Phil volunteered to cover a shift at the Natchitoches VA clinic on Friday, and Mom and I tagged along. It's about as far from Abbeville as New Orleans, but north rather than east. Mom's been there but always wanted to see it at Christmas (it's famous throughout the south for the Christmas lights they put up along the main street and the Cane River Lake). I've never been there but always wanted to see it, it's the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase--they're celebrating 300 years next year.
American Cemetery is only a few years younger than the town, and is considered to be the oldest extant cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase.
The oldest markers are long gone, I think the oldest surviving one is from the last few years of the 18th century. But there are a lot of eroded bricks underfoot, so they're all still down there somewhere.
Kaffie-Frederick is the oldest general store in Louisiana (that's still in business), and they've been using the same cash register since 1910.
We picked Phil up for lunch and had meat pies for lunch, because what else are you going to eat in Natchitoches? There's a restaurant in town, Laysone's, that claims to have invented them, but that's bullshit. That's like claiming you invented the burrito. (It's basically a regional variation of the empanada--people who aren't from Louisiana always forget that we were a Spanish colony too, not just a French one.) Mom says the last time she and Phil ate there the pies were terrible, they tasted like they were made with potted meat and fried in old oil that tasted like rancid onions. So I went on Urbanspoon and found a place with good reviews, Merci Beaucoup on Church Street.
After lunch Mom and I drove down LA Highway 119. which is also the Cane River Heritage Trail.
The house at Magnolia Plantation is still privately owned and lived in by descendants of the original family that built it in the 1830s, but in 2001 they donated the land and surviving outbuildings to the National Park Service.
Melrose Plantation is of interest because it was built by free people of color.
Oakland Plantation had a general store that also served as the local post office for many years.
We stayed late enough to see all the lights come on. They even had a snow machine! I think it was some kind of soap suds.
I also shot film in the LC-A+ and the Ultra Wide & Slim, but didn't finish the rolls. These are the digital shots.
The whole thing still stank of charred wood. And the property was all muddy even though it hadn't rained in several days, because they kept the fire hoses on for hours, to make sure it didn't flare back up.
I think public stocks need to be brought back as punishment for shit like this. Put those morons in them for a week, plunk down a giant bin of rotten vegetables, and let people hurl away. Look, I was young and dumb once, I drank and smoked pot, and obviously I understand the allure of abandoned properties. But holy fuckballs, I never did anything a fraction as stupid or callous as purposely setting fire to a 165-year-old building.
There are kneelers all around her grave for people to pray, a petition box on top of it, and (of course) a donation box. More on that later.
She's buried in St. Edward's Church cemetery in Richard, and after I took some photos of her grave I went into the church. Richard is a tiny community--not a town even, a village--and from the outside the church just a little A-frame; but as soon as I walked in I saw where that donation money was going. Every square inch of wall was crammed with statuary and mosaics and stained glass. It looked like Donald Trump's private chapel.
These chandeliers are ludicrous, and there were like a dozen of them in that tiny place.
These are their holy water fonts! There were two of them! (For those not familiar with Catholic churches, the fonts are usually just stone bowls bolted onto the wall.)
Honestly, I think Pope Frankie should be notified. I would have thought that money was going partially towards defraying the costs of her beatification petition, with some going to charity. Like maybe, I don't know, childhood leukemia research??
Baby Jesus is very disappointed in you.
Fort deRussy cemetery has many Confederate graves and is allegedly haunted.
Native American burial mounds are impressive in theory; in reality they're pretty much just big, old piles of dirt.
In other photography news, yesterday I sold a print of the Buddhist temple on Avery Island in the morning, and SEVEN more prints of LeBeau Plantation in the evening! The woman that bought the print last week, her husband decided to buy 5x7 copies of a different shot for his brothers and sisters. They all played in the house as children.
I sold a print of this house, which Trish and I photographed last April, on Friday morning. Which is good, but the reason why I sold it sucks: it burned to the ground about 2:00 in the morning.
The woman who bought the print said her husband grew up across the street from the house and used to play in it as a kid, so she wants to give him the print as a Christmas present. He was one of nine kids, and they all played there as children, so she might be buying more.
No one's lived there in decades and it has no electricity, so when I heard about it I pretty much figured it had to be arson. But I thought it would turn out be accidental: teens having a bonfire or homeless people trying to stay warm, it got out of hand, oops. Turns out it was deliberately set by a bunch of grown-ass men; they were drunk and smoking pot and trying to "summon ghosts" (the place has a reputation of being haunted, which I'm sure is bullshit), and when they didn't show up, one of them decided to set the place on fire. You can't see it, but I'm making the angriest, most disgusted face you ever saw right now.
I never could figure out who owned this property when I researched it earlier in the year; turns out a foundation has owned it since the 1960s with the stated intention of restoring it. They've collected about $100 million towards that goal and spent about 1% of it, mostly in the form of huge salaries for themselves. Typical Louisiana corruption, in other words. Too bad they couldn't have parted with some of that money to hire a night watchman.
It's a very eerie feeling, to know that something I photographed is gone forever. That must have been how Clarence John Laughlin felt towards the end of his life, going over the plates for Ghosts Along the Mississippi and realizing that about 1/3 of those houses are just gone.
I'd like to go photograph what's left, but that's going to have to wait because it's probably still an active crime scene right now.
I think we have one of the prettiest state capitol buildings, but I really like Art Deco architecture. It's the tallest, too.
Huey Long's memorial. He was assassinated inside the building and the bullet holes are still in the wall. Louisianans revere his memory, which I find hilarious because they'd never vote for him today. From his Wikipedia page:
Long is best known for his Share Our Wealth program, created in 1934 under the motto "Every Man a King." It proposed new wealth redistribution measures in the form of a net asset tax on corporations and individuals to curb the poverty and homelessness endemic nationwide during the Great Depression. To stimulate the economy, Long advocated federal spending on public works, schools and colleges, and old age pensions.
He was also a corrupt son of a bitch, but because of him Louisiana was actually a lot better off during the Great Depression than many other parts of the country--hell, probably better off than we are now.
It's a quiet neighborhood, mostly residential, since tourists rarely bother to cross the river. It's really pretty though, I could see living there if I lived in NOLA. It felt like a real place, and not like the amusement park that the French Quarter and even some of the adjacent neighborhoods sometimes feel like.
Some of these were taken with the Smena 8M and some with the Polaroid Z2300.
Algiers Point is directly across the river from the French Quarter, you can see St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo.
The door to the organ loft was open in this Catholic church, so Hope and I poked around up there. I guess this leads into the bell tower.
Algiers Point is supposedly Hoodoo Central in NOLA, but none of the rootworkers advertise. I guess people just know about them if they live in the city and are into it. I'm positive that this place--which looked like a store building, not a house, but didn't have any signage and had a residential-type door--was one of them.
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I've always been fascinated by bricked-up windows and doors.
Alice Plantation was built in 1790, but in the neighboring town of Baldwin. In the 1960s it was floated down Bayou Teche to its present location.
It's one of those enormous cemeteries you can drive around in, and I nearly couldn't find my way back out. The land used to be a racetrack, and the perimeter of the cemetery still retains the oval shape, so the streets aren't laid out in a straightforward grid. Instead they snake all over the place, and the place is full of roundabouts. It's worth it though, the cemetery is famous for huge and bizarre monuments and crypts. Some of these were taken with the digital Polaroid, and some with the Lomo LC-A+.
This is probably the most famous crypt in the cemetery, it was originally the final resting place of Josie Arlington, who ran a brothel in Storyville. But her family sold it to a family named Morales and re-interred her in a more discreet crypt. Apparently this tomb drew sightseers and her family was mortified by it. Partly because they didn't like it to be known that there was good money in whorin', partly because a story got around that the girl represented Josie being turned away at her father's door. Another version has it that Arlington intended it to represent a virgin being turned away at the doors of the brothel, as she always claimed that no girl ever "lost her virtue" in her establishment. The monument is said to walk around the cemetery at night, visiting other graves; and although Arlington hasn't been buried there in nearly 100 years, you still often find coins at the feet of the statue.
This is definitely the weirdest crypt in the cemetery.
Sunday was absolutely gorgeous weather, mid-70s and very low humidity. I drove to St. Bernard Parish, south of New Orleans, to hunt for the de la Ronde Ruins, which I saw a photo of in Clarence John Laughlin's Ghosts Along the Mississppi. I found them on a traffic island on LA-46 near the intersection with Paris Road in Chalmette (Versailles never attained town status and is really just a neighborhood of Chalmette), with a bar on one side and some kind of refinery on the other.
There's something really sad and forlorn about them. I'm sure Pierre Denis de la Ronde thought that generations of his family would live in this house; in reality, it was inhabited for less than a decade. Construction was completed in 1805, the Battle of New Orleans during The War of 1812 happened less than a mile away. The house was looted and shelled. It burned down in 1873, but it had been an empty shell for decades by then.
To the left you can see the remains of the flagstone walk at the front of the house.
de la Ronde's double oak alley has actually fared better than the house. It led from the river to the front door, and except where they were cut down to build the highway they're mostly still there. (And by "highway" we're talking a mostly-rural 2-lane road. Not some 8-lane urban expressway with hundreds of cars roaring past every minute. "Highway" has a different meaning when you live in the south.)
I shot a roll in the LC-A+ and I'll have those up later this week.
First we went to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum on Chartres Street. It's a museum of 19th century medicine housed in the office/home of the first licensed pharmacist in the Louisiana Territory. All of the displays are authentic, none of the items are reproductions. If you're in the French Quarter and looking for something a little different I recommend it. It was really interesting, there was a lot to see, and admission is just $5.
One of the things I found fascinating was how so many of the herbal medicines of the 19th century contained ingredients that are used today in rootworking--the apothecary jar 4th from the right on the top contained tincture of asafoetida, a foul-smelling herb sometimes called "devil's dung" that is used in Hoodoo to both repel evil and harm enemies. I saw a lot of other names I recognized, too.
I really, really want this graduated chest of drawers!
Pharmacists sometimes compounded silver- or gold-plated pills for their wealthy clients. They knew that the metals had no medicinal properties, but they also knew they're inert and pass through the system without causing harm, and it got bored rich people to quit whining about their made-up problems for 5 minutes, so what the hell.
This was a display about the medicinal use of cannabis and perique (a type of tobacco grown in Louisiana)--tobacco was apparently prescribed to treat asthma!
Display of Voodoo potions. People used to get their spiritual supplies from the same place that they got their medicine. The potions were numerically coded (hence "love potion #9") so that rich white people could ask for them without admitting they practiced or believed in Voodoo, which officially was only practiced by slaves and free people of color.
(So, to the people who say New Orleans Voodoo is a 20th century invention of people who wanted to make money off tourists, riddle me this: if it didn't exist before that, how do you explain these bottles?)
Tampons in the 19th century contained opium. I demand a return to this practice.
Early 19th century soda fountain. Soda was invented to get people to take bitter-tasting medicine, they would drown it in sugary flavored syrups and add mineral water.
Afterward we walked to the Historic Voodoo Museum on Dumaine Street. It's pretty small, just 2 rooms and a hallway. And their air-conditioning does NOT work very well, it was stifling. In addition, the exhibits were filthy with dust, and some of them were a little... exaggerated, shall we say. Kanzos in the bayou, etc. NOLA Voodoo is a non-initiatory religious system (which is why the terms "houngan" and "mambo" are not used), and practitioners who want to be initiated usually have to travel to Haiti for it.
The main altar. The wooden rod in back is where the lwa come down.
Yemaya is one of the Yoruban orisha that made its way into NOLA Voodoo in the 20th century, probably via Santeria.
I was in New Orleans yesterday (more on that later), and when I came back and checked Etsy I found that I'd had photos featured in 3 different treasuries. This photo was in 2 of them, and about 2 dozen people have favorited it so far. That's great, but I wish someone would buy it.
I'm pretty frustrated with the whole feedback system of Etsy, although I understand why they have it. But people don't like to buy from you if you don't have a lot of feedback, and you can't get feedback until you make sales, so it's a catch-22. And I've made some sales, but only 1 person has bothered to leave feedback! If feedback is so important to how well your shop does, Etsy should make it mandatory. Like you're not able to make more purchases until you've left feedback for the previous one or something.
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That stripe in the background could have been virtually any color, but I chose to use gray on all the pages so as not to distract.
The only thing I didn't like about the layout that I picked (there's a fairly wide variety) is that not every page had a text box, so I couldn't label all the places I shot.
This is the centerfold.
Somewhere nearby is a baby bird!
The caladiums are enormous this year.
It's behind a chain link fence, but rule #1 of abandoned building photography is never underestimate the power of local teens to make holes in chain link. As it happened, sneaking onto the property turned out to be unnecessary. There was an elderly gent mowing the property, and he said so long as I didn't try to enter the building I could walk around. The building isn't safe, some of the floors have collapsed and it's full of asbestos.
And the new batteries did the trick, obviously. So this is the 35mm I'm bringing to California.
No scratches/hairs/whatever (cementing my resolve to use the Walgreen's in Lafayette from now on), but about half of the photos were really underexposed. I panicked for about a second--this is both one of my most expensive and most often used 35mm cameras--then realized it was probably the batteries. They're over 2 years old and like I said, I use this camera fairly frequently. Sure enough, the indicator light was flickering. I put in some new batteries and now the light is steady. I'm going to shoot another roll just to be 100% sure, and barring any further problems, this is the camera I'm going to take to SoCal.
We had a lot of rain last weekend, so I decided to stay in town. If it started raining while I was shooting, I could always go home and wait it out, or run errands. A lot of what I like to shoot in south Louisiana--old and/or abandoned buildings, tiny cemeteries, beautiful churches--are right here in Abbeville, but I tend to ignore them in favor of something I need to drive 2 hours to photograph!
That said, it was really interesting even to me. It pretty much only dealt with the American involvement in the Pacific Theater and the Western Front, which at first annoyed me as sometimes I feel like we try to pretend we fought that war single-handed (and conveniently ignore that we never would have won without the eeeeevil Soviets fighting with us). But it is the NATIONAL Museum after all, and the narrow focus allows it to go into lots of detail.
You know how we had all that terrible, racist anti-Japanese propaganda? Well, they had it about us! This is supposed to be FDR, although the gent standing next to me opined that it more closely resembled "a demonic Jay Leno".
Soldiers got cigarettes in their rations. Cigarettes are good for you! They make you more manly and they cure syphilis!
The Allies did a lot of crazy stuff to fake out the Nazis about where the D-Day invasion would land, including dummy paratroopers.
Enigma Machine! I've only ever seen photos.
"I'm in the French Resistance but it's a secret, so don't tell anyone."