I nervously paced my room, the dusty pine boards creaking under my boots with each anxious step. Something was pulling at me, something seductive, something wicked. No, it wasn't Stinky, my distinctively spicy dog.
But it was time to go. There was a spellbinding allure to this old city. It was a breeding ground for all things tempting. I couldn't resist; I didn't want to. I was going to New Orleans of my own free will, or so I thought.
I packed my gear, gave a last look at the wasted desert dwelling I called home, and headed out. It was some 1,800 hard miles between Arizona and fate. I stuffed all the necessities into my bags: voodoo queen Marie Laveau's lost manuscript, Soul Cooking, my mojo bag, and Stinky's sister, Shirley, my pet chicken and tasty traveling companion. I was set for a journey of body and spirit.
"There is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun and it's been the ruin of many a
Built in the swamps of the French Louisiana bayou, New Orleans had a primitive birth in 1718. Wooden huts were erected over the mosquito-infested marshes and a crude levee was built to protect its citizens from drowning in the Mississippi River.
Founded by a pair of insane visionaries, French-Canadian, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, a colonizer and repeated governor of French Louisiana, and Scottish financier, banker, and general flimflam man, John Law, the watery village was conceived as a jewel of the bayou, an agricultural and mercantile Shangri-La and a proper home for royalty. As a homage, the French city was named for the new regent of France, Duc d'Orleans. France responded by sending its worst to populate the muddy, virulent bog. Various malcontents, misfits and criminals found a new home, many of whom likely thought prison was a better choice. It was clear this was a destination born for bikers.
In perhaps the earliest example of slick marketing in American history, some French aristocracy fell for the pitch, as did enough farmers and merchants to build a town out of the fetid muck. Slaves shipped from Africa and the Caribbean did the most blood-vessel bursting labor. The Creole and Cajun flavors of New Orleans began to simmer.
The city burnt to the ground in 1788, displacing human and inhuman alike. The French made a gift of the city to Spain, and it was rebuilt with a Spanish influence still evident today. In 1800, New Orleans was given back to France. It remained French for only three more years. Napoleon, desperately needing cash to pay for his plan to conquer the world, sold it to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase for the fire sale sum of $15 million.
If the Europeans didn't think New Orleans was worth the trouble, the U.S. certainly did. By comparison, America would later make a paltry offer of $1 million to Spain for Texas, upping that to $5 million some years later when it belonged to Mexico. The Mexicans refused, of course, which eventually lead to Davy Crocket and the Alamo and all that hubbub. Maybe I'll toss a bid on Montana.
Cotton and sugar plantations fueled the economy and the Mississippi, when it wasn't threatening to kill everyone, helped make the town a commercial hub. Where profits are, gambling and prostitution follows. The sultry brew somehow worked and by 1860, New Orleans was the richest city in our young nation. Despite the constant threat of hurricanes, river floods, imported murderers and thieves, raging plague and pestilence, and the bloodlust of the undead, New Orleans became a pleasant little colony.