Friday, July 7, 2017

The Huey P Long Bridge And The Voodoo Woman

Daddy, Donna and I were on another adventure together and we ended up at a little hole in the Wall Motel or something resembling that, right across the Huey P. Long Bridge in Jefferson Parish, New Orleans or Nawlins for the locals.
The Bridge was Intimidating. I was 16 driving my Mustang with Daddy sprawled out as best he could in the back seat with Donna riding shotgun. If you can imagine a 6'4" man folded into that tiny seat laying on the back seat with his legs folded a bit toward the windows, then you have it. LOL
I hadn't been too many places in my young life and most of that was centered around Jay, Milton or Pensacola. This was a huge deal to go across a bridge this big and with the twists, height and just the imposing structure of it all. I think I held my breath but I never let my passengers know that I was being cautious. Not since crossing the Mississippi wooden bridge with sides, had I concentrated so hard while driving but finally we made it across and looked for a place to light.
We found something right off the bridge and pulled in. It was a tiny place with just a few rooms and I think we were the only guests that day. We rented the room and asked if there was a place to get some food and the manager said, " well, y'all can drive on down a piece to find some or you can eat at the place next door. It ain't real big but it does the job."
We didn't know what to make of that so after settling in our room, we walked down the road to the "place" he talked about.
It was really small. An old white block building with a covered area where it used to serve up gas, but that was no longer the case now. We went into the front room and was greeted by a tall Nubian priestess with hair piled high on her head, a long white skirt with decorations and her white blouse to match. She was astonishing but she was not the only thing that caught our eye as we walked in. It was the wall behind her and the counter in front of that.
The Large half wall was filled with Rooster combs and feet, skulls and rabbit feet, incense and candles of all kinds with carved dolls and masks hanging, some by their neck or at least that is my memory. In all likelihood, they were dolls that you could buy to stick pins in that may cause pain or misfortune to another. Of course I did not know that at the time. I have had a couple of voodoo type dolls in my collection now and understand the significance of the pins in the head or through the back.
The shelf had bottles of all sizes and shapes filled with things that I had not seen before. There were grasses and seeds, shells and beads, and a cash register and tarot cards. I did not think of it at the time but We may have been able to get our fortune told. I literally had to shut my mouth while looking at the beautiful hostess and also that wall and shelf.
I don't think anything in my young life had prepared me for this visit and my eyes were as wide as saucers taking it all in and so were sister's. Daddy just took it in stride and we said, "is it alright if we get a bite to eat?" She gestured for us to sit in the front room which had a couple of tables or sit in the back room which had more. We elected to sit in the front room beside the long cooler on the left side of the room. It was a hot day and it felt better sitting near something cool, but the real reason was, we wanted to study that wall!
We ordered something to eat just like daddy liked. Grits and eggs, Bacon, biscuits with butter and jam, and coffee and it was scrumdiddlyitious! We could not have asked for a better hostess. She was regal and beautiful, mysterious and proud of herself. I tried hard not to stare at her hair, her jewelry, the decorations on her clothing and failed miserably but she did not seem to mind.
She was a Mother also because she treated us as her own children, patting us on the shoulder, laughing with that wide smile, and talking in a language that we could not understand half the time. The menu was in English so we were able to point and say it and she was able to understand our slow Southern drawl to her Cajun french one.
I know now having traveled a bit and studying a bit that she wore a gris-gris. It is similar to the prayer bag that a Native might wear and is a protective powerful symbol of her people just like mine is. This shop and people were a mixture of African, Cajun, Voodoo cultures. Some of the practices are so old and some of the things on her wall seemed to be very old. Some were newer on the shelf that a tourist might buy. I can't remember buying anything because we were raised Pentecostal and we associated so many things with the Devil.
I saw no Devil that day, only the beauty of a culture that I did not understand but wanted too. We stayed until the next day and ate a couple of times at the little place next door. One day we were up too early for the shop to open and the owner of the little motel called them and they came in and opened the shop for us to eat. I wonder today if that would ever happen, unless you were monied people. We were just plain Southern folk but we had manners and respect for all people, because of daddy. He would have tanned our hide when we were little, if we did not show respect for our elders.
She was an elder, as evidenced, by the wisps of gray in her braided hair but her skin was a smooth black of the most beautiful ebony that one could find and her eyes sparkled with life and assurance of self. I admired all that I saw that day and it is forever etched in my lil girls memory. Some of the details may not be quite right but I think that most of them are. She and that 2 room place made an impact on a little girl from Jay that day. I got the impression that our friendliness made an impact on her as well.
I am so grateful to daddy for allowing me to be his chauffeur and taking Donna and I along on his business trips. They turned into adventure trips for us. Memories that I will never forget or have seen since.
Many years later after I had a daughter of my own, I collected masks for her. I never associated it with that day until I wrote this piece and remembered the masks on the wall. Years later a carved figure of an old man came to Donna, I am sure a reminder that we were there and the spirits remember us...
Thank you all for coming along with me again. I love you and hope that if you encounter a place like this in your life, that it will fill you with the same sort of harmony and peace that it did me....
(First two are google images)

My Medical collection

My daughters Masks collection

My collection

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