Missed Part One? Read It Here
By Jordan Rock
I know you hear it all the time from the old folks; New Orleans ain’t what it was. The soul is there, but the body is broken. The city doesn’t take care of itself, and a sure ain’t taking care of its people. Sure, the city government maintains of all the main streets. Every thoroughfare that tourists might ride down, the French Quarter, the Garden District, all of that has been spit shined to a mirror sheen. But the second you step off the beaten path, and go to the places where People Actually Live, you can still see the same devastation from some fourteen years ago. A gilded city, with all the water damage beneath the surface appeal, just out of sight of the rest of the world. Pisses me off every time I come back.
If you take a little wiki walk, you’ll find that New Orleans, as of the moment I’m writing this, has a population of something like 391,006. That’s a dramatic drop from the estimated population when Katrina hit, which was in the neighborhood of 484,674 people. And that’s after 14 years of survivors deciding whether or not they wanted to come back at all. But it’s not about the numbers, not really. I can look at the city with my eyes and see what’s happening. The lifeblood of New Orleans lies in the hearts and minds of its natives, and when people decide to leave, it’s tempting to say that they take part of the city’s soul with them.
The older folks call it the Brain Drain of New Orleans. Folks that were blown away not coming back. Folks born in the city leaving for good. And as time goes on, more and more great minds and great hands are trickling out of the city, like rain in a storm drain. And, you know, for a long time, I thought the same way.
But I’ve had years to think about this and through frequent
revisits to the city, while wandering the streets I have changed my perspective.
Nowadays, I see New Orleans as a tree that got blown down in a storm. When it
fell, it scattered its seeds all over the place. I’m one of those seeds. Many
seeds like me have had to make this choice since we got scattered across the
country by hurricane winds. Do we set down roots where we land, or do we pick
ourselves up and head home to salvage what’s left? It’s a hard choice to make;
many of us are still trying to decide, even after all this time.
It’s going to be hard to hear this, but I keep on coming back. And then I have to leave. Because every day I spend at home, I feel myself getting angry. There’s a fight in me, a fight for the city itself, a fire that lights up whenever I step off a plane and step into that familiar southern heat. I never have anywhere to put that fire, so it just burns me out, exhausts me. For the longest time, I didn’t understand it. It went beyond just the desire to bring the New Orleans of my childhood back, or the need to go down to City Hall and scream at the people that get rich by mismanaging the city that is here in the present. That fire in me, it’s hope; the need to push forward. New Orleans: The City seems broken, yes, but the soul of the city is simply fractured. And fractures can be repaired. Every single of one of us New Orleans Natives is a representative of New Orleans itself. An avatar; a little piece of the soul of the city. We can’t remove this part of ourselves; we’re all those seeds from that same tree. We carry the slang, the culture, the sensibilities of the city, wherever we go. None of us struggle the same, but we all struggle. We’ve all got our stories, right? Mine is just another one of those, and I’d like to tell it to you. So, if you’ve drifted far like me, or you’ve put down your roots right in the same spot that you came from, we’re far from different.
Me and you, we ARE New Orleans.
As long as we live, and continue to grow, New Orleans will do the
That idea, that’s where I’d like to start this whole thing, whatever it is. My name is Jordan Rock, and at the age of 12, Hurricane Katrina came and blew my life apart. I am a seed on the wind, searching for a place to put down roots. In my heart and in my mind, I carry the soul of New Orleans, no matter where I go.
And, with any luck, you’ll hear from me again.
See you soon.