New Orleans: Ten Years later

NOLA katrina

“The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat” – Tim Robbins

Robbins really isn’t that far off the mark. This city can do that to you.

New Orleans is the city that inspired Anne Rice to create Vampire Lestat and Tennessee Williams to write “A Streetcar named Desire”. It’s a city of jazz, blues, voodoo chants, of Italian muffaletta sandwiches, chicory-laced dark coffee and sweet beignets, of southern drawls and lazy afternoons. It’s my N’awlins…

I’ve felt New Orleans’ pull even before I ever set foot there. There is something about the city’s convoluted history, voodoo magic, decadence, music, overbearingly sweet honeysuckle air, food, and French Quarter and Garden District architecture that just speaks to anyone with even a smidgen of an artistic soul. It calls for you and you have to heed the call.

It’s a city I’ve visited often, occasionally thought of moving to, and always fell more in love with each time I walked its streets and spoke to its people. I have long come to associate Southern drawls with something beautiful and crazy and laissez-faire. Anything goes in NOLA. You’re good the way you came. It’s a city that, as Charles Bukowski put it, “lets you alone” in the most seductive way, by allowing you to be free to feel what you want.

I’ve travelled extensively and I’ve seen some amazing places, but no city has ever spoken to me the way New Orleans does. This is a lush land of the unabashed and uninhibited; a crossroads of cultures, a place of ill repute, of bordellos and bayous, of voodoo and above ground cemeteries. It lets dreamers dream.

When Hurricane Katrina hit I was heartbroken and worried about what would follow. Ten years later, much remains to be done, but the city has rebounded and has retained its sweet, seductive soul.

Here is an interesting WYC podcast Death, Sex, and Money in New Orleans with Anne Sales who interviews five people who all lived in the city when Hurricane Katrina hit, and who all live there now.

Ten years later, if you’re interested in understanding the soul of New Orleans or simply reading as close a first-person account as possible of the devastation Hurricane Katrina wreaked, the one and only book I would recommend is 1 Dead in Attic;  a collection of stories by Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose, recounting the first harrowing year and a half of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina pummelled the shit out of that city. Rose was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his columns on Katrina-ravaged New Orleans and this book remains to this day one of my favourites. It is profound and personal and honest and an unabashed love letter to his city and its people. I can’t recommend it enough.

Ten years later, New Orleans is still trying to rebuild and still trying to survive, but it’s still very much as alive and as seductive as ever to me and to many others who have fallen easy prey to its unique and quirky charms.

That moist, sultry air still calls my name. That Mississippi River still waits for me. I always go back…