Each year on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina I have written a post about it (links at the end of this post). Obviously this one is rather late. David and I were in Oklahoma City celebrating my birthday and since then I’ve either been too busy or just lacking in direction for this post. In a way, I wonder if there’s really any more to say about it. It happened. It destroyed lives and property. Some things have been fixed while some will never be the same. The End.
In past posts I’ve alluded to the fact that what we witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina sparked an evaluation of everything we thought we knew and believed. Politically, spiritually, personally. It rocked our world, shook out the cobwebs of assumptions, and rattled the cages of our perceptions. We will never be the same again and I couldn’t be happier.
When people ask me what I like so much about New Orleans — and bear in mind that question is rarely asked by someone who’s been there — I usually toss out the obvious answers of food, music, history and architecture. But if I sense that the person asking the question really wants to know, I tell them it’s the people.
Never in my life, in any other place, have I felt such a warm and loving acceptance as I experience on every visit to New Orleans. In a country which places a lot of value on conformity, a city which accepts and actually celebrates folks who march to a different beat is refreshing. There is absolutely no expectation that one will conform to some societal “norm”.
Over the years we’ve amassed quite a group of friends in New Orleans. Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, Pagans and those who practice Vodou. Libertarians, liberals and conservatives. Rich, poor and in between. Accountants and rock musicians and lots of pirates. The one thing they all share is an innate sense of what really matters and we learn from them every time we visit.
They teach us this important lesson when they invite us to their homes for that special brand of hospitality you don’t find just anywhere. They demonstrate it when they dress up in pirate garb and prowl the French Quarter simply because it’s Tuesday night and it seems like a good thing to do. And they exhibit it every day of their lives simply by continuing to live in a place many consider “too dangerous” or “so dirty” or “evil”.
They’ve chosen to embrace different values. Family, history and that indefinable “soul” rank higher than safety or clean streets. After living in New Orleans or even just spending a lot of time there, everywhere else seems as bland as vanilla pudding.
And speaking of food, I now have to carry a small container of Tony’s Creole Seasoning in my purse for seasoning emergencies. The food in New Orleans is like its people. A flavorful potpourri of cultures all mixed together, intensely seasoned and served up with a hefty dose of friendliness.
I still occasionally hear people make ignorant comments about the folly of rebuilding New Orleans. These folks exhibit a stunning lack of knowledge about the city and its importance as a major shipping port, not to mention the heartlessness of depriving people of their one and only true home, but they also demonstrate a poverty of spirit which we really shouldn’t allow to infect others. I’m not certain what the cure is but a long weekend eating crawfish, dancing, attending a parade and sitting by the river would be a good start. And if that remedy doesn’t take, then I suppose they are best given up as a lost cause. Poor souls.
As for me, I intend to visit New Orleans as often as possible and in between times, to practice the lessons we’ve learned about how to live life. And someday, just maybe, we will live in New Orleans and have the opportunity to pass along those lessons to other willing students.
To our New Orleans friends: We will see y’all in a couple of days!
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