Ladies and gents, I don't know if it is simply the water here, or if it is just this year, or if I only seriously took the time out to think about this now, but I now feel I must exercise some caution whenever I head out of the greater New Orleans area.
No, I am not talking about the effects of taking a break in the midst of the latest news on our corrupt local government - seems there is always something on that front here (I'm not discounting the water hypothesis just yet). Sadly, I'm getting the feeling that that will never change, despite our best intentions. I wish to hell it would, but hey, it's been a few centuries. Yes, I'm being a cynic right now for a reason. Bear with me, I'll get to it.
This past weekend, I got to Omaha and talked with a fellow at a pre-bar mitzvah party whose son is attending Tulane. His wife didn't take to New Orleans, but he liked it...until he got word through CNN online of the shootings on the parade route on Mardi Gras day. That gave him pause.
Another couple came out for the bar mitzvah - a pair who live in Metairie. After the storm, she was quite ready to leave. He insisted they stay, which is good, as he's a specialist in the medical profession and those folks are sorely needed here. She seemed to give New Orleans no quarter as she derided it for its schools which "were never good and would never be good", its taxes, which she thought we were insane for paying, and other miscellaneous slights and missteps the Crescent City had committed in her eyes.
Not to mention, of course, the tried and true and often heard variations on the incredulous, "You can actually live in New Orleans????" - this time said by the otherwise lovely and charming spouse of another of Dan's cousins.
What can I say? The crap's been coming in threes...as evidenced by my hearing about two members of the New Orleans blogpocheh heading outta town to live elsewhere shortly before my Midwestern trip, and then Maitri's news coming down the pike when I finally get the chance to check the email again. I wish 'em all the best, especially as I know that Maitri and I will now be taking the HinJew Ganeshlichkeit north of I-10. Mazel tov!...I guess...
The biggest shot between the eyes I got this weekend, however, came to me in the form of a city in which they've supposedly "gone about as fur as they c'n go", a city that could well appeal to our own resident Fountain Boy for the multiplicity of watery platforms for his legendary drunken musings, another city by a river. Last time we were there, we zipped in and out of one teensy section of the place, but we had a little more time on Monday, and that was when I suddenly saw myself residing in Kansas City, Missouri, of all places.
Sure, it's got a monument that Dan instantly described as being "art deco phallic" in its architectural style. So Hallmark is headquartered there. So there are signs demarcating tornado shelters all over the place. The city has had its share of troubles with flooding. And yes, it still has its share of cold, cold weather, which I detest. But I found myself getting curious about the place in a similar way to how I get about New Orleans. I've been fishing around for little tidbits of information here and there, and I find I cannot completely discount a town that has its own band of blogpocheh, a local publication that acknowledges that those folks are there and contributing, and a blogging librarian and a "danger" blog.
No, we are not planning to move anytime soon. Really, we're not.
I could of course say that this was a moment of weakness. That this fool New Orleans heart of mine was pulled in by the rescue and renovation of a landmark building left for dead. That I was basking in the glow of loads of area kids around who seemed largely unaffected by citywide trauma. But there is something deeper in what I experienced on Monday than simple weakness.
Is it a weakness to want what is best for one's family? Is it folly to turn around and head for other places where roads are better cared for, where scandal doesn't rock the city runnings as much, where obtaining a good, public education for your children is not an arduous obstacle course of a task? Is it bad to head for places where there are words for economic development that are not always "tourism", "tourism" and more "tourism"?
These are questions worth examining once and again for all of us here.
These questions are the reason why I am also not discounting the significant hypothesis of this year being a factor in my current musings. This year is going on four years after 8-29-05. This year, the long haul of recovery is wearing on so many, as the same ol' problems this city has always had rear their ugly heads once more - the boldness and ruthless violence of the criminals on the streets and in everybody's backyards, the inability of the police and the courts to effectively deal with it, the continual usage of race as a divider in our local government, the way our education system is contributing to it all. This year is when people wonder if rebuilding here is really, truly worth it. This year is pretty damn heavy.
If constantly asking myself these things is weak, well, dammit, I will put myself to a test at the same time. This year just happens to be the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz's release in the movie theaters. No, I'm not gonna sing like Billie Burke - the woman warbles so badly it sounds like someone was trying to replace her voice box in mid-song and the transplant failed.
You guessed it:
The trick is, home can be much bigger than one place, if we let it.