A Heart’s Love For New Orleans

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I’ve walked these walks a million times. Somewhere along the line I faced up to the harsh truth that I wouldn’t be able to find the things I wanted most in life in New Orleans after all, no matter how hard I looked, and I moved away. But something keeps drawing me back and back to my wanderings through the city. It isn’t the joy of pure discovery anymore; it’s an older person’s passion, the need for a fixed, familiar core in life.

 

New Orleans holds out to me an elusive promise of omniscience. In a straightforward American small town, people feel they know everything about everybody; there’s no point in continuing to search. In most big cities, most of the secrets are plainly unknowable. But in New Orleans they’re within, and at the same time just slightly out of, reach. When Ellen Gilchrist’s much-praised book of none-too-fictional scenes from the intimate life of New Orleans In the Land of Dreamy Dreams was published, the reaction in New Orleans was: Oh, everybody knows all those stories already. So it’s oddly natural to feel that if one were to read just a few more books, or walk down a few more blocks, or reminisce with a few more old codgers, then one might finally have the whole story of New Orleans assembled in one’s mind, and the city would be in one’s possession. That lizard sunning itself on a fence post or the curtain drawn shut in that window—each one might be the finally necessary piece of information. But it never is. There is nothing to do but keep looking.