It was also the place where I had my one and only encounter with a profound deja vu experience.
I was then living in the extreme northern region of Louisiana and was not fond of it at all. Had moved into the area when I was around 13 and it never felt like home to me. It was family, some of the friendships I had developed over the years, as well as being in a long-term relationship, that kept me tied there.
One of my friends, Jimmy, eventually moved to New Orleans giving me an open invitation to visit whenever I felt like it. I took him up on it and often. I fell in love with New Orleans the moment I set foot in the wonderful French Quarter (where Jimmy was living). Having always been a very imaginative person, everything about the place appealed to me immediately - it was like stepping into another place and time. Years later I understood why novelist Ann Rice moved there for inspiration - walking about at night would get you lost in your mind with your imagination working overtime.
Bourbon Street certainly was a lot of fun, but there was so much else to the Quarter - whenever I hear Bobbie Gentry sing "Courtyard" I immediately go back in my mind and recall the gorgeous courtyards that are
Bobbie sings the melancholic "Courtyard":
The first visit there was also my most memorable in other ways. (I should backtrack and point out that I had been there once before, with someone else, but it was a quickly aborted trip because Hurricane Camille was approaching and we had to leave the city in a hurry, actually within hours of arriving there. I barely remember anything except the exodus of people leaving ...so this first visit on my own was truly my "first visit there")
My friend Jimmy had given me instructions as to how to find my way back to his apartment if I got lost and then left me on my own the first day, as he had to go into work for most of the day - he would join me later and then spend the weekend showing me about. I was never concerned about getting lost, since there were some prominent landmarks there that helped me in keeping my sense of direction, and I was only interested in exploring the French Quarter at this point....I also had the bravado that most of us have at age 20. My curiosity about the place knew no bounds and I was off wandering around taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells from the cafes - the wonderful chicory coffee and beignets...
the fantastic architecture.....
I recall this first visit to New Orleans as being one of my happiest experiences ever - I wanted it to never end...I could have strolled about forever, getting enraptured by this magical city.
Then it happened!
A couple of his friends had joined us as we did our strolling. When we got to the house where my experience had occurred, Jimmy and his friends looked at each other with knowing smiles and then told me that locals maintain that the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau (sometimes spelled Marie LaVeau) had once lived in this house. At this point I had never heard of her, but it began a lifelong fascination with her. (I was to go back to New Orleans countless times over the years, but I'll never forget that special one-of-a-kind encounter.)
There has been much written about the fascinating woman known as Marie Laveau - much of it shrouded in mystery, speculation, half-truths, growing myth...and she continues to fascinate to this day. She has been the topic of plays, movies, art, and song.
Marie LaVeau information on Wikipedia
While checking out the Wikipedia site, give a listen to this classic song, penned by Shel SilversteinLaveau":
Like many before and after me, I left trinkets at her tomb to show my appreciation for all I've learned about her:
I kept very quiet about my encounter, except for telling a few close friends about it. I no longer tried to analyze it, simply accepting that strange things do happen, things we can't explain. All I need to know is that I felt it & it profoundly affected me in many ways. So glad I got to know Marie LaVeau.