So, I was nominated by a friend to be a week-long curator for the @BeingNOLA account, a “This is my life venture based on a similar campaign in Sweden, here geared towards “opening up an insular New Orleans”. I figured I might as well write about my experience, two and a half days in…
I will admit to some trepidation when I saw that line, “opening up an insular New Orleans”. Part of me has the knee-jerk reaction of, “Why the hell would we want to do that.” The outsider mentality has taken root in me, only five years in, and not a native. It’s here my love for China and New Orleans overlaps, that insular quality is strong in both cultures. In Chinese, it’s “waiguoren”, literally “out of country person”, or “foreigner”. In New Orleans, it’s just, “What school did you go to?” Meaning, high school, which me being a waiguoren, mistook for college (once, now I know). BUT, it is a bit off-putting to those of us truly invested and in love with New Orleans. And when you get right down to it, the place you were born isn’t necessarily the place that feels like home. So, there has to be a happy medium, a way to open up the culture and the city without losing its soul and destroying the qualities and beauty that have survived by being isolated and “foreign”, exotic. There has to be a way to not let New Orleans turn into any other city and still welcoming to pure hearts that will inevitably add to the, and forgive me here, gumbo. Yes, I said it. Smack me if you ever hear me say “N’Awlins” or trolley (you’ll never hear it). It’s funny, when I first moved here, I was convinced that all the local pronunciations (BurGUNdee, for instance) were just a way to test you. I’m still fairly certain that’s the case, but I like it that way. When you want to visit a different country, you at least learn a few phrases.
On the technological side, it’s odd for me to tweet this much. It’s odd for me to say that word with a straight face even. But maybe I didn’t, you don’t know. (Yeah! Written word!) Twitter has never grown on me, never been my medium. See all these words? That’s just a few minutes, and then there’s the editing. Try and dispel all my crazy thoughts into 140 character snippets and I would overwhelm people or get overwhelmed, or both. Twitter’s icon is a little bluebird, not a hummingbird. So, yes, I feel pressured to perform right now. Being a rather introverted person, I feel pressure to be an extrovert, to show all the interesting things I do in a day, when in reality most of my time is spent lying down (health problems) or working on the computer, occasionally taking photos. (Look, bub, it’s not my fault I have a broken stomach and a Rich Inner Life, but there you go.) I’m a slow-mover and I came to terms with that a long time ago. I’m ok with that, and maybe that’s one reason I love this town, it forces you to slow down. Yet the argument could be made that this is one of the things that is changing about New Orleans, and maybe that’s what scares me the most. Having lived the same amount of time in Los Angeles, I do not want a shallow fast-lane life (apologies to my Angeleno friends. this is not personal, you know this). I do not want a “good enough” and “just get it out there” life, a quantity above quality driven existence. Because pressure. Pressure to perform because there are so many people out there trying to do what you do and they’re driven, young and DRIVEN with just as much educational debt hanging over them as you. I guess what I’m saying is, I worry that with the water rising, our coastlines sinking, I’m still concerned that there is an inevitable shallowness permeating a city a love so dearly.
And yet, and yet, it’s nice to shake the cobwebs from your eyes and see your beloved anew. It’s good to see New Orleans as if you’re introducing her, through your eyes, to the world, or visiting friends, (or at least 1,500 random strangers). So there is something to that, to not take her for granted. And in the end, you get what you give, the tool means nothing unless you use it well, and all that jazz. All. that. jazz.