Why would someone want to live in a city that often just can’t get away from the Katrina questions? Why would someone want to live in a city that is at times the deadliest in America? Why would someone want to live in a city with a public educational system that often plays catchup? All very familiar questions often asked by those unfamiliar with New Orleans. Sadly those questions, the misconceptions I stated above are still perpetuated by the often replayed helicopter wide shot of a city torn in half by a shredded levee. Frankly, these questions have been thrown at this city and its people long before the arrival of a natural disaster.
But take a stroll down the sweaty sounds of the lower Marigny or along the bead strewn trees of Napoleon or maybe the architectural salad bowl that is Lakeview, you’ll start to understand something clear. You’ll come to find out it’s never been just about the French Quarter and its pungent, unescapable funk or about the 2 1/2 weeks in February where the world comes visiting with beads in tow. It’s been and will always be about so much more. And if you were to pose those “why” questions to a local and if you are lucky to someone who has generations of family strewn from Metairie to East Baton Rouge, you might just get this familiar answer. “You’ll never understand.”
Beyond the layers, beyond all of the positive and negative is a city that truly has no concrete answers. Frankly it doesn’t need them. It has earned its stripes, as a gritty mecca of unbelievable textures and cultures. It’s perhaps the sleepiest and sexiest little big city America has ever seen. You’ve heard of people’s love affairs with New York, Chicago, Miami or San Francisco? New Orleans’ romance is much different and unexplainably inviting. Take it from a guy who’s dragged kids and wife in tow across state lines, twice in less than 5 years. No regrets whatsoever. Frankly, its reach is global pulling people in from all over the world providing opportunity through entrepreneurship, the non profit sector and a vibrant tech community. In 2011, Forbes voted New Orleans as the US’s biggest brain magnet. CNN Money voted it as one of the friendliest for small business. It doesn’t just stop at opportunity. I’ve lived in some of those cities and I promise you, New Orleans pulls at you from something entirely different. Drenched in seeds of Spanish and French influences, engulfed in the most amazing display of delicacies and deeply rooted in the unbreakable bond of everlasting traditions. More festivals than any city in the country, the unmistakable sound of jazz seeping from everyone’s windows and the total emphasis on family. What New Orleans might lack in bright lights and big sounds, it makes up for with a cozy sanctuary of history, architecture and happy hours born from “just because.” New Orleans pulls at you alright and I love me some of that New Orleans. That much I truly understand.
New Orleans will never have its answers. And perhaps New Orleans will always have its questions.
But that’s okay. Frankly, New Orleans just wouldn’t want it any other way.