Let me begin by stating that I currently reside in Austin, Texas, which is a pretty cool place. I have nothing against it. I’m not “doing it wrong.” I’m just not as in love with Austin as I am with New Orleans.
I was born in new Orleans, and I spent some of my early childhood and later, early adulthood there until Hurricane Katrina happened. We intended to go back, but circumstances (mostly financial) prevented us from doing so. Still, not one day goes by that I don’t think about New Orleans. Carnival Season began January fifth, and from then until around June, I’ll be pining for that city extra hard, and not just because of Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. I’ve got a couple of theories and a few legitimate reasons why I can’t stop missing New Orleans:
- New Orleans was “taken away” from me. Because I didn’t leave New Orleans voluntarily, part of me must feel that somehow it was “stolen.” If we could have found a way to return without having to live under a bridge or something, it might have been different. As it stands, in my emotional life, I kind of feel robbed.
- I spent some of my early childhood there. We all have hazy, sun-dappled childhood memories. Mine smell like live oak trees in humid weather and are filled with various NOLA accents. My grandparents and relatives have NOLA accents. I think I imprinted on the place like a baby duck!
- Before I left, I was finally easing into adult life. I had a part-time job and was finishing my B.A. degree. My husband and I were thinking of buying property at which to reside for at least the next ten years. I had several very close friends whom I saw every day, and legions of casual acquaintances whom I ran into regularly. Three days before I turned 27, it all suddenly dissolved. It was as if the previous years I had spent building my life had never happened. Keep in mind, I was lucky. I didn’t own a family home that was destroyed, or lose a loved one to the flood. It was still difficult to cope.
- Don’t care what you say, there is no other city like NOLA. I have traveled many places in the U.S. and all over the world. New Orleans is truly unique. It’s not just the food (we’ll get there, I promise!). The combination of cultures and attitudes, having simmered slowly for 300 years, has created an environment that is impossible to duplicate.
- The food. The city has some of the best eats I’ve ever had, and trust me, I like to eat! In NOLA, you can get an excellent Bloody Mary not from a mix, a high quality po boy on fresh bread for the price of a fast food meal, French pastry made by a 6th generation French pastry chef, in-house ground lean beef and house made Italian sausage at the corner store, tamales made by a real Mexican grandmother for $.50 apiece, and a 5 course meal at a world-famous restaurant, all in the same day and in the same 8 mile radius. I know because I’ve done it.
- The history. 300 year old architecture. The oldest continuously operating open air market in the United States. The birthplace of Jazz. Oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world. (The world!) There’s more, so much more that it could (and does) fill numerous books. The history of the city is one of the most fascinating and diverse of any city in the United States.
- Something for everyone. It’s not just the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, y’all. There are museums and historic sites so you can better yourself culturally. The Audubon Zoo is absolutely amazing, as are the Aquarium and the Insect Museum. There is usually some kind of festival happening on any given weekend. Did I mention the food yet? You can go to school if you want. You can go sailing or fishing on Lake Ponchartrain, and while you’re near the lake, you can drive across one of the longest bridges in the world. And of course, no one says you can’t just go rat around the French Quarter, or go ahead and spend an afternoon at the casino, if you want!
After Katrina, when we would go back, it would make me so sad to see neighborhoods still in ruins. I went back last year to visit, and when my friend and I drove on I-10 over parts of the city at night, we could see large dark neighborhoods which still hadn’t recovered and may never recover. These are the neighborhoods where people were too poor to fight the insurance company lawyers who said they didn’t have a claim. They are the neighborhoods that were so-called “mixed-income,” where regular Joes like you and me made their homes, but couldn’t afford to come back.
Louis Armstrong sang it, and I feel it. I do know what it means to miss New Orleans.(http://www NULL.linkwithin NULL.com/)