Friday, October 2, 2009

Love letter to New Orleans

Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
River City Rhapsody
Or
Where The Heart Is
We say that New Orleans is a city that you can leave, but one that will never leave you. We also say that, “you don’t have to be crazy to love New Orleans…but it sure helps!” We further say, quite succinctly: “Proud to call it home.” We are basically a simple collection of misfits… a confederacy of dunces in the true sense.
One of many superstitions here is that if you ever go barefoot in New Orleans, you will never be satisfied living anywhere else.
There are lots of justifications that we offer ourselves for our very New Orleans state of mind. In New Orleans when you say that you have a love/hate relationship with her, people that live here grok (understand completely by intuition). We go around referring to New Orleans as “She”; mother, daughter, lover, mistress, goddess, siren and whore. And you know, it’s about as easy to write a love letter to New Orleans as it would be to send a valentine to Miles Davis (go ahead, put that one together).
New Orleans is kinder to strangers than to it’s citizens and unless you are at least semi-self-reliant, hold a job, keep your mouth shut, your nose clean, and put up with having a lot less than is available elsewhere… it is easy to become disenchanted with living here; if you expect anyone or thing to upset the status quo you should put your head back in the sand and smile like an ostrich without a lick of sense. If you walk around with blinders, don’t take the news to heart, know that you cannot make a difference and ignore the iniquities… you will be as happy as a hog drinking cold beer in humid weather.
The reason why visitors like it here so much is that they don’t have to know or care what actually goes on here; it’s the same reason why we have so much fun as we vacation in Port au Prince, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and Beirut. What you don’t see can’t hurt you.
I love New Orleans in spite of New Orleans. New Orleans is a faded blues singer who beats her children with a coat hanger, raises dogs for fighting, steals from the collection plate at church and gets her tickets fixed by a crooked lawyer. A fun loving and lovable hard living second-liner that flips her cigarette butts and chicken bones into the street, sells a little dope on the side and doesn’t mind taking a leak in a doorway should nature make that call.
The City Noir. Like taking a warm bubble bath with a Sazerac cocktail, a snake and a loaded pistol. When you live here, New Orleans dares you to love her; like blood begetting blood, dogs begetting dogs and vultures begetting vultures, New Orleans will boggle your mind with the promises of a better tomorrow only to inform you that tomorrow is already yesterday and we made no promises about yesterday, did we?
Oh, New Orleans, like any errant school child, will take an admonishment as well as the next guy and then, having taken our come-uppance, go out and spit on the sidewalk, kick the dog and strut passed the pool hall whistling “l’il ‘Liza Jane”.
It’s not easy to love someone or some place that has no sense, uses no logic and is as crooked as a sidewinder and twice as mean… but we do. We’re hopeless romantics—with kinships flourishing-- finding an emotionally crippled home amongst our dysfunctional comrades in arms and we love and love and love until our hearts break. There is no place like New Orleans and we are star struck, na├»ve and shamelessly in love in spite of her faults. Sure, people leave (but they come back). Like mistreated puppies, we keep coming back for more and, like a mistreated child who complains about their parents, our ass is up should anyone else voice complaint or criticism.
Crime, ignorance, poverty and illegitimacy rates may soar but don’t you disrespect us! I’ll talk about racial division and plantation mentality because I’ve earned the right to bitch; I live in it. My dues are paid daily and I willfully run the gamut of the possibility of mayhem and mischief, rapture and romance entering my life and circumstances. It’s my choice to weigh the quality against the despair and I’ll tell you what, by no means do I ever again want to know what it means to miss New Orleans. I’m addicted to her.
There is no doubt that the music and food are addicting and I must have my fix daily. No other city can claim the unconditional love of its own cooking the way we do. No other city has music oozing from the pores of the patchwork paved streets like we have. No architect in their wildest wet dream could ask for more examples of form, grace and beauty as we have in all our levels of splendor and decay. We all ‘make it’ here; because, it’s The Big Easy and “if you can’t make it in New Orleans… you can’t make it anywhere”. By no accident have we given great writers and artists as well as the slickest crooks and con artists inspiration. Hell, we inspire the entire state of Louisiana to levels of infamy unequaled in the other forty-nine!
But, New Orleans could care less if we love her, New Orleans is too busy loving herself. New Orleans is blanketed by the weather, punished by the sun and succored by the moon. Our passions are verified and sanctioned in our music; our rage is confirmed by our violence. Of the many acts of violence that are punished by the courts; rarely do you hear contrition. Our manners and lives are rough and tumble here and I think that that’s better than just marking time in life; hope springs eternal and dies on a fragrant honeysuckle vine here and I don’t intend to miss a minute of it. There is only one thing worse than living in New Orleans and that would be living anywhere else.
There. Did that sound like a love letter? It is.
phil@whereyat.com

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