[StBernard] New Orleans
westley at da-parish.com
Tue Mar 20 23:35:28 EDT 2007
New Orleans. How wonderful those words sound when said with no quirky
emphasis on odd syllables. They always seem to elicit some response.
Have you been there?
Have you ever been to Cafe Du Monde for beignets and cafe au lait and
gone back every morning of your visit? Have you ever sat for hours in
the piano bar at Pat O'Brien's sipping hurricanes? Have you ever been to
Mardi Gras - Bacchus? Endymion? Rex? Have you ever had oysters at the
Have you ever sat out on the "fly" eating crawfish and drinking Dixie
Have you ever taken a walking tour of the Garden District? Have you ever
sung karaoke at Cat's Meow? Do you know who John Folse is? Have you ever
risen at 6am to roam the streets of a "quiet" French Quarter? Have you ever
been to Galatoire's? K-Paul's? Emeril's? Can you remember when Zulu threw
gold-painted coconuts? Have you ever ridden the street-car down St. Charles
Avenue secretly sipping your strawberry daiquiri?
Have you ever had
a mint julep on the porch of The Columns Hotel? Have you ever been to
Audubon Park? City Park? Have you ever been to mass at the St. Louis
Do you know who Harry Connick, Sr is? Have you ever had breakfast at
Brennan's? Have you ever been to the original Tipitina's? Have you ever been
to the Superdome? Saint's game? Sugar Bowl? Super Bowl? Final Four? Have you
ever had cheese fries at Fat Harry's? Thrown peanuts on the floor at
O'Henry's? Have you ever been to the Rendon Inn? Can you remember the New
Orleans World's Fair?
Have you ever been to the campuses of Tulane and Loyola? Have you been to a
crawfish boil? Sucked the heads? Have you ever been "on the lake"?
"Across the lake"? To the "west bank"? Have you had a Ferdi from
Mother's and wondered what "debris" was? Have you ever been an
unexpected invitee to a jazz funeral? Have you ever been to Jazzfest
---- first or second weekend?
Have you ever been to Pontchartrain Beach?
Have you ever stood in line at the Camellia Grill? Had a po-boy at
Uglesich's? Oyster and artichoke soup at Mandina's? BBQ shrimp at Pascal
Manale's? Gumbo at Dookie Chase? Have you ever been to a plantation home?
Have you ever been to the French Quarter festival? Can you pronounce
Tchoupitoulas? Thibodaux? Boutte? Have you ever been to Clancy's? The
Have you ever been to the Biloxi beaches? Have you ever had a monsoon at
Port of Call? Breakfast at the Blue Bird? Have you ever seen the Neville
Brothers? Cowboy Mouth? The Radiators?
Have you ever been to New Orleans?
If you've been there, undoubtedly one of these things found its way to
your itinerary. You probably also saw the dirty streets, the tired
shotgun houses, and cracked sidewalks. You've heard about the high
crime, poor public schools, poverty, and racism. And yes, there are many
housing projects. It is very hot in the summer, people are generally
overweight, and the city is always a hurricane away from being flooded.
Each visitor chooses to see the New Orleans they want to see it.
Luckily, New Orleans has the amazing ability to win over many more than
it loses. It can cause one to see the big oaks hovering over St. Charles
and not the trash on the sidewalks. It can cause one to focus on the
street musician and not the street beggar. It can cause one to see the
wrought iron balcony rather than the dilapidated building. What is it
about the Big Easy that makes most see the positive and not the
The answer to New Orleans' allure may, on the surface, seem different
for locals and tourists but I suspect that there is a common thread -
the people, the heart and soul of New Orleans.
There is a culture and tradition in New Orleans that is sweet and
simple. No need to over analyze this. It recognizes that the enjoyment
of family and life is as attainable for the poor as it is for the rich.
A hand on a shoulder and touch on the arm is just the way we say hello.
We know that good music, food, and drink is made all the better when
surrounded by friends who share the same outlook. When it is your way of
life, when it is woven into your circle of friends, social gatherings
aren't seen as "excesses" but as something you just do.
New Orleanians don't believe they've cornered the market on this way of
life. They recognize it when they see it elsewhere and they applaud it.
What makes New Orleans special is that they have a concentration of
people who have it and foster it. It's generational. It's hereditary.
The challenge to New Orleans, to the New Orleanian, is as great as ever.
Its reputation temporarily tarnished by the things that occurred in the
aftermath of Katrina, it is up to those who live there, have been there,
and adopted this city to not let these terrible scenes replace the ones
they have of the Big Easy. While money is needed to rebuild, preserving
that feeling and attitude that New Orleans gave you on that last visit
is just as important. Did the flood waters wash away the New Orleans way
of life? Not a chance. Not a chance that New Orleanians would deprive
future generations of this breeding ground of the good life.
With the vast destruction of parts of New Orleans now clear, the
question is being asked repeatedly, "Is New Orleans worth rebuilding?"
To that, I can only reply, "Have you ever been to New Orleans?"
To end, here is a quote from the Times-Picayune newspaper"
We dance when there is no music, We drink at funerals.
We talk too much, and live too large and, frankly, we're suspicious of
others who don't...When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you
will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand
But don't pity us, we're gonna make it. After all, we've been rooting for
the Saints for 35 years.
That's got to count for something."
Chris Rose, Times-Picayune Columnist, New Orleans
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