When I wrote my last piece on New Orleans in 2012, I never had any intention of living here. The typical “If you had told me a year ago that I’d be living in New Orleans, I would have called you crazy.” But alas, here I am. Life has a way of taking us wherever it wants us, despite any plans or ideas we might have about our own destiny.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m jaded. Coming here was a decision made with feverish haste in a highly confused and emotional state of mind. Brash in nature and skewed in true intent, it wasn’t a thought out or well planned idea. Instead, it was a blind toss of the dice. A gamble, a chance, a shot in the dark. At the time, it looked like the only viable option. Do I regret it? No. I can’t. Then my time here will have been a washed up wasted experience. So instead of regret, the time is being used to develop a new perspective on life. Develop a plan and implement that plan. Parts of the plan are moving along nicely. Other parts are rocky and abstract. We’ll see if life will let me have this plan or not. When you really get down to it, it’s not really in my hands in the first place.
But I digress; this is supposed to be about New Orleans. The point? I can’t currently separate the two. New Orleans and my life are one and the same right now. I wrote in my last piece that New Orleans is recovering well. After taking a much closer look, I’m not really sure anymore. I moved here the week of Mardi Gras, right to the Marigny, right in the middle of the mess. The introduction was striking. The waste and garbage, in line with that of Bonnaroo (if not worse). But it is, of course, expected during Mardi Gras. What throws you off is when the hedonism, the waste, and the mess doesn’t stop when Mardi Gras is over. New Orleans, right down to the core, feels broken. I often get the same feeling here that I had in Burma. Everything seems ok and feels like it works. But it always feels like a city that’s on the brink of its tipping point. Like it could all just go to shit at any time, for any reason. It’s an uneasy feeling that you can’t ever escape. The sad and often uneasy part is that we know exactly what happens here when it does all tip. And we all know that it’s going to happen again. The questions is when, not if. It’s a city that somehow functions, but for no good reason at all.
Working in Oil and Gas has changed my perspective of the world drastically. I have learned so much about myself and even more about people and the way they are influenced by each other and by their environment. We are, without a doubt, products of our environment. Enough said.
A harsh sense of negativity about a place is not how I want to leave anyone feeling. New Orleans does have an excess of good things. Excess, in the truest sense of the word, is the very backbone of the city. The food here? Excessively good. Four months and I haven’t had a bad meal yet. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it for the rest of my life. New Orleans is one of the best food cities I have ever experienced. The fact that Michelin doesn’t rate restaurants here is confusing and almost concerning. Very few places take such a strong sense of pride in their food. There are, without a doubt, restaurants here that deserve Michelin stars. Art, music, performance, the city is overrun with amazing artists and artisans. Every corner brings a new talent. The tunes of jazz and blues charm me just as much as they did when I got here. The city has a uniquely beautiful culture.
New Orleans is a city of harsh contrasts. I feel privileged to spend some time here. I’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s a complex ecosystem that thrives on itself. It would take a lifetime just to begin to understand what goes on here. It’s like its own little country. And maybe it should be.
This city is not my home. And it never will be. The story doesn’t stop here. This is just another stop on my great adventure. This experience has given me a new, revitalized love for Chattanooga. I can try to deny it, but it’s my true home. It always has been and I guess it always will be. New Orleans is a great place to visit. But there’s no place like home.