Editor’s Note: Thoughts from a NOLA Transplant
In my interview this month with Quentin Messer, president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance, he reiterated something he said when we first chatted for a piece in our November 2016 issue: New Orleans has a perception problem.
It made me think back to eight years ago, when my family was living in Omaha, Nebraska, and my husband was offered a job in New Orleans. We were deep into winter that year and, quite honestly, anything south sounded good to me, so we decided to take it. The reactions of those around us soon caught us by surprise. Essentially, it amounted to “Wow, that’s so good of you to go down there. They need the help.” We were treated like we were moving to a third-world country—six years after Hurricane Katrina.
What we found upon arrival instead was a city that was warm in every sense of the word. During our first Carnival season, our apartment still packed with boxes, we wandered down to see the action and a complete stranger quickly handed us both bowls of red beans and rice to enjoy while we watched the parades. “Y’all look hungry,” she said, before giving us a big smile and disappearing back into the crowd.
Since then, we’ve enjoyed countless world-class meals, learned a whole new language (including Who Dat, lagniappe and po-boy), and been enthusiastic participants in those parades we once just watched from the sidewalk.
Now, this is not to say that I don’t have those “bad New Orleans” days—days when I bust another tire on a pothole, there’s a shooting a block from my kid’s school and we’re under a boil water advisory, yet again.
Life was easier in Nebraska. Safer. But there was no spice to it, and it’s the spice that makes life worth living.
I see my friends buying Midwestern McMansions while we live in a rented place with one-third the square footage that, yes, occasionally is also home to a cockroach the size of a matchbox car, but I wouldn’t trade it for a second. I wouldn’t trade New Orleans for anywhere else, and if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you wouldn’t either. That’s why we’re here.
Maybe, like Quentin suggests, we could all be a little louder about it —a little more unapologetically New Orleans.