A Story About New Orleans

I’m writing to you today about New Orleans.

New Orleans has been written about on this site before. Written about well, in fact. (If you haven’t, I implore you to check out Ryan O’Connell’s delightful whirlwind visit to the city in his “Tits, Tears, And Frozen Daiquiris: A (Not So) Touristy Guide To New Orleans.”)

And I’m not even going to try and write the authoritative take on the Crescent City. I lived there for six of my 26 years, which locals will be quick to tell you is 20 years too few to have a real, valid opinion on the matter. I called the city my home for six years, yes, but I was only beginning to scratch the surface.

It is a place that takes time.

I could do the thing most writers do when trying to describe New Orleans, and talk about late nights in smoky bars, trumpets blaring sad notes, stumbling drunk out of Spotted Cat at 5:30 in the morning, looking for the next bar. I’m not going to do that.

What I will do is tell you a story of a building coming down. It happened this past weekend. After years of arguments and political maneuverings and (I’m sure) money exchanging hands, an old hotel was imploded. Blown up from the inside. It was called the Pallas Hotel. (It was also called, at one point or another, The Grand Palace… New Orleanians have never been too concerned with their spelling.)

The hotel was imploded to make room for a brand new Medical Center. This sounds good… but of course, this is New Orleans, so it’s a bit more complicated than that. The new Medical Center is replacing the old Charity Hospital, which was damaged in Katrina, but (many argue) probably didn’t need to come down and didn’t need to be replaced. (It’s really a lot more complicated than this, but I don’t want to bore you too much with the politics.)

Basically, an old hotel was scheduled to be imploded, and half the city was against it. There were legal hang ups, chicanery, etc. Then, finally, on Sunday, at about eight in the morning, the sucker came down.

And here, finally, I arrive at my point about what makes New Orleans different than other places. Why? Because on that Sunday morning, with this big building set to come down, and half the city enraged that it was doing so… everyone decided to throw a party.

Yep. A party. They woke up early (or, more likely, never went to sleep). Then they got together to watch the building come down.

And this, this is what separates New Orleans from other cities. Because in other cities you’ll have all the first part. The reaction to a controversial decision. You’ll have the political wheeling and dealing and the corruption (not as bad, but still). You’ll have the outraged citizens and the Change.org petitions and the outsized rhetoric. You’ll have the protests.

But only in New Orleans do the citizens of the city have the good sense to put the anger aside. To come together. When the moment comes, and the fight is over, they figure: “Well, hell. Might as well watch this sumbitch come down.”

And so they did. On that Sunday morning, bleary-eyed and hungover, with the taste of whiskey still on their lips, the people of the Crescent City gathered on the rooftops of the apartment buildings downtown. They put on their dust masks and poured Bloody Marys in solo cups, and in the morning haze they sat on fold-out chairs, girlfriends on boyfriends’ laps and, with an understanding that only New Orleanians have, that sometimes a rebirth requires death, they sat and watched, and cheered and hollered, as in the near distance the charge went off and the whole thing went boom. TC Mark

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  • http://twitter.com/alisonwisneski alisonwisneski (@alisonwisneski)

    I’ve lived on and off in New Orleans for a few years and I have to say that this is perfection. PS, Spotted Cat? I dig.

  • http://www.facebook.com/c.l.mccorley Chirelle McCorley

    Man, I need to go to New Orleans. Sounds like my kinda place.

  • http://twitter.com/FailboatSailor Justine G. (@FailboatSailor)

    PREACH! I just moved to New Orleans for grad school a week ago and I’m already starting to see what a unique (and usually rage-y) city it is.

  • http://gulfcoastrising.net/news/louisiana/a-story-about-new-orleans-thought-catalog/ Gulf Coast Rising News | A Story About New Orleans | Thought Catalog

    […] More […]

  • Olive

    This reminds me of How I Met Your Mother

  • Ruski

    Im a high school student in brooklyn, what could I expect if I go to college in Lousiana? Specifically, what can you tell me about LSU?

    • Nicki

      LSU is not in New Orleans.

    • Bill

      LSU football fans are the worst people on the planet. As a Georgia Football fan (Go Dawgs!!!) I can tell you that LSU is not the place to go. Now, Tulane, that is a fun place plus its actually in New Orleans. But if you you want the SEC experience, why water it down with grass eaters, move to the rolling foothills of Athens, GA and have a great time!

  • Dixie

    I have a story about New Orleans as well. When the Palace Hotel imploded, I was sleeping at my house up Canal Street. I didn’t hear any noise, but my neighbor did. She drank a mimosa on our porch. I had a cup of coffee. The End. (By the way, the old reviews of people staying at the infested Grand Palace are more entertaining than both of our stories. Highly recommended.)

    And Ruski, I hope you like football. Geaux Tigers…

    • http://cantgohomeagain.tumblr.com Nathan Savin Scott

      Shit. I thought I had the most concise take on the matter and then Dixie comes in and blows me out the water. Yeah Ruski, football is important. Like, extremely important. And Baton Rouge isn’t exactly Brooklyn. But I never met anyone who ever had a bad time there.

  • http://theopenend.com/ herocious

    I love New Orleans. Never lived there, but on my last visit I saw what was left of Charity Hospital.

    Having said that, when you used the word ‘rebirth’ in your last paragraph I thought about the brass band.

  • Erin

    For some reason this gave me goose bumps. So simple, yet so powerful.

  • sam

    This makes me miss New Orleans desperately. What makes that city unique is rarely summed up so succinctly. Well done.

  • http://twitter.com/Bealtaine6 chloe cass (@Bealtaine6)

    I have never been to New Orleans but desperately want to go due to a mixture of Thought Catalog and the Hot 8 brass band.

  • Guy

    I haven’t spent that much time in New Orleans, but to me, this sums it up perfectly.

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