Saturday, September 29, 2012

Alluring and Repulsive

You're moving to New Orleans?!

-That's crazy.
-Are you scared?
-I've always wanted to go there.
-That place is filthy.
-That place is magical.

I have moved around to a few different places in my life, but moving to New Orleans has elicited such a wide spectrum of reactions from others.  Trying to describe the experience of moving to such a city over and over again, in different ways, to my friends and family has made me realize that moving to New Orleans is a curious subject.  Or at least it is to me.

New Orleans is so low to the ground.  This is hard to describe, but to me it is most apparent when looking at the curbs.  In many older neighborhoods of the city, there aren't any curbs.  The yards just melt into the sidewalks which blend into the roads.  The roads have lots of lots of potholes...some so large you could bathe in them.  

I went for a walk through the swamp at Jean Lafitte state park just outside the city, and on one of the plaques it described the swampland as at once "alluring and repulsive".  I thought that was a pretty good summary of the feeling there and the city as well.  

The place is fascinating and friendly.  It feels so rich and deep...anything could grow here.  

New Orleans: Katrina

I don't think that after Katrina I had ever been able to think about New Orleans without thinking about  Katrina.  You know those psychological tests where you have to yell out the first word that you associate with something?  New Orleans: Katrina.  After I became aware of this I felt guilty for it.   I wanted to believe that it was because I didn't know enough about the city firsthand to think anything else.  And I blame the media.  It wasn't enough that my dad went to school there, and my mother grew up there, and that they fell in love and married was still New Orleans: Katrina.

But after spending the past month here and talking to a lot of people, Katrina was just yesterday and seems to be on the forefront of people's minds, even for those who have their entire lives and history connected to this place.  So I guess the region and country and maybe the world is going through a kind of collective PTSD.