Whenever someone mentions New Orleans, a melody of the song The Saints Are Coming by U2 and Green Day is the first thing that crosses my mind. It’s stupid, I know, but I remember big events that hit the news by the music that was around at the time. And this one is kind of self-explanatory.
I was 16 when Katrina hit southern Louisiana. Of course, I watched the news. Everyone did. I moved on quickly, though, as the rest of the world did back then: it was a tragedy too far. Too confusing. Not personal. Not that important to care about.
Well, that has quite changed over the course of the past couple of days.
Believe it or not, New Orleans has this type of vibe that makes your soul sing (if you avoid Bourbon St., honestly!). It makes you root for the city. If I was to get married, I would choose New Orleans over Las Vegas for my bachelorette party. If I was a writer, this place would be my writing retreat. It’s a full package. It’s big enough to get lost in the streets of the French Quarter and small enough to feel the culture, history and the energy of all the people flowing through the city during Jazzfest or Mardi Gras. NOLA, as locals call her, and her people speak to you if you care to listen, and honestly they’re all fun to be around.
Like: They drink strong cocktails named “Hurricane” here as if they were openly mocking any bigger storm that might come knocking on their levee door ever again. They call you “babe” and “y’all”, and as much as you want to make fun of their southern accent you wish to pronounce “Louisiana” the way they do. They sing, they dance and only sometimes someone mentions “her” name. Fourteen years after the storm that almost deleted the entire city from the maps, the vivid life here is rather remarkable.
However, only locals can tell stories and show you places that are now silent witnesses of what this city’s been through. I’m glad it has survived it all. I’m happy I can be here, feel it and read about it in this book by Chris Rose I found the other day in a local bookstore near the Lafayette cemetery no. 1. It makes stories of locals come closer home. It makes me care a little bit more.
So, as I’m ending this “love letter” to New Orleans, I know one thing: Whenever someone mentions New Orleans to me again, I might hum the U2/Green Day song out of the habit but it will be now accompanied with the utmost respect for the people of New Orleans. These people and their city deserve it more than y’all ever understand.