New Orleans. A new version of an old French city. What does it mean to grow up with its culture in your/my blood? We are not all the same, yet we speak of the same games we all play, the tradition we keep, the roles we reverse to each other and the world that comes to see "how we do."
For me, there is a feeling of belonging and longing in every old doorway leading up a creaking wooden staircase, whether it's a house split up for residents or a mansion for one family, with all that unused space. We retrace old footsteps with familiarity and knowing presence. Our spirits (or at least mine) feed off the architecture we glide past, the oak trees that cradle our skies, and the stormy winds that bring to mind pirate tales, a gathering of stories, and emotions.
Of the people that live here, most of us really want to be here. Transplants have been known to grow love in their hearts for the city before they even come, nurturing the instincts that draw them here. Eventually, some of them visit and turn that visit into their new home. When I know I am going away, I begin drawing in air, memorizing smells I will miss when I leave, places I touch and shop, people I interact with, streets I dodge potholes and loose gravel on.
What does it mean to be a New Orleanian wherever you are? To me, it means to be the first to say hello, not just smile. It means to ask "how you doin'?" and to tell it like your day is- invoke real sympathy or admiration in a stranger. Be empathetic. It means deal with the daily do's and don'ts because they will affect you. It means act how you believe and reward will come find you. It means be nice but have an attitude with righteous rage when you have to be. It means be colorblind, sex-savvy, and animal-friendly. It means find a good deal on food and eat up. It means call your friends when you are bored or just because you miss them. It means don't forget your family or to lock your bike up. It means believe in serendipity and have permanent stains on your favorite clothes that you keep wearing anyway. IT means not being worried because it will all work itself out. It always does anyway, so worrying is just bad acting. Commence form while working towards an answer. It means somewhere a streetlight will be out and you won't notice 'til city maintenance put a new one in. It means you'll hear the streetcar sound if you are in proximity and dream of all the pretty houses you'll never see the inside of. It means reading the paper to see what's going on and getting into a show because your friend is in it. It means the chair you're sitting in has been sat in over thousand times and that means it has history and you have history because of it and you are part of its history. Pirates enflame you with interest. It means your water will be hard and your heart will be soft. It means you really do give a damn and you will keep trying. It means you will get shot down from time to time, and those figurative bullet holes will be lovely stains of character on your persona. It means don't get shot. It means watch out for cops and say hello to the personable ones. It means it's okay to look, go ahead and stare. They probably want you to, anyway.
All that doesn't glitter it finer than gold. If it is glitter, we know it's new. It means iron can be so beautiful-our blood is made of the same element: gotta love those old balcony rails when you're drunk. Take your pick of conversation-gorgeous people are everywhere and they aren't as scary as they look. It means shop wisely; deals are everywhere. You can kiss your friends and hug your enemies, you're gonna get hurt anyway. Tattoos are normal. Drinking coffee with chicory, like the American Indians did. Everything not normal everywhere else is normal here. It is always a matter of what to do at night, not if there's something to do. EMS drivers may buy you ice cream. You can say hello to lots of different people and get lots of different hellos back. Most of them will reply; if they don't, they're not from here. They'll even do it if their dog just died. We're all in this together. Nola = love.
The rain will come again another day, and you will like it. You will unexpectedly come across music that you like. Everybody is connected by circles of people that you will eventually meet. Winter is not a myth-try living near the lake. Smile-someone is checking you out! You don't have to smile if you don't want to, but we all know there is sunshine and dirt inside.