New Orleans without the Art and the Music
What would a New Orleans look like if it were inhabited by nothing but responsible adults? What if we made all the dreamers leave? What if we shipped out all the artists and musicians? What would New Orleans look like if it no longer possessed a heart or a soul? I don't know about you, but I would be on the first jellyfish out of town. I was scrolling on Facebook a few days ago (as one is apt to do) and I noticed a Facebook friend of mine had posted a link to an article about the building that they live in. I knew they'd had difficulties with the landlord and the condition of the building, recently intensified by the damages caused by Hurricane Ida. I clicked through to the original Facebook post and stumbled across hundreds of comments. Many of them were unexpectedly hostile about the building and the people that live in the building. The original article is here: https://www.nola.com/gambit/news/the_latest/article_4a70e286-2dde-11ec-8e02-cbbba61cba22.html Short version: the building has been home to many New Orleans artists and performers over the past couple of decades. The rent was reasonable and the building was reasonably close to the French Quarter, but in the last few years the landlord began to let repairs slide and the entire building slipped into a state of disrepair. A few of the residents are facing short notices and eviction because of unlivable conditions. The longer you ignore the small issues, they bigger they become, especially in a town with too many hurricane visitors. Slumlords don't surprise me, but what stopped me in my scrolling was this comment.
So much to unpack here. Rents in New Orleans are high. They're going even higher now that the demand for housing has gone up due to the damages caused by Hurricane Ida.
It's certainly true that the life of an artist can be an uncertain one. Our income depends on the whims of the market. We can have great weeks and we can have months with only a trickle. The pandemic closed our festivals and our markets which put us in an even more difficult situation.
Maybe most of us will never truly make it. Maybe we'll struggle along for years before deciding to stop and lead a different, more "responsible" kind of life, but what if the dreamers never tried to follow their dreams at all?
New Orleans without music? A New Orleans without art around every corner? A New Orleans without shows and performers? How dreary would that version of New Orleans be!
The simple, unfortunate truth is that most artists and musicians and most of the people in the service industry that keep New Orleans moving, we cannot afford to live in the city that we love, the city that we work in. I'm not happy about this but I've made my peace with it and I still very much consider myself a New Orleans artist even if I no longer can afford Orleans Parish.
I expect our hostile Facebook commenter would consider me one of the "lazy brats". I wouldn't know how to replace a "plane" of glass anymore than I am able to eradicate black mold or repair a roof.
Not being able to afford rent in New Orleans is a systemic problem, but the disrepair of this building is a specific problem affecting people that just want to live in the city they love and perform work that they love. None of these things make them "lazy brats". It makes them struggling artists and musicians and performers. It makes them dreamers. It makes creators.
Without these people, New Orleans would no longer be the New Orleans that I fell in love with. Of course, the city will always be rich in architecture and history, but without the art, New Orleans loses the soul that is its true appeal.
Don't condemn the dreamers. Don't try to stop people from living their truth. Without these people, New Orleans ceases to be New Orleans. It will be a darker place, a sadder place, a place that I would no longer want to be a part of.
While we're on the topic, we can love the place we live without having to criticize or put down other cities and countries. I love New Orleans but I am very aware that the United States is full of remarkable and delightful cities. Austin. Salem. Savannah, to name just a few. Love your country, absolutely, but don't look down on the heritage of others.
Our Oracle card of the week, Nasturtium, means "Patriotism" in the Victorian language of flowers. There is so much to love about my home country, the United States of America, but there is just as much to love about other countries. Mad love to the whole world.