I was having a couple of beers with a friend on Saturday night just as the floodwaters were beginning to recede. We were talking about you and the love/hate relationship we have with you.
New Orleans, my friend observed, is like that alcoholic, fuck up that every group of friends or family seems to have. You know the type. You love them. They are always good for a laugh, they are fun to be around and they generally mean well. But beneath that mask of endearing qualities lies a deeply-dysunctional individual. That’s right, NOLA. You are everyone’s drunk Uncle Frank.
To be sure, there is so much to like about you – things that made me miss you in my bones when I moved away from you and which drew me back to you like a magnetic force.
Your physical beauty from the wrought-iron balconies in the French Quarter to the pastel-colored shotgun houses throughout your neighborhoods to the giant oak trees draped with Spanish moss in City Park. Your party atmosphere with a different festival every weekend. Your world class food and music scene. These are your strengths that have been exhaustively chronicled by many a hipster who has come here as a transplant or visitor and attempted to capture your essence.
But I think what draws me to you above all else is your people. It’s the goosebumps that will forever appear on my arm when I think about how a professional sports team lifted up an entire city when we needed it most. It’s the fact that two regular dudes can have a few beers and some BBQ with friends and turn it into a major local festival that now raises millions for pediatric brain cancer. It’s the fact that Sarah and I can raise $14,000 for pediatric brain damage and help kids like Kohl just by throwing a party. There are few other cities where things like this are possible. It is the fact that we live in the best neighborhood on the planet surrounded by some of our best friends; people who love Kohl and Amelia almost as much as we do. These people would do anything for each other.
And that’s just the thing, NOLA. We just deserve better than this. We love you to our core. We love you, perhaps, to our fault. Many of your former lovers have sought better opportunities and left you, yet you remain in their blood. You have that effect on people.
But your act is getting old. Dismissing your decrepit and dysfunctional infrastructure as the price we pay to live here is bullshit. Sweeping your criminally incompetent leadership under the rug is bullshit. The “Soul Is Waterproof” t-shirts and “New Orleans: Third World and Proud of It” bumper stickers no longer cover up your profound dysfunction.
Maybe it’s because I am a little older now. Maybe it’s because I am raising my family here. Perhaps it’s because one of my kids is severely disabled whose care routinely overwhelms me and creates in me an almost constant anxiety that I’m not doing enough.
The confluence of those factors has led me to tell you this: I don’t have time for your bullshit. I don’t have time to worry about my house flooding every time it fucking rains. I don’t have time to worry about getting held up at gunpoint when I go out to dinner. I don’t have time to wait around for you to get your shit together.
This is your wake up call, New Orleans. Fucking fix yourself.