Treme Tuesday - Majestic Mortuary in Central City


Majestic Mortuary on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, in Central City. Photo by New Orleans Lady

It's no surprise that the pilot of the HBO series Treme ends with death. Antoine Batiste is, after all, a musician, and has to "play for that money." The ep starts with a second line parade, the joyous, Sunday-afternoon type, and ends with the solemn procession to the cemetery we call the "jazz funeral." In all too many teevee shows and movies about New Orleans, the jazz funeral is a backdrop, a gratuitous prop, but Treme presents this serious and time-honored tradition of New Orleans as it should be, just another part of life (and death) in the city.

(click "Read More" - the rest is after the jump because of spoilers)

When you look back at the first season of Treme, there was a lot of death in the show.  The young man whose funeral is a gig for Antoine at the end of the pilot, Wild Man Jesse, Danny Nelson, Antoine's trombone mentor/teacher, and LaDonna's brother, David Maurice "Daymo" Brooks.  It is representative of that first winter after the storm, when a lot of older folks, seeing all they worked for lost, just gave up.  Daymo's story is, to borrow from the "Law and Order" franchise, "ripped from the headlines." 

The Majestic Mortuary is where LaDonna goes to make the arrangements for Daymo's final trip.  While it appears at face value that funeral homes are socially/culturally segregated by race, the separation goes deeper, with the Anglo-Irish, Italians, Germans, and French all having their own funeral homes.  Most of the white funeral homes would not cater to black families, so naturally black morticians took advantage of that business opportunity.  Nowadays, so many of the "white" funeral homes have been acquired by large corporations that the black ones are now the only ones left that are locally-owned. 

Note on photograph: I was drawn to this photo through the Preservation Resource Center's latest Flickr group, NOLA in Neon. Cool photos!