Differences between D.C. & NOLA

Last weekend I was in Washington, D.C. for the One Million Bones National Mall Installation. If you don’t know what that means click on either of those two links. I’m not going to write about the actual event in this post. I’m going to talk about the differences between D.C. & NOLA, of which there are many.

1. Noise Level

All cities have their noise pollution: cars, buses, people, ambulances, fire trucks, second line parades…But one thing I learned quite quickly this past week is that not all cities are as loud as New Orleans. I noticed this almost immediately. I walked outside of our hotel and I said…”oh my these people are so boring and quiet”. I realized that my flamboyant tendencies were quite out of place. Nobody was dancing, or singing, or yelling, or talking to themselves. Everyone was plugged in and tuned out. People kept their eyes forward and didn’t smile. WHAT?! No random conversations? No random street performers? No slightly crazy crack heads asking for change? Even the homeless were quiet…it was weird. When students from NOLA arrived (I’ll explain their trip later) I asked, “what is the biggest difference between DC & NOLA?” Without skipping a beat one student answered “People be quite here. We’s loud in New Orleans”. Amen, brother, amen. I only began to feel at home in DC when Cole & I were walking back to hotel and stumbled upon the National Gay Pride Parade. But even that had its differences…

2. Parades

If there is one thing New Orleans can do better than any other US city it’s party. Let’s face it, a parade without beer in the street is like Santa without a beard…unnatural (& kinda…meh[insert indifferent shrug here]). I always forget that you can’t just ask for a to-go cup & mosey on out into the street in other cities. So how do people enjoy parades? -which are often filled with uncomfortable situations?…no idea. BUT, I can tell you that it cuts down on the amount of trash in the street! Oh and the fact that DC has these magical, mystical creatures called “street sweepers” doesn’t hurt.


I’m sorry…what do you mean you don’t clean the city with a prison chain gang…well that just seems like some foolish, un-American, logic to me. Seriously though, there were like 6 of these things sweeping & cleaning the streets in beautiful harmonious dance akin to the likes Swan Lake.  No lie, it was amazing, actually better than the parade.

3. Cleanliness

If cleanliness is next godliness,  lets just say New Orleans makes a lot more sense now.

4. Understanding of Time, actually, understanding time period

Being from the North promptness was always built into my system. You weren’t on time unless you were 10 minutes early. That all went down the drain my Freshman year at Tulane when it took me 20 minutes to get a bagel before my 9am class. I have adapted over time, as mammals do, to my surroundings. I have now realized that I move at the speed of New Orleans. For those of you who don’t know that speed it’s meh…[insert indifferent shoulder shrug here]. You get there when you get there. Oh there was an impromptu parade down Decatur and you’re going to be 20 minutes late? ok. Oh the train is moving backwards across St. Claude and you’re going to be 15 minutes late? ok. Oh the bus you’re on just pulled over so the driver could talk to his Auntee and you’re going to be 37 minutes late? ok. Oh there hasn’t been a single Street Car for 45 minutes?- and you don’t know how long it will take you to travel from Jefferson to Canal? cool. NOT IN DC. There is this crazy thing called timely public transportation…weird I know. First of all, you travel underground…WHAT?! Shut the front door, I thought underground there was only water! Also, there are these monitors that tell you how much longer you have to stand around awkwardly pretending you have something important to do on your smart phone until the next metro comes….stop it, stop it this is all too logical.

5. Pavement & Street Signs

This one is pretty self-explanatory. The roads are paved & the side walks are straight & the streets are marked. None of this driving on the other side of the road to avoid a crater. Or circling the block because you don’t know what street you’re actually on, or driving down a one way street the wrong way because it wasn’t marked. (These are all also reasons why NOLA time is so special).

Basically what I have outlined here is that the Nation’s Capitol is completely functional, tidy & orderly. But it’s also boring. I missed the drag queens walking around at 3pm on a Tuesday with a Huge Ass Beer To Go. I missed the random yelling & dancing. I missed the street performers, and the gutter pu…no, not them, never mind. I missed bumping into friends at a random food festival.

I missed the community that is New Orleans.

That would be a really good line to end on, but I’m going to tell my theory on why New Orleans is such an awesome community…right…now:

It’s an awesome community because things are broken and corrupt, and the streets have no signs, but the homeless have honest & funny  cardboard ones. Because we are in constant danger, and the Hornets, no wait, Pelicans suck & Roger Goodell is dick. Because we have hurricanes, and oil spills, and tornadoes, and the lights go out during the Super Bowl. Because we have billions of cockroaches & termites, and the Mighty Mississippi is really gross. Because all of these terrible, miserable things give us something to talk about. I came to this realization my Sophomore year at Tulane. I was standing outside of Bruff sizing up a puddle trying to decide if I could jump over it, and if I didn’t make it if I’d drown. Some soaked girl ran by me trying to save what was left of her straight hair. And I laughed. I just started laughing, because, then I realized, this place sucks, yet we all choose to stay here. We’re all as insane as New Orleans.

The point? insanity + weird/crappy ass situations = awesome city community


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