Meditation: On the Second Line

I know what it means to miss New Orleans, but I don't know what New Orleans means, or what to say about this still-beautiful city whose beauty is terrible.

See for yourself:

I don't claim to know New Orleans, but I do know that whatever New Orleans is, it's not the Disney-fied French Quarter and the Made in China beads, any more than New York is Times Square... The real New Orleans has always been found on the streets of the second line, the permit-less parade, the mutual aid societies you make yourself when you can't get help any other way.

And I know that, as my friend Asia put it, "New Orleans needs superheroes."

Even back in the day, when I lived a couple of hours down the road in Lafayette, New Orleans was a decayed and dangerous city, but the keening's gotten a lot louder. The catastrophic failure of Main Line institutions--FEMA, the insurance companies, the utility companies, the NOPD, and the list goes on--continues to buffet the people of New Orleans more than the storm ever did, and the city's recent murders have sparked another exodus. Sometimes it seems that the city's 150-year jazz funeral for itself is all dirge, no way back.

But then again, the Saints won.

Along with Andreas and Robin, who are renovating an 1840's Creole cottage (the last half-dozen pictures in the slideshow are of their cottage), my perfect hosts in New Orleans were Abram Himelstein and Shana Sassoon, who both work for non-profits down there. Abram is a co-director of the Neighborhood Story Project, which is a documentary book-making project that makes terrific books like Coming Out the Door For the Ninth Ward by Nine Times Social and Pleasure Club. Shana is involved with the New Orleans Network and Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans.

If you want to change New Orleans, one Creole cottage or shotgun double at a time, please consider donating to one of these organizations, and tell them Apartment Therapy sent you.