Dear New Orleans,
I wrote to you nearly 3 years ago when we first met. At the time I was swelling with excitement and optimism. (I was also swelling quite literally after 3 rainy, sweaty, rum drenched months in Central America). I saw you through the eyes of a tourist. Your brightly hued architecture, your happily waving natives, your relaxed attitude.
Your motto, “laissez les bon temps roulez”. Let the good times roll.
Second line down Bourbon street. Shake your ass to a brass band. Stroll around the quarter, daiquiri in hand, singing in the rain.
That’s what I wanted to do. The beat had been playing in my head for 30 years and I was ready to dance.
I hadn’t yet seen your dark side. Because when you visit it’s easy to see:
The humor of navigating your pockmarked crooked roads
The beauty of your sunken homes, their sun weathered residents sitting on the porch mid afternoon.
The allure of your cozy 24 hour bars and laissez faire drinking laws.
The romance of your empty, dimly lit streets, staggered street lamps flickering your path.
The appeal of your fried, charbroiled, buttered, gooey, drenched, decadence for every meal.
In all those Instagram opportunities, it’s easy to miss what they also represent. Your corruption, your poverty, your segregation, your unemployment rates, your substance abuse, your lack of resources, your crime, your police shortage, your obesity rates, your health epidemics, your lifelong struggle.
After nearly three years, I can say with an odd sense of triumph, my years with you have been my greatest challenge. You have tested my confidence, my joy, my relationships, even what sometimes felt like my sanity. You have splayed opened my heart and you have broken it.
Most of all, you have laid bare your vulnerabilities and shown me that that is where true strength and resilience lie.
I was a different person when I arrived grinning at your door. I am wiser, humbler, unfettered by the ghosts of the past. I have new burdens to carry but they are the world’s burdens and it was about damn time I started bearing my share.
I still believe you are built on magic. Your resilience and your beauty still take my breath away. I’ll be leaving you soon, my heart is ready to move on. But baby, it’s been a helluva ride.
“Y’all live longer up there but we live better down here,” A local said to me recently.
I couldn’t disagree.