A light, airy, effervescent, blog of grave consequence. (NOT!) Dedicated to those of us who must respond to negative stimuli by Chernobyling (entombing in concrete) our innermost thoughts.

Location: Slaughter, Louisiana, United States

A semi-gruntled corporate reliability engineer trying to make ends meet while keeping my wife happy, and myself out of the asylum.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Goodbye New Orleans, We Hardly Knew Ya

All good things must come to and end and I witnessed such an ending over the last few days.

I've never liked cities. The crowds, the noise, the odors. There are so many places I would rather be, I just never bothered compounding my standing annoyance with humanity by venturing into many concrete jungles.

That is, until recently.

I relocated to the Baton Rouge area on the day of Hurricane Katrina: August 28, 2005. My move had nothing to do with that event but I was certainly affected by it as the denizens of the 9th Ward Bay all headed north and moved into the small hotel where I was staying.

After a couple of months, I purchased a home, moved my family down and began assimilating into the local society.

In 2006, my wife and daughter went to Mardi Gras. As it was the first one after the flooding, it was fairly subdued, and no one had any problems.

In 2008 I finally took the plunge and ventured into the French Quarter for the first time. I actually found myself having fun. People watching is certainly my activity of choice while listening to a good zydeco or blues band. There were ample opportunities to pass the time in this manner. I was also amazed at how clean the place seemed. The streets were scrubbed every morning to keep the nightly funk from becoming overwhelming. The cobble stone sidewalks were well maintained and the area generally seemed secure.

In 2010, we probably spent two weeks in New Orleans on four separate occasions. Each time growing a bit more comfortable as we found better, strange restaurants and no longer had to ask for directions.

Oh what a difference a year makes.

In 2011, we set out on our most ambitious New Orleans adventure to date. Six full days in a hotel right on Bourbon Street.

Days one and two were uneventful; getting back into the swing of the altered sleep schedule such an atmosphere requires.

Day three was mostly spent walking around meeting friends and catching up with a local band we sort-of follow. It was during day three that I started finding literal cracks in NOLA's facade. The cobblestone sidewalks are all crumbling. Large holes have opened up and are left for people to trip in. The stone streets are in about the same shape but the holes have been patched with asphalt instead of the correct tiled pavers creating a hideous blotchwork mess where there was once a vibrant mosaic street.

Day four was also spent aimlessly wandering (While dodging crumbling infrastructure). It was on this day that we noticed the odor. The stench at street level in the afternoon heat was sickening. I suppose that the street cleaners who had previously ensured that the sidewalks and streets were reasonably sanitary have been laid off in the economic downturn.

In front of our hotel that evening, while enjoying ourselves at the third floor pool, we were treated to the unmistakable sound of gunfire from the street below. After a brawl, two locals produced a hand gun and opened fire on the gathered crowd. Two bystanders walking down the street were hit. (Luckily, the injuries were not life threatening.)

Day five was spent about as the days prior had been but with just a hint of trepidation that something had changed in the city since our last visit.

We were unsurprised, therefore, when sometime after midnight, a patron at a club about four blocks from our hotel on Bourbon Street became too rowdy, was bounced, produced a gun, shot the bouncer and then turned his gun on the arriving police who promptly shot him dead in the street.

We gave up on day six and came home.

I must admit that I have greatly enjoyed myself in New Orleans over the last several years. Unfortunately, the cleansing tide that was Katrina has returned a legacy of despair, disgust and violence in its receding wake.

Goodbye New Orleans.

I had begun to hope that you would never recover. I now see that you have only too well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said my friend. T and I love Nola ~ the food, music and most of the people. However, being woke up at 3:00am with gunshots below our balcony and seeing a motionless body on the street, kinda cuts like a knife.. Then having the PD knocking on our door wanting to know what we had seen or heard really made me angry. This was a member of the group of people I have really learned to have no respect for in Nola with their arrogant, rude attitudes. Nola it has been fun and we love you, but we are done

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Sweet Pea said...

That is terrible, frightening news. I think we'll stay away from NOLA and stick to all the wonderful Cajun towns and villages. That hurts.

8:41 PM  

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