We all know it so well that it hardly bears repeating, but January is a time for resolutions and fresh starts, a time to lose those last 5 pounds or start jogging or switch to decaf. I’ve made every single one of those resolutions over the years –– and plenty of other ones, too –– and of course none has ever actually stuck. In fact, the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept is the one I made in January 2006.
I’d come down to New Orleans in early October 2005 to help my dad rip up carpet and tear out sheetrock in his flooded Mid-City home, and it killed me to go back to Missouri when the worst of the work was done. As bad off as the city was, I still wanted to be here, home sweet devastated home, where the Banks Street Bar was selling flooded beers for $1 and everyone had a story to tell.
I couldn’t make it back to New Orleans until Jan. 1, 2006. I stayed for a week at my dad’s house, which had no heat, electricity or hot water, and I had a stomach virus the entire time. I’m not a “roughing it” kind of girl. I don’t camp, I hate being cold, and I’d almost rather be tortured than throw up. And yet: I was happier in that week than I’d been in a long time. A week of primitive conditions and vomiting in New Orleans, I realized, was better than a week of health and hot baths in Missouri –– my own version of Lafcadio Hearn’s famous “sackcloth and ashes” declaration.
On the last day of my trip, I felt well enough to venture into the French Quarter. The Quarter was mostly empty, but there was a saxophone player sitting on a bench, and he started playing as I walked by. My dad taught me a lot of things –– how to drive a stick shift, how to make turtle soup, how to drink without getting sick –– but the two things he stressed were to always look both ways before crossing the street and to always tip the street musicians. All I had was $5, so I tossed it in the man’s case as I passed him. He stopped playing, walked after me and caught my arm. “Move home,” he told me. “I can tell you want to. I can see it on your face. You won’t regret it, I promise.”
“How do you even know I’m from here?” I asked him.
“I can just tell,” he said. “Just like I know you need to be back here.” And then he walked back to the bench and started playing “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?”
It sounds ridiculous and contrived and sappy, but that’s how it happened, and I resolved to move home as soon as I could. And he was right: I haven’t regretted it for a single second.
Three years on from that, and the city still isn’t perfect or even back to its pre-storm imperfection. But in these pages alone, we have a stylish renovated home, three tricked-out media rooms perfect for watching the Super Bowl (if the Saints haven’t soured you on the sport) and a 16-page Resource Directory full of vendors ready to help you accomplish whatever goals and resolutions you’ve set for yourself. We also have tips on how to get organized and hunt for bargains, traditional January stories that show normalcy creeping back.
This is a hard city in which to keep the typical resolutions: A normal Sunday brunch –– with Hollandaise sauce, Bloody Marys and chicory coffee –– flat out destroys two-thirds of the resolutions listed above, and after a brunch like that, there’s no way in hell I’m jogging. But really, it doesn’t matter. All of us who love the city and are committed to it have already made the most important resolution, the one that matters most to us and to New Orleans. We’ve decided to stay. We’ve decided to be happy. We’ve decided to make it a better place.
Happy New Year to us all.