Wednesday, September 07, 2005
The Big Easy. The Crescent City. A city so historical and lively that its myth is bigger than its history. It is a beautiful, old, vibrant, city full of good old fashioned hospitality and love. Last year my husband and I visited New Orleans for a conference and it wasn’t long before we ditched the frosty rooms of academia to explore the pulsating city. I won’t mention the food or the music here, it needs no more exaltation, they stand on their own, but I want to talk about the people of New Orleans, the friendly, loving and soulful people of the city who made us feel so welcomed there, who made us feel like we were part of the family called New Orleans. Everywhere we went the people of New Orleans extended their love. They gave us directions; they walked us to the hidden restaurants and clubs that only the natives know about. I fell in love with the city and the people who called New Orleans home. I searched for a job there, and lacking that, promised to return and, my dream, to retire there in Cajun country, surrounded by jazz and antebellum homes. Those plans have not changed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Naysayers question whether New Orleans will ever be the city that it once was. I believe that it will. The Big Easy will rise again, bigger and better than ever, because you can’t keep a city with that kind of spirit down. In the last week I have wondered about the people that we met in New Orleans. The people on the street who stopped to give us directions and then tell us where the better place to eat/see was. The bellman who took our bags to our room, chatting the entire time about the city and how we would love it, giving us the inside scoop because we looked like “jazz people”. The tour guide who we stumbled upon, but enjoyed so much we went back two days in a row to take every tour he gave. The street performers who entertained us all afternoon in Jackson Square because their music was like being in heaven in front of St. Louis Cathedral. The hotel valets, who kept our car a few extra hours at no charge so we could see the Aquarium, ride the streetcar and chew on beignets at Café du Monde. The shuttle driver who took us there because it was neighborly and a hot day. I wonder where they are today. Did they get out before the storm and flood? Were they home when water rose to the roof? Were they stuck in the Convention Center, the Superdome or on I-10? Have they found their families in the chaos? Were they sent to Houston? Dallas? Baton Rougue? I hope and pray not only for the people that I came across there personally, but for all the people that made New Orleans what it was, and while I am angry at a variety of things that is not what this post is about. Right now I am writing about a city that I love, a people that were the epitome of southern friendliness. Later there will be time to blame and question. But for now I will dream of New Orleans rebuilt, a town revitalized by the spirit of history, the spirit of people who will make the city what it once was, I hope one day to be one of them.