Sunny Side of the Pothole-Ridden Street
A note for those of us who aren’t tourists, and even those who are.
To many a tourist, New Orleans is the land that care forgot. Visitors can escape their daily grind and immerse themselves in our peculiar celebrations and culture that make us stand out from the rest of America. Our culture is a major contributing factor to our success in the tourism and hospitality industry.
From a local’s perspective, however, sometimes it’s hard to hold on to that appreciation of our uniqueness. We have some real challenges that create a whirlwind of doubt as to whether the good outweighs the bad, and fear that we might not be able to fix anything. Hurricanes have little to do with it. Well, until they do.
Crime is a fact of life here. You sort of accept that you will be the victim of a crime, and you just hope that it isn’t a violent one and that you and your loved ones will be safe when it happens. For so many people, that isn’t the case. So, when your car is stolen in the middle of the day on Sunday from the Audubon Zoo parking lot, you shrug and say, “At least we weren’t carjacked. At least we didn’t have guns pointed at us.”
Our infrastructure is a failing behemoth. We plan for power outages on sunny days. We know the exact lowering in the water pressure in our morning shower that means a boil water advisory will be issued approximately two hours after that shower. We know which streets are under construction, a good thing, but we also take bets as to how long the project will be delayed, and what they will get wrong and have to come back out to redo after the work is “complete.” And while we have a healthy respect for the potential damage a hurricane can bring, it’s a 20-minute rain event that truly frightens us. With its unpredictability, we dread flooded cars and flooded homes.
Incomes aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. Many of our culture bearers can’t find affordable housing. Many of our supposedly middle class families can’t find it either. Our public school system is still finding its way, failing thousands of children in the meantime, and we are terrible drivers. So, when you leave the grocery store and find that your new car, which you were forced to buy after your previous car was stolen, was hit by someone who can’t back out of a parking space properly, you shrug and say, “At least it was the plastic part. At least it won’t rust.”
Then there’s racism. And classism. And homophobia. And a dozen other institutionalized prejudices that make life challenging depending on who you are as a human being. Most of those are nationwide, but a few have particular histories and realities in New Orleans.
What do we do when we aren’t in New Orleans on vacation? What do we do when we live here because our family has always lived here, or we have chosen to live here because for some unknown reason, it is home when nowhere else can be? Well… we use our culture to remind ourselves that we have each other.
We don’t go see live music in a room alone. We don’t eat exquisite meals or down home cooking entirely alone. And one person dancing down the street does not make a parade. We come together to affirm that we are in this together and often do so wearing a costume, or at least a Saints jersey.
Where will I be this Saturday, Aug. 25? I’ll be dancing up Carrollton Ave. with my dance troupe in the Krewe of O.A.K.’s Mid-Summer Mardi Gras parade. We roll from the Maple Leaf Bar at 8316 Oak St. around 7 p.m. Come on out and let’s show the tourists that we aren’t the city that care forgot, rather, we are the city that knows how to keep it all in perspective.