Trying To Get To You

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New Orleans: Soul City

I spent a few days last week in New Orleans. I had been there once before, but only for a one night business trip, so last week my first real opportunity to spend a significant amount of time there and get to know the city.

I fell in love.

New Orleans, for those of you who haven’t been there, is the most European of American cities. The French Quarter, especially, resembles the old centers of so many European cities. The languid pace, the wonderful food, the public drinking, the music everywhere – it is certainly the most anti-Puritanical city in the U.S. And given that it’s in the American South, there is also an element of a somewhat tacky American shopping plaza (especially so when 75,000 college football fans are in town for the Sugar Bowl). It’s a mixture of the wonderful and horrible – some of the best hospitality, people, food and music one can imagine, and some of the most glaring decay I’ve ever seen. I experienced a lot of the wonderful and only saw a tiny bit of the horrible, from the safety of a van touring the city. I was a tourist, and while I sought out as much of a “native” experience as possible, I certainly didn’t see how 70% of New Orleans truly lives.

New Orleans is an elemental city – it runs on food, drink, sex, music, art, history and the celebration of pleasure -the good time in the face of struggle, without the pretenses of fashion or trends. It is not looking for the next big thing. There is a distinct lack of irony in New Orleans, or at least the sort of deadening post-modern irony that suffuses so much of modern art and music. It is a city that is all about the expression of authentic feeling and engagement: of joy and wonder, of sorrow and grief. Yes, there is plenty of cool, but it’s a city that defines as cool as willing to let yourself go, rather than taking on a studied and jaded affectedness.

As a lover of the music that was born in New Orleans and emerged from it, I felt at home the whole time I was there. There are a few places in the world where my soul feels like it belongs: New York City, Montauk, Italy and now, New Orleans.

I’ll be writing about some of the music and sights I saw last week over the next couple of weeks.

24 comments:

New Orleans Ladder said...

Man, you are done stick a fork in it! Hahahaha... I'll give you a couple of years tops before you move on home.
I really enjoyed your post. That brass band on Bourbon has been doing that right by Canal Street for some years now with the personnel changing as members graduate high school, go to college, go to jail or get shot, start families. I used to love to sit and watch them for hours.
Please do come back soon.
Editilla~New Orleans Ladder

New Orleans Ladder said...

I forgot to ask, do you know these cats?
Nolafunk NYC
http://nolafunknyc.blogspot.com/
They are good friends of the Ladder.
Editilla

Ben Lazar said...

Editilla,

Thanks for visiting and the comments. Yes, that brass band on Bourbon at Canal is incredible. They were my first sight in the Quarter, and I was immediately blown away. I'm pissed at myself that I didn't buy a CD. I plan on coming back soon.

Dan said...

I just went down there (from NY) in October for the first time. Know what you mean. I fell in love too. What a wonderful city. I was walking around the French Quarter saying that NO has the 2 things that I love most in the world, great food and great music. Just then a barker outside a topless place started yelling, to get people into the club "We got tits, ass and alcohol!" So then I said that NO has the 5 things I love most in the world.

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