, which would be a bargain if they worked.
We went to a museum of Louisiana history. They had two galleries devoted to the Battle of New Orleans, including the Lonnie Donegan recording of the song, which seems overkill for a battle that was fought by mistake after the war had ended. There was a lot on slavery, the civil war, and reconstruction. After the slaves rebellion in Haiti, many of the slave owners fled from there to New Orleans, so the pro-slavery sentiment was strong here. The town was captured by Union forces early in the Civil War, but remained bitterly divided even after the war ended. For two successive elections both sides claimed victory and set up rival governments. The White League, a racist militia, attempted to restore white rule.
It’s sad to see the US moving back in that direction.
Still, New Orleans remains one of the great melting pots, with the French, Spanish, Native Americans, Africans, and English working out how to come together to make really great seafood. There were even Irish immigrants arriving in great numbers after the potato famine, who were put to work digging canals and levees. This was a dangerous job in terrible conditions, and thousands of them died of cholera. Paying the Irish to take this risk was considered preferable to using slaves for the job, as nobody wanted to risk their expensive slaves getting killed or injured. I have both Irish and slave ancestors. Interesting that the slave was considered more valuable.