This is my first blog entry about my home city. I have to be honest. I don’t always love this place. New Orleans isn’t Disney World. It is a real city, with real problems that are no different than the problems that confront many other cities. Nonetheless, it is a city of contradictions and there are plenty of reasons why New Orleans holds a special place in the hearts of many people, me included.
It isn’t simply the tangible gifts the region offers – food, music, architecture, and history— that make it so special. There’s something more at play. I think New Orleans is unique because the people who live here approach life with reckless abandon, and we invite our visitors to do the same. The photo that accompanies this blog entry depicts what I’m talking about. We don’t just have one parade on Mardi Gras day. We have two weeks worth of parades. At our parades, flambeaux carriers illuminate the night and parade goers celebrate the torchbearers, who dance in the street. Simply put: People are more emotional here, and we show it. I’ve been in more than one Saints football game where I’ve seen grown men with tears in their eyes as our boys in black and gold score a victory.
Moderation? We don’t understand the meaning of the word. All of that emotion and lack of moderation produces a vibe that goes perfect with celebrations, long, languid meals, and cocktail “hours” that last for much longer than an hour. We have a vibe here that is borne of lengthy conversations and interaction with family, lifelong friends, and new friends. Here, we operate on the theory that a new acquaintance might be someone we’ll like, someone who can one day be a friend.
Minutes happen every day. Twenty-four hours go by every day. Days pass, and most are not memorable. In New Orleans, we don’t have to work too hard to make minutes become moments, those special instances that turn occurrences into lifelong memories. Here, special moments happen frequently and sometimes arise out of the ordinary events. Recently, my niece Emily was in town with my sister Amy. They reside in Miami, Fla. Emily is a student at NYU. We had just finished dinner in Bucktown at R & O’s Restaurant, a great local place where we indulged in roast beef po boys. Don’t ask why or how, but I had parked my car in an odd position and it became stuck, one wheel on the wrong side of a curb. R & O’s is busy, the kind of place where people wait for a table. The parking lot was crowded, and maneuvering my way out required space. It became an exercise in trial and error. Several cars had to back out of the lot and we had to stop traffic on a busy road.
Amy, Emily, and I were laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, and our laughter wasn’t helping. Were people irritated? Maybe, but they didn’t show it. Four different drivers offered help. Two drivers from other vehicles got out of their own cars to guide me. One lady was laughing with us and calling out instructions (that weren’t helpful) as she sat in her car. Another car backed up on the busy roadway to stop traffic. After about ten minutes, and more driving tips than I could follow, I was able to drive away. It was a typical New Orleans moment, with friendly people helping someone out of an unfortunate situation. What made it special was my niece Emily’s reaction. She’s visited here frequently but has never lived here. She was amazed that no one lost their patience or their temper, and no horns blew in the busy street. As we drove away, she said, “People are nicer here. They just are, aren’t they?” Yes Emily, they are. Sometimes. I offer a caveat when there is such a generalization, because I’m sure that something awful happened somewhere in the city on the same night. As a local, I know what the news holds, and our local news isn’t always good.
My debut novel, Deceived, draws upon the city’s rich history, through the eyes of the protagonists, who are New Orleanians with backgrounds that are true to this area. Like the city of New Orleans itself, Deceived is full of contradictions, which begin with the heroine and hero. Taylor is idealistic, naive, and was born into a family that lives at the pinnacle of New Orleans society. Brandon is haunted by demons and from a family with an unfortunate past. He is cynical and doesn’t care one bit about New Orleans society. Their journey takes them through many neighborhoods that are in and around New Orleans.
Stay tuned here for future blog posts about the New Orleans neighborhoods that are in Deceived. In the meantime, let me know what you think is special about New Orleans. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit my Facebook page, where at least once a week, usually on Friday, I do a post about New Orleans.