Blow wind, blow. As you well know, New Orleans has recently gotten in waves of American immigrants. More expensive places in this country are sending disheartened, disillusioned and disenchanted ex-pats here, effectually making New Orleans now the seventh least affordable place in the country for renters. Bam! People who are poor in other places can live comfortably here, displacing those poor here that, now, can no longer afford to live here and have to move on to places where they, in turn, can afford to live.
The new refugees hail from New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and even places like Portland and Seattle (where they claim to have been Cali-fornicated to suffocation), as well as other high-toned towns. These places are losing good people due to inflated costs of living, and in the process, it’s causing our costs to become inflated as well—like a doll at a bachelor party … with the same prospects. But that’s not the point of this missive. The point of this missive is not that we’re becoming gentrified, because we’re not becoming gentrified, we’re being priced out. We got trouble, right here in River City.
Think about it. What we have here is a finite number of domicidal opportunities, and logic tells us that when one person moves in, it’s because another has moved (or been moved) out.
Allison and her neighbor had small studio apartments when their landlord evicted them to create short term rentals. They’re in Metairie now. Patricia lost her lease after 33 years and now has moved to Arkansas. Jen, with hubby and baby in tow, is off to Ashville (her parents will follow); Kassidy and hubby are also invading North Carolina. Both Laura (around the corner) and Jacob (next door) have gone north for their residencies. Melanie and boyfriend are moving to California of all places! Every day I hear about more people I know—who have made up the fabric of what it means to be New Orleans—bidding me adieu. Businesses that I’ve relied upon are closing, resources and services cut off, buckling under economic disparities between the movers and shakers who move in and those who are simply re-moved. But that’s still not the point of this missive.
The question (point) is that: considering the “New Orleanian’s Diaspora” (defined as: “the dispersion of a people, language or culture that was formerly concentrated in one place”)… Are ex-New Orleanians not creating the same dispersal elsewhere? Charlotte? Georgetown? Louisville? Galveston? “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!” Austin has already fallen. I even hear that our folks are moving to Cincinnati!
I’m fortunate to have a “hidden gem” of a shop in New Orleans, where I get to meet and greet people from all over the country (and the world at large). The stories are the same: it’s happening everywhere. Who are these people, having started this wave, who are leaving my friends left to wash up on other shores? By and large, they’re classified as “techies”, those folks who work from home on their computers and make a living enough to pay and play here without adding much to the culture. Spectators. One of my ex-neighbors explained it thus: “They movin’ us poor folks out so much that pretty soon, they gonna have to bus us in for second lines!”
Example: creative French Quarter chefs had to move into affordable neighborhoods to build their restaurants and reputations. Now, they have to move to (affordable) Arabi? The question is—what happens to Arabi-ans when they are overrun with Orleanians? Gentrification or dispersal?
And once we’ve all left, when we abandon our (no longer) reasonably rented apartments, when we’ve sold our houses for a profit, when our jobs have been outsourced to Houston, where are we going to go? All the good places have been taken and taken up. Christ on a crutch, we’d have to go somewhere that has winter! Leave the country? That’s an option. However, we’ve already moved natives out of San Miguel, Placencia, Yelapa, Venice, Panama and Chiang Mai; there must be somewhere else! No, nononononono! There is no place like New Orleans. Or, is that: there’s no place like the New Orleans that was, the one in our memory that we came back to and stayed for?
I have long-time New Orleans friends. You know, the ones who like to play the “ain’t dere no more” game, and a few of them opine: “Wait until after the next hurricane, the next evacuation, then we’ll see!” See what? Oh, I know … all the bad guys will leave with their tails between their legs, and all the good people will flock back like birds coming home to roost, giving Newark, Nyack, Norfolk, and Newport News back to their displaced; giving New Mexico back to the Navajos! New Orleans will return to the glory of yesteryear and we’ll all have kickass jobs, killer digs, meet “the one”, and live as happily as crawfish in a muddy pond. Not likely. We created this monster, as well as the myth that there ever was glory in our yesteryear. The thing that we cherish in our memories is a fact: we were happier before. The thing that we fail to wrap our heads around is that it will never be “before” again … ever. The folks whom we point fingers at, telling ourselves that they are the cause of our New Orleans Blues, came for the same reason we did. And now they, in fact, do live here at the cost of what we selfishly considered our way of life: dysfunctional and licentious, but affordable. See?
One theory has it that humans are like a rash upon the planet, another is: “we have met the enemy and he is us”.