A Rider's Journal
photo of the Marie Laveau decorated
The fully-decorated Marie Laveau and the masked rider.
photo of the Marie Laveau motorcycle stripped
The Marie Laveau appeared on Beale Street stripped of flowers, dolls, beads and other juju. Why? (12-MAY-10)

Memphis TN—Marie Laveau was known as the "Voudou Queen of New Orleans.

Laveau was a "free woman of color", a mulatto who lived in the French Quarter from 1801 to 1881.

Her trade was hairdresser to wealthy white women, and voudou priestess to their servants.

While she (and her daughters, also variously named "Marie") practiced voudou rituals in public, her power and wealth is more easily attributable to the information she learned from her clients and their servants.

The Marie Laveau pictured here is a sometimes elaborately-decorated motorcycle that occasionally appears in the Memphis area.

In 2009, the bike was layered in flowers, naked Barbie dolls, Mardi Gras beads, feather boas, Mardi Gras panties, and other paraphernalia that made the bike look like it just drove through a Mardi Gras party. On the windscreen were holy cards and a brief history of Marie Laveau.

In 2010, the bike showed up stripped of all this garb, except for leather fringe, and a picture of the bike's former incarnation displayed on the windscreen.

Or I should say, "another bike" showed up, stripped. It has the same leather-fringed bars that serve as stages for the decorations, but it's otherwise a different bike. Different headlights, different fenders, different wheels, different everything.

Did the Marie Laveau die an unnatural death? Was it sacrificed to the motorcycle gods? Did it get stripped and sold in some sort of annual purging and a new theme is started on a new bike?

Possibly. I saw what I believe is the same bike at the Side Car Cafe, one afternoon a couple years ago.

I don't recall the bike very clearly, because it was covered in hundreds of artificial flowers. It may not have been the same bike, but it sure looked like the same creative mind was behind it.

I also think that bike had the same rider. The Marie Laveau is ridden by masked rider with a slim build and average height. The guy I saw at Side Car had about the same build, and sure seemed like he would have liked to have had a mask when I spoke to him.

He had just finished lunch and was getting up to leave. I told him I was impressed with the decorations on his bike, and asked if it were in honor of a special occasion.

He just sort of "derped" and melted into the sidewalk.

Or at least, I think that's what he would have liked to do. Instead, he looked at the ground and mumbled something that amounted to "no" and got on the bike and rode away.

So, I am now anxiously awaiting another sighting of this bike to see whether it sports a new theme, and if so...what?