I wrote earlier about meeting Misty in the French Quarter at En Vie. She gave me her phone number, so I called her again towards the end of my trip. She asked how I had enjoyed my visit. I shared with her that it had been somewhat difficult for me.
She said "New Orleans tests you if you want to live here."
I say she's a tough mistress. Charming and beautiful, but petulant and demanding. She’s difficult, and entrenched in her ways, but her allure is undeniable. She gets her hooks in you, and doesn’t let go.
Misty suggested I just sit back and let things happen when I expressed my frustration to her.
How differently people there approach things. Here in Los Angeles everyone is into making things happen, “creating","manifesting” their own reality. They believe in attracting everything to themselves that they need or want. I’ve even heard the suggestion that you can change things in your life in an instant by changing your mind, making a choice.
But in New Orleans, people have squarely hit against forces they cannot control. I remember using the phrase “ever since they started trying to tame the river” in the presence of my friend Jerry, a fellow expatriate of NOLA. What exactly I was discussing, I don’t remember, but I was, no doubt, showing off my newly learned knowledge after reading RISING TIDE: THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI FLOOD OF 1927 AND HOW IT CHANGED AMERICA , and learning a great deal about the history of the Army Corps of Engineers’ flawed attempts at flood control in the region.
Jerry let out a hearty guffaw. “You can’t control that river.”
And so it’s true. The river is mighty- wild and powerful- and a force beyond our control, as it keeps reminding us.
I talked to a friend last week who asked about my trip. Once again, I found myself saying to someone, that it was “somewhat difficult.” I started in, relating to her the various moods I’ve encountered in NOLA during my trips since the flood. The celebratory mood at the homecoming to the first Mardi Gras PK, the realization of the hard realities they were hitting a year later, and the entrenched discouragement of this trip, in spite of small and individual successes.
“I was reading something about New Orleans the other day” she said. “The article said the city isn’t coming back, that whole neighborhoods are still empty.”
“It’s not true. It is coming back” I responded. “Some neighborhoods are back and doing well. Some are not. But it all depends now on the choices they make.” Yes-choices.
While choices are important in creating our reality-and when I think about Ray Nagin (hmmm-maybe it would be good if they kept him in China) I realize it’s something the people of New Orleans need to consider very seriously- the rest of us can learn from them that we cannot control every force. We learn that we must live in balance, that we must make good and proper choices to live harmoniously with those forces, and that our good and proper choices must still sometimes inevitably yield to forces beyond our control
Okay- I promise we'll get back to food and fun next time.