I know it has happened to you: you are sitting and mindlessly watching TV, then something familiar pops into your eyes or ears and rests on your brain. There are images or a song in a program or featured on a commercial, and they are from New Orleans.
Our area is not credited. In fact, the whole scene is so innocuous that most people watching around the world are not even aware of the region of origin. But we are. We know the Dixie Cups or the Meters or Professor Longhair from the first few notes of the background music. We know how the roads through the swamps look. We know the color of our sky and the architecture of our neighborhoods.
We perk up when something that familiar comes across our eyes and our ears. To most of the audience, either nationally or internationally, these are merely pleasant scenes and sounds that work well with the sales message, which overrides in the foreground. And when we see something like that, or hear familiar musical notes, we are proud on a very personal level. This is good for our souls.
The most recent example is a new Coca-Cola commercial, titled “Burger,” and featuring Aarón Sánchez of Johnny Sanchez, that ends with Professor Longhair’s opening introduction to “Go to the Mardi Gras.” And when you hear it, keep in mind that you know the music, but everyone else around the world who will hear it won’t know its origins. All they will know that the Coke commercial ended with something pleasant, peppy and memorable.
But it will be ingrained into their memory.
And that’s the point. New Orleans and her influences on America’s culture doesn’t have to hit the audience over the head like a ball-peen hammer. What we have, and enjoy every day, works at another level. Our art, musicality, culinary, history, and architecture, all of which add up to our lifestyle, are ambassadors of ourselves.
There is no reason not to believe in the New Orleans message. It’s universal and it’s fun. We spend an inordinate amount of time and effort to make our guests feel welcome, even long before they arrive. Sums of money are invested to assure that the steady stream of visitors themselves become ambassadors for the New Orleans brand.
You know something: we are doing a pretty good job. We the people are committed to our way of life and our culture. We eat it. We hear it. We sing about it. We paint it. We dance in the streets to celebrate it. We talk almost incessantly about it. It’s because we care, and we are in love.
When some “outsider” comes along and carries the sounds and sights of our area back to their home, we just need to smile knowingly and realize that they have seen what we sometimes take for granted. There is nothing so terrific as a stranger walking the street in our town with a big smile, a set of cheap beads around their neck, and a go-cup.
They think that when they leave after a few days of more public pleasure than they have ever experienced, that we go back to a “normal” existence. They are right. They are only wrong about what we consider normal.
Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life," hosted by Tim every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcast episodes are available for viewing at http://www.wlae.com/appetite-for-life/