(Check out part 1, part 2, part 3 here.)
For a look at what people are really going through in NOLA, check out this blog from a NOLA refugee.
The first time I saw Bourbon Street, I thought the cab driver had made a mistake. Trash everywhere, homeless people out on the streets begging, fools walking down the road half naked. This was Bourbon Street? The famous Street that stood for NOLA?
It was. Burbon Street in all it's glory. That hazy day back in April of 2000, my first trip to NOLA. I remembered grabbing a cab at the airport, exciting to finally be in NOLA for the first job, and for a job interview no less. I was excited about the job, but more excited about living in New Olreans.
I told the cab driver to take me to the Royal Sonesta hotel. As we wound through NOLA's freeways on the way to the Central Business District (I thought it was cool that they didn't call it "downtown" like so many other cities), I craned my neck, looking at the skyscrapers, wondering what that big space ship-looking thing was. Where was the French Quarter? The neighborhood of sin, the decadent playground for those big enough to set their own rules. Where was it?
The cab driver swooshed off the freeway, onto Canal street. Look at the Palm Trees. Are we in the Quarter? The geeche-accented cab driver said no, we weren't. But we're getting there. We creeped down canal and hit a right. We drove a few more blocks and hit another right, then drove a few blocks and arrived at the hotel, which was anchored right in the middle of the quarter.
The French Quarter is hard to get to, hard to find. It is a confusing, mysteroius and complicated neighborhood that's full of life, exploding with energy and mysticism. It's a neighborhood where you can buy a Vooodooo doll, grab a drink, eat a po'boy and argue with a homeless person - ALL IN ONE SPOT.
But NOLA isn't just the quarter. It a big, fascinating city with life and culture outside the French Quarter. I remember seeing my first New Orleans Cemetary, where they have bodies buried above ground. Freaked me out. I remember eating turtle soup for the first time. Not bad.
Not to get too sentimental, but it's kind of depressing to see that New Orleans could possibly never be the same. Sure, they'll rebuild, but will it have the same character and culture that the "old" Nola had? I doubt it.