Saturday, 5 May 2012

Week 19:Louisiana

"Way down in Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
 There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
 Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode..."
 - 'Johnny B. Goode',
 Chuck Berry

Well folks, we have spread our wings for New Orleans and flown away to Louisiana.

In my mind Louisiana has two parts. Like so many other states I can see it as The City and The Country. And few are quite so distinct.

The City is New Orleans, Nawlins, the Big Easy. I can see grand colonial architecture, wrought iron balconies, and shuttered windows. The  humid nights echo to the sounds of Mississippi delta jazz; laughter and the smell of alcohol spills from the open doorway of a bar; and voodoo queens drift through the fog. And then there is the epic debauchery of Mardi Gras.

The Country is Cajun Country. Damp decaying mansions lie forgotten up the creeks and bayous. A boat-ride through the swamps reveals choked waterways, willows hung with curtains of Spanish moss, and the inquisitive eyes of alligators and alligator turtles. Creoles and Cajuns ('Acadians') keep the French tongue and customs alive.

This pervading French influence is unique in the United States - one would have to go up to Quebec in Canada to find anything comparable (don't worry - I won't be doing something similar for Canada!). Another unifying factor is the love of music, whether it be the jazz of Louis Armstrong or the zydeco of the backwoods. And finally there has been a long tradition of free blacks ('creoles of colour') running things their own way. A tradition of which voodoo has been just a part. If I were to sum up my initial thoughts about Louisiana in one word it would be "decadence". The crumbling of past glories, the pervasion of old superstition, and the determination not to care and to keep on partying. This sounds like my kind of territory!

As you might guess, I'm looking forward to my Louisiana films. The three I have picked are:
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  • Steel Magnolias (1989)
  • Dead Man Walking (1995)

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

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