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I'm posting this because... it's true.  And beautiful.  And I'm terrifyingly homesick. 

New Orleans

New Orleans . How wonderful those words sound when said with no quirky emphasis on odd syllables. They always seem to elicit some response.
Have you been there?

Have you ever been to Cafe Du Monde for beignets and cafe au lait and gone back every morning of your visit? Have you ever sat for hours in the piano bar at Pat O'Brien's sipping hurricanes? Have you ever been to Mardi Gras - Bacchus? Endymion? Rex? Have you ever had oysters at the Acme House?
Have you ever sat out on the "fly" eating crawfish and drinking Dixie beer?

Have you ever taken a walking tour of the Garden District? Have you ever sung karaoke at Cat's Meow? Do you know who John Folse is? Have you ever risen at 6am to roam the streets of a "quiet" French Quarter? Have you ever been to Galatoire's? K-Paul's? Emeril's? Can you remember when Zulu threw gold-painted coconuts? Have you ever ridden the street-car down St.Charles Avenue secretly sipping your strawberry daiquiri?

Have you ever had a mint julep on the porch of The Columns Hotel? Have you ever been to Audubon Park ? City Park ? Have you ever been to mass at the St. Louis Cathedral?

Do you know who Harry Connick, Sr is? Have you ever had breakfast at Brennan's? Have you ever been to the original Tipitina's? Have you ever been to the Superdome? Saint's game? Sugar Bowl? Super Bowl? Final Four? Have you ever had cheese fries at Fat Harry's? Thrown peanuts on the floor at O'Henry's? Have you ever been to the Rendon Inn? Can you remember the New Orleans World's Fair?

Have you ever been to the campuses of Tulane and Loyola? Have you been to a crawfish boil? Sucked the heads? Have you ever been "on the lake"? "Across the lake"? To the "west bank"? Have you had a Ferdi from Mother's and wondered what "debris" was? Have you ever been an unexpected invitee to a jazz funeral? Have you ever been to Jazzfest ---- first or second weekend?
Have you ever been to Pontchartrain Beach ?

Have you ever stood in line at the Camellia Grill? Had a po-boy at Uglesich's? Oyster and artichoke soup at Mandina's? BBQ shrimp at Pascal Manale's? Gumbo at Dookie Chase? Have you ever been to a plantation home?

Have you ever been to the French Quarter festival? Can you pronounce Tchoupitoulas? Thibodaux ? Boutte? Have you ever been to Clancy's? The Upperline? Brightsen's?

Have you ever been to the Biloxi beaches? Have you ever had a monsoon at Port of Call? Breakfast at the Blue Bird? Have you ever seen the Neville Brothers? Cowboy Mouth? The Radiators?

Have you ever been to New Orleans ?

If you've been there, undoubtedly one of these things found its way to your itinerary. You probably also saw the dirty streets, the tired shotgun houses, and cracked sidewalks. You've heard about the high crime, poor public schools, poverty, and racism. And yes, there are many housing projects. It is very hot in the summer, people are generally overweight, and the city is always a hurricane away from being flooded.

Each visitor chooses to see the New Orleans they want to see it. Luckily, New Orleans has the amazing ability to win over many more than it loses. It can cause one to see the big oaks hovering over St. Charles and not the trash on the sidewalks. It can cause one to focus on the street musician and not the street beggar. It can cause one to see the wrought iron balcony rather than the dilapidated building. What is it about the Big Easy that makes most see the positive and not the negative?
The answer to New Orleans ' allure may, on the surface, seem different for locals and tourists but I suspect that there is a common thread - the people, the heart and soul of New Orleans .

There is a culture and tradition in New Orleans that is sweet and simple. No need to over analyze this. It recognizes that the enjoyment of family and life is as attainable for the poor as it is for the rich. A hand on a shoulder and touch on the arm is just the way we say hello. We know that good music, food, and drink is made all the better when surrounded by friends who share the same outlook. When it is your way of life, when it is woven into your circle of friends, social gatherings aren't seen as "excesses" but as something you just do.

New Orleanians don't believe they've cornered the market on this way of life. They recognize it when they see it elsewhere and they applaud it. What makes New Orleans special is that they have a concentration of people who have it and foster it. It's generational. It's hereditary.

The challenge to New Orleans , to the New Orleanian, is as great as ever. Its reputation temporarily tarnished by the things that occurred in the aftermath of Katrina, it is up to those who live there, have been there, and adopted this city to not let these terrible scenes replace the ones they have of the Big Easy. While money is needed to rebuild, preserving that feeling and attitude that New Orleans gave you on that last visit is just as important. Did the flood waters wash away the New Orleans way of life? Not a chance. Not a chance that New Orleanians would deprive future generations of this breeding ground of the good life.

With the vast destruction of parts of New Orleans now clear, the question is being asked repeatedly, "Is New Orleans worth rebuilding?" To that, I can only reply, "Have you ever been to New Orleans ?"
To end, here is a quote from the Times-Picayune newspaper:

"We dance when there is no music, We drink at funerals. We talk too much, and live too large and, frankly, we're suspicious of others who don't...When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces.

But don't pity us, we're gonna make it. After all, we've been rooting for the Saints for 35 years.

That’s got to count for something."

-Chris Rose, Times-Picayune Columnist, New Orleans

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