Feb 8, 201309:02 AM
Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

The Very Best and Very Worst Parts of Life in New Orleans

This past week has been a crazy up-and-down experience of the very best, the very worst and the signature endearing/infuriating nonsense that New Orleans has to offer.

 

First the lights went out in the Superdome with the whole nation watching. I switched back and forth between keening with anxiety over what a setback it was for our image and laughing at how typical it was. Ultimately, I decided to embrace it. We aren’t a super, shining beacon of cutting-edge technology; we’re New Orleans. We’ll feed you; we’ll hug you; we’ll get you drunk – but anything more than that can’t be taken for granted. Should we strive for more? Maybe. But I really like things how they are.

 

Except. Except that on Monday, a woman was kidnapped, beaten, raped and robbed while walking from her car to her home at 6:45 in the evening. I was shaken by this – it’s perhaps too easy to discount crimes that happen late at night or in dangerous neighborhoods, but I do it anyway. Indeed, when a group of my friends and I were robbed at gunpoint in 2001, I could point to any number of things we did that, in retrospect, were stupid. I’m not saying we deserved it or that we were the ones at fault – only that there is something oddly comforting at looking at a scenario in which something bad happened and seeing things within your control that you could do differently in the future. But my God, walking from your car to your home at dinnertime? When I pieced together from postings on Facebook and conversations with friends that I actually knew the woman who was attacked (I am not going to call her a victim, because she is anything but), I was honestly not all that much more upset – it hit too close to home already. I had a parent-teacher conference the next night, and I was so skittish walking to and from the school with Georgia in tow. Anything happening to me would be terrible; anything happening to my daughters or even to me while I was with my daughters is just unthinkable. And that skittishness, that edginess, that fear is just a part of the reality of how things are here.

 

Except. Except that I spent Thursday watching Ruby’s school’s Mardi Gras parade, hundreds of happy kids throwing beads to their doting parents in the February sunshine. The parents at Morris Jeff are some of my favorite people in the whole city, and we are all in this together. And I came home from the parade to find on my porch a glittery Muses baby shoes that my friend Soline had made for Georgia’s first Mardi Gras (a New Orleans native now living in New York, Soline was back in town to ride in Muses and had made a shoe for her baby daughter, and since shoes come in pairs, she made one for Georgia, too). The people, the traditions, the sense of fun and generosity in this city are indescribable. And that’s a part of our reality, too.

 

This is the same old round-and-round I have been doing since … God, since forever. I was both horrified by and weary of the crime as a teenager living here; I am horrified by and weary of it now as an adult raising my own kids. I struggled with it before moving back; I have struggled with it every day since. Do good friends, good times and glittery baby shoes cancel out the jaw-dropping, stomach-churning horror of a rape or a stray bullet or an armed robbery? It’s just not that simple.

 

As my friend Michael Martin posted on Facebook: "Ordinary livability requires an ordinary people. There are exceptions in each direction [in New Orleans]. It's easy to be too lenient. It's tempting to be too censorious. But by and large, that hard shell of corruption and decay and incompetence that protects the pearl which is this place is all that prevents the Exploiters-That-Be from turning New Orleans into a disneyfied NewOrleansLand." And that's pretty much the crux of it.

 

Bad stuff happens everywhere. The bad stuff that happens here is altogether too frequent, but it’s not particularly unique. It’s not like the murders, robberies and assaults that happen here are any different than the murders, robberies and assaults that happen in St. Louis or New York or Miami or any other dateline city I could name. But in those cities, Ruby would not be marching in the Krewe of Kindersaurus Rex as Goldilocks of Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. I wouldn’t be gearing up for a full weekend of parades and parties. I wouldn’t be nearly so happy.

 

And ultimately, every day I live here is a gamble between the odds of something bad happening to me measured against the absolute certainty that I would be miserable living anywhere else, divided by the fact that, honestly, anything bad could happen to me at any time, anywhere.

 

It’s a complicated equation, to be sure. But it’s really all I’ve got. (Well, that and a glittery baby shoe, about 10 pounds of beads and three blinky Muses rings.)

Reader Comments:
Feb 8, 2013 12:07 pm
 Posted by  Gene Raley

Conventional crime requires unconventional solutions.

The "lets round them up" after the crime has been committed will never solve the problems that this city has. Having been raised here, I fell in love with this city early on.

What's really sad is the same old tired faces that keep getting re-elected and those persons spouting the same old tired solutions to the same problems.

I think it is time that the electorate, both black and white, take a look at the persons purporting to be able to solve the problems and evaluate their positions.

I do not live in the city anymore because I do not want to "roll the dice" with the lives of my precious family members in hopes that the movers and shakers will finally get it together and solve the problems.

In my younger days, I wanted to run for political office by was told by one of the current leaders that I did not have the breeding to hold office in this city. This was qualified a year later when I visited one of the old line banks and they were more interested in my family lineage than my thoughts and ideas on how I would run and manage my business.

I eventually left the city and went elsewhere where I was able to perfect my trade and become the person that I am today.

I currently live in a rural area with my family and no longer have the interest that I once had in New Orleans.

I do visit occasionally to celebrate "Mardi Gras" but I celebrate in areas that I am comfortable in.

Feb 9, 2013 10:02 am
 Posted by  Bro Keith X

What

Feb 9, 2013 10:09 am
 Posted by  Bro Keith X

Reading this story, I always have to ask myself, why don't these type of people run for office. Then I realize that TRUTH is not popular here in New Orleans. Hype & lies are better served. This story, and the words of this lady proves and solidifies my committment to continue to fight against the corruption waging war against our children. Even though, the criminal act against the lady was horrendous, this writer never harped on it, but instead chose to display the grace only ANGELS are permitted to show man. And with that said, all I can say is Thank You! And to the person named Gene, who posted that TRUTH, thank you also, because some of us, can't seem to figure out why the violence is getting out of control, and yet, all we gotta do is look who's in City Hall - and there's your answer!

Oct 24, 2013 05:24 am
 Posted by  ChevySnivay

I Love New Orleans, I visited Last year for my graduation. I Enjoyed all the New Orleans native's hospitality, I've been to New Orleans many times when i was younger so i know what areas to avoid. I partied most at night, and enjoyed all the food and culture during the day, but most importantly no one can Parade like New Orleans. :) #MardiGras#

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Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

about

Eve is further proof, if any is needed, that New Orleans girls can never escape the city. After living here since the age of 3 and graduating from Ben Franklin High School, Eve moved to Columbia, Mo., where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Missouri School of Journalism and became truly, unhealthily obsessed with grammar.

She had originally intended to strike out to New York City and work in the cutthroat magazine industry there, but after Katrina, Eve felt a strong pull to return home, to her roots, her family, her waterlogged and struggling city – and a much more forgiving work atmosphere that would allow her to skip a routine of everyday makeup and size 0 designer label business suits and enjoy the occasional cocktail or three with an absurdly fattening lunch. She moved back home in January 2008 and lives in Mid-City with her two daughters, Ruby and Georgia; her stepson, Elliot; and her husband, Robert Peyton.

Eve blogs about the joys and struggles of living in post-Katrina New Orleans, the unique problems and delights of raising a child in such a diverse and challenging city – including her experiences with the public education system – and her always entertaining and extremely colorful family.

Eve has won numerous writing awards, including the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Gold Medal, the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for column-writing and Press Club of New Orleans awards for her Editor’s Note in New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and for this blog, most recently winning the award for "Best Feature Affiliated Blog."

She welcomes comments, advice, empty flattery, recipes, drink invitations and – most especially – grammatical or linguistic debates.

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