This was my fifth trip New Orleans since Katrina and accounts of my annual departure have become somewhat cliche. Yes, the last cafe au lait and beignets, shopping for family, appreciating the vestiges of spring before returning to March in New Hampshire; yeah, it’s pretty much the same every year.
But some things are different: I didn’t get robbed my last night in New Orleans (2006); I didn’t get bumped from my flight and have to fly out two days later — from Jackson, MS (2007); and, I only got a little emotional about leaving the City. Clearly, I don’t miss being robbed or confronted with travel complications, but of more concern: am I losing some of the love? In the simplest of terms, the answer is “no.”
As my family is quick to remind me, I am getting be an old fart. But with old fartdom comes experience and some level of self awareness. And as much as I look forward to returning home to family and my normal routine, I’m increasingly aware that with each year, I bring a little more of New Orleans back with me. And conversely, a little bit more of me stays behind. And that’s not a bad thing.
So, let me present a scorecard of impressions from my recent visit:
Bad thing: corruption, inefficiency, and crime is still very much a reality in New Orleans.
Good thing: New Orleans seems to be finding its stride.
Bad thing: racism is still very much alive in New Orleans.
Good thing: people in New Orleans will talk to you at any time, in any place, about anything.
Bad thing: Bourbon Street.
Good thing: Frenchmen Street.
Bad thing: the elevated section of I-10 over Claiborne Avenue remains a blight
Good thing: the people in New Orleans are still walking about 18″ above the ground because the Saints won the Super Bowl.
Bad thing: while there has been some progress in rebuilding the Lower Ninth, it is too little, too late, and too strange.
Good thing: Musician’s Village is complete. Now, let’s do it again and again and again. Well, you get the idea.
Bad thing: For whatever reason, Super Sunday was postponed, and I missed it for the first time in four years.
Good things: New Orleans has the best live music and the most accomplished and engaging musicians of any place I have ever been and probably ever will be.
Bad thing: they don’t pay most New Orleans musicians a living wage for what they do.
Good things: I’ve learned that there are excellent po-boy shops besides Domilise’s (but it is still my favorite).
Bad thing: the food in New Hampshire is not near as good as that in New Orleans.
Good thing: I’ve lost several pounds since returning home.
Bad thing: I don’t live in New Orleans.
Good thing: I don’t live in Louisiana.
Bad thing: once again, I had a wonderful, fulfilling experience, but had to leave.
Good thing: I WILL be back.