Thursday, February 24, 2011

A modern history of St. Expedite - New Orleans

In 1781, the remains of martyrs were exhumed from the catacombs at Place d’Enfer ("The Plaza of Hell") within the municipal boundaries of Paris.  The boxes were shipped to a convent nearby.  When the nuns received a box marked with no other identifying information other than the word “Expedite” they assumed they had accepted possession of this famous saint’s relics.  They celebrated a mass of thanksgiving and interred the saint’s bodily remains in a place of honor.  Since then, they have succeeded in propagating the Gospel and provided comfort to the poor within their jurisdiction ever since.  

A similar occurrence happened in New Orleans in 1826 when Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel on North Rampart Street was built.  This burial church was originally erected for yellow fever victims and it needed statues for veneration within the sanctuary.  A shipment arrived from France and one of the cartons was unmarked save for the word “Expedite.”  The nuns who were doing the unpacking heralded the saint’s statue within as Saint Expedite and it has resided in the chapel ever since.  To this day, it is the only statue of Saint Expedite installed in a North American church.
Due to modern postal protocols of highlighting certain parcels for rush delivery, Saint Expedite has performed the same repeated miracle in city after city over the years.  Before skeptics dismiss this as a bit of impossible folklore, it should be noted that the cartons labeled only for expeditious handling and no other identifying information always contain a statue of the saint as he is traditionally depicted: a centurion who is stepping on a crow while holding a cross inscribed with the word “Hodie.”
The image of the saint in New Orleans is regularly visited by those who desire prompt relief for their problems.  Besides the Catholic faithful who regularly visit the chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, practitioners of voodoo have adopted the saint as one of their own.  He is associated with Baron Samedi, the spirit who deals with affairs of the dead.  Baron Samedi is also associated curing diseases for those he feels are not ready to die.    It may be because of this latter attribute that Saint Expedite became tied to the Baron in voodoo belief. 
Visitors to the grave of voodoo queen Marie Leveau in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which is next to the chapel, often implore the queen for intervention on their behalf.  After leaving tokens at the grave site, they enter the chapel and repeat their request to Saint Expedite.
As a professional soldier in life, it is said that Saint Expedite expects payment for the miracles he performs.  Since he is known to deliver reliably and in a timely manner, payment should be made in the same manner.  It is in the matter of reciprocation, in New Orleans at least, that Catholic tradition and voodoo custom mingle.  Saint Expedite’s preferred method of exchange is to receive fresh flowers, a glass or rum, or a slice of pound cake.  The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who maintain the chapel, do not allow gifts to be left at the feet of Saint Expedite.  Instead, Mary Leveau becomes the beneficiary of these payments, accepting them in trust for the saint from those grateful for having their prayers answered.  
Though glasses of rum and slices of pound cake will not be found in Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, slips of paper are often slipped under the statue’s base.  These are written with petitions to Saint Expedite from those who have nowhere else to turn.  In a city that contains as many miracles as it does need for intercession, Saint Expedite remains one of the most popular saints in New Orleans’ culture and daily life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Saint Roch, patron of dogs. New Orleans

Saint Roch's Campo Santo.  That means Santo Rocco's sacred field for those of you who don't speak Italian.  Yes, I know that neither Italians nor the French use possessive apostrophes.  The sign is what it is, the usual New Orleans amalgam of whatnot mixed into ergot.  The picture above is the view of the front gate yesterday morning.

I don't know if Suzanne Geer is a regular reader or if she has ever looked at this site.  I've stopped paying attention to what kind of traffic Excelsior! New Orleans! is getting.  Doing is being.  I just type.

Anyhow, Ms. Geer is interested in why St. Roch, besides being the patron of plague sufferers and physicians is the patron of dogs.  Okay...I'll tell you.
Saint Roch was a humble man who nursed plague victims until he contracted the disease himself.  Not wanting to be a burden to others, he wandered out into the woods like a humble animal, wishing to perish alone.  God had other plans.  A dog caught his scent and located where the saint was resting in a tangle of nettles.  The dog ran away and came back with a loaf of bread in its mouth to sustain St. Roch through his agony.  The dog came back every day until its owner followed it and discovered St. Roch wracked with pain and convulsions in the brambles outside of town.  The owner lifted the saint and carried him to his own bed where he nursed the saint's wounds, gave him sustenance, and brought him back to health.

All for the good sense of a dog.

You will notice that in the picture above, a dog stands beside St. Roch, carrying a loaf of bread about as big as a hard roll.  This is a typical representation of St. Roch with one exception.  He is usually depicted as a plague sufferer as well as  a man who has benefited from canine kindness.  His usual pose, besides leaning on a pilgrim's staff is to pull up his robe to point at a deep ulceration on his thigh.

I know you may have been expecting more pictures and description of New Orleans' National Shrine to St. Roch today.  All in good time.  I thought Ms. Geer's interest required satisfaction.  These tidbits add to the overall story and the reason why the shrine is built here, on St. Roch Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana, rather than somewhere else.

Until tomorrow, remember this photo of the floor in the chapel....
Sorry the details of Saint Roch's hagiography are a little sketchy, lacking precise dates and such.  I am still researching Saint Expedite.  New Orleans is thick with saints, traditions,  and rituals.  You'll notice someone left a prayer in the comments for Saint Expedite.  Sound advice though I hadn't really discussed his expediency on this forum.  Everyone is welcome to request intercession in New Orleans.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Saint Roch, New Orleans, LA

We visited the cemetery on St. Roch Avenue this morning.  Not our first time, but I am so taken with the place that I brought my camera.  As you can see above, this is one of the many national shrines to saints located in New Orleans.  The chapel has a very interesting story which, unfortunately, I don't have the time to detail today.  Good things come to all who wait.

In the meantime, I will give you a little taste of what's to come this week.  Note the floor tile that reads, "Thanks to St. Roch for my eye."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Baton Rouge chose an unfortunate sister city

Saint Expedite is a popular patron in New Orleans.  He is prayed to for those in need of speedy relief from their suffering.  His statue in Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel on Rampart Street, is the only one venerated in a Catholic Church in North America.

He was martyred in the Roman city of Melitene in 303, what is now the Turkish city of Malatya.

Mayor "Kip" Holden recently signed a sister city agreement between Baton Rouge and Malatya.   I'm not suggesting that the 400,000 current citizens of Malatya are responsible for the martyrdom of St. Expedite during the reign of Diocletian.  I just find it ironic that Baton Rouge, a place that is routinely accused of tormenting New Orleans, should wed itself to ancient Melitene, a place where St. Expedite, who may as well be granted citizenship in Orleans Parish, was similarly harried.

As Mayor Holden said at the time, "A lot of people passed up on this area."  I wonder why.  Of course, a lot of people pass up on New Orleans, too.  More probably pass up on the chance of moving to Baton Rouge with a shrug.  Why bother?  I have nothing agains the capital of Louisiana.  I don't like to visit but  it is pretty much off my radar.  I just find it interesting.

Baton Rouge has entered into other Sister City agreements, as its Center for World Affairs, Inc. will tell you.  Of all the cities in the world though... why Malatya?  Fate?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Welcome aboard, it's New Orleans!

I don't understand the backgrounds in this video clip..

I used to watch the show every Saturday night before Fantasy Island and it never occurred to me then.  Older and wiser now, why didn't the Love Boat pull into the port of New Orleans?  Why isn't the ship pulling past St. Louis Cathedral?  Imagine the adventures the crew and guest stars would have had.

My theory is that Isaac may have been a good shipboard bartender but he couldn't keep up with the concoctions conjures by New Orleans' mixologists.  Doc certainly had nothing to worry about.  He was as competent as most Crescent City physicians.  Cruise director Julie could run a tour.  She was conscientious and would do her due diligence to get the facts straight after obtaining her mayoral permit to conduct tours in city limits.  Congressman Fred Grandy would fit right in with both the political class and the concierges in the city.  Captain Stubing could navigate the Pacific Princess up the the Mississippi River from the Gulf guided by tug boats.

Why not New Orleans?  The same question over and over again.  Why not New Orleans?

Friday, February 18, 2011

National Brotherhood Week - New Orleans

I haven't lived in a New Orleans a year yet, but I think the last of this song has been proven wrong.  No one is inferior in New Orleans and mutual respect and communal understanding last year after year, all year long.

New Orleans can teach the rest of America something.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cholera in New Orleans

St. Roch, patron of plague victims
A report form the 1853 cholera plague in New Orleans:

"The details of the city are reeking with filth.  The bodies of vagrant dogs, poisoned after the summer custom of the city authorities, putrifying in the streets; the corpses of human beings abandoned unburied in cemeteries; the futile firing of cannon and burning of tar barrels in the hope of 'purifying the air', add horror to the picture of the desolate city."

St. Roch is also the patron of dogs.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New art from the Whalehead King studio

I've been keeping busy.  As you may have gathered from the St. Expedite posts recently, I've become very interested in saints that have a connection to New Orleans.  Featured here are Our Lady of Prompt Succor  (click the link for an abbreviated history) and Saint Joan of Arc.  I thought the blue and gold would be reminiscent of france.  White doesn't show up well on the wood.  Raw, dry pigments are worked into pine for a lustrous finish enhanced by a bit of wax.

I'll be offering these for sale online shortly, as well as peddling them in person in New Orleans' French Market and area boutiques.  They measure about 3 and a half inches by 3 and a half.  If you are interested in purchasing one before the big roll out, feel free to contact me.  Guaranteed WK original.

I also have some that I making out of palm tree bark.  Those have a real voodoo feel.  I haven't really figured out the surface yet, but it's promising.  Very strong stuff.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Saint Expedite

Saint Expedite, pray for us and grant us your intercession.  Not tomorrow.  Today!

I was close to your statue in New Orleans today.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saint Expedite, New Orleans, LA

Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel on Rampart Street, is the only Catholic church in North America to contain a statue of Saint Expedite.  This statue is particularly venerated in New Orleans as the saint is felt to grant requests with the utmost haste.  His feast day is April 19.

St. Expedite is a centurion holding a cross that has the word "hodie" written on it, the Latin word for "today."  He is stepping on a crow that says, "Cras."  In Latin, crows say, "cras-cras" which translates into English as, "caw-caw."  Cras is the Latin word for "tomorrow."

When St. Expedite decided to become a Christian, the Devil came to him in the form of a crow and suggested he put off his conversion until the next day.  The saint would hear nothing of it.  He stomped on the crow, killing it, while declaring, "I will become a Christian today!"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New Orleans Marathon

The marathon began today at 7:00AM on Tchoupitoulas Street.  I was posted between miles 11 and 12 for the half marathon runners and miles 15 and 16 for those running the full marathon.  The first runners, for the half marathon passed my post at 7:45.  Which seems very fast.  Maybe my watch is off.

The leaders for the full marathon passed around 8:20.

  The leaders were far in advance of everyone else.  Then the crowd became thicker and Esplanade Avenue stayed pretty congested until 10:30 or so.
I walked up to Broad Avenue to capture runners in front one of our local landmarks.  While here, I think I saw our Mayor in the final mile and of the half marathon.  I'm not telling what time that was, but it was very impressive.

Here's another landmark:
The highlight of the day was seeing my hero run past.  Naturally someone ran between us just as the camera's shutter opened:
Oh well.  At least I saw Captain America in person.  He is as tall as I've always imagined.

At 11:00 I went for a bike ride.  The walkers were bringing up the rear by then and there didn't look like any end in sight.  The policewoman on North Tonti Street said they were expecting another few hours.  When I got back at noon, the street was opened again and the race was done.  There's certainly a lot of room on Esplanade Avenue when there aren't any cars parked on it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lady motorcyclists in New Orleans

That's my motorcycle pictured up above.  My Little Ninja isn't the subject of this article, but motorcycles in general and, especially, ladies who drive motorcycles.  The Caramel Curves Motorcycle Club is a collection of ladies based in the Crescent City who have published their own calendar.  To purchase one, click this sentence.

I found a postcard on the street advertising the official calendar (as if there are unofficial calendars on the market) and the club's anniversary party scheduled for March 19, 2011 on Tchoupitoulas Street (tickets $10 in advance, $15 at the door).  The postcard has a bevy of photos of the club members posing in various identical uniforms.

The lady of the house asked, "Do you think they are sexy?"  They bill themselves as the baddest ladies on two wheels, and, truth be told they do seem attractive in miniature.  As someone who enjoys the motorcycling lifestyle, I enjoy the company who shares the passion.  I am also a firm believer in the idea that if anything can be made better, just add women.

If a woman paired with a motorcycle is particularly sexy, I don't have much opinion.  I think a woman astride a motorcycle deserves respect, as any motorcyclist does.  I don't cotton to the idea that women are the weaker sex, but anyone who drives a motorcycle regularly deserves respect for two reasons.  Firstly, they know what freedom feels like.  Secondly, they know that freedom comes at risk of death and dismemberment if nobody else sees them.  Driving a motorcycle is an accident waiting to happen.  Hopefully, the spill will result in no more than a scraped knee but that isn't always the case.

So, I would like to salute the Caramel Curves Motorcycle Club today.  More power to them.  I wish them smooth roads, fair weather, and few obstacles.  A motorcyclist appreciates a few obstacles, they are what remind us we are alive and keep us sharp.  To many frays the nerves though and makes a journey unpleasant.  Afterward, after navigating a road full of hazards, relaxing at one's destination with feet up and helmet resting on a table next to a beverage of choice, a successful, difficult journey reminds us why we choose this mode of transportation.  Because we can brave the challenges and come out ahead, in tune with the moment, with adrenaline pumping in time with the cylinders that propel us forward.

Cheers, ladies.  Keep the rubber side down and enjoy every moment of every day of 2011.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Uptown or downtown, it doesn't matter.  Riverside or lakeside.  In neighborhoods that are famous and in  neighborhoods that have no name, the good people of New Orleans are on patrol with open eyes looking to detect trouble when it erupts.

You don't need a catchy name or costume.  Good citizenship begins when people feel responsible for their surroundings.
It isn't about glamor or press coverage.   It is often about telling kids on the street to watch their language and stop spitting.  It isn't about fisticuffs, it is about demanding and respecting the norms of common courtesy.  New Orleans is full of heroes, few of them are super but they are champions nonetheless.

You don't need a fancy moniker to be important where you live.  You need to enforce civility.  Don't be shy.  Speak your mind and act when a reaction is called for.  When someone schemes to steal a pizza by blinding an innocent man, put the police on his trail.  Flush out the scoundrel. Your neighborhood will be better for it.

Thanks to Uptown Messenger, we learn the good news about New Orleans Uptown.  We wait for a similar, reliable news source downriver from Canal Street on the streets referred to as "North" hereabouts.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Planet of New Orleans

The people who live in New Orleans are curious specimens.  They don't recognize tragedy.  They celebrate joy.  They look forward to the next season and all the bounty it will bring.  New Orleans is curious.  It is funny.  It is not humorous, just odd, a little off kilter, a little out of bounds if you recognize boundaries.  Puzzle as much as you like.  Philosophize.  Consult your Tarot and textbooks.  You won't find New Orleans defined in any treatise.  It is a world of its own, a parcel of planet that hews to its own heliocentric conception.  The sun rises in New Orleans every day.  It shines.  The city is showered and impregnated with 14 karat gold.

Eat your fill and feast your eyes and spirit.

Monday, February 07, 2011


The art of confabulation is a tricky thing.  It is the discipline of inventing memories based on reliable fact.  In New London, Conn. and in New Orleans, Louisiana, it isn't difficult to make more of things than they seem on the surface.  It is often hard to keep everything straight.  Life in both places is like a fever dream.

Life is more than what you make it.  It is what you remember after you live to tell the tale.  It takes independent study, a lot of time in the library, a lot of time on the street, many bleary-eyed sleepless hours meditating while stumbling through a city and taking whatever comes your way to craft flights of fancy informed by hard knocks.

Have I mentioned before that it is good to be Whalehead King?  Have I mentioned before that it is good to live in New Orleans?  I would like to reiterate both facts and hammer them home, like tacks mounting a butterfly.

I don't find I need to fill in too many details or conflate the absurd.  If life is a conundrum to be recollected fresh, it is also a dish best served chilled after introspection and after a point of remove.  I was stumbled into a second line parade under the Claiborne Avenue overpass today.  The Rebirth Brass Band was blowing loud.  Later, in the dead of night while I was snug in my bed, three teenagers marched up my street apropos of nothing blowing a trombone, a trumpet, and the third was shaking a tamborine.  What was the occasion?  We were all in New Orleans on an early February night and the weather was balmy, just like the city.  I heard their approach and sat on my front porch.  As they passed, I blew a kazoo to accompany them though I didn't join the march.

Happy Carnival!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

There's nothing "hep" about hepatitis in New Orleans.

I was watching an instructional video for new personnel at the Burger King on St. Claude Avenue (don't ask why).  I had to pinch myself and wonder if beatniks are all of a sudden the employees of choice for this venerable franchise.

A scraggly-bearded narrator wearing a beret appeared on the television screen via well worn VHS tape.  "Look," he said, "Hepatitis is a drag, man, and spreading it isn't cool.  You dig?  Wash your hands when you're done in the can, baby.  Nobody else gets sick and everything is fine, just fine."  He smiled and spread his hands to the camera as the scene faded out.

I was tempted to snap my fingers when this presentation was over which, unfortunately, didn't have a bongo soundtrack.  The girl seated next to me looked puzzled.   The chap next to her, who must have been seventeen if he wasn't sixteen, turned to the old guy in the audience, me, and asked, "What was that about?" as he stifled his laughter, pretending to cough in front of the manager who was changing the tape for the next lesson.

I explained that some strains of viral hepatitis don't display obvious symptoms and it is in the best interest of public health that food servers practice established, proper hand hygiene protocols to reduce the risk of cross contamination by reducing transmission vectors and limiting exposure to possible pathogens through the use of frequent, vigorous scrubbing with soap and water augmented by bactericides and clean technique whenever a restaurant professional may come in contact with pathogens before handling food, utensils, or any other item commonly used by customers who may have at-risk immune systems in a busy, high-traffic, fast food setting.

The girl said, "Why didn't he just say that in the movie?  That was so lame."  She rolled her eyes.

I agreed and joined her in looking up at the ceiling tiles in the break room cum school room.  It was a long day for all of us.

Who says they don't teach valuable things in the New Orleans school system?  Who says you have to talk down to New Orleans graduates?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Alice Cooper's Birthday

Alice Cooper turned 63 today.  Good for him.  I don't think he realized he would be peddling the same goods after all this time.  I hazily recall the time that the illustrious Mr. Cooper entered into a yodeling contest with the equally illustrious, if somewhat less internationally-famous, Paul Brockett in New London.  Man, that was a night, even if it is confabulated.

Well, we wish many more happy birthdays to Mr. Cooper who has brought us so much pleasure over the years.  In a past life, I made carpets for a living and knew someone who sold Mr. Cooper the carpet for his Greenwich, CT mansion.  Small world.

Cheers, Alice.

PS: In Italian, the word alice (pronounced "a-LEECH-ay") means sardines.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Two other cities' flags

I've been reading about Cairo recently due to the news and I'm struck by that city's flag.  A nice design, well balanced and graphically strong.  I assume the blue represents the Nile, but that is only conjecture.

I'm not normally a fan of words on a flag, but since this is Arabic it doesn't bother me.  I can't read it so it is only an abstraction to me.  This isn't a good excuse, of course, but it is what it is. There is a nice use of skyline to identify the city, which I believe is called the City of Minarets.

Let's look at another skyline flag with the same layout, shall we:

Two opposite kinds of cities, the way Boston and New Orleans are opposites.  I haven't a clue what the blue and green are supposed to represent.   Salt Lake City's flag is more cluttered than Cairo's.  The colors are a little too close in value for my taste and the green mountains blend in with the green stripe.  

That said, this is a reasonable representation of Salt Lake City's skyline and there's no mistaking it.  Which, of course, leads me to say if you are going to draw an accurate depiction of the city, it probably isn't necessary to label the picture.    Lettered flags have the disadvantage of being legible from one side only.

Some may argue that this modern flag will need to be changed when the skyline changes.  Perhaps, I haven't noticed many state's flags changed over the years as their industries and values change.  There is nothing wrong with a little freshening up from time to time and I can't imagine that Salt Lake City will ever have a lot of symbolic associations tied up with this particular design.

As a reminder of a flag that has strong and meaningful symbolic design without having to resort to a label,  I give you Indianapolis:
I think it's wonderful.


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