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.

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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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On the Wall Part I

I didn’t used to be a fan of graffiti. I thought it was dirty and broke the rules. The first memory I have of graffiti is looking at a picture of a waterfall and all of the rocks were covered with graffiti. I dismissed it and said that it was ugly, that the graffiti took away from the natural beauty. Then someone (who was doing it to get a rise out of me) said or, the graffiti makes the waterfall more beautiful. And though he was being an ass, it gave me pause; what I think is beautiful other people might find ugly or vice versa. What I think is dirty is art to someone else. I don’t think that I really began to appreciate graffiti until eight years later when I studied abroad in Argentina. Graffiti in Argentina (not always) makes a statement or is artistic. Not unintelligible scribbles, that mark territory or some such nonsense, like we often see (again…not always).

I started noticing the graffiti and other assorted acts of “vandalism” in New Orleans. Then I realized that I have a whole bunch of really great pictures of things written on various surfaces around New Orleans. So this is my tribute to the hilarious, sad, awe-inspiring and the huh? that is written, drawn, scrawled, painted, whatever around New Orleans.

I have so many pictures that I decided to break it down by section and/or topic. First I will start off with some hurricane and disaster related writings.

“Looters will be shot–Katrina Rule”

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I interviewed various people about the “Katrina experience” for a Master’s project. One guy who stayed for the storm and lived in the Bywater told me that he knew he had to leave the City, not because of the storm, or flooding- these didn’t damage his area much- but because his neighbors were starting to arm themselves and sit out on their front porches to protect their property.

Eight years after Katrina, the City’s scars are still visible.
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The ‘X’ represents all that was Katrina: death, damage, lasting effects and volunteers. The top signifies the date the house was searched; the left the group that searched it; the bottom the number of dead; the right the number of structural hazards. The arrow (not always used) signals that there was a gas leak around the corner.

One Lower 9th Ward man’s call for love.

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I don’t know how long this table has been out here and I don’t know if this spot was where this man’s house used to stand. But I do know that this is a sentiment that is felt through New Orleans still. We seem to be a city that is wrapped up in nice paper, a sweet little bow and sold to consumers, who never really see pain in the truth.

“Piss off Isaac”

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Succinct and to the point, this sign was posted after the last not worthy hurricane, Isaac. I was driving around (when I shouldn’t have been…) and found this little gem…along with this next one.

NOT A ZOMBIE ENTRANCE”

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Again, very clear statement: we don’t want you zombies.

From the ashes and oil we will rise

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I feel like this is pretty clear: New Orleans has survived Katrina and the BP Oil Spill but we rise above it.

“Rise & Preserve”

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It’s what we do.

The point? Graffiti is often times just another way to publicly chronicle events in our lives.