Our family moved to New Orleans less than a month ago. Before we moved, people had a variety of responses when they found out that we were planning to move to the Big Easy. Close friends often said, “This makes so much sense!” Or “This feels so right!” It was their personal knowledge of our family that lead to this response and was of course encouraging to hear. Responses from strangers and acquaintances were either, “Why?” With a specific accompanying eyebrow raise and look of skepticism. These people were usually not from New Orleans or had had a bad experience living there. Otherwise, many people who currently or previously had lived in the city expressed excitement and delight over the decision. An ability to see past the challenges of living here and to embrace the beauty that comes with it. Now, look, I get that I may have rose-colored glasses now living in a city that I’d only ever visited as a tourist. But for a moment, I’d like to relish in the wonderful aspects of my new home.
I love the people. There are people! Everywhere! Being from Dallas originally, I love the urban city life. I love that everywhere you go people are jogging or riding the streetcar or sitting on their porch enjoying coffee. It’s a social city and for this extroverted gal, the people make me happy. I’ve also noticed people are mostly really friendly. Sure, I’ve been flipped off in traffic. But the other day while waiting in line at the pharmacy everyone was talking to each other and joking around. Strangers were bonding over a funny anecdote and enjoying being together in the moment. I’ve been privy to this type of thing several times. I love the diversity of the city both racially and socioeconomically. Being in the mix of all kinds of people in all walks of life is something I value and am thankful to experience. I never want to be someone who lives in a bubble, and New Orleans makes it impossible to do so.
The trees. Driving down Saint Charles or rollerblading through Audubon Park (yes, rollerblading is my current preferred form of exercise), I can’t get enough of the leaning Live Oaks and the Spanish Moss. The fact that I can rollerblade (or walk or bike) in the middle of summer and not be blasted by heat because of the blessed shade and coastal breeze feels pretty magical.
The food! Oh, the food. Will we gain weight and spend too much money? Possibly. The other day driving down Magazine, my husband and I kept saying, “Oh, I want to eat there! And there! Oh, I’ve heard that place is really good!” Some of our favorites that we’d drive in from Baton Rouge to enjoy are N7, Barracuda, and Nomiya. But of course, the options are, quite literally, endless. People come from all over the world to enjoy the culinary experiences of the city. In fact, my parents actually came to New Orleans from Michigan for their honeymoon thirty-eight years ago! They ate at Brennan’s and had their first-ever Caesar salad.
The culture and experiences. I absolutely love that we can go to several incredible museums. We can enjoy a vast array of live music any time of the year, and we haven’t even experienced festival season yet! It’s a city radiating with creativity and beauty and life. A place where people feel the freedom to create and share their creations. I can’t wait for King Cake season and Mardi Gras and festivals galore. I love that my casual drive to the grocery store includes admiring stunning architecture. The homes with big sprawling porches, the gorgeous churches, and even the library is a beautiful structure.
I know the city has issues. I have made an effort to be keenly aware of my surroundings while finding parking, I don’t look at my phone at stoplights, and I know getting gas could be dicey. I’m aware of the need surrounding me and I live on a street filled with potholes. And the idea of hurricane season definitely causes me to worry. I’m sure that years of living here could wear a person down. And I recognize that my perception and experience of the city comes from a place of privilege. But, as a new New Orleans resident, I see the city as a treasure and hoping to enjoy what it has to offer. Call me idealistic, but I hope to do my part, however small, to see beneficial change.