Cotton fields. Cotton Fields. Cotton Fields. And the pines. We Stayed the night in northern Alabama at a woodsy state park with a history of iron mining before the Civil War. The drive up through the pines had me nostalgic for my childhood in Georgia, and looking at a map that was geographically only a few hours away.
The surprise was the South had industrial capabilities, that is not what was taught to me in public schools. What I was taught is the North held all of the industrial might and the South depended on outside sources. Of course the site at the current Tannehill Ironworks State Park was strategically targeted by the Union.
Unfortunately we only drove along the Gulf coast. White sand beaches lined with shore birds on one side, coastal houses up on stilts on the other. Blocks free of development filled with mature Live Oaks. Later we learned that these areas were once filled with antebellum homes lost to storms.
Call it bucket list. Call it dream vacation. Call it whatever you want. Between reading novels, watching movies, the history, the food… I’ve been enamored with the place. It was as dark and damp as I imagined. The old buildings tended to. Narrow streets with Spanish architecture smashed together. Narrow glimpses of courtyards behind locked wrought iron gates.
But then you get to Bourbon Street. I did not know about Bourbon Street before I went there (or maybe I didn’t pay attention?). Among the crowds of tourists there were street performers, they appeared to be families. The atmosphere was so loud, so cacophonous, I couldn’t think straight. Then I saw white middle age business suite guys standing on the balconies lurking with their beads clutched tight. Not looking like they were having one bit of fun. Their beady eyes tracking the flows of people. It was Wednesday at 6:00pm.
New History and Old
If you go to New Orleans the cemeteries are as amazing as they say. I’m not one for tours, but tour is the only way to see St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and it is worth it. I only regret that I could not wander with my camera as I wished.
Within view of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the most recent tragedy in New Orleans. While we were traveling and galavanting, workers were still trying to retrieve the the two bodies from the hotel collapse. Which was visible from almost everywhere in the French Quarter, looming over the revelry.
All along the rivers the plantations of old divided up the land. Some still working plantations, some gone, and some tourist attractions.
Antebellum is such a pretty word…
And they are such pretty structures, with the mature live oaks lining the drives up to a symmetrically built house. The one that caught my eye was colorful. Turns out that was typical of the creole plantations before British/American colonial influence came to the area. Because the creole were influenced by the French, Spanish and island culture.
But I had to tune it out and walk away. Slaves. Slave quarters. The tour included innuendo to all the things that happened to women slaves. Including documentation of births.
Here we were touring a plantation for fun. In an area where the descendants of the slaves and the descendants of plantation owners could still be living side by side. And my insides feel ugly. Because I think about my friends and my family being treated as 3/5ths of a person. It is too real. And there is rage. I think about the people I care about and then in my mind take away all their autonomy and tell them they aren’t human. I don’t know if antebellum is such a pretty word anymore.
We took US 90 through the delta swamps of Southern Louisiana. To my Michigan eyes the raised roads through the cypress swamps were magical. All egrets and Spanish moss dotting the waterscape with cypress rising unbelievably from the murky standing water. When our first attempt at staying on the Gulf failed we drove even further south on the delta to Grand Isle State Park. The cypress trees gave way to golden grass islands and deep waterways crawling with fishing boats, shrimp trawlers and more types I have no name for.