Monday, May 01, 2006

Love in the Ruins

My entry in the Corniest Jazz Fest Headline contest is inspired by today's Fest story in the Times-Picayune, and an AFP story headlined New Orleans Jazz Fest: celebration among the ruins. The TP story LOVE AT FEST SITE refers to one item in the story about a musician proposing marriage during his set.

My own headline looks at love and the Fest from another angle: the people who come to Jazz Fest every year, out of their love of the music, and everything about New Orleans. I'm sure many of them were dropped off by shuttle buses from downtown hotels, and missed a part of my own Jazz Fest (and a lot of locals) that they would miss: the walk to the Fair Grounds.

My sister lived for years on Grand Route St. John, and my mother has lived in Park Esplanade for the last 20 years. For me (and a lot of people) the first part of every day of the Fest has been the walk up the south side of the Fairgrounds, and the last the tired trudge home. What our visitors are missing are the walk up Ponce de Leon or Maurepas or Fortin streets, or a stroll down DeSaix Boulevard.

When I was home at Mardi Gras, I took my mom and the kids over to Liuzzas (one of the few neighborhood joints open in this part of town), and as we drove around to park, saw the empty houses, the water lines, the rescue marks: all the signs of a neighborhood still in the early stages of recovery.

I hope that all of our visitors from out of town get the chance to make that walk before their visit is done, that they don't come away with the view of one travel writer I found online who suggested things were pretty much back to normal. They are not. We Are Not OK.

If you have friends staying by your house, make sure that they take that walk, that they see the real city and not just the Island and the Quarter. People who plan their vacations around Jazz Fest, who don't live here but love the city every bit as much as we do, they are some of the best advocates we could have, and they come from every corner of America. Make sure they know that We Are Not OK, and still need them to make sure we are not forgotten.

Ed Note: Added missing link in first paragraph 5/2.

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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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