The Big Easy


We love New Orleans, everything about it. If you visit the shop you will most likely hear early Jazz playing. Today is no exception. The warm weather and the sounds streaming from the radio have put me in the New Orleans frame of mind.
Maybe it’s just that I’m hungry. If I shut my eyes tight, I can almost smell the croissants baking. Served fresh piled high with Louisiana ham. Oh god I may faint. You haven’t lived until you stumble into Desire at drunk-thirty and have a loaf of warm fresh bread placed in front of you. It’s like heaven with butter smeared on it. That’s right, butter smeared heaven. I have been known to eat an entire loaf myself, then turn right around and order one of their famous sandwiches. Yup each one comes on even more of that amazing bread. No wonder I have to avoid gluten every other day of my life. To occasionally over indulge is to live. If you need to fall off what ever wagon you’re currently on, The Crescent City is the place to do it.
The French Quarter smells like incense, and bread and spilt beer. You stop noticing the stale beer smell after a drink or two.
Wandering the streets in the French Quarter is like being transported back in time for me. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, it’s like being in a place where a part of history has been transported into the present. The buildings stand in a state of preserved crumbling decadence. Freshly painted walls hold hands with tattered shutters and crumbling brick buildings dripping decay stand with pride next to the fully restored buildings adorned with ferns. The air is always teaming with ghosts, some are mine but most belong to the city. Bumping into a spirit or two at Lafitte’s is unavoidable. The darkness draws them in and no one can tell the living from the deceased in the flickering candle light. Gathered around a table tucked into the corner, it’s easy to imagine the laughter and hushed conversations as a combination of the present moment and the echoes of history itself. That sounds deep, I know, but trust me. You get a serious tingle and not just from the rum.
I’ve noticed that I see differently there. It recharges my batteries in a way that no other city does. Walking down the street and passing a group of drunk 80 year old women from Iowa, a three foot tall man in a bikini talking to a 7 foot tall woman in a bikini, a man in a gorilla suit followed close behind by a priest. All within the same block. With the addition of music both live and recorded pouring from doors flung open to the street…..It’s my imagination come to life. I am almost 60% positive that it was a man in a gorilla suit and not a real gorilla.
Chaos scares some people, it soothes me. I think it’s a clear picture of the human condition. Life is a beautiful chaos really. No matter how hard we try to keep it all together, it all falls apart in the end. I am terrified by perfectly manicured lawns and neatly spaced houses populating subdivisions, that to me is pure fantasy. 9 to 5 goes against human nature. It must be balanced with a bit of The Basin Street Blues.
At my house, minds have been changed by New Orleans. We are different because we have visited there. The energy that we have absorbed from the place has carried over into our real lives back here in Illinois. Some of our products here at Astoria even pay homage to The Big Easy and it’s more famous or infamous residents. A customer favorite is our May Baily’s Soap for Loose Women. It’s a tribute to a very strong willed woman who wouldn’t stop until she got what she wanted. The scent is real jasmine and other soft florals. The name Jazz refers to the sweet scent of jasmine. Jasmine was used as a lure, it’s seductive smells pulled men into May Baily’s Place and others like it. The fragrance from the petit white blossom kept them coming back for more. Musicians were paid to play background music in New Orleans Brothels. The stimulating sounds and sultry scents kept customers happy and money flowing. This is where Jazz was born. The streets where Jazz still lives to this day.
Our Laveau products were born from our love of The Widow Paris. The stories of the legendary Marie Laveau are woven into the rich tapestry that is New Orleans. The myths and truths of her life are impossible to separate. They live as one story. There is something , alluring and mystical about a woman who has inspired so many tales. Something sexy and mysterious and dangerous. Digging for facts about her life often leads you in very different directions simultainiously. It is obvious that Marie Laveau was known for kindness and generosity along with her ability to heal and conjure love or lust. Perhaps even open the doors to fame or fortune for those individuals brave enough to walk through them. These were no doubt just some of the gifts that made her a beacon for people looking to change their destiny. Combine her talents with the overwhelming respect she had earned from the lives she touched, it’s no wonder she was able to achieve immortality. Although you can find many opinions scattered across the internet and on the printed page claiming to know the facts about her life and death, the truth is no one knows for sure. I imagine Marie as alive and well. Maybe I have even bumped into her a time or two and not even known it. I’m sure she still carries on her work untroubled by such a silly thing like the passing of time. Maybe that’s why she has become such a part of the city’s history? They have the same approach when it comes to time. It doesn’t really exist. I like that philosophy. Live in the moment. Eat the bread that’s placed before you. Relax and let the good times roll.























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