March 16, 2006

Metroblogging New Orleans is another of my frequent stops whenever I have time to jet about the blogsphere. This post, by occasional blogger Maitri V-R , truly resonated with me and reminds me just how much I miss the Crescent City whenever I’m away:

Erudite and pedestrian, mean and sweet, sensuous and benumbed, New Orleans, you are an unusual lover. Ever ripe with potential, but too old and too tired to do anything but hum quietly in a prolonged stasis. Originating in money, you look like a worker – broken-down, piss-poor and full of joy. Lonely, lovely, benevolent, given to convulsions of confusion and rage, you come around because you are true to your nature and need.

Intoxicated with life, as drunk with death, ever-stressed … your aura could have emanated from a necklace of pulsating energy and creativity, the music and endeavour is within. Your life, swirling against and changed by the facets of each stone, keeps getting in the way. Yet, you can never thrive anywhere else. Extract the large soul packed into this corpse and where will it fit? You do what you know. Beautiful enough, too scared to grow.

Challenge is meaningless to you. Will Katrina be your salvation? Creating your inimitable delicacies and displaying your vivid paints in a mess that threatens to consume, you are beauty on a trash heap.

What do you do all day? You are bored waiting for night to spread her arms around the overflowing yet unfocused urge.

Romantic, irresistible, you are a throbbing ruin. Flowers bloom and fade against your weathered backdrop. I, too, cling to you, feeding off your ancient juices as you shine with my glow. We give each other life. You, sometimes, more than you can give me. Drinking your blood, I make you mine. How do I get closer?

As many times as I have been to New Orleans over the years – roaming and negotiating her streets, talking to her locals, enjoying her cuisine, and immersing myself in her mood, tone, and character, I still feel as if I know her not. I don’t see this resulting from any willingness or desire on her part to conceal her distinctive flaws and shortcomings from me: they are, and always have been, easy to spot with a willing and curious eye. Rather, I’ve come to suspect it arises from some innate desire within to ensure at least something of my own restless wanderings retains at least a small element of mystery.

And yet, from the moment I first set foot upon her streets and drank in her surroundings, I have always felt a certain kinship with this city awash in, and betrayed by, its own mythology. Perhaps this is why, whenever I take leave of her, I always feel as if I’m leaving some part of me behind. I wonder if it’s because I sense between us a shared existence of wrestling with the consequences of our once-grandiose aspirations and failed designs? Perhaps we share the same frustration at being held captive to our own time and place in history, longing for past glories, unsure of who we are at present, apprehensive at the uncertain future before us. Or, perhaps it’s as basic as recognizing that we both share this same awe-inspiring, humbling realization: that we need its winding, ever-restless, great river flowing through our souls far more than it ever will need us.

Bold, colorful, and touristy during the day, garish and dangerous in the damp cloak of night, the contradictions between its past and present is what attracts me so much to New Orleans, and why I love it so. I feel the pain, apprehension, and desires and dreams of its people, yet, the sad truth is: for it to survive, New Orleans will need new leadership and a new approach to confront head-on the city’s traditional resistance to change, acceptance of its persistent poverty, and insidious culture of corruption if it is to make the most of the opportunity that now stands before it. Sadly, I’m not sure it has it within her. No matter what happens, however, New Orleans will always be a part of me and I it, for in its unique traditions, culture, architecture, weather, food, and history (both good and bad), I feel in its siren song to my soul, as Clarence John Laughlin wrote so many years ago in his fabulous photo essay on the great plantation houses of Louisiana, Ghosts along the Mississippi, “the melancholy delight of the long ago and the far away’.

The night comes on:
You wait and listen…
To all these ghosts of change.
And they are you.

— Conrad Aikens, “The Cloisters”

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 12:51 | Comments (2)
  1. […] Look, I understand it’s easy to point fingers, but the fact is (and I’ve said this before), if New Orleans continues to embrace the corruption of its elected officials, the stupid configuration of individual levee boards, and the pathetic “woe is me” act, it will never, and perhaps should never, recover from the gross mismanagement and incompetence that caused the widespread destruction that occurred as a result of Katrina’s rains. […]

    Pingback by GoodBoys Nation - Archives » Seeking the Truth in New Orleans — May 5, 2006 @ 1:15 am

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