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New Orleans

This is The Economist’s short take on the Boby Jindal victory in Louisiana; this is last paragraph or so:

"Mr Jindal’s victory is only the icing on the cake. The Republicans are expected to take five of the six elected state offices in Louisiana when the run-off votes are counted next month.

And next year the Democrats’ top officeholder, Ms Landrieu, looks like facing an uphill battle. When she was last elected, in 2002, she won in large part thanks to a landslide in her home city, heavily Democratic New Orleans. Whereas the city’s predilections haven’t changed dramatically, its size has, and its electoral significance along with it. In 2002 almost 133,000 New Orleanians voted in the Senate race. On October 20th less than 60% of that number turned up at the polls, a sign of the city’s post-Katrina shrinkage. Ms Landrieu won New Orleans by almost 80,000 votes in 2002, twice her overall margin of victory. This time, that was more votes than all the candidates got combined in the city that was once the alpha and the omega of Louisiana politics."

I was in New Orleans for a few days, left the afternoon Jindal got elected. A quick glance and a few conversations revealed that the place has changed a bit. Musicians (the old-fashioned kind) have not yet returned from gigs away, and those that stayed are making small bucks. It doesn’t seem that New Orleans is the city where there is "music all the time" as the song said. But we did eat well, did hear a few good sounds, the best came up as surprises. Heard and got a glimpse of a wedding with music marching down the street (at first hearing it seemed no different from the funeral marches I have heard, but never mind that) with the happy musicians followed by a bunch of stiff white people. The next day, an old man, with a trumpet in hand, would converse with folks standing in line to get something to eat and then take his horn--attached to hand as were his fingers--and blow sweet sounds as naturally as he talked. The music seemed part of the conversation. Lovely. And occasionally you could make out a lilting clarinet or horn, that is, when the uber-noise of the tasteless Bourbon Street died down for a moment. And, perhaps most important, Roger and I did have a nice smoke at this shop on Decatur St. And we learned something about rolling good cigars. We bought many boxes.

Discussions - 5 Comments

Louis Armstrong describing a New Orleans jazz funeral:

And, speaking of real beautiful music, if you ever witnessed a funeral in New Orleans and they have one of those brass bands playing this funeral, you really have a bunch of musicians playing from the heart, because as they go to the cemetery they play in a funeral march, they play "Flee As a Bird," "Nearer My God Today," and they express themselves in those instruments singing those notes the same as a singer would, you know. And, they take this body to the cemetery and they put this body in the ground. While he's doin' that the snare drummer takes the handkerchief from under the drum, from under the snare, and they say "Ashes to Ashes" and put him away and everything, and the drummer rolls up the drum real loud. And, outside the cemetery they form and they start swinging "Didn't He Ramble." And, all the members, the Oddfellows, whatever lodge it is, they are on this side. And on this (other) side is a bunch of raggedy guys, you know, old hustlers and cats and Good-time Charlies and everything. Well, they right with the parade too. And, when they get to wailin' this "Didn't He Ramble," and finish, seems as though they have more fun than anybody, because they applaud for Joe Oliver, and Manny Perez, with the brass band, to play it over again, so they got to give this second line, they call it, an encore. So, that makes them have a lot of fun too, and it's really something to see.

I'm glad you had a good time in NOLA, Peter, with good food, some 'music', and 'gars. But is that enough to make it a place worth saving? I think of it as the South's Atlantic City.
The Mississippi levees that exist primarily to protect NOLA direct the flow of the silt-laden waters way offshore to the Continental Shelf. That loss of alluvial deposits that for aeons renewed the marshy coast has caused Louisiana to lose coastal land area the size of the state of Delaware over the past 75 years.

Nostalgia about food and jazz is not enough. NOLA is a dump, a pig with lipstick.

Tom: I just meant this as a side-note, not an argument as to why the place is worth the saving. I think places should save themselves, and we all know how that works. Perhaps people will move back, or different folks will move in, or not. There will always be an attempt to "save" or make use of (in a museum-like way) of the place's reputation (or history). I also understand that. The place is as corrupt as any place in the USA. Pig with lipstick. Pretty good.

I grew up in NOLA, and just spent a long weekend there with my wife. We saw the Rebirth Brass Brand give an impromptu concert in front of a place where the Soul Rebels would be later be playing, and we ate at all the good places. Go there, spend your money, and kiss a few pigs.

Tom, is it really a choice between New Orleans and the coastal lands? That seems pretty stark, so that every Louisiana enviromentalist lover of the coast has to essentially take a Khmer Rouge-like line toward New Orleans: empty the city, screw the history!

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