Just a few hours ago I wrote about my ambivalence about being back in New Orleans, though I left out the important subtext of having to deal with developer personalities all day that fueled a lot of my alienation.
But now I’m home on Willow St, after some great tapas (including fabulous little whisk brooms of grilled artichokes!), wine and music at Mimi’s in the Marigny.Â This place is one of my favorite bars ever.Â It’s so chill – cheap, tasty food; a lofty if run-down loungey upstairs decorated with a few old collegy couches and small tables, and balconies that open on to the street below; live music every night; and a tattooed, laidback female staff just make this place one of my all-time favorite spots.Â I cruised slowly through the city on my way home, checking out the scenery and the radio dial – it’s amazing how much of the housing is still shuttered and dark (it’s noticeably block-by-block or house-by-house now), but all the abandoned cars underneath the highway are gone.Â I couldn’t help but feel a warm and fuzzy Rioja-fueled sensation overcome me as some R&B singer crooned that “tonight was the night you make me a woman.”Â True dat.Â And now an email that another post-Katrina colleague is relocating here.Â The NOLA seduction is immensely difficult to resist.
A long walk around Audobon Park on the phone with the M.A.S. helped.Â I don’t want to be here without him – this is more his city to claim between the two of us.Â But I’m not immune to the culture, the music and the endlessly fascinating world of how this city and its residents can and will recover.Â It’s amazing to ride around still after all this time and pass in and out of dark patches, only to then drive past bustling, brightly lit corners and storefronts and thoroughfares.Â It’s totally, still jarring.Â I’m looking forward to an unstructured tomorrow, with only an eveningÂ public housing meeting on the schedule.Â Rancor should ensue.Â As my roommate pointed out today, public housing is the dividing line – or one of the brightest lines – in development debates about this city.Â Â Do you keep it up or tear it down?Â Oh, so you hate/love poor people.Â You are a bigot/capitalist/communist/hippie.Â And so on.Â
I reclaimed some of my familiarity and knowledge tonight, and I fear by Friday I will once again feel the pull to stay behind as my plane takes off.Â It has been such a welcome reprieve being so “rational” about NOLA re-development and politics in the last 3 months!*
*At the end of the 2 modules I co-taught on Katrina to the Masters students this fall, my professor said to me, “You make [rebuilding] sound so rational.Â I enjoyed that!”Â Me too, teach, me too.