I know most of my family doesn't get it. Why I want to live here. When they came to visit, pre-Katrina, they saw the trash everywhere. The poverty of the residents. The poverty of the city. The potholes. The crime. The schools. Now, post-K, they see all that, plus the extra-added bonus of a city that's been marinated. The debris. The demolition. The fatigue. The fugue. The fear.
How do I explain to them why I want to live here? How do I explain to myself why I want to live here?
I was happy in Atlanta during the evacuation--at least, as happy as one can be in the PTSD fog of life as an evacuee. The streets were paved. Crime, at least in the part of town we were in, was minimal. There were bars with slogans like "It's never too late to start wasting your life." Thanks to my sister, I had a pretty active social life, when I wasn't hiding under the covers. Emmeline was happy there. My hometown was in spontaneous driving distance. I could envision a life there. Hell, let's face it--a big part of me really wanted a life there.
But this place. This heart-breaking, soul-wrenching place, is where I belong. This place belongs to those of us that have always felt a little at odds with the world. Its craziness and eccentricities are soothing, comforting. They're home.
This past weekend, Kenny and I had no plans. All of our closest friends have moved on to greener pastures; they say they're coming back, but each time, they say it with less conviction. So we had no plans. And we had a fabulous weekend. On Saturday, we walked around the Quarter. That's it, nothing else. But those of you who know New Orleans know what that entails. We dodged a brief rainstorm in the Cabildo portico. We got a balloon animal for Emmeline from a street performer. We were asked if we wanted our fortunes read. We ducked into a cool, dark bar for beer in go-cups. We stopped at an art gallery to ask about a painting. We took in the sights that are New Orleans.
On Sunday, we drove across the river to des Allemandes and went to the Catfish Festival. We dined on gumbo and catfish. Our daughter, who at 16 months, is proving to be quite the y'at, couldn't get enough of the gumbo . We rode a merry-go-round. Danced to a Cajun band. Drank beer. Met the catfish queen. On the way home, we drove through Bayou Gauche as a storm was rolling in. The combination of the thunderheads and the emerald green marsh was beautiful.
That's what we did on a weekend with no plans.
That's why I live in New Orleans. How can you not love a town where there's always something to do? No matter where I go, I meet someone a little bit off-kilter. (My personal favorite? The older gentleman in the elevator at E's pediatrician's office. After complimenting me on how cute Emmeline is, he said, "That's why God makes 'em cute, baby, so you don't drown 'em." A close second is the guy in the elevator who said I had "shapely toes." You can't make this stuff up.)
So, there. I've said it. I love New Orleans. So be it.