136 Why New Orleans Matters

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Today we celebrate the culture of New Orleans. When we think of the Crescent City we often think of music, food and great architecture. Those of us who have traveled there also think of the people, and their amazing spirit. The city has suffered so much since the levy failing and floods that followed Katrina. Horrible. Recent census figures prove what many of us have known…that the city has lost a third of its population in the past decade. With those displaced people are pieces of the unique culture of that city. Mardi Gras Indians. Musicians. Artists. Imagine your own city losing a third of it’s population in a decade. But the people who have stayed or who returned are doing their best to keep New Orleans vital.

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The week of Katrina I remember watching Ted Koppel on Nightline every night. Their hour of coverage was the most relevant TV I saw all week. One night Ted asked [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Wynton Marsalis[/lastfm] what he most feared, other than the loss of human life. Wynton responded that he feared that they would rebuild the Epcot Center version of New Orleans. Then a couple of weeks later I read an op/ed piece in the Chicago Tribune where a retired developer said they should move New Orleans a few miles inland, build a new casino and put a Dixieland band in the lobby. Exactly.

Well, lucky for the rest of the world, the folks that are hanging in there are doing it right. The best thing we can do for them, in addition to volunteering or donating to the service not-for-profit organizations that continue to help, is to be tourists, bringing our cash and credit cards to the city. Believe me, you will get your money’s worth. And I always encourage extravagant tipping. Every little bit helps.

A few years ago I went to hear Tom Piazza speak about his book Why New Orleans Matters. That book is still in print, and available at your favorite online store. Worth reading. When I go for Jazz Fest every year, I’m eager to hear stories from the locals on how they’re doing. They always appreciate that we care. So get on down there, have a great time, don’t worry about your cholesterol until you get home and ask a local how they’re doing. You might just make a new friend.


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