I love/hate New Orleans

Katrina pushed many folks out of New Orleans, but I left willingly years earlier without ever honestly missing the place.  It wasn't until I started dating Dani (who was born in New Jersey, but grew up in El Paso until college, but has been in Texas for all of that anyway) that I began to see what was unique about the area.  When I came back, I saw it with new eyes and hear it with new ears.  When you're with someone for whom it is all new, you experience it vicariously in a way.  I found myself having to translate the language and references that were commonplace to me and the locals but stumbling blocks for anyone new in town.

Some things that jumped out at me:

*Local network news people are celebrities.  Not only do they get noticed out and about on the street, people keep up with every detail of their lives.  My mom could tell you how many kids most of the anchors have, where they go to school, what a given personality's parents do for a living, and so on.

*We have real celebrities too.  In addition to guys who grew up here and keep coming back like Harry Connick, Jr. and John Larroquette, other folks adopted the city for a while as well like John Goodman.  Anne Rice and Trent Reznor lived down there when I was in college, although they moved on well before Katrina.  My college roommate Craig was a Marilyn Manson fan around '95 or thereabouts before "Sweet Dreams" came out and the band went big-time.  They were around New Orleans recording at Reznor's place during that period, and Craig used to run into him in various clubs watching other bands.  Manson always had the crazy contact lens in, so he stood out even among people trying to do that scene.  Craig talked to him a bit at one show and complimented him on his performance at an early show where he saw him. 

*You can run into a lot of famous folks out that way since many are either from the region originally or have a second (or third, fourth, etc.) home in the Quarter.  The film industry is picking up a bunch lately on account of the post-Katrina interest in the area.  My cousin makes a little money as an extra, so we always hear about who she's working with six months to a year before the movie opens.

*All the chefs are from here.  Justin Wilson and Paul Prudhomme come to mind.  I don't watch the Food Network (and I don't even understand the appeal of watching food that you can't smell or eat), so I don't know who else is prominent at the moment.

*Everyone else thinks they're a chef as well.  When my dad retired, it was really my mom who retired.  My dad took over almost all the cooking, and he thinks he's amazing.  Everyone's like that.  They all imagine their recipe is the best, and they're not going to tell you what their secret recipe is.

On the other hand, this gets at a lot of the things I hate about the place.  Even though the city is famous for its food, I can't stand spicy food, so I moved to Texas... where I still hate spicy food.  I'm not much on seafood either, or at least I wasn't until I discovered sushi.  Up until then I would have been happy to never eat another piece of fish.  In fact, when my mom first learned I had taken to sushi, her first comment was, "But you hate seafood!"  My reply: "Yeah, when you ruin it!"

For all the talk of Southern hospitality, I find a lot of people rude and territorial.  In spite of the fact that the racial mix is more or less equal if you cast a broad enough net, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more racist population (in both directions) than New Orleans.  Love thy neighbor?  Hardly.

This speaks to the fact that you're dealing with one of the stupidest places on earth, one perpetually in a race with Mississippi to see who is going to bottom out this year in all the measures you don't want to (e.g., infant mortality, education, unemployment, etc.).  And New Orleans always ranks among the highest for all the stats you don't want to rank in like murder rates and other violent crimes.

Katrina threw some light on it at its visible worst, but it has always been bad, just in ways that weren't always immediately evident.  The place is a mess, has always been a mess, and will continue to be a mess long after I'm dead, hence my usual description that it's a "nice place to visit."  That mess makes it interesting, but you wouldn't want to live there.

Copyright 2010? Alexplorer.
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