Tag Archives: masks

Cities of the Dead

If you think cemeteries are unbearably creepy or sad, you might want to skip this post. After returning from a trip to New Orleans, I am still seeing her “Cities of the Dead”– as the graveyards are called–in my mind. New Orleans has dozens of cemeteries, but why are they so memorable?

Because so much of the land is at or below sea level, burials are mainly above ground. When caskets are buried underground, as the water table rises, they come right up out of the ground and float away. Above ground burials are in stone vaults or monuments, and when you see a cemetery full of these little “houses” they give the appearance of a ghoulish neighborhood or town. You can see decorative iron trim, stone crosses and sculptures, and some vaults even have stained glass.

A lot of movies have been filmed in these cemeteries. The one that has stayed with me is Double Jeopardy where Ashley Judd gets locked in a casket in Lafayette Cemetery #1. The Easy Rider scene was filmed at St. Louis Cemetery #1. The latter one is the oldest cemetery in the city and located in a swamp. It’s claim to fame is that it houses the tomb of Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen, who was buried there in 1881. Many of the cemeteries are Roman Catholic or divided into sections by religion and also by race. The oldest cemeteries, like St. Louis 1, 2, and 3 are very dilapitated. The stone is crumbling, there is moss over many of the vaults, and therefore they are the most creepy.

Metairie Cemetery (located in New Orleans, not the city of Metairie) is newer and was set up by a Creole (usually “mixed race” person, and that is important to the following) who did not want sections by religion and race and did not want a segregated cemetery. It has the most extravagant marble monuments in the city, though, and Anne Rice’s husband the poet Stan Rice is buried there. He died at age 60 of brain cancer. At the same cemetery, the owners of Whitney Bank made their monument look like a little bank.

You can take tours of the cemeteries, but I think the best way is to plan a couple of days to visit several cemeteries on your own. That way you can spend as much time as you like, depending on the ones you prefer.

It might seem odd to take photos of places where people just like me were buried, but I belong to FindaGrave, which accesses cemetery records across the country. The point of that site is to take photos of all the headstones/graves in the U.S.–and connect each one to the person buried there–birth and death info, relationships with others buried, and photos of the individual. I “tend” a few graves on there by paying a one-time fee of $5 to remove advertising from the grave’s page.

New Orleans even has a Masonic cemetery. I was actually surprised to see the old, abandoned Masonic Temple because my understanding is that the doctrines of the Catholic Church and Freemasonry are incompatible. Since New Orleans has a Catholic historical base and population, I mentioned to the gardener that I probably wouldn’t find a Masonic Temple here, and right at that moment, it stood in front of our car.

I wanted to visit the Masonic cemetery, but it was not to be (for which I blame the gardener).

He doesn’t really understand my fascination with the Masons. He even said, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a place for a bunch of guys to hang out.” He doesn’t think they are mysterious or intriguing at all.

But I do ;).

And the same is true for those cemeteries. But then I can’t go past an old cemetery without stopping.

 

56 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Art and Music, History, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel

Mask as Identity or as Hiding Place?

I’m always thinking of a mask as a means to an end–that which hides someone or someone’s face. When I meet someone wearing a mask I feel very uncomfortable–much like when someone is wearing dark sunglasses or is in a car with darkly tinted windows. I feel at a disadvantage. I am on the outside and can’t look in.

Maybe it’s because of all the scariness that hides behind masks. Think of the Anonymous Hackers mask. One minute they are ruining people’s lives with their hacking and the next they are trying to save us by hacking ISIS (Daesh, ISIL, the Islamic State–sorry I had to point out that all these names are another form of mask). So masks scare me.

But I noticed this mask my kids have hanging on the wall, left from a long-ago trip to Italy, and suddenly it occurred to me that the mask itself speaks volumes. The mask is a costume, an identity that can be donned.

And that made all the difference for me.

This mask is from the Carnival of Venice. I love costumes, theatre, and a chance at a temporary and different identity.

Duh, I guess that is why I am a writer. When I was a kid I wanted to be one of the “3 As”–actor, author, or archeologist. They are all about different identities, in one way or another.

How do masks seem to you? What mask would you choose right now? I think there’s a writing prompt in here somewhere . . . .

###

I’m behind with responding to comments because . . . um, because. But I will catch up this week! Thank you so much for your kind wishes about Doll God and your advice about resting or writing!  And Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!!! I don’t think I’ll be able to post again this week, but I’ll be blog reading!

51 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Art and Music, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing prompt

All Our Masks

One of the fun things about writing a blog is being able to write about whatever I want to write about ;). Today it’s poetry. Specifically the poetry of Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980).

Muriel Rukeyser

Muriel Rukeyser (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s one of my favorite poets.  Her most famous poem ended up creating a rallying cry for feminist scholars and women writers.

 The Poem as Mask

Orpheus

When I wrote of the women in their dances and
wildness, it was a mask,
on their mountain, gold-hunting, singing, in orgy,
it was a mask; when I wrote of the god,
fragmented, exiled from himself, his life, the love gone
down with song,
it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from
myself.

There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my torn life, myself split open in sleep, the rescued
child
beside me among the doctors, and a word
of rescue from the great eyes.

No more masks! No more mythologies!

Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand,
the fragments join in me with their own music.

Once, Rukeyser wrote about herself under the mask of myth. But now Rukeyser was throwing off the mask. She (and by extension, all women) could now show herself in print and in real life without masks.

Women no longer had to pretend to be what they were not.

Unfortunately, I think people are still wearing masks.

Today, it might be easier to have masks. We lurk behind social media, cell phones, and, yes, blogs, never fully showing ourselves without masks.

I will say that I think some masks are necessary, and that we have to protect ourselves.

But the masks Rukeyser is referring to are masks that deny who we truly are. For instance, she was a lesbian, and in a time when it was considered abnormal to be gay, homosexuality was one identity that many people felt forced to deny. A good mask to abandon.

In trying to figure out what masks I’ve worn, I think too often I have been in social settings where I didn’t feel comfortable being the nerd that I really am and have pretended to be more conventional and modulated, hiding my passions for nerdy pursuits like scholarship, writing, and poetry.

What masks have you worn that you have abandoned or want to abandon?

Enhanced by Zemanta

45 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Poetry, Writing