Today we took a tour of one of the famous New Orleans above ground cemeteries.
The only way they allow you in is if you are on a tour, dead, or Nicolas Cage. They used to leave the gate open for everyone, but there were too many people making movies or offerings to the dead Voodoo priestesses for the Catholic church to be comfortable. One night the tomb of Marie Laveau turned bright pink. Followers of Voodoo would no doubt regard this as a miracle, but the Catholic Church regarded it as a vandal with a paint pot, and put a guard on the gate. Here is the no-longer-pink tomb of Marie Laveau and about eighty of her closest friends and lovers.
She still gets offerings, though. The three Xs scraped on the tomb are requests for wishes to be granted. Why XXX? Possibly all her followers want is Canadian beer and pornography. Down at the base of the tomb if you look closely you can see offerings of hairpins and rubber bands.
Hairpins and rubberbands? What sort of offering is that? Ganesha gets sweets, Pele gets gin, and the Mormon god gets a tenth of your income and a Broadway musical. Seriously, Voodoo is never going to be a major world religion if they settle for hairpins.
I mentioned that there were a whole bunch of people in Marie Leveau’s vault. The rule is that if a vault has been closed for a year and a day, you can open it up and stuff another corpse in there, so whole families can share a couple of square yards of real estate. On a sunny day the interior of the vaults can get up to three hundred degrees F, which our guide assures us is like a mini cremation. No, three hundred degrees isn’t a cremation, it’s roasting. The lime in the cement helps to absorb the smell, but I was not surprised to see a vulture perching on a nearby telephone wire.
Of course, it’s disguised as a pigeon, but you can tell from the mad look in its eye that it is crazed by the desire for human flesh. Apparently that’s not unusual in New Orleans, the zombie capital of Southern Louisiana.
Around the corner is Paul Morphy, the greatest chess player of his day, and a little further on is Homer Plessy of Plessy vs Ferguson, the Supreme Court judgement that legalized apartheid in America. Sad to see that America seems to be about to reinstate the right to discriminate.
Some of the tombs are like condos, where societies or organizations can share cadaver space.
This handy circular filing cabinet for dead Italians was featured in the movie Easy Rider. It wasn’t until after the movie came out that the Catholic Church worked out that nobody had given permission for anyone to film there.
Of course there has to be a pyramid.
This one is owned by Nicolas Cage, who has visitation rights. He might want to use it to be buried in some day, but in the mean time he can keep his razor blades really, really sharp.
On to Cafe Du Monde for café au lait (beige, milky, vaguely coffee-like drink) and beignets (deep fried dough buried in powdered sugar).
Tip: The beignets are better and the lines are shorter at New Orleans Famous Beignets & Coffee a block SW on Decatur, but Cafe Du Monde is the famous one.
Last stop for the day was James H. Cohen and Sons, a fabulous antique store specializing in weapons and money.
As well as a huge collection of mostly 19th Century rifles and swords, they also have some great coins and banknotes. During the American Civil War, metal became more valuable then coins, so both the confederate states and the Union printed low denomination banknotes. Here’s a fifteen cent note from South Carolina.
Meanwhile what was left of the United States was printing even smaller bills, redeemable for postage rather than gold or silver.
After the Civil War, the State of Louisiana got into debt and had to borrow money. Here’s a five dollar bond.
The strips on the right were the coupons that you cut off to claim the interest on the bond – seven and a half cents every six months. Even today, a bond which pays out in a lump sum at the end of the investment period is known as a “zero coupon” bond.