New Orleans Bleg

When my wife and I were planning our wedding 13 years ago we reached the point where it started to get hairy.  You know what I mean…where is so and so going to sit, what color will the linens be, who will do the toast at the reception, etc, etc, etc.

 I will give you the very short version of the ending – the planning process started to involve way too many people and quickly spiraled out of control.  I remember to this day sitting on the couch in our apartment (yes, we lived in sin!) and saying to my fiance at the time, still my wife to this day the following:

Do you want to get the heck out of here and elope to New Orleans?

 The answer was an enthusiastic YES.

And so we did.  That was back in 1995.

We used to go back every year to celebrate our anniversary there.  As the years have gone by we started to explore parts of the city outside of the normal tourist traps in the Quarter.  Then Katrina.

We haven’t been back since that hurricane and the devastation it brought.  I would assume that we aren’t alone.  The crime there is also insane, relative to many other cities in the US.

What I would like to know from Chicago Boyz readers is if and how much New Orleans has rebuilt itself.  Sure, I could Google and search for things, but nothing would be more valuable than to hear from some folks who actually live and/or work there.  I am interested to know if things are getting rebuilt, if the Quarter is back to its normal state and how some of the other neighborhoods are looking.  Feel free to leave long, informative comments, or alternately we can have an email discussion.  Simply state so in the comments and I will contact you – don’t forget to put your email address in the comments form.

13 thoughts on “New Orleans Bleg”

  1. Long and short of it, to get the ball rolling: French Quarter, hotels, casinos, aquarium, etc. are back full force. Garden District, Tulane, Loyola look really good, but still some signs of Katrina wear and tear. Much of Ninth Ward and other outlying, lower level areas simply not there; still vast tracks elsewhere that are not re-built and in some cases not even ‘debris free’. NO is proof that the laws of the physical world can be suspended — money flows up hill, water down. Outlying areas like Kenner and Metairie back to ‘normal’ with semi-wide swathes of desolation (friends of ours from there that took us in the back way recently joked that you can’t tell what Katrina did and what had fallen into disrepair and abandonment pre-Katrina — a good sign; time heals all wounds or at least homogenizes them). There are also tent cities of (mostly illegal, semi-legal) day laboreres and seething (mostly 5th generation welfare recipients) residents upset over plans to bulldoze storm damaged public housing (unusable and unlivable since K)and not rebuild it ‘just like it always was’ … those are the broad brush strokes. Population recovery seems to have leveled off b/w 66-75% pre-K levels — but who knows for sure.

    Having lived near NO for a few years, here’s a story that helps explain things generally: my wife attended a conference in NO on urban planning and econ. dev. a little while back — the keynote speaker, a real estate developer who was/is a big fan of the place even tho he wasn’t from there said (and I paraphrase) “NO is not an American city; it is more like the Zurich of the Carribean … once you figure that out, you can make things work (sort of)— things that take a week or two up north might take 2-3 months here — and put up with the rest (almost) — the inefficiencies, corruption, etc.” NO would drive most mid-westerners and ‘old school’ stern new england types nuts; but there are still some great things going for it that you will never get anywhere else … fill in tawdry joke here.

  2. Zurich????

    May I suggest it is the Monaco of the Carribean. Miami, of course, if the true capital of South America.

  3. AndrewB: The “Carribean” is not equal to SA, no?

    Miami may be the capital landward Latin American.

    But New Orleans is the capital of pleasure spots and pestholes like Aruba and Haiti.

    This is all figurative, of course.

    NO is a place to visit and party, like the various tourists islands. And it is a sinkhole of Francophone corruption and endemic violence, like Haiti.

    Or so I think Carl is presenting it.

  4. What a timely discussion. I’m making preliminary screening for my vacation spot this year, and now I know
    1) Aruba, New Orleans and Haiti are all out
    2) Miami is in.

    Go on, please.

  5. yeah, Lex is picking up the right strands. NO might as well be a city-state. It is unlike any other place in the US for better and for worse — and it is too significant to just dismiss outright, what with the ports, natural gas and oil conduits from the gulf, etc. But what stamps the “lebensphilosophie” (to use the German instead of the French or Spanish/Creole for the sake of cold, teutonic juxtaposition)is Carribean redux — the French civil code and Spanish version of ‘gran seigneurial’ thinking might be distant vestiges, but still have left their stamp on everything from the architecture, courtyards, gardens, etc. right down to the ‘laissez les bon temp roulez’ attitude. People don’t live to work, they work for the sake of having something to do between festivals, parades, processions, jazz funerals, dinners, music, etc. It ain’t just the oppresive heat and centuries of corruption and mismanagement … its a different outlook — which is not without its charms, although i’ve been in cajun country long enough to take issue with what inhabitants of the ‘crescent city’ call gumbo, jambalaya and etouffee … good coffee and beignets, however … and oysters on the half shell with good cold beer always tastes better there for some reason…

    Post Katrina, there might be enough ‘outside money’ and outside expertise, labor, etc to change expectations but such changes will be incremental.

  6. Tatyana — assuming you were being tongue in cheek — some of the horror stories about NO post K are true (crime is out of whack, large portions of the city — out of sight for the usual tourists — are desolate) but it is still a place worth taking in … albeit, in short 2-3 day chunks. Then get out and move on. For the sake of unfairly jabbing Floridians — what is there to see in Miami? oh, look, another art deco high rise … and another … and another…. alright. you’ve got the ocean as opposed to mississippi mud… but that’s all

  7. One final thought, courtesy of the eccentric Lafcadio Hearn, writing in 1879 ( in the spirit of ‘plus ca change’)

    “Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under a lava flow of taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become only a study for archaeologists …. But it is still better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.”

    If you find that funny and/or intriguing, you still might enjoy NO…

  8. Carl: assuming you were being tongue in cheek
    Not at all, not at all.
    See, I’ll rather enjoy yet another (and another, and another) Deco candy, than risk brain damage trying to come up with an “out of trouble” route for sight-seeing in a strange city. I’m weird that way.

    And an ocean beats mud every time.

  9. Tatyana, if it helps — I don’t know how far west you’ve gotten, but I recall that it was on this blog that you learned what “DIA” is — I was once told that Will Rogers recommended that to get the best sampling of the US in the smallest number of stops, it is necessary to visit 4 cities: San Francisco, San Antonio, New Orleans, and Boston. (Note that the predominant culture of San Antonio at that time was German.)

    OK, now I’ve wandered OT and might as well admit that I can’t help Dan at all, not having set foot in NO since a business trip in ’89; I recall being amazed at 1) the instantaneously hair-curling heat and humidity; 2) the local patois, which can sound astonishingly like Brooklynese; and 3) the fly that turned up in the butter at a nonetheless-charming local establishment. Great seafood, though.

  10. Jay: to my everlasting shame, I can’t recall the incident. DIA – diamonds? Defense Intelligence Agency? Denver Intern. Airport? All sound dull.
    I admit no acquaintance with mysterious Will Rogers (something in cartoons?). However, I’ve been to Boston and was unimpressed. Tallinn is made of similar fabric, but styled and cut better.

    NO sounds disorganized, dangerous, pretentious, aggressive, a place with bad climate and attitude. Not something I would chose to relax for a week after a year of concentrated high-pressure work.

  11. Tatyana, New Orleans is more a place to blow off steam rather than unwind. It’s a matter of taste. Bourbon St. is quite boorish but some people like that. There are some great sites to see in terms of architecture and history (and the music and food of course) but, as Carl says, you take it in two or three day chunks. If you like to spend your vacations decompressing and getting away from it all, hop on a plane to Miami and hit a spa on the Keys.

  12. Thank you, Mishu -that’s what I figured: Miami’s in, NO and Aruba – out.

    Dan, apologies for occupying your thread.

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