Time of the big Mississippi flood, the whole Midwest was under water. I was riding AMTRAK All Aboard America, and made a three week stop in New Orleans.
I didn’t have any money, but I had my banjo. I already made up four songs in Berkeley, playing in front of Cody’s bookshop and eating out of a can. This time I had a room in exchange for odd jobs in a hostel on St. Charles.
I found out later one of the rooms was site of a grisly arson murder, a woman setting her husband and children on fire in the early 1980’s. I mowed the lawn, changed beds, folded sheets, whatever needed to be done in the morning with horrible humid heat. In the afternoon I went exploring and playing my four banjo songs in and out of the French Quarter for spare change.
I visited the Voodoo Museum and was invited to a Voodoo Party by the Voodoo hippy chick who worked at the front desk. Inside the museum, the wishing stump was all dusty, and the altar to Exu looked kind of kitsch, but all in all it was a good diorama of the Yoruba syncretism with Catholicism. I learned a lot, but I didn’t go to the party. One of the things I learned was where Marie Laveau was buried. You could even make a wish on her grave.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, closed after 9 p.m. due to drug trafficking. All the graves above ground in crypts, some empty from looters or conjurers. Marie’s grave is full of offerings, bottles of rum, flowers, food, white candles, pictures of loved ones, you can’t miss it, even though there is no name. The headstone is filled with red X’s. The tourist book said find a piece of red brick, turn around three times, make a wish and then scrawl three red X’s on the headstone. I did it and wished for a job on my next stop, Austin, Texas. In three days I was working for a house painter and had a nice wad of cash for going back up the Mississippi to the Twin Cities.