If you don’t have time to read Ellen Gilchrist, well, you do have time, really, she’s that good, but if you don’t think you have time, then you should read Chris Rose’s short article, Can’t stop loving New Orleans. I read the article in the San Jose Mercury News, but they often make things disappear behind a regwall, so I’d recommend the original. On the other hand, the Merc version is edited to be just a bit shorter and still works, so if you really, really don’t have time, try that one.
I’d like to quote a bit of it, but mise en scène doesn’t seem to be very quotable. Still, I’ll give it a shot, with a bit from the tightened up SJ Merc version:
I was in the French Quarter one night last week, trying to get to a movie, but it never happened. I was 40 minutes early, so I crawled around the neighborhood looking for a cup of coffee, and I came upon a guy who was singing while he cleaned the streets.
His name is Melvin Holmes. He was singing a Luther Vandross torch song, the kind that makes women love you for a lifetime. And he was nailing the song, just killing it, just calling out the doves and stars and blooming jasmine of the night.
The version from the Times-Picayune takes three paragraphs to get to roughly the same place. New Orleans is not about being crisp and punchy. As the excised portion says, “classically New Orleans, getting it all wrong in just the right way.”
I grew up in Baton Rouge, not New Orleans, but the two cities aren’t that far apart — fifty miles by road, a hundred by river — and the live oaks give off the same musty smell in both places. Both cities are crossroads, New Orleans is a port and Baton Rouge is the state capitol. Louis Armstrong or Huey Long, take your pick (think twice, which one built roads and schools?).
Like Chris Rose, I can’t stop loving south Louisiana. I won’t be moving back, but I know what he feels.