This is a photo-documentary of our journey from Frenchtown to Newark, New Jersey to New Orleans, Louisiana to Dothan Alabama, to Panama City, Florida, to St. Augustine Florida and back to Frenchtown.
There is something true about the old saying: “You can never go home again”. Anytime that I consider a trip back to LA, “Lower Alabama”, where I was born, my heart fills with dread, as I am reminded of all of the things that I experienced in the south growing up too poor and too smart and too white that made we want to leave it. The photoblog documentary that follows documents my trip back home, or Down Home as it is referred to in Northern Alabama and Central Georgia. My trip starts in New Orleans, that is a city that keeps calling me back again and again in my life somehow.
New Orleans, Louisiana
My photoblog of New Orleans starts out with architecture, which turned into my focus for the entire time I was there. The photo above shows a hidden courtyard that was tucked away in the back of a contemporary art gallery selling shaped mural fragment paintings by a contemporary artist.
Another project during my trip was documenting the abundance and variety of fleur de lis images in New Orleans. My hometown of Frenchtown NJalso uses the symbol as New Orleans does. This photograph shows a fleur de lis made up of palm leaves. This graphic logo was by far, the most elegant fleur de lis icon that we found during the trip. This little sign was done for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau and appears in store windows all over town.
The architecture of New Orleans
The architecture of New Orleans is another reason to visit there. When I was telling everyone before we left on our vacation that we were going to New Orleans, they all thought that I was going there to “engage in debauchery”. This is a common misconception about New Orleans: New Orleans=Debauchery. It is true, if that is what you choose to get out of this incredible place, well then, have a good time! There is probably not a better Party City in the entire United States, but that is not even 10% of this city’s heart. For me, New Orleans is Art. For me, New Orleans is like walking into a painting, a Fellini movie, or an avant-garde Theater piece. New Orleans is an Experience unlike any other. For me: New Orleans=Art (It is a masterpiece itself, but you don’t sit back and observe it passively, it pulls you into it, surrounds you, and you become not yourself, but part of the art itself — I do not mean simply that New Orleans has artists, art and art galleries in it. New Orleans is art itself)
Reading our Frommer’s Walking Tour Book, we discovered this was the home of the Vampire Gothic writer, Anne Rice. The place was abuzz the day we were there, with Real Estate “For Sale: Sold” signs, and workmen who apparently were hard at work readying the home for it’s new owner.
From local sources we learned that the Grand Society Ladies of the Garden District have never been too kind to Anne, and they have been fighting for years so much so that the rumor was that the Beloved Ann Rice was leaving the Garden District altogether to live in an unhaunted home in the suburbs.
Lord knows I understand the heart of this issue. My comment about being too poor, too smart and too white in the south growing up is in reference to my own experience with the culture of the American South. There is a lot that is bad about race relations in the South, but what has not been written about nearly as much as it should, is the pervasive, demeaning and strict class structure of the South that is based on money and heritage. As a young far too creative and sensitive young child growing up in South Alabama, I was seen as Poor White Trash because we lived in the “Project Houses”, built by the Federal Government to allow families like my own to have decent, safe and respectable homes. My classmates mothers would not let my friends come over to our house late in the afternoon because our innocent little poor neighborhood with absolutely no crime statistics was renowned in their heads for being dangerous after sundown, with “strange things happening all night long”. Besides this incident of concrete prejudice, there was always the feeling that we did not fit in and did not belong because we had no money. We were not good enough to associate with these stalwarts of Middle Class examples of Grand Society Southern Good Ole Boy and Junior League Woman Aristocracy. What made it worse, was that I and all of my sisters and brothers were blessed by both of our parents with incredible drive and smarts that poor people are not supposed to have. This made us peers with our richer school classmates and superiors often in our grades. Not only I, but my entire family had committed the unpardonable sin of being Too Smart to be So Poor.
Anne Rice offended The Ladies for one reason. She had committed another unpardonable sin of Southern Culture: Being Too New To Be So Rich And Powerful. Anne was not from an old New Orleans family. How dare she come into the city and make herself known and become a benefactor for the city and the Garden District, just who did this writer woman think she was? She should have “Stayed in Her Place”. Didn’t she know that she was the servant of The Society, not a force in it or even a part of it.
How dare us Far Too Creatives dare think that we are part of The South, we are it’s Slaves.
Lafayette Cemetery, Garden District, New Orleans Louisiana
I had been warned about going into the cemeteries in New Orleans because they were the sites of preditory crime. Just the image of that gives you the image of dark strangers hiding behind gravestones lurking there to stab you and take all your money and credit cards. When I approached Lafayette, it was the middle of the afternoon without a cloud in the sky and delightful spring weather in early January. How could I not go in. Somehow the real experience of the graveyard was not what I had imagined. It was a true disappointment. I did not get the feeling of delightful dishabille here, I got the feeling of abused and neglected history. It seemed that no one cared for these souls that have passed on to another world, and the monuments were simply there to be defaced or rented out the next-dead highest bidder.
Parlor of the Parkview Marigny on Washington Square in the Marigny Historic District, New Orleans, LA
The Parkview was my home for the four days I was in New Orleans. As shown in the photograph above, the Inn is incredibly sophisticated and refined. Walking in the front door feels like walking into an Architectural Digest feature story. The tallness of the ceilings, the richness of the fabrics and textures, the classical and fine furniture and accessories scream luxury and elegance. The Parkview is located just outside of the French Quarter bordering a large public park called Washington Square.
The Marigny gets my highest recommendation for elegant high end Bed and Breakfast accommodations, and one of our Best of New Orleans Awards for my trip. The B&B currently is in the process of being sold, but the new owners were looking to continue it’s operation as a luxury bed and breakfast. The inn can be found online with incredible 360 degree virtual tours of the rooms at: The Best New Orleans Luxury Bed and Breakfast Inn: Parkview Marigny
Frenchmen is the name of a street in New Orleans, and my temporary address for my short stay in New Orleans. It is with It is a fitting symbol for my little journey as I started in a town in New Jersey that somehow got named incorrectly a “French Town” because the local residents thought that the French speaking man that had just moved there and bought all the land there was one of a class of men called Frenchmen. He wasn’t. (He was Swiss) You can read more about this man: Paul Henri Mallet-Prevost on Frenchtowner.com’s History of Frenchtown NJ Page: The Malletian Era.
This photo closes out the New Orleans Trip Photo Blog. What follows next is a restaurant and dining review for my trip there with no photos (It is hard to take your camera out and do food photographs and still enjoy your meal). The photoblog feature will pick back up in a few blog posts to document the Alabama and Florida portions of my trip.
This story was originally posted on the Frenchtown NJ Blog/Jaunt Blog on February 6, 2005