I just got back from New Orleans, after a delay with the airport shuttle (taxis are so indispensable), a delayed flight from NO to Charlotte, and then another from there to NYC-LaGuardiA. I won’t even tell you the airline’s name, but I’m wary about doing business with them again after all of that. Fortunately, one of my greatest qualities is my patience, so I just said “f*** it” throughout the day.
Anyways, New Orleans, Louisiana was good. I mostly stayed in the French Quarter, about 2 blocks or so from Bourbon St. It’s good in the sense that I had a really good time and all the touristy stuff was within walking distance (for a New Yorker, that’s about a 2-3 mile radius). Yet, I felt weird because I was contributing to a part of the city that was left mostly untouched through the Katrina and subsequent Rita hurricanes.
As I walked through Bourbon St. that first night, I got a glimpse of the revival efforts made within the city. We saw some beautiful bands playing everything from jazz and funk to rock and country. I had Hurricanes, Hand Grenades, margaritas, Who’s To Blames, and other assorted drinks I can’t quite remember for some reason. It definitely reminded me of Dominican Republic in the architecture, smell, and candor, but just this time around, everyone spoke English and there were more blanquitos. Many more.
My traveling partner then said something out of the blue that really hit home. Upon looking some of the T-Shirts (“FEMA: Fix Everything My @$$,” “Evacuation Plan: Run, B****, Run,” and “I’m Here About The BlowJob” were some of the more prominent messages), she said, “Yeah it’s funny, but the sadness is still there. It’s still very sarcastic.”
As we rode on the Steamboat Natchez, we saw the lasting effects of that fateful August disaster. The announcer-narrator tried to sound objective throughout the tour, but he found it really hard to. He announced how the levees were still not fixed near the 9th Ward (Time Magazine recently re-confirmed that), the businesses were shutting down left and right, and boats weren’t pulling into their shores the way they used to. For some of the natives, that famous Southern hospitality was replaced with a “Where you from?” a hint in the hood for “You’re not from around here. Get out.” We got a lot of that from some of our own “people,” (whatever that means).
It didn’t matter the color of the person either; the people who ran the swamp tour went from 55,000 customers before Katrina to 15,000 last year. Walking down Canal Street gave me a strong sense of what I’d suspected all along; all the trees knocked down by the storm were used for boarding up all the (working class owned) businesses up and down the street.
With that said, though, I still felt rather optimistic for N’Awlins. I still remember the 544 Funky Club playing “Candy” (Cameo) and “Electric Boogie (Slide)” (Marcia Griffiths) with so much vigor. The bar right across played a rather rousing rendition of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses. I ate some of the richest food I’ve ever had in the form of po’ boys, jumbalaya, gumbo, char grilled oysters, and hush puppies. My traveling partner didn’t have to do anything for her beads, and she even got a little trumpet rendition of “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder played for her. I still had a very positive experience in New Orleans.
For all the negativity that surrounds a catastrophic event like 9/11, Katrina, or a tsunami, the mark of a civilization’s death or life lies in the preservation (and not gentrification) of its culture.
Re New Orleans …
jose, who got tired of wrestling alligators in the bayou …