“Why do you live in New Orleans?”
16 years ago, while my wife and I were displaced in Atlanta, I was asked this very question by my friend’s father-in-law. We had just finished 3 days of 24/7 binge watching of CNN. Traumatized by the footage, I couldn’t imagine having to live through it. We were lucky that we had the resources to get out of town safely. Many couldn’t or chose not to.
My answer to his question was, “We live in New Orleans because of the people.” He gave me a confused look. He didn’t understand it, the idea of living in harms way for “culture”. It didn’t register for him. He then asked the question that was really on his mind and why we should rebuild the city. I politely left the conversation.
16 years later, here we are. On this very anniversary we have another storm heading our way with Category 4 sustained winds making its way to the coast. In moments like this, it does beg the question — Why do we live here?
I remember a good friend tell me years ago that we were the modern day version of Pompeii - a city filled with creative people all living on the precipice of impending disaster. We must be crazy to choose to live here, right?
I grew up here and chose to come back after college. I soon met some amazing people who were transplants, or as I refer to them, Nola Converts. They all had similar stories. Visited a friend and never left. Came down for Jazz Fest and never left. Found a feeling of home, finally… and never left.
There is a solidarity in choosing to live in this city. You choose the summers. You choose the boarded up windows. You choose the potholes. You choose to deal with all of these issues because of the people you meet. After Katrina, this solidarity was more evident than ever shown by those who came back to rebuild. For those who were not here, it’s hard to imagine. A large US city completely stopped in its tracks. Everyone scattered to the wind only to return to apocalyptic scenes and scents.
We rebuilt after Katrina and it can be argued that the city came back even better than before. It can also be argued that the city is very different than it was 16 years ago. Before the forced evacuation and reset of the city, before all the international attention, the recovery investments, the TV shows, and Short Term Rentals.
One thing is certain… As long as there are people who choose to live in New Orleans, the city will be filled with the right people. A community linked by a reverence for history and shared traditions. Each of us has the responsibility to help create and to share the culture with others. When you choose to live here, you don’t just choose to live here. It isn’t just an address or job. You are choosing to participate and play your role in the collective experience of this wonderful and weird city. One that, on occasion, has to deal with a hurricane in the same way the many generations that came before us did.
Hunker down, stay safe, and see you on the other side of this.
Founder, Dirty Coast