Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's Not Too Late, but It Will Be

In general, I no longer talk to people here about the current state of New Orleans. It makes me too sad, too bitter when people don’t understand how bad it is and how precious what we’re so casually throwing away was.

When R Man and I left New Orleans almost twenty years ago, it wasn’t because we wanted to. We both loved the city and life we had there, even if we were penniless with no future other than being an elderly, broken down desk clerk (me) and a scrambling shyster getting drunk drivers out of jail (R Man). The only way we could see to avoid that was to get the hell out of town, so we did, but with real regret.

So now when I hear about the fluky neighborhoods outside of tourist land rotting away, I choke. I’m not just angry, I’m baffled. How can we allow this to happen? I know plenty of interests there are happy to focus on hurrying along the evolution of the French Quarter into some Disney-like Vieux Carre ride, but even though I lived in the French Quarter, I knew that it was not what made New Orleans worth treasuring. You need more than some background for your Kodak moments to deliver the complex experience that was NOLA, and that’s what came from neighborhoods like Broadmoor and Irish Channel and the 60s fantasia of the Lakefront. Fake jazz funerals and Pat O’Brien Hurricanes are not enough, you have to make sure enough of the city and the city’s economy survives that some authenticity survives.

I make no pretense that I actually know how to help New Orleans. I have a friend with cancer and I don’t know how to save him either. I just know how important it is that someone who does know get the fuck in there and do it.


  1. Ah...I know from friends in the rest of the country that the world has sort of forgotten us.

    I guess it's tragedies spring up every day...
    but of course that was sort of the problem to begin with, we had been forgotten a long time before Katrina I think.

    Anyway...those of us who are left here are trudging our way through here...the Cassandras out there be damned...but I can't say it doesn't get me down sometimes...ok, often.

    Thanks for keeping at least some folks out there aware.

  2. People have not forgotten New Orleans! No they haven't. Anyone who has ever visited here knows that.

    And New Orleans will be okay. We have seen worse catastrophes through history, and most times we've had no-one to help us recover except ourselves, and perhaps some new immigrants.

    It is sad that many of the people who are really good for this city feel that they must move away in order to survive. And oh so many have. I WILL NOT judge anyone who has lived here and then left, but you do not have to leave New Orleans to survive.

    And it is possible to actually THRIVE here. To do so requires a bottomless pit of energy, the patience of Job and the constant use of creativity to live a life of quality in NOLA. It may not always be easy, but it will always be an interesting journey.

    New Orleans is a city of layers. Layers of cultures which have come in successive waves whenever a real change was happening. Imagine an old house with 200 years of layers of paint. Each layer has added its identity onto that of the last. When a layer peels, it reveals those beneath -- a PATINA or vestige of the past, as it were. Each has changed it a little, not completely, but each has smoothed out the sharp edges to a fluid, fuzzy, even decayed blur that is constantly changing with each new layer. Many prefer a fine old patina to a crisp clean new view anyway. Those who continue on here tolerate or embrace this beautiful-versus-ugly state of perpetual decay.

    Sure the Vieux Carre is not the total identity of this City. It is however this City's Heart, with which everyone here identifies. And which everyone loves. but for different reasons.

    The hope to which I cling is not that New Orleans can survive, I know it will survive, but that it continues to be THE most quirky, unusual and memorable alternative to all other American cities. It will certainly continue to be a laugh-a-minute here, one way or the other. We've learned to laugh at ourselves a lot lately...

    Come visit, create some memories and "HAVE FUN". You will help keep New Orleans alive.


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