Sunday, April 15, 2007

Femme fatale New Orleans -- maligned and misunderstood

When comments were made post-Katrina, that the great city of New Orleans - a uniquely American cultural treasure - should simply be moved upstream to protect it from future hurricanes, the suggestion struck me as slightly absurd.

Perhaps we should also move New York to South Dakota, which could benefit from the increased population, diversity and industry -- thus protecting the Big Apple from the rising tides of global warming. San Francisco might be nice in Utah, too, where the citizens could enjoy some free self-expression. Of course, we wouldn't have ports any more, but who needs ports when we've got the Internet? Soon we will feel safer because the ports will not only be secured, they will be submerged.

No, no, the very idea of moving New Orleans, or changing it in any fundamental way, only demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about the history, geography, culture and magic of the city. Obviously, the Convention and Visitors Bureau has miserably failed to communicate its specialness by marketing it like an older, rainier Las Vegas.

So I am taking it upon myself to try to explain why this incredible city is like no other and must be preserved, not rebuilt like a Disneyland. What we have here is authentic -- not commericalized -- Creole culture. There is a joie de vivre that remains undaunted by the travails of the past two years. Every weekend, we have festivals and parades celebrating whatever can be celebrated, which in the case of this weekend, is perfect weather, wide open blue skies, the fragrance of Honeysuckle and free New Orleans music throughout the French Quarter.

I plan to post something almost every day that strikes me as unusual or interesting, and I invite others to join in. This poor city is being pummeled by the national media that insists on focusing on the devastation and the violence, when there is so much more. There is no more violence here than any major U.S. city, but the reduced population skews the statistics. I feel safer here than I ever felt in Chicago, and I get a hug from a complete stranger weekly and a "G'mawning" daily.

It has been said that the best day in Houston is the worst day in New Orleans. What I can say is that I find something to laugh about every day...

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