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  • I fall for the small details first.

    The street names: Piety. Desire.

    There is a poetry built into the physical environment of this city, even cracked, rotting or crumbling.
  • I collect front porches, covet them. I admire the rainbow of house colors, peach to chartreuse, lilac to robin’s egg blue.

    I count the number of flowering Angel’s Trumpet bushes between my house and the café where, each morning, I'm tempted to order a warm biscuit with strawberry jam.

    Up on the levee at sunset, I can’t stop taking photographs. I’m like a woman who can’t believe her good fortune at the beauty of her lover, and so surreptitiously takes his picture every time he falls asleep, reveling.
  • But, enamored with this city in the way a newcomer is, I occasionally notice the gloss I’m applying, the romance I find in the deterioration.

    This is a place half remade by a storm… and some of it is still unmade, its windows boarded, interiors molding. Just blocks away from my Angel’s Trumpets, there are still homes with now 8-year-old numbers scrawled on their sides. They have missed the resurrection, or are awaiting the tide of newcomers like me to creep across St. Claude Avenue and take them in.

    There is a lot of talk about who is replacing whom.

    At a bar last night, the band’s lead singer—cowboy boots, bouffant—makes a distinction between a “hipster” and a “New Orleanian.” They are represented as a binary, and one can feel the yearning of those of us in the audience—mostly young, mostly white, mostly post-storm arrivals. We know which column we want to be in. Most of us arrived here half in love with this city—the last thing we want to do is change it. And yet, by our very presence, it seems we are, no matter how many costumes we make, how many parades we dance in, how many crawfish boils we applaud. Is the verdict written in stone? Must the new boot out the old? Or can we find a symbiotic exchange: our energy for your culture, your knowledge for our celebration...

    I ask myself: when are you carrying on a tradition, and when are you simply imitating it?
  • I make a point of saying hello to every person I pass on the street, old or young, black or white, interested or not. It seems a small thing, this effusive friendliness, but half the time it’s the only thing I can think of to do that says:

    I want in. Not to take over, but to participate.

    I’ll earn my belonging here.
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