A Couple of Revelations

A few days ago I was talking to a friend of mine who lives on the north shore. She was asking me all kinds of questions about how the city is doing and what it is like these days. She was asking me things like: “Are things open downtown?” “Are the street vendors and street performers back in The Quarter?” I was really shocked that this particular person would be asking me these questions, because before the storm she was constantly over here on the south shore going out, shopping, and visiting friends. Now it seems she almost never comes to the city.

Then Friday I was in Barnes and Noble picking up a last minute gift for Father’s Day when I stuck up a conversation with a nice couple from Harahan about a book full of Katrina related photos. While I was chatting with them, the lady received a phone call from her son. Apparently he is home from college for the Summer. It sounded like he was telling his mother that he was going to be going out downtown that night. I think she just about flipped out. She told her son that it was far too dangerous to be “out after dark in the city.” I know that after the 5 murders Friday night her concern might seem a little more justified, but this conversation occurred before that. Besides, the violent crimes are not really occurring in the kinds of places that I would expect her college aged son to frequent. If her son is planning to go down to Central City for a good time on a Friday night, then she has some bigger issues to worry about.

In both situations I was completely shocked by the lack of knowledge these people really had about what is going on in the city. These were people who live relatively close to the city, yet it appears that they have made little or no effort to really know what is going on down here. It makes me feel like New Orleans is becoming this little island and outsiders just don’t care about us anymore.

Another revelation I had this past weekend came when some friends of mine who have moved away from New Orleans came back for a wedding. A couple of them kept making comments like: “Its weird to see houses in this neighborhood boarded up right next to ones that are fully occupied.” And “Wow, I can’t believe how much garbage is piled up on the side of the street!” These comments were made in an area that I consider completely repopulated in uptown (Burthe and Cherokee). I realized that there are certain things that I am beginning to no longer notice. Things that should not be normal in an American city, but my brain is starting to interpret them as normal. I don’t think this is a good thing. I am not the only one this is happening to, am I?

11 Comments so far

  1. Craig (unregistered) on June 19th, 2006 @ 11:42 pm

    Chris Rose dealt with this same issue last Friday — in that it’s Just Plain Weird to leave the parish and find out what others are feeling, saying, doing and thinking. In a sense, it’s like an abused person who, over time, adjusts their attitude to feeling the abuse is “normal” — I think it touches on mental illness, or at least some type of emotional abnormality.

    That said, it’s also funny at times.

  2. Lisa Palumbo (unregistered) on June 20th, 2006 @ 4:36 am

    You mean this is not normal? It seems that it’s been this way for so long that I can’t remember it being any other way.

    So, you’re not the only one. I guess my brain’s flipped the “this is normal” switch, too. At first I wanted to pat myself on the back for being so adaptable but now I’m kinda worried that my brain’s normalcy registration system has been completely fried.

    (Of course, it’s only fair to note that if you grew up in New Orleans and/or lived here for any length of time before The Storm, you’ve already got an impaired sense of what the word “normal” means.)

  3. Laureen (unregistered) on June 20th, 2006 @ 9:52 am

    We were introducing some new volunteers to town the other night and we were talking about how we don’t notice things like the spray paint on the houses anymore. I know it’s not good, I needa break and am looking at taking one soon. Like next weekend. Also tired of the never ending pile of work in front of me all the time.

  4. Skeeter88 (unregistered) on June 20th, 2006 @ 10:19 am

    ” She told her son that it was far too dangerous to be “out after dark in the city.’ ”

    This was the normal north of the lake attitude before Katrina. Your friend who used to visit the south shore was an exception.

  5. Paul Murphy (unregistered) on June 20th, 2006 @ 10:33 am

    Yeah, but Harahan is not on the North Shore. Harahan is literally right down Jefferson Hwy. from New Orleans. You can throw a stone from parts of Harahan and it would hit a building in New Orleans.

  6. Meli (unregistered) on June 20th, 2006 @ 3:31 pm

    an outsider here… I live in Houston. New Orleans was slowly becoming one of my favorite cities (before Katrina, that is). My friends and I had been there 3 times before the storm hit and were planning our 4th trip in October 2005. I’ve been scared off by the news that does get reported (infrequently these days and always bad). I know it’s not right, and I know what NO needs is for all the people to come back. I just can’t bring myself to visit yet. Just like I can’t bring myself to get back to NYC after 9/11. It breaks my heart to think of all those still in NO who are dealing with the lingering effects of Katrina. I cannot imagine what it’s like. But I also don’t know how to help. Sorry to ramble. Just wanted to post an outsider’s point of view.

  7. John (unregistered) on June 20th, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

    New Orleans is incredibly violent, especially so in the French Quarter. Someone was just shot and killed on Bourbon Street. I personally know 7 people beaten or mugged since Katrina.

    Roving packs of gutter punks terrorize and rob older locals with pipes and 2x4s.

    Violent thugs from the Iberville projects prey on tourists walking the wrong way onto Rampart Street, often beating them with chains and bats.

    I live in the French Quarter, and many of my friends both live and work there.

    It is madness. To think otherwise is foolish.

  8. covingtongirl (unregistered) on June 20th, 2006 @ 4:38 pm

    And I’m doing the opposite. Since the storm, I’m in NO almost everyday and EVERY weekend. I’m packing my house (I’m in LA working right now) when I get back, next week.
    I’m coming home.

    Guess I won’t be ‘Covingtongirl’ any longer.

    *LA is o.k., the weather is very nice, food is just alright, but it’s kind of a complicated lifestyle. I like simple & easy. I’m homesick.

  9. dangerblond (unregistered) on June 20th, 2006 @ 4:40 pm

    Well, I have never been accused of being “normal.” I have worried that I am getting a little too accustomed to the weird sights and sounds you see here now, but I have committed to staying here. I can’t go around being shocked and depressed every day. There is just a new normal here now. However, I live my life much as I did before. I go out in the Quarter and Uptown just as I always did and I am always surrounded by a crowd of decent-looking people.

    I have to be honest, I make choices that keep me safe. I don’t go into rough bars, I don’t stay out late in the hours when there is no one on the street except drunks and criminals (or the NOPD, who I do NOT want to have a run-in with), I have always steered VERY clear of gutter punks because I don’t find them as charming as Andre Codrescu and some others do. I carry a cell phone in case I have a car problem or something.

    The majority of the people who have returned to N.O. are fine, decent people. Just as there is legitimate opportunity arising here for those smart enough to take it, there is also opportunity in the criminal world. There is a bit of a “Wild West” atmosphere. Frankly, this country’s approach to drug addiction is fostering this black market. In New Orleans, as in every urban area in this country, we send young black men to jail for petty drug crimes, and they emerge with the morality, self-respect and skills of all their new friends they met in there. Anyway, this is turning into a rant. I just wanted to say that there is more hysteria going around than there needs to be, in my opinion. New Orleans was never a place where you didn’t need to watch yourself, nor is Houston, LA, NY, Miami or Chicago. Try Disneyland if that is your bag.

  10. covingtongirl (unregistered) on June 20th, 2006 @ 4:53 pm

    I just read my comment and I’m cracking up in this ‘internet cafe’! I ment Los Angeles, not LA, see, I can’t get home off my mind.

  11. Laurie (unregistered) on June 21st, 2006 @ 2:51 am

    Will some one get Los Angeles to put their decimals back!

    We were here first!

    In fact L.A. wouldn’t even exist without the Louisiana Purchase

    which gave people the opportunity to discover the western

    half of the country.

    L.A. kidnapped LA, it is no longer cute!

    Hey, Arnold do something right while you’re in office!!!


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