Monday, January 26, 2009

"Only in New Orleans!"

My anecdote of the day: First of all, I couldn't make these things up if I tried.
Last week my better half and my faithful, brother, Michael (yes the same poor guy that found the skull at the cemetery)decided to make a visit to a local recycled hardware and construction material shop. They are in the business and frequent the shop. While there, they noticed a beautiful cypress coffin in the shop (New Orleanians have been buried in cypress coffins since the early 18th century). As they admired the craftsmanship, the owner of the shop walked over and explained that it had been sold. He proceeded to recount to them the details of the sale...." a woman came in and noticed the coffin, she asked a few questions and admired it. She then proceeded to climb into the coffin and asked me to close the top. After spending some time in the closed coffin...she raised the lid and said 'I'll take it.' Have you ever heard of such a thing,?" he asked..."Well, I sold it to her, just waiting for her to come pick it up..." Needless to say the guys got a kick out of that one and when they recounted the owner's story to me all I could respond was "Only in New Orleans". Something about the place ( and you know this if you grew up here) lessens your fear of death...or rather it increases your respect for the reality of it. After all we're surrounded by it in every way in this town...always have been.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is It Real?

My most recent visit to St. Louis #2 was very successful. I recruited my brother and better half and we scoured the aisle's with notepads and camera. We were able to find the tombs we were searching for and a few we weren't, but were nonetheless useful. As our search wound down I rounded a corner and found my brother standing behind a tomb stock still staring at the ground. For those of you who have never been to these cemeteries, they're laid out in a very disorganized fashion. You have essentially areas where tombs can be facing any direction with no rhyme or reason. So, there was my brother staring at the rear of a tomb. I looked down to where he was staring and saw a human skull obviously placed there with intention. Two candles adorned each side and a small cross lay beside it. "Is it real?" was the first thing he asked me. I took a closer look than he was willing to and deduced that it was indeed "real"...a little too real! We all decided that we were disgusted with the apparent disrespect. New Orleans has her seedy ways and seedy people and it is unique in some of the religious practices that her people choose. However, we were in a Catholic cemetery and there is no excuse for something like that. We don't know if it was a prank or some spiritual design, but the cemetery of the New Orleans Archdiocese is not the place for it. In my opinion, those people who continue to deface tombs, steal from tombs and are determined to turn our cemeteries into "dumping grounds" need to be dealt with. These are sacred resting places, not a place for graffiti and various other expressions of devotion that are not in line with the history and architecture of the cemeteries. Please resist "x ing" any tombs or leaving things there such as food or valuables that will only draw problems if you visit the cemeteries. I am working with my family to preserve some of these tombs and I will not have them or the remains of those inside defiled!

Monday, January 12, 2009

On a Mission!

I have recently been doing research for a cousin on a burial in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 in New Orleans. In addition, I am interested in looking up some of my own ancestor's I made my initial visit to the cemetery. What a shame! Ugh. It is depressing. What's worse is...who is to blame? I have no idea...but I feel frantic about preservation. After all, this is my family's resting place. I don't want to bash the church, that being said, if they still own this historic cemetery, they ought to be ashamed of the condition and to have the nerve to post a sign that asks visitors to respect the "holy..resting place"! Look at the condition it has been left in! How can anyone respect it?
I have decided that my first "mission" is going to be a survey of the three squares. I am talking about a true current map including any inscriptions and photos if possible. I am not going to wait for help from organizations that are busy raising money for the projects. It doesn't cost much to get out of your car, walk in with a camera, pen and paper and get to work. It may take me years, but it will get done. I am thinking that I will need to consult any records, maps, etc at the HNOC and I will do my homework first. I wish there were more I could do, but this will be a great place to start. If anyone out there can think of any tips or ideas that would be helpful please dont hesitate to contact me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Don't Let Them Crumble Away!

My website has a page dedicated to the cemeteries of New Orleans and a brief explanation of what you can do to help preserve them. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. Many of my ancestors are buried in the cemeteries. It can be heartbreaking to see these tombs crumbling. The historic cemeteries of New Orleans are taken for granted by tourists and locals. People do not realize how unique they really are. The above ground tombs are a testament to Creole culture that has built and rebuilt New Orleans many times. I am just getting started in my quest of preservation, but the more I learn and the more resources I find, the more I can do. I will continue to progress both on my website and on my blogs.