Update

I know that I have been out of the blogging game for quite a bit of time, and a lot of things have happened in that time. I’ve had at least three different jobs, moved to a new house in New Orleans, gotten married and moved to Chile – just to name a few. But seriously, 2014 into 2015 has been a whirlwind. With all of these changes come some changes to my blog as well.

First, the layout is different, it’s time to simplify and tidy things up.

Second, the title has changed, it was “Transplant New Orleans” a reflection on the fact that I am not a native New Orleanian (made apparent by the fact that I had to check to make sure I was spelling “Orleanian” right). I have changed the title simply to “Transplant”, which I think sums it all up very nicely. I am not from New Orleans but it has become so much a part of me I don’t think that I can wholly belong anywhere else. And, while I am from New Hampshire, I feel as though I have strayed too far to ever feel fully at home there anymore.

That’s really it. Oh and, I guess also my topics will cover a much wider range of things now, including but not limited to my honeymoon in Latin America.

I hope that you will join me in this most wonderful adventure sure to be filled with ups and downs and hopefully no dysentery.

NOLA to NH Observations: Nature

New Hampshire Nature (absolutely click that link!!)

Nature is literally all around you wherever you look. Even in a “city” you can walk to a river that is clean enough to swim in.

Trees

There are so many trees everywhere; naturally occurring, wild trees.

P1100650Amazingly beautiful, unmanicured landscape (and the view from our wedding ceremony location)

Colors

Last year was the first year that I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I went home for four freezingly miserable days in early January to get my wedding dress- that barely even counts since I stayed inside as much as I could. Anyway, when I went home this summer I was totally blown away by how truly green everything is, and I mean everything. Driving down 93 looking out the window I saw a blur of different shades of green, I couldn’t even see the individual trees because they were all the same color. New Hampshire is filled with beautiful earth tones, brown dirt roads, red front doors, green trees, dark blue waters and bright blue skies. Not even to mention the sunsets, which are so mind-blowingly beautiful. I really missed the natural colors of NH.

P1090578This is what I saw most of my time home.

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No words.

Water

Growing up in the Lakes Region (when I was younger I called it the Great Lakes Region…which it is to all who live there) I can name over 15 fresh and clean bodies of water that are within 20 minutes of me (though I can only name the location two Starbucks and one is an hour and half away). Water: the smell, the sound, the feel, the refreshment, everything. Water is the single thing that I miss the most above all other things about New Hampshire. When I was home the only thing that I wanted to do was sit outside on the dock, next to the water and merely exist. Nothing else mattered other than maximizing the amount of time spent outside near water. Diving into the water on a hot day (75-80 degrees) is the best feeling ever. The initial shock and gradual refreshment and everlasting contentment that comes from the life force of the earth. My relationship to water is beyond words.

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Serene

NH Lakes

The yellow star is about where I live, the lakes and rivers named are the big ones; you can see a whole bunch more.

Heat and Humidity

I realized that NOLA has turned me into a biggity-bitch when it comes to temperature. It was in the 70s almost every day and I wore my sweatpants (which I had to go into town to buy because my linen pants weren’t cutting it) every day. I was so cold the entire time, so cold that I’d often bring a blanket down to the dock, since my goal was to maximize my outdoor time. As far as humidity is concerned there is none. I scoff at ladies who complain about the 8% humidity.

NOLA Nature

Nature, for the most part, is planted and landscaped and maintained by someone. The beautiful live oaks on St. Charles and other streets were placed there to help shade people and keep them cool, engineered nature. This, however, does not magnificence of the trees in New Orleans.

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The tree of life is one of the most magical trees ever.

Color

New Orleans is a lot more colorful than New Hampshire, it’s not that our flowers are any more colorful than theirs, it’s that our houses are. Driving down the streets, especially in the Bywater, seeing a bright tri-colored house is to be expected. Houses are painted bright blue, red, green, purple, yellow, pink, orange, you name it there is a house painted it. Not only the house color but the added color of all the beads, especially after Mardi Gras, beads hang from every conceivable place adding splashes of manufactured color everywhere. Another source of color, as I have mentioned, is the street art.

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Water

Water in NOLA is very interesting. We are surrounded by it: Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, all the canals, spillways and bayous, and of course there is the rain which frequently floods normally dry parts of the city. However, there is no fresh, clean, easily accessible water to swim in. The Mississippi is toxic, like my baby would have three heads toxic. Pontchartrain is supposedly ok to swim in, but I don’t know where and there a bull sharks…no thank you. Water in NOLA isn’t as recreational and relaxing as it is in NH, here it is more functional and destructive. It is an element that we have to deal with rather than coexist with. This relationship breaks my heart almost as much as being forced to swim at a public pool does (I know I have been spoiled when it comes to water, I fully accept that). Also, don’t forget our frequent water boil advisories and that brain eating amoeba from Chalmette…

NOLA lake

The yellow star is about where I live, you can see that we are literally surrounded by water (not marked are the canals).

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We do get the occasional beautiful sunset too.

Heat and Humidity

IT’S EVERYWHERE. I learned a few summers ago that my absolute limit for driving with the windows down was 93 degrees, if it reached 94 degrees my windows were up and ac was blasting; that is until my ac broke…I don’t want to talk about it (#firstworldproblems). But seriously, about two years into living here I realized that my hair is naturally curly, this was a quite a shock after living for 18 years as a straight-haired person. I also know that if it is above 46% humidity there is absolutely no point in straightening my hair.

The point? Both places are beautiful, colorful and vibrant in their own different and unique ways.

NOLA to NH Observations: Life Path

One major difference that I noticed between New Hampshire and New Orleans: the jobs that my friends have. I think that the differences are really interesting and speak volumes about the two cultures.

Friends in New Orleans

Jobs

All of my friends in New Orleans are not where they want to be forever. Most of my friends are finishing school or working in restaurants, or education, or volunteering full-time. These things are all great life experiences, but they are not careers (check that, they can be careers, but not for these people). I’ve decided my friends down here are all in this weird “figuring my shit out transition/ experimental phase” of their lives because the things that they want to do are ethereal, and weird, and not concrete. There is no path well-traveled to their (really our, I’m in this category too) end goals…if we even know what those are. None of us want careers in a field that society needs. Because of that there isn’t a steady market for these open-ended, often self-created roles we desire. We have to find them, or make them ourselves, which is hard when you still have cereal for dinner 3 nights a week. This isn’t to say that we won’t get where we want to be, because I believe that we all will. We will just get there on our time, at our own pace, by our own rules and there will probably be a lot of stressful nights and odd jobs along the way (Camp Bow Wow, shot girl-ing, hostess-ing, etc.) and lots of free labor, I mean volunteering (One Million Bones, Water Symposium). But that is how you, in New Orleans, you figure out where you fit in society.

Being in New Orleans also allows for this kind of life style. First of all the cost of living is cheap and the cost entertainment even cheaper. But more than that there is a free-spirited-float-along-try-it-out-figure-it-out-eventually mentality here. It’s ok to work three jobs and still be scraping by, most people are. It’s ok to be working in a job that is totally different from your dream, most people are. Most people are also working on the side toward their dream. Or they wake up one day and say “fuck being an electrician I want to be an artist.” (True story. I was walking around the Frenchman Art Market last night and a guy told us about how he was an electrician and really unhappy and decided to quit, use his copper wiring to make sculptures.) New Orleans seems to be a place where you can have the most outlandish dreams and people don’t look at you crazy, they tell you to go for it. This where my illogical, adventurous side feels at home.

Living Arrangements

Speaking of homes, almost of my friends in NOLA live with at least two other people they are not married to, dating, or related to. For example, my house (second floor of a house) has three bedrooms and has five people living in it. Basically I’m back in college living in the Commune House with my friends. The fridge will always be chaos, the dishwasher will always be full and there will always be a beer can somewhere. And this probably sounds terrible to a lot of mid-twenty-somethings who are well on their way to becoming totally independent while leading normal adult lives that includes personal space. Not down here. We’re all a bunch of un-pragmatic dreamers in loads of debt who refuse to acknowledge it, living together, working at mediocre jobs that require us to use half of our brain power, who will one day, eventually, get our shit together and be amazing. But until then it’s odd jobs, communal living and food stamps for us.

New Hampshire

Jobs

Now take everything that I just explained and picture the exact opposite. I am amazed by how much friends back home have their shit figured out. Three of my friends from home are working in careers that society needs, one is a Physician’s Assistant and one is a Forensic Interviewer, and one is a teacher; all are concrete jobs, with concrete and applicable skills (unlike Anthropology…or Philosophy…or Latin American Studies…[I have a degree in social skills…cool.]) and a consistent job market (at least as consistent as can be in this economy). Cole’s friends also all have logical jobs: technology sales, plumber, teachers, construction workers.  There is no debating society’s need for teachers, just like construction, plumbers, electricians and doctors, people will always need them. Another thing is that these jobs are all full-time and salaried (or commission, which is also way better than hourly). Finally, our friends are working in their dream careers; they have followed the path to their end destination. Amazing. The pragmatic New England side of me yearns for this stability.

Living Arrangements

Speaking of stability, our friends, for the most part, live on their own with their significant others. Most of our friends actually own their homes, not rent, not half a home, but bought the whole home. These are the places where they probably won’t live forever; but these homes might see their owners carried over the threshold after marriage, these homes might see the birth of their owner’s first child, perhaps even that child’s first steps. These are homes with personal space, and backyards and fences and driveways and fewer people living in them than the number of bedrooms. Buying these homes is just another step towards being a real life adult with real life responsibilities.

Me

You may be wondering, well Emily, how does this all play out for you? Raised with that New England work ethic and pragmatism, thrust into the suspended state of realism and diversion that is New Orleans. (If you’re not wondering this then you should probably skip this part). Well ye who wonders, it is not easy catering to my two contrasting yet equally important desires. I am torn between the logical, NH part of me that says “get a job that makes sense and will pay the bills” and the free-spirited, NOLA part of me that says “to hell with it! I’m going to start a non-profit and barely make ends-meet while I also dabble in writing a book”. Maybe these two sides of me are the reason I decided to stay in NOLA. Maybe I need this extra time to figure my shit out; because I know that I would not be happy owning a house, being tied down to one town, being locked into one job right now. Don’t get me wrong that kind of stability would be nice, but I need to get my yaya’s out before I can truly become a happy real person. So until then it’s communal living and grandiose plans and side projects for me.

The point? New Hampshire and New Orleans breed different types of people with different types of dreams, goals and aspirations; maybe it’s what’s in the water. Personally it’s a constant struggle trying to balance the two sides of me, but ultimately I think that is what will make my life interesting.

NOLA to NH Observations: Nice People

I have been in NH for the past month (thus why I haven’t posted anything new). I had this great idea to write about the various observations I made while in NH and my first few days in NOLA. I was going to do them all together, but that is too long and nobody wants to read that much (let’s be real), so I’ll do them in themed posts. Enjoy!

Nice People

People always talk about “Southern Hospitality” and how Northerners are cold. Not true. I’ll tell you right now this is a blatant lie. What most people think of when they think of the North is New York City- fyi New York doesn’t constitute the WHOLE North, there are other places. Just because you went to NYC once and only encountered people who wore monotones, had their earbuds in and got really mad if you bumped into them, doesn’t mean that’s what EVERYONE is like.  It’s like being in a blizzard in Alabama and thinking it snows every winter in the entire South (fun fact: I’ve been in more Southern states  during a  snowstorm than in the Northern states). But I digress. I will admit that the niceness encountered up North and down South are very different.

NOLA Nice

Terms of Endearment:

Everybody calls women “baby”, “honey”, “sugar”, or some other term of endearment that makes most Northerners uncomfortable at first. I remember the first time a grocery clerk called me baby, she was about my age and it totally freaked me out. Then I noticed men calling me baby and I thought – please, I am NOT your baby- but then I slowly dropped my Northern preconceived notions about why people call you a term of endearment and embraced it. I don’t call people baby ever, but I also don’t cringe when other people do. For example, while in the airport (upon my return) a nice gentleman asked me “You findin’ everything you need baby?” “Yes sir, thank you.” “Ariight, baby.” And I smiled because I knew I was back in New Orleans.

Chattiness:

I find people in New Orleans to be really chatty. Out in the street, at the grocery store, in line for the bathroom at Mardi Gras, pretty much anywhere. People have no problem striking up a conversation with total strangers. Now that I’m thinking about it alcohol consumption might have something to do with it…

Ma’am & Sir:

Being from New Hampshire I did not grow up using ma’am and sir and I didn’t really get it. Then I heard a friend of mine on the phone changing plane tickets and anytime she was asked a question she would answer “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am”. It was weird to me, she was doing something so normal, why all the formalities? But then I realized, that’s just the way it is down here. No matter what you are doing you use ma’am and sir.

Helpfulness:

While working for One Million Bones I frequently carried 50lb boxes along with all my other supplies. It could be quite pathetic, we’ll just say it, to watch me strug-fest up the stairs or to an elevator, and especially through doors. I found that people (black men especially) were exceptionally helpful. They would often take the 50lb box without even asking how far they’d have to carry it. One man was leaving the building as I was entering and came all the way to the 27th floor with me, no questions asked, just helping.

Another time I had an incredibly bad day at work (Starbucks in Harrah’s; some guy who was tired of losing accused me of being incompetent and trying to steal his money…yea…right.) Anyway, I’d about had it. It was around 1am and I was sitting on the side of Harrah’s crying on the phone with my fiance and people kept coming up to me to see if I was ok. So I decided to take note of who was stopping. No white people stopped. No girls stopped. Nobody in their 20s – early 30s stopped. Only one group stopped because one of their black members checked up on me.  Two middle aged black men stopped. One Latino late 30’s Latino stopped. One late 30’s black man stopped. I was out there for about 45 minutes. It was really interesting to see who stopped, who didn’t, who listened to me saying I was fine and moved on, and who insisted that if I was still there in 20 minutes he would buy me a drink (I wasn’t still there).

New Hampshire Nice

Terms of Endearment:

We don’t use them with strangers. I don’t think that I have ever heard a grocery clerk call me “baby” or “sweety”. It’s just not our culture.

Chattiness:

I feel like I always hear people say that Northerners aren’t chatty, you can never strike up a conversation anywhere. I call shenanigans. Where do you think I learned to be chatty? I’ll give you a hint: the only place I lived for 18 years of my formative life. You can totally strike up conversations in line, with check out clerks, on the street, waiting around for things, whatever. But I do think that Northerners like other Northerners and are a little apprehensive of outsiders. (This even counts for people from a different town, part of the state or part of New England. And don’t act- other parts of the country- like you don’t like your own people more than outsiders.)

Ma’am and Sir:

Northerners (and pretty much anyone not in the South) don’t use them. Again it’s not rude, it’s just a cultural thing. What is rude is calling people ma’am or sir. A friend of mine from California told me “never call my mom ma’am, she gets really mad about it”. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it brings people back to a different era where formalities were necessary. Maybe it makes people feel old. Maybe it makes people feel like the person calling them ma’am is their subordinate and they (the ma’am) don’t like that. I really have no idea, but we don’t use it. Unless you want to piss someone off, then ma’am and sir are great to have in your linguistic repertoire. For example, I used to be a teller, and people get really mean about their money (usually when they have none left and somehow end up blaming you- the teller- for their improvident spending habits.) There was one woman who was always very surly and rude to me and when I was about at wits end I would pull ma’am her. “Ma’am, I understand your concerns but unfortunately I cannot do anything about your negative balance.” BAM! I just gave out my warning signal, like skunk standing on its front paws, watch out, I’m getting mad! My co-workers all knew what the use of ma’am or sir meant. Kill ’em with kindness right?

Helpfulness:

New Englanders are the most helpful people ever. Period. End of story. Snow storm got you blocked in? Here let me plow your drive way. Gone on vacation, here let me feed and water your horses. Mower doesn’t work? Here use mine. Need some free manure? Here take this. Struggling to move a HUGE piece of furniture? Here let me help you with that. Need to put in over 4 acres of fence and build a shed. Here I am in my shit kickers and cut-offs, point me in the direction. Drifting away from the dock? Here throw me your rope and I’ll pull you in and tie you off. New Englanders are the most helpful people ever. Doesn’t matter what is going on we will probably stop and help you, is it heavy? dirty? will it take a long time? no matter, let me help. (Please adjust helpfulness accordingly for city and state location).

The point? The cultural differences between New England and the South don’t mean that one group of people is nicer than the other, it just means that when you travel you need to understand that your norms aren’t their norms. Adapt, it’s kinda what we do best (that, and start wars).

First 24

When I talk about traveling between New Hampshire and New Orleans it gets confusing. I refer to both places as “home”. NH is my home in the sense that it is where I grew up, my people are here and I identify as a New Hampshireite. NOLA is my home because I have built my own life there, I also grew up (am growing up) and I identify as a New Orleanian.

It’s always confusing to have conversations like this:

“I’m going home for a month!”

“Cool when do you come back home?”

“I’ll be back home July 22nd”

“No, back here home?”

“Oh, I fly back home August 20th”

This has happened multiple times. I am proud to consider myself a local in both places. It’s as though my logical-organized-orderly-goal driven-task accomplishing-self is from New Hampshire, and my loud-flamboyant-socially conscious-slightly insane-self is from New Orleans.

Since I got back to New Hampshire 24 hours ago I have been taking note of all of the differences between the two places.

1. The Raised Reflectors

The first difference I noticed is that NH doesn’t use raised reflectors on the highway.

This isn’t from NOLA but you can see the reflectors (the square-looking things between the white lines)

The reflectors help show you the lines on the road and let you know when you are crossing the lane, because your whole car vibrates. NOLA doesn’t just use them on the highway, pretty much wherever there are multiple lanes there are raised reflectors. On Claiborne I like to try and switch lanes without running over any of them- so when Cole was driving on the highway in NH my first thought was “Damn he is really good at not hitting the reflectors”…then I realized there aren’t any reflectors to hit. I don’t like it.

2. The Radio

The second difference that I noticed is how shitty the radio stations are in NH. Where is the WOOZ?! What do you mean I can’t listen to NOLA-centric music in NH?! What do you mean93.3 plays country and not hip hop and R&B? What do you mean 102.9 is a classic rock station out of Maine and not…hip hop and R&B? At least NPR is the same station…but of course the content is different; rather than talking about music or history they talk about slaughter houses…Ok that isn’t a fair representation of NHPR, I only listened it for an hour. Anyway…I miss my NOLA radio stations!!

3. The Roads

The roads in New Orleans suck. They are terrible, words actually cannot express how awful they are. I used to think that potholes and frost-heaves were bad in New Hampshire, but there is no comparison. I am talking about literal holes (usually filled with water) in New Orleans.

This is by a hospital.

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Also, unlike most things in NOLA, terrible roads don’t discriminate, they are an equal opportunity screw-your-day-upper. I didn’t take any of these pictures, all I did was google image search “potholes in New Orleans”. The one thing I will say is that New Orleanians have a pretty good sense of humor considering how much damage these things can do to your car. (Now I understand why I have 3 popped tires in the last year…)

Yes those are oyster shells.

If you want to see more glorious potholes don’t fret, I’ll be doing a post on them when I get back.

As I was driving down the (empty) highway with my mom I told her that I was weirded out that the road is so smooth. It almost made me uneasy, for you see, we don’t only have potholes that could eat a small dog, but our highways are also made out of 9 different materials. Unlike in NH which recently re-did all of our highways so they are made out of the same material and wicked smooth. Please compare:

NH: please note that the road is smooth and freshly paved, the majority of the highway looks like this too.

NOLA: Please not that the road is two different colors (and materials) and both are old and bumpy, it feels like driving over a grate.

I-10

Now I’m not saying that NH has perfect roads because come winter and mud season all bets are off.

But the final point I would like to make about the roads is more about the way that NH is run in comparison to NOLA. In NH when there is road construction people are out there working everyday and the construction is completed within a logical time frame. In contrast, Claiborne (in 2 spots), St. Charles, Broadway, Carrollton, I-10 and many other roads, have been under construction anywhere from before the Superbowl to 4 months ago. Regardless I rarely see people working and there have been few changes…other than seriously mucking up traffic patterns.

4. Street Art

I love the street art in NOLA, it is vibrant, tells a story and creative. When I think of NH I don’t really think of street art…

However, I saw this little gem on the side of a local grocery store.

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Then there is this mural from NOLA

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I think that these two murals perfectly depict the stereotypical inhabitant of each location.

5. Noise

NOLA is filled with sounds of car horns, sirens, people and regular city sounds. NH is filled with sounds of rushing water, birds chirping and silence.

6. Smell

NOLA smells like shame, debauchery and standing water (especially on Bourbon). NH smells like nature. Simple as that.

These are the differences I have noticed in the first 24 hours of returning home and missing home. I’m sure more are to come.

The point? NOLA & NH have both made me who I am and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Unemployment Blues

Since getting my masters in 2012 I have had a rocky start to adult-hood. I have gone from being unemployed for three months to getting four jobs in three days, to quitting one job (Starbucks at Harrahs…who can really blame me for that one), to having “artistic differences” and being down to one part-time job and one full-time volunteer gig, to basically being unemployed for the entire summer. My days, nights and weekends are filled with job hunting. Hours of sitting on my computer weeding through jobs I don’t want, jobs I’m under qualified for, jobs I’m over qualified for and trying not to get kidnapped from Craigslist. My time is also filled with trying to sell myself in approximately 250 words. Then there is the seemly unending stream, check that, waterfall of rejection. I feel so played because I don’t even get to sell myself in person. Then I wonder did I spell something wrong? Did I write the wrong organization name? Do I not have enough experience? All of this really begins to take a toll on the ol’ self-esteem and it can easily land you feeling down in dumps and full of self-pity.

I know that this problem is not new and that I am not alone. I also know that nobody wants to hear somebody bitch about being unemployed and I don’t really want to bitch about being unemployed. You may be asking yourself “…ok…then what is your angle?” My angle is this: as I stress and search and write and send and follow-up and cry and repeat, I cannot help but think about all of the other people who are unemployed and have been for months, years, decades?

See, even though I am basically unemployed and literally (not figuratively, oh no, literally) drowning in higher-education induced debt, I am still incredibly lucky. I am lucky that I don’t have kids right now, I am lucky that I have a supportive (soon to be) spouse, I am lucky that I have a computer, that I have constant access to the internet, that I have time to job search, and that I have good reading and writing skills. I constantly wonder about the people who don’t have these things. What about the single mom who has three kids and can barely scrape by, who wants a higher paying job but doesn’t have the time (or energy) to search? What about the 20-something year old who didn’t get accepted to college (or didn’t apply- it’s not for everyone) and doesn’t have access to a computer, or the internet? What about the 40-something year old man who just got out jail, has no recent work history, has a criminal record, and doesn’t know how to read or write- let alone fill out an online application? What about the millions of people who have been marginalized for generations and told that they wont or can’t amount to anything, that they wont or can’t get a high paying job?

This, more than my current lack of employment, has been weighing on me constantly. I helped a young mother fill out a “scholarship” (read: voucher) application for her daughter. I was dumbfounded when I realized that she lacked basic computer skills. She didn’t know how to google, she didn’t know how to type, she didn’t capitalize any proper nouns, she had a hard time understanding the directions and prompts. I totally take my consistent internet and computer skills for granted.

Now imagine that almost everybody you have grown up around deals drugs, or had babies young, or doesn’t have a stable job, or has a drinking problem, or a drug problem, or lives with two other families in a shotgun, or is in an abusive relationship, or can’t read or write past a third grade level, or has a record, or didn’t finish high school, or has any combination therein. How can you believe that you will be the exception? Who do you turn to when you have a question or need help? Who do you list as references? Where do you begin to look for a job? Where do you have access to a computer? When do you have the time? What do you list as experience?

I don’t understand why there aren’t more programs out there to help adults learn how to use computers, learn how to write a resume, learn how to write a cover letter, learn how to interview, learn how to get an e-mail address, learn how to search for jobs, learn how to fill out online applications. I have no doubt that youth focused organizations are important and crucial in New Orleans; the whole point is to try to curb these problems before they become life habits. However, where are the programs that are adult centered? Are adults not interested in these types of programs? I find that hard to believe. I am willing to bet that adults, just like kids, need to be empowered to believe in themselves, to believe that they can accomplish things if they put their minds to it, to believe that asking for help is ok, to believe that they are worth more than they give themselves credit for. Just like kids adults need a support system and a champion in their corner pushing them to set the bar higher and go for it. Who knows, maybe I’ll start an adult resources center…anyone up for a challenge?

The point? So many people take so many seemingly simple things for granted, like being able to surf the net. Realizing that so many of us are so lucky is humbling and grounding.

Shell Shocked

Last Friday some friends and I went to Zeitgeist Multi- Disciplinary Arts Center to watch the documentary Shell Shocked about the murder rate in New Orleans. It isn’t just statistics and crime scene photos. It is about the children, the families, the community that is plagued by the most terrible disease: murder. There are interviews with community and religious leaders, students, parents of murder victims and footage of news clips, all set against the backdrop of a post-Katrina New Orleans. I don’t personally know anybody who has been murdered, so it is very hard for me to try to relate or understand what the majority of New Orleanians have gone through. I have, however, seen the aftermath. Not the bloody, hysterical, anger filled aftermath, rather the apathetic, unhopeful, broken down aftermath.

Watching Shell Shocked was really interesting to me because I am fascinated by crime and gang culture. I have seen just about every documentary on the Bloods and the Crips, MS 13, LA Riots and the like, in addition to all of the episodes of Locked Up available on Netflix. But this was different. It was different because it is the same, and, because it is my city; it isn’t some far away West Coast city that has class and race issues that devolve into riots and gang violence. It is my backyard, it is my adopted home, it is my community, it is my neighbor.

It was also interesting because these are things that people who choose to live in New Orleans know. I know that murder happens all the time. I know that most of the time black, young adults are involved. I know that the 9th ward and 7th ward are some of the most dangerous areas. I know these things. But for some reason having someone show me, formally present me with the facts, is very upsetting. Maybe it’s because I know these things in the back of my mind; that I am always subconsciously aware of. But it is different to sit in a room with people and view your city from a person perspective for an hour.

One of the most jarring things to me was the ease and calm with which the youth discussed murder; not just murder, but the murder of their friends and family.

“I got two brothers who got shot. So yea, it’s a lo- it runs through my family, but that’s the closest, my brothers.”

“I know about ten people who have died to a violent death.”

“They all died before they even turned 17.”

“It’s almost natural that you know somebody who got shot. Like, if you don’t know nobody, somethin’ wrong wich’ya”

It is so upsetting to me that this is what the next generation thinks is natural. There is nothing natural about murder. Not only do they feel like it is natural, but they feel like there is no hope. This is a sentiment I have heard time and time again. “But Ms. Emily, what you think we can do?” “Not nobody gonna listen to me.” “Naw it’s too late for New Orleans.” When I hear students talk about murder like this my heart breaks. They should not be desensitized to such rampant violence at such a young age.

But then again, what can be done? What can be done to undo generations of marginalization, poverty, racism, and poor education? I don’t have the answer, but I refuse to think that nothing can be done. I firmly believe that the first step in fixing any problem is acknowledging that it exists and opening a real dialogue about it. I believe that is what John Richie (the director) is working towards. As I see it there is a dichotomy between the way that “outsiders” view New Orleans and the way that New Orleans really is. I think that Shell Shocked is trying to show the human side of the New Orleans’ negative statistics. Like I have said so many times before, murder doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it affects all of us.

I hope that this will inspire you to purchase the documentary here. Richie has challenged us as a national community to reach 5,000 downloads by the end of July. If we reach this goal he will donate $1,000 to Youth Mentoring Connection NOLA.

The point? We need to do better for our next generation.