There really is a je ne sais quoi about this city that makes it very difficult for me to see myself leaving anytime soon. Do I know what the future holds?
Of course not, no one does.
But my present moment is wrapped up in the Crescent City. Let me explain some of the reasons why I feel no need to geaux anywhere anytime soon…
Beauty is a Priority
Whoever said that art was non essential was a fool. People from all around the world flock to my current residence because it’s visually intoxicating. One’s mood elevates when you can walk around your neighborhood and be happy with what you see. Internally, that’s what we all want. A bombardment of beauty. I find myself taking impromptu walks in the Quarter often rediscovering that which once seemed familiar. Never failing to find something else to gawk at when making a quick trip to Rouses or riding my bike to run errands. The attention to detail with things that are often ignored allows New Orleans a certain harmony in its essence. Iron bars, forgotten Mardi Gras beads, blooming magnolias, and the sweet aroma of smoke and sin filling the air is hard to beat. What makes New Orleans beautiful is that its not afraid to be ugly. Dichotomy that has lasted centuries gets richer like wine with each passing year.
For my surroundings to remind me of how beautiful life is brings me so much satisfaction in my present moment. Aesthetically, New Orleans rivals any other city in the entire United States for sure, and the world, possibly. I say that with not as much ignorance as you may suspect. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a bit and look forward to more excursions in the future, and I have to say, New Orleans is doing something right. Life is not worth enduring if your eyes have nothing to feast on. My eyes are never hungry here.
Culture & Heritage
Being that New Orleans is one of the oldest cities in the US and did not officially become a part of America until December 20, 1803, points out the richness of culture that gained traction prior to the infamous purchase. The French and Spanish influences are evident around the city by way of architecture, food, and language. It is not uncommon for me to have to speak French or Spanish on a typical weekday while making my way from point A to point B. In fact, Louisiana is the only state in the United States that is recognized for having French as a primary language. All of this adds to the majestic nature of the city and the feeling that, indeed, one is not in Kansas anymore. Aside from the European influence, there is a heavy African, Caribbean, and Indian ambiance which has led the path to many traditions and ways of life that separate New Orleans from anywhere else. From VooDoo to Mardi Gras Indians, the heritage of New Orleans has several strands that differentiate drastically from block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood. At first impression moving here, I was overwhelmed and a bit confused as it felt like entering into a new dimension filled with tastes, sounds, and colors that were never mentioned in my American History classes. I remember asking a kind coffee shop owner upon my arrival to give me three words to describe New Orleans and she said, “Heavy, Sweaty, and Open.” Those words sink deeper and deeper into my understanding of this place the longer I am here. One is hard pressed to find a place that has so much cultural diversity while maintaining a welcoming of the contemporary. You usually have to pick a side, but in New Orleans the lines are blurred, swirled, and decorated with sequence. It’s wonderful.
Lack Of Ego
Lassez les bons temps rouler is the famous phrase that goes along with the mentality of Nouvelle-Orléans and the people stay true to that battle cry come hell or high water (literally). What impressed me more than anything else about this city is that there are as many reasons to honor this ground as there are in some of the more commercially popular places in the US and abroad, yet there seems to be a balance of humbleness and pride in the Crescent City. Usually, our psychology has us believe that if we have accomplished more than our neighbor or obtained a multitude of accolades from some outside entity we are better or entitled or superior. An ugly side of the human condition, yet true none the less. Here, there is pride, no doubt about it, but there is a youthful spirit to all the acclaim. It is reachable, it is tangible, it is meant to be shared and not hoarded. It’s incredible. Other cities with a high level of esteem have the bad habit of promoting the ideology of ” Us vs. Them.” In the Big Easy, once you are here you are apart of the “We” that is so treasured. The mindset is abundant instead of scarce which makes way for community to flourish exponentially because the thought of exclusion is a fleeting one.
Reasons to Celebrate
It would be blasphemous to write about my love for New Orleans and not mention the importance of celebration! Of course, there is Mardi Gras which is a humongous pull for non residents to make their way to Louisiana, but the idea of celebration spans much further than the Catholic holiday. There is a palpable pulse to this city that is felt even in stillness. It is almost as if there is an unspoken agreement that each day should be embellished with laughter, love, and light. When my mind tries to pull me out of my present moment and into my worries, fears, and anxieties, New Orleans forces me back to the NOW. Maybe it’s by an enchanting songstress singing her heart out on the corner or the resonance of the drum circle at Congo Square, or a painter with easel and canvas proudly set up in public unbothered by the passerby. There is a demand to stay here in New Orleans. One will not find solace if focused too far in the past or future. This city forces you out of your head and into your heart. Those that don’t know may oppose the frivolity of so many festivals, events, and gatherings, but I argue that what makes life worth living are the things that most find unnecessary. Putting a permit on play allows us to get closer to the beauty of being here, in the world, in our bodies, and with each other. New Orleans recognized this a long time ago and has been waiting patiently for the rest of the world to catch up.
New Orleans is what it is. One trait that I admire is when people find confidence in their imperfections. This is something that you can find in spades here. Never will you see this city try to conform to what others are doing nor will you hear a lengthy justification for the decisions made. The eccentricity that blankets New Orleans allows one to accept what makes them unique. That is priceless. Here you are not only accepted for your novelty, you are praised for it. This spirit reminds me to not take life too seriously and to realize my power is in my peculiarity. Being a resident here for as long as I have has made me barely blink an eye if I see someone dressed in traditional 18th century garb walking down Decatur, or if someone has a tuba resting on one shoulder while trying not to spill their sno ball on the ground. It is distinct in its difference and unscathed by other’s judgements. An intelligent ignorance of being that pulls one in like a magnet upon view. We are most attracted to that which has no need for us justifying why New Orleans is a canon for creativity and consciousness. The moment when one holds no regard for the acceptance of others is when one is truly free and eternally accepted. The live and let live energy permeating throughout New Orleans is the strongest indicator of its success. After all, if everyone cared too much about stranger’s opinions there would be no songs to sing, no stories to tell, and no pictures to paint. It would be artistic suicide. A reality I’d rather not face, hence my current location.
So, I’m here, in the Crescent City. No real plans past that at the moment because my next steps are constantly being revealed to me. I followed my gut moving here so I will keep up with that trend in order to see the gifts my present moment has. I’m filled with grace, gratitude and gumption. Eager for the future without sacrificing my present. C’est parfait!