Je ne regrette rien

New Orleans: Thoughts on… Home?

heart_prison_349I love New Orleans. The REAL New Orleans. The New Orleans that you don’t see  on Girls Gone Wild Mardi Gras or any snapshot taking by a bunch of sorority girls on Spring Break hitting up Bourbon. I love the New Orleans that represents strength, pride, tradition. I like the New Orleans that fosters creativity, that holds the Audubon Park and Zoo, that makes up City Park. I love the shotgun houses, the slave shakes, and the fact that on Fat Tuesday, every single business is closed. I love the New Orleans that represents good people, hard working people, people who love and live.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t see much of that New Orleans right now. This is probably my own fault, still adjusting to life in the Big Easy, life away from my small pond in small Wisconsin where I was a rather big fish. It is really different. Very different. And, unfortunately, I haven’t fully allowed my roots to plant deeply in the ground, wander too far away from my home Uptown. And I allow myself to read nola.com – the comments, the stories, the articles – and it makes me very, very afraid. This isn’t to say New Orleans is a bad place to live. Again, I love New Orleans – it just scares the hell out of me.

Maybe it is because I haven’t allowed myself much time to really get to know New Orleans outside of my comfort zone, to meet people, to make friends, to get involved. Maybe it is becaus I don’t know how I get involved or where to even start. I would love to be able to feel comfortable going out for the night with my husband, hanging out at Carrollton Station or Maple Leaf Bar or adventuring out to some other part of town and taking in a play or seeing an art exhibit. What stops me from doing this? Well, I can count on my hand the number of people I know in this city,not related to my occupation,  and I couldn’t ask any of these people to please watch my daughter for the night. It is a cycle for me, you see, and one that I find plenty of excuses to keep running in circles.

Maybe it has to do with being mugged at 4:00 in the afternoon, walking my daughter home from school on Carrollton Avenue. Or maybe it has to do with going to bed, looking out the window, and seeing someone on my porch, attempting to still my plastic lawn chairs that I bought for $4 each at Dollar General. Or maybe it is the comments made to me when I pick my daughter up from her publis school. Or maybe I am just not cut out to live in the city, any city. I have developed the coping skills for living in a city, especially this city. But I love this city. I really do.

Do you see the battle that is constantly raging inside of me?

Let’s move.

No, let’s not.

Yes, I need to get out of here.

No, you don’t – this place is your home, remember how you felt driving into the city with your possessions packed in your car, excited?

But that was before the crime.

Crime is everywhere.

But not like this!

In some places it is worse, you don’t know what you are getting into.

Someone was murdered near my home.

Her son did it.

You can’t count on the police.

Avoid situations where you need the police.

People die in the jails here! People are beaten!

I can’t argue with that. That is very true.

It is like having two people inside my body- one going to the right, the other to the left – ripping me entirely in half.  In some ways, it feels like being locked away in a prison, almost afraid to leave your home, no matter at what time of day.

Am I being over-dramatic?

That is entirely possible. It really is. I am from an unincorporated town in Wisconsin. I milked cows, fed chickens, and took care of rabbits growing up. We left our doors unlocked. We rode our bikes after dark. Our neighbors knew one another, looked out for one another, and cared when things happened.

So, New Orleans, how do I embrace you – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and fully bloom where I am planted, without the whispers in my ear of Hammond or Robert or Baton Rouge? How do I walk outside, not afraid, and explore?

Probably one step at a time. Courtwatchers. Maybe a book club. Perhaps starting a writing club. Something. Anything.

New Orleans, I so want to call you home, but at what cost?

My piece-of-mind? My daughter’s education?

I really don’t know the answer, but feel much better saying it out loud than keeping it buried inside.

My heart is in this city, but it is held prisoner by the thug mentality. In that respect, the fear of my safety and that of my child, they win.

They fucking win.

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19 Responses

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  1. liprap said, on January 25, 2009 at 10:11 am

    ((((((hugs))))))

    I am so, so sorry. This city can be insane, even for young, single people such as I was when I first moved down here, and young parents with small children, like I was when I moved here again.

    One step at a time is good. Getting hooked up with the Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital is even better – they have all kinds of resources over there for parents of kids aged 0-18. And I have a great babysitter for my son if you need.

    Please be well. Hang in there. Do NOT let this get you down.

    liprap2@netscape.net

    • Amy said, on January 25, 2009 at 10:15 am

      Thank you for the hugs and the encouraging words! I didn’t know that Children’s Hospital had a Parenting Center, much less one that dealt with children of all ages instead of only infants! Thank you so much for that information! And really, you have no idea how much your comment really meant to me tonight!

  2. Cliff said, on January 25, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I came across your page and thought I would leave you a comment. I understand how you feel. I can’t tell you to stay because I couldn’t look my own family in the eye to convince them to come back. I also can’t tell you to go because selfishly I know that the more good people here the better chance we have of fighting back against the foolishness. New Orleans is one of those places that makes you pay many dues to stay. If you leave no one will be mad. You tried to make it work the right way and that’s more than we can say for lots of people here.

    Cliff.

  3. John Joe said, on January 26, 2009 at 5:28 am

    Hang in there. My girlfriend and I are also a young couple who has moved from elsewhere to New Orleans. We love the City and what it represents. We have a number of new friends who are also transplants. We are active in your hobbies — eating, cooking, making music — and have made some friends that way. Also, little by little, people are doing things to make this City a little better. Even if it’s picking someone else’s litter or volunteering even once, I try and give back. It would have been easier to have gone to so many other places. As time passes, I think there will be people like us and less scum in the City. (Sorry but I’m all for gentrification. At least, here.) I am so happy that you are trying to give it a go. We probably live in the same neighborhood. I am routing for you. Yeah, NOLA.com is depressing. Maybe we should start a site for those that love New Orleans.

    • Amy said, on January 26, 2009 at 8:37 pm

      John, I love the idea of starting a website, or even a blog, with good news on New Orleans – even if it is people just posting random acts of kindness they experienced that day. I am with you on the giving back and volunteering. I spend time at my daughter’s school, tutoring kids on Saturdays and in the classroom on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I guess I think if I can give any of them hope when they are young, or let them know someone believes in them, then maybe – just maybe – that hope will carry on with them. I admit, I do need to get out, make an effort to meet people, and really give it a go here. Thank you for your comment 😉

  4. Pamela said, on January 26, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Yes, it can be rather schizophrenic living here. But I hope you stay. I can understand if you leave, but I hope you stay. You are the kind of people that we need to heal this city. And do yourself a favor: stay off nola.com. The toxic people seem to own it now. They are bitter people who enjoy bringing people down, I think. Their negativity can be as destructive as criminals.

    • Amy said, on January 26, 2009 at 8:30 pm

      Pamela, thank you. I really do want to stay, to help. I planned on enrolling at UNO next semester and really making this place home. I do believe my first step is forgetting that nola.com exists because the negatitivy is so damaging. Half the time I want to write a comment telling the people on there that they are all apart of the problem with their attitudes!

  5. pistolette said, on January 26, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    I’ve been contemplating similar this week, and I was born/raised here. It’s not just you.

  6. Duff said, on January 27, 2009 at 4:35 am

    It’s not just you. Were it not for our neighborhood’s (Broadmoor) post-K organization, we would have seriously thought harder about leaving. However, for every reason to leave, there’s leaving work at 2 on the Friday before Mardi Gras knowing that people can’t even buy the weekend you’re about to have.

    Also, nola.com is full of idiots, racists, and people with severe antisocial personality disorders. It’s like national news stories that say Katrina was our fault..I just don’t read them because they will only serve to make me angry.

  7. John Joe said, on January 27, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Amy,

    This is a list of 100 great things about NOLA that have happened since Katrina. A great counterpoint.

    J

    http://www.alldaybuffet.org/neworleans100/

    • Amy said, on January 27, 2009 at 8:29 pm

      Thank you for posting this! What a great list. I am going to post this, too!

  8. Isabel said, on January 27, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Hi Amy,
    Join my book group. (See International Book Group of New Orleans on my blog.)

    Bring your little girl. If she can stay still and draw,
    there is no problem.

    • Amy said, on January 27, 2009 at 8:30 pm

      Thank you for the invite. My daughter would love that! She would probably sit and read the whole time. Like mother, like daughter. Hoping to make it to the next meeting!

  9. johnnyreb said, on January 27, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    We rolled into town 6 weeks after Katrina made landfall, some Yankees looking to make a difference by helping with the cleanup effort. I too fell in love with New Orleans for the very reasons you stated in the first paragraph, not to mention the weather and the food. I stayed for 9 months living just of of Earhart and Dupre, on Euphrosine and remember hearing the nightly commotions. The city was empty when I first seen it … and thought it had ‘filled up’ by the time I left. We seen the return of ‘the animals’ (human predators). I can only imagine what it is like now.
    And still … I miss it. Every Day.
    These feelings of mine seem strange even to me, an Ohio country boy, on the edge of Pennsylvania, and the West Virginia panhandle …
    This really doesn’t feel like home to me anymore, as I have no use for snow or cold weather, and had hoped to return someday (other than the visits for carnival) to retire. Guess i had better stop reading NOLA.com …

    • Amy said, on January 27, 2009 at 8:40 pm

      Nola.com is so full of hate and despair, I refuse to believe that is how it really is. Negativity feeds negativity. On the other side of the coin, I have had some really great experiences down here. I have been lucky in the fact that where I live – uptown – there really hasn’t been too much that has happened. A few weeks ago a man killed his mother – probably very high and she refused to give him money for drugs – on the next block over. At home, generally, I feel pretty safe. I have decided to stay, to try to help where I can, but if there are no actions taken to work towards fixing the problem, I think we will move an hour North, to some small home where New Orleans is still close, but we are away from the safety issues. I cannot imagine not being near New Orleans. I don’t thik that I would ever feel the same, as New Orleans has, for the most part, been really good for my family.

  10. Mike said, on January 28, 2009 at 1:55 am

    I went through the exact same thing myself. I think for some people the city has a way of grabbing hold of you and it can be very difficult to let go! I have lived in many places, several countries -actually currently living overseas-and I have yet to experience a city makes me feel the same way New Oleans does.
    I went through the same prolonged process before I decided to leave. I weighted my options and took the best route for myself. Im happy I left..but miss many things about living New Orleans.
    Good luck!

    • Amy said, on January 28, 2009 at 2:23 am

      I definitely agree. That is why I struggle so much, because I really do love this city and this is the first place I have ever really felt at home!

  11. Charlotte said, on January 28, 2009 at 6:48 am

    It’s too bad Nola.com has attracted the vicious, uninformed,and intolerant. I stopped reading the forums after Katrina when so much venom was spewed there…so many lies, so much gossip. It was just evil, esp when we were all aching for accurate info about what was going on in the city.
    Most of the NoLA blogs are the best choice for accurate info, even if it’s with a personal twist you can be sure it’s written by someone who’s respectful and open to others’ points of view.

    Oh, except for that yellow blog. 😉

  12. A said, on January 28, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    As I think you’ve figured out by now, you’re most definitely not alone in agonizing over whether to stick it out here or give up and leave. And as the mother of a three-year-old, I can agree with you that the pull to leave is sometimes very strong Hang in there.


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