I’ve taken fierce pride in being a local. When I travel I’m a junky for talk about the city. Someone will ask “So, how is it down there?” I launch into a litany. There are busted traffic lights, leaky sewer lines, mountains of debris, the skyrocketing murder rate, miles of desolation, and the levees still aren’t fixed. But you should come, I say. It’s like a battered beauty queen. Hard to look at, and messed up even more on the inside, but still so regal and charming. This is where the listener I’ve taken hostage turns away slowly to engage someone less insane.
They don’t understand that I’m in love. I talk to friends about New Orleans like a dysfunctional romance. I gush over it one day, then call up bawling and heartbroken the next. Why can’t it change? Stop being self-destructive and violent? It has so much potential.
Recently, my blinders started to come off. It was building for awhile. My friend Helen Hill was murdered in her home;other friends have been mugged. We don’t go out much any more…
But then there was this hot Friday night last month. I went on the perfect date with New Orleans . Saw live, local music, danced with friends on the stage, then headed home through my neighborhood of craftsman cottages and angel trumpet trees.
A block from my door, I was attacked from behind by a stranger. I escaped, with the help of my roommate. The case is moving forward, so I can’t say much more than that.
Now I’m a jilted lover of the city. I’m angry and confused. Which is the real New Orleans? The one that’s violent and desperate? Or the one that coos softly, and caresses me? The answer, of course, is both.
Read it all.