I suppose we should introduce ourselves: We’re South Louisiana.
We have arrived on your doorstep on short notice and we apologize for that, but we never were much for waiting around for invitations. We’re not much on formalities like that.
And we might be staying around your town for a while, enrolling in your schools and looking for jobs, so we wanted to tell you a few things about us. We know you didn’t ask for this and neither did we, so we’re just going to have to make the best of it.
First of all, we thank you. For your money, your water, your food, your prayers, your boats and buses and the men and women of your National Guards, fire departments, hospitals and everyone else who has come to our rescue.
We’re a fiercely proud and independent people, and we don’t cotton much to outside interference, but we’re not ashamed to accept help when we need it. And right now, we need it.
Just don’t get carried away. For instance, once we get around to fishing again, don’t try to tell us what kind of lures work best in your waters.
We’re not going to listen. We’re stubborn that way.
You probably already know that we talk funny and listen to strange music and eat things you’d probably hire an exterminator to get out of your yard.
We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t.
But we’ll try not to judge you while we’re in your town.
Everybody loves their home, we know that. But we love South Louisiana with a ferocity that borders on the pathological. Sometimes we bury our dead in LSU sweatshirts.
Often we don’t make sense. You may wonder why, for instance – if we could only carry one small bag of belongings with us on our journey to your state – why in God’s name did we bring a pair of shrimp boots?
We can’t really explain that. It is what it is.
You’ve probably heard that many of us stayed behind. As bad as it is, many of us cannot fathom a life outside of our border, out in that place we call Elsewhere.
The only way you could understand that is if you have been there, and so many of you have. So you realize that when you strip away all the craziness and bars and parades and music and architecture and all that hooey, really, the best thing about where we come from is us.
We are what made this place a national treasure. We’re good people. And don’t be afraid to ask us how to pronounce our names. It happens all the time.
When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces.
But don’t pity us. We’re gonna make it. We’re resilient. After all, we’ve been rooting for the Saints for 35 years. That’s got to count for something.
OK, maybe something else you should know is that we make jokes at inappropriate times.
But what the hell.
And one more thing: In our part of the country, we’re used to having visitors. It’s our way of life.
So when all this is over and we move back home, we will repay to you the hospitality and generosity of spirit you offer to us in this season of our despair.
That is our promise. That is our faith.
-Chris Rose for the Times-Picayune, September 6, 2005
Apartments in this city have a special charm about them and it has everything to do with the fact that they are old (some were built close to a hundred years ago +/-). In a city like Dallas, these old buildings have been torn down to make room for new constructions. In cities like Washington, DC, they have been gutted and renovated from the inside out in hopes of preserving some of the older architectural charms. In New Orleans, many have been kept in as close to original form as the settling ground will allow.
This city’s landlords don’t have the money for major renovations, so instead they just spot treat problems as they arise. You can only imagine what 100 years of quick fixes can do to a place. These apartments come fully equipped with your very own window units (sans extension cord to plug into the wall), rolling radiators (that will blow a fuse if you have more than two on at any time), burglar bars on the windows and cracks in the floor boards. What more amenities could a renter ask for? A washer, dryer, dishwasher and microwave? Let’s not get too greedy here!
For non-NOLA-ite, it probably sounds as if I just described the apartments in the worst inner-city neighborhood of their town. However, these apartments are what make living within the city limits of NOLA so affordable. They aren’t run down, they are just older than air conditioning!
Despite the lack of modern conveniences, these apartments actually are quite charming. The charm lies in the details of the buildings: the picture moulding, light switches, hardwood floors, bathroom tiles, door knobs, and door bells to name a few.
Renting an older apartment in New Orleans is like passing through a time machine. By day smartphones, laptops and ipads have you spinning in a 21st century tizzy. By night you rewind the clock a couple of decades to a simpler time where dishes are washed by hand, food is cooked in an oven and watching people from the front porch is called entertainment.
The daily commute between the 19th and 21st century can be exhausting but rewarding. Returning home to the simple life gives one an escape from the modern world in a similar ways to yoga or meditation. The thresholds of these apartments act as barriers, keeping out the excessive energy by focusing you on the task at hand: living, eating, breathing. With this daily reminder to slow down, its no wonder that New Orleanians are famous for their laissez-faire mentality. After all, if it ain’t broke….
“In the Spring of 1988, I returned to New Orleans, and as soon as I smelled the air, I knew I was home. It was rich, almost sweet, like the scent of jasmine and roses around our old courtyard. I walked the streets savoring that long lost perfume.” – Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire
“This is a powerful moment in New Orleans. While Katrina may be our nation’s greatest challenge, it could also be our resounding legacy. For the first time in its storied history, New Orleans is saturated with talented networks of young people, who have followed the road less traveled all the way to the Crescent City. In what has become an incubator for innovation and intellectualism, New Orleans is watching the development of a generation of leaders, who will pay dividends to their country for generations to come.”-504ward.com/about-us
In the past few years there has been a lot of chatter surrounding the gen-x and gen-y-ers in the city. These individuals are young, smart, educated, and innovative. Never before has this city seen such a talented group of young professionals, many who came down to help rebuild the city, fell in love with its charm and never left. These young innovators have in fact been an important part of the cities recovery, yet the nola converts have not been the only ones among the ranks of the young and talented. There is another group of young professionals who have made a movement to New Orleans in these post-Katrina times: the Born Again New Orleanian.
The Born Again New Orleanian is a unique group among these energizers who have flocked to the city. They are the original young and talented individuals of New Orleans, the ones who were forced out when the city had no jobs or prospects. New Orleanian by birth, this group began their life during the decline of the New Orleans economy. Pre-Katrina it almost went without saying that if you were college educated and had any career aspirations at all that you would likely have to leave New Orleans to have that career. They left NOLA for college spreading across the country in every direction in search of life outside the city, many of them never to return. Efforts were made to prevent the brain drain such as the TOPS program designed to keep the youth of Louisiana in the state through in state tuition wavers for those with high enough GPA’s. However despite the efforts to keep the talent, the jobs once these individuals graduated were few and far between.
Despite their love of the city these natives left their hearts at home to follow their dreams. Practically speaking, their dreams were pointing towards a brighter future of careers that actually utilized their degrees. You all know these individuals, they were the ones that would come home for the holidays and talk about how much they miss it down here. Almost always making the comment “once I get my career started and I have the experience I need, I’ll move back. I might take a pay cut to do it, but it’d be worth it.” They left with the hopes of some day moving back, yet had the sinking feeling that someday may never come.
Flash forward to present, these young professionals are now presented with the opportunity to have a bright career and live in New Orleans. Having spent years away from the city, these young professionals are also flooding into the city to take advantage of the new job opportunities that have arisen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The sudden burst of energy in NOLA has pulled them back with a magnetic force and for the first time in a long time they are seeing a bright future in New Orleans instead of away from it and these 20-somethings are coming in with guns blazing. Armed the professional knowledge of “big city” business and the local knowledge of New Orleans these young professionals are a group unto themselves and need to be recognized as a unique part of the rebuilding movement. Never wanting to leave in the first place, they are now back and ready to run with these new opportunities and the promise of a brighter New Orleans. They are the Born Again New Orleanians.