Archive for September, 2010
618 Rue Ursulines, New Orleans, LA
We stayed at the Villa Convento, in New Orleans, located on Rue Ursulines near the old Ursuline Convent. Some say this location was the original House of the Rising Sun, but no one really knows for sure. If you were going to pick a building that looked like a former brothel, I’d be hard-pressed to find a better one, but I would think that a brothel located so close to a convent would be odd (or convenient?). This, however, is not the Villa Convento. It’s a nice courtyard located at 618, next to the hotel, which I suspect is quite new — at least relative to the surroundings.
The sparse decor and empty spaces reminded me of a painting we saw at a restaurant the day prior, which was of a very oddly proportioned, empty Spanish-style courtyard, with weird, misshapen shadows — more likely the result of bad artistry than any purposeful intent, but the effect was something out of a Salvador Dali painting. Very surreal, stark and dreamlike. And empty. I’ve been thinking a lot about spaces, lately. With all the wealth in New Orleans, there are vast spaces that contain great historical significance and beauty (and are purposed for extravagant leisure) that go unused and unoccupied, which seems like a waste. Economic disparity aside, just think of all the awesome parties they could be hosting!
Interestingly, I did a bit of research on the location, and if this letter is accurate, it may have been the original location of Loujon Press, the publisher of The Outsider, the magazine that published a lot of Charles Bukowski. The magazine and the publisher are now long gone, and it looks like the original location is, as well, which would explain the apparent newness of the courtyard that appears to have taken its place.
Holt Cemetery, New Orleans, LA.
Founded in 1879, Holt Cemetery is a cemetery for the poor, run by the city of New Orleans (although it’s not clear that there’s anything to run). It’s the resting place for many older jazz legends: cornet player Buddy Bolden and singer Jesse Hill, among others. Unlike most of the other cemeteries in New Orleans, all the plots in Holt are below ground burial, which can be obtained (more or less) for the cost of burial.
When we first arrived, the scene above greeted us — a crude semi-above-ground plot that had been washed away badly by the recent rains. Our guide was quick to spot and replace a jawbone that had washed out from its resting place. The terrain is tricky to navigate: the ground is littered with coffin handles and other detritus from decomposed plots, and open or poorly sunk graves are strewn haphazardly through the cemetery. It’s not uncommon to see a coffin half-uncovered, due to poor coverage and subsequent rains/flooding. The plots themselves are decorated liberally with homemade signs and mementos. Some are charming and creative, and others are sparse makeshift tombstones (one plot even used a school zone street sign with blank paint/tar) — a sad reminder of the charming endurance of the city in the face of the poverty and neglect that plagues it.
I realize that shots out of an airplane window are a little cliche, but hey: clouds are awesome. Suck it.