New Orleans, Brightside Style

I had been wanting to go to New Orleans for years and it never seemed to happen. Flights were always expensive, we have a small kid (it’s hard to party on Bourbon Street with a kid, right?) and, well, the timing was never right.

Enter Christmas 2016. We had decided as a family to squeal out and make memories instead of buying each other slippers or plastic toys that’ll end up under the couch in less than 30 seconds. Flights were inexpensive, we found a good deal on a hotel and we were out!

New Orleans
Those streets are SO small the French Quarter!

This city has a feeling like no other. I’ve never been to Europe, so take this with a grain of salt, but I felt like I was in Europe. It was founded in 1718 by the French, but control went back and forth between the French and the Spanish with the United States gaining control after the Lousiana Purchase. It is it’s own living, breathing culture with architecture, food, and music that you aren’t able to experience elsewhere. Along with all of this, New Orleans is known for its creep factor which was a huge draw for me. The crazy history, the ghost tours, and Marie Laveau, the undisputed “Queen of Voodoo.”

Full disclosure: I tend to be quite, uh, lazy in my everyday life. So it says something that my husband commented that he had NEVER seen me more up and at ’em in his life. I HAD THINGS TO SEE, man. Anyway, below are some of my favorite things about New Orleans.

  1. ALL OF THE HISTORY
Bienville’s Plantation plaque on the side of a restaurant.

Typically, when a person thinks of New Orleans their mind jumps to Mardi Gras party time and all other kinds of debauchery. All of that is true, but the historical aspect of the city was FASCINATING. The French Quarter is the oldest part of the city and the whole district is a National Historic Landmark, which means that nothing can be torn down and rebuilt. As you walk through the Quarter, many buildings will have plaques on them explaining the historical significance of where you are standing. For example, there was the plaque above, another marking the location of the major slave exchange in the city in 1788 and another marked a building where Napoleon was offered refuge during his exile.

I get such a kick out of finding these nuggets of history and knowing that I am standing in the spot that such important/amazing/atrocious things occurred. You can’t help but take a second to contemplate your tiny place in the world and everything that has come before you. Side note: stopping every 30 seconds to read a plaque and “take it all in” is also a fun thing to do if you want to annoy your husband.

2. SERIAL KILLERS/ARCHITECTURE

 

The Lalaurie Mansion in the French Quarter.

The Lalaurie Mansion was on the top of my to-do  list. I led the fam on a wild goose chase trying to find it only to have my husband say, “What? It’s just a building? I thought there would at least be a gift shop or something.”

The gift shop comment is hilarious because this home was owned by a wealthy socialite who just happened to torture and kill slaves in her home (to his credit, he didn’t know that at the time). There were suspicions that Madame Lalaurie was mistreating her slaves and when a fire broke out in 1834 (supposedly by a slave trying to commit suicide), the suspicions were confirmed when police entered and found dead bodies in the slave quarters. She fled into exile and almost 200 years later become the subject of the third season of American Horror Story (Coven).

Nicolas Cage ended up buying the house at one point and lived there until he lost it to foreclosure. Apparently, he spent a lot of time on the deck, cocktail(s) in hand. It’s a beautiful deck, though. I don’t blame him.

3. MORE SERIAL KILLERS

Museum of Death, New Orleans

After the Lalaurie Mansion, I bid adieu to the boys and walked on over for some “me time” at the Museum of Death. This place is probably pretty self-explanatory, but the highlights included: artwork by Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, Son of Sam, and John Wayne Gacy. Also on display was Ed Gein’s psychiatric report, Jeffrey Dahmer’s prison logs, the original suicide machine made by Jack Kevorkian, and exhibits on old funerary customs. All I have to say is that I’m glad we’ve moved beyond suspending corpses from the ceiling (those pesky, hungry rats and their teeth!).

Finally, they had a collection of O.J. Simpson related items that contained one beyond shocking police photo of Nicole Brown Simpson. I have a pretty high tolerance for all things gruesome, but that photo made me gasp out loud. I will NEVER get that image out of my mind (thanks, O.J.). Bottom line: if you are into this kind of stuff it is a MUST see. You might even want to pick up a Jeffrey Dahmer apron to wear at your summer barbeques!

Hey! Want to see cool New Orleans cemetery pics and read about why I decided that crawling around in a tomb was NOT a good idea? Keep your eyes peeled for my next post!

 

Do you any cool New Orleans stories to share? I want to hear them!

 

 

 

Three Memoirs To Read Right Now

I’m not sure what my problem was, but between the months of January and June I only read one book. ONE BOOK. This is a problem, people. I have always considered myself to be a master of flying through books and I may have even unneccessarily bragged about it a time or two (yeah, I’m that cool).

So, here we are in July and I have gotten back on the proverbial horse. Much to my amazement, I read three memoirs in two weeks. The last book in this list? I READ THE ENTIRE THING LAST NIGHT. It’s true what they say: stay off of Facebook for 5 minutes and wonderful things will happen! If you’re looking for a couple of quick and entertaining reads, these definitely have my stamp of approval.                                                                                                

We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter by Rachael Hanel

I have passed by this book several times, but I finally decided to give it a go because, well, graveyards. The author grew up in a small town 75 miles from Minneapolis, MN and her father was the town’s gravedigger. It’s a story about people faced with sorrow, but they plod on with stoic faces. It’s about having an awareness of time passing, but not being able to grasp the finality of death. I related to the author as she described walking through the cemetery, calculating dates and creating stories of the people buried there. After her father dies (not a spoiler, don’t worry), she finally understands the fractures that often occur when a beloved family member dies, which was very different than what she expected.

 

Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst

I randomly came across this book in a thrift store and I said, “A book about ruined families? I’m in!” I’m not kidding when I say that that was probably the first thought in my head. I love these kinds of books as they remind me that most everyone has craziness in their family and that, maybe, mine is NOT the craziest after all. Basically, it is the story of Jeanne, her siblings, her I’m-a-writer-but-I-don’t-write-anything dad and her alcoholic, weepy mother. Soon enough, Jeanne is attempting to be a writer and dips a little too deep into the drank. There was a lot of humor (see: infestation of crabs cured by wearing a garbage bag diaper) and many flawed characters with stories that hit close to home.

Unabrow by Una Lamarche              

This was the book that I read in ONE night. It was a cute little collection of essays that was easy to fly through and had me laughing out loud more than once. As you probably guessed by the cover, it’s the author’s story of growing up with a giant caterpillar on her face (no one offered to pluck that shit?). The little girl with the unibrow becomes a young woman that feels uncomfortable in her own body and, like me, had a penchent for wearing men’s XL t-shirts to try and hide her awkwardness.  I could relate to her love of making Christmas lists and all of the lying she did in order to make herself sound cool (just like the time I lied and said, “That isn’t MY Mariah Carey tape, pfshhhh.”). It was definitely not a life changing tome, but it was a sweet reminder that I wasn’t the only late bloomer at the party.