Dear New Orleans,
I had to write to you to let you know I love you. I know I don’t get to see you very often, but you know how busy I’ve been growing up. But just because I haven’t been able to get to see you as often as I used to, doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten about you.
I can’t remember when we first met. I was a baby at the time. It had to have been sometime in 1980, since I was born at the end of 1979. I don’t remember when I first started loving you. I don’t think I realized I did at the time.
I complained about your constant sweltering heat. I mean, being born in Texas, you have to admit you provide a special kind of heat that one has to acclimate to. I think another part of the negative connotation was the fact that Dad always sent me your way every summer for 2 months of torture at Aunt Stephanie’s “Fat Camp”. The heat isn’t cute when you have to ride a bike 3 miles twice a day and there is no central air in the house.
I also associate you with the negativity I got from my cousins. You know them, I think most of them have or still are residents at your fine state funded establishments. You probably knew when they were young that it was just a matter of time before you brought them into your prison fold to prevent them from killing themselves doing the shit they were doing. I suppose I should thank you for that. Yeah they can be pretty awful and self-centered, but in the end, they are family and I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to them.
I think as a child I didn’t appreciate what you had to offer. I didn’t appreciate the simplicity of it all. The watermelon patches outside my grandparent’s house where we could break one open and sit on the porch screen eating watermelon and escaping the heat. I remember complaining about to help in the garden picking fresh snap peas and having to help my Mama Carrie in the kitchen by snapping a huge bucket full of them for family dinners. It’s not until I grew up that I realize that sitting at the kitchen with my cousin snapping peas and talking to my grandmother was one of the greatest gifts I had. I remember the treat it was to get .50 cents to walk down to the candy lady’s house and get some chocolate or a huck-a-buck and walk around the neighborhood munching on the frozen sweet ice. There was never a fear of poisoning children or being kidnapped. Family reunions always happened on the 4th of July, and we’d end the night with tons of fireworks without fear that the cops would come and tell us we weren’t allowed to set them off. Man, the first time that happened in Texas I was confused.. “It’s the 4th, why can’t we pop firecrackers?” I remember going to fishing with Pop. Sometimes it would just be him and me, sitting in his boat talking about whatever. I felt like the most important little girl when Pop took me fishing, just the two of us. I recall sitting outside under the stars, (because I could see them when I was with you as opposed to them being hidden by the bright lights of the city in Texas), and feeling relaxed, safe… feeling like I was home.
As I grew up I recall visiting you during the Bayou Classic on Thanksgiving weekend. Walking around the French Quarter and soaking in the friendly environment, the atmosphere of laissez les bons temps rouler. The food and the music, oh my goodness, the music in the Quarter filled me with pride and joy. Dancing in the streets, everyone smiling, having a great time, how I loved visiting during that time.
You’ve been through a lot in the past 5 years. I recall coming to see you shortly after Katrina. As my father and I drove in from the Airport, our hearts sank as we went through the Lower 9. I think it was then that I realized how much you meant to me. Seeing the boarded up houses, completely vacant streets and when we did see someone, the glimmer in their eye was slightly fainter than normal. I remember being so angry wondering why the government wasn’t helping as much as they should’ve and could’ve. I know you felt forgotten and underappreciated. I was angry, I was hurt because a place that I felt was home had changed so dramatically. Sure, outsiders see you as a party spot; but people who know you and love you know that you possess so much culture, history and warmth.
Then just when the scar has worn subsided just a little bit, these idiots spill oil on your shore. Everyone is pointing blame, wondering what happened, how did this happen? We’re finding out that the equipment was not as safe as it should’ve been. The government is trying to step in to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
But what about now? You, New Orleans, are suffering now… again.
It’s enough to make you feel like a red headed stepchild, I’m sure. But please know, these idiots in the Federal Government, these people who push paper and aren’t with you to feel your pain, they don’t speak for the rest of us. They don’t speak for me.
As a person whose roots are deeper in you than I thought, I just want you to know I still love you. I still care. I pray for you constantly. I know you will again rise above this, because that’s what you do. No matter what the “powers that be” try to decide for you, you will rise on your own terms, in your own way, because that’s what’s routed in your children and your children’s children.
Laissez les bons temps rouler forever and ever.