People, New Orleans
Some of these people are locals, others are visitors, but they all look happy and smile at the tourist-photographer!
I sometimes “steal” pictures, but the ones I like to make the most are the asked for ones; a bit posed, but at least the smiles are for me! And the smiles denote also the nice atmosphere you find in the streets of New Orleans, even the special drivers in their special vehicles smile at the pedestrian. . . (picture 5)
So in any popular city it is assumed that the people might be snobby, resisting the tourist cliche. However, I had pleasant conversations and was very well treated by everyone (with the exception of the waitress at Cafe Du Monde). My most favorite two encounters are:
1) While getting a drink at a cart in Jackson Square the man running it asked us where we were from. Being from Houston he had great things to say and thanked us for taking such good care of the people when Katrina hit. I thought that was really nice!
2) While eating at a small mexican place off of Bourbon St. at midnight we started talking to the guy running the check out. We ended up talking all about New Orleans and really getting the perspective of someone who had to flee their home, moved back, and could give us all the effects of Katrina from the first-hand experience. (Granted I was extremely drunk by now.) Needless to stay we exchanged email addresses and I have a good contact for the inside info if I want to go back for Mardi Gras or something of the sort.
Overall, the people are very welcoming. I hope you have the same experiences!
If anyone starts a conversation off with that, ignore them. They'll tell you where you got your shoes (On your feet) or how to spell your name (Y-O-U-R-N-A-M-E) and will some times get beligerent when you don't fork over some money. Better to avoid them and keep on movin'
Anyone who has ever lived here will tell you that people in New Orleans are just different from those in other places. It's true. Many of the paradigms and principles that people follow elsewhere don't always apply here. Most people here are friendly, but don't want to become assimilated into the white-bread, suburban, homogenized American culture. For that reason, this city will always be unique.
Coming from Stockport or Pittsburgh? I know, nobody waves at you for no reason. But here they do, so have fun and wave back. New Orleans is (for all of it's dangers) one of the sunniest, friendliest American cities I have ever lived in.
Our annual block party was disrupted by Katrina last year, but we were all back and so we decided to celebrate and reaffirm our friendships. Our street runs N-S parallel to S.Claiborn Ave. and is only 7 blocks long, dead-ended by Carrollton Ave (N) and the bend of Claiborn (which parallels the riverbend)(S). This is a secluded oak-lined enclave which flooded moderately at its north end. The homes are 70-90 years old and of ample size with very long narrow lots. (It is a quick, traffic-free drive to the business district and the area is much prized by professionals and executives.) 100% of the residents are back or deceased or moved out and reselling, and most of us did not leave town for the holiday (enough of that activity!--and besides any Gulf shore summer homes are gone). The Carrollton area was once a small town and Oak Street is still almost a small town street, some nice restaurants have crept in, but we have no Supermarkets or big-box stores or malls. We take an unused superhighway or back streets to go (2-4 miles) to shopping areas elsewhere or to the airport. All around us is desolation (within half a mile); we all are happy but feel strangely guilty. Most of us are too old to help( in fact we worry most about the absence of hospitals , doctors and home-care givers). A party makes everyone feel good!
One of the things that I've checked and re-checked during every visit back to this town, is whether I'd dreamed up this sense of uber-tolerance...this attitude of "anything goes"...the feeling that since nobody really censors bad behavior around here, it actually functions in a promotional capacity; that is, the more you indulge yourself, the more the Madame tends to wink and look the other way. It's a very curious sensation.
In New Orleans, transexuals walk down Bourbon Street sporting better physiques than most women I know - and to see someone vomit his or her guts out right onto the street leaves most locals nonplussed. You can walk backwards, sideways or on your head from one point to another, and nobody will give you a second glance.
It's bizarre - and yet strangely reassuring.
Not sure if New Orleans legislation has caught up to the 21st century, but when I was in college (hey, it wasn't THAT long ago!), women's sororities were for visitation only. Meaning, you could belong to a sorority but you could never aspire to live in the Sorority House, even though they existed just like in any other college town.
Why? Because in the city of New Orleans, the law states that more than 8 unrelated women in a single residential unit constitutes a brothel!
Again, just one of those little known but very quirky New Orleans facts I love....
First of all, the word "Cajun" is a kind of phonetic distortion of the word "Acadian" which describes the descendants of 18th century French-speaking exiles from Acadiana (Nova Scotia) in Canada.
"Creole" describes a person of French or Spanish ancestry who was born in the "New World" during the colonial period. Big difference.
To white people in New Orleans, a Creole is a white descendant of one of the founding French or Spanish families. To a black person from New Orleans, a Creole is a person of mixed blood and French heritage. Again, big difference.
As a general rule, true "Creoles" are really only found in the New Orleans area; persons of French ancestry in the rest of Louisiana are considered "Cajuns" (or Arcadian, as they prefer to be called). Cajuns who move to New Orleans usually become naturalized Creoles.
To put it in culinary terms: a typical Creole lunch is trout amandine with a glass of Chablis and bread pudding with rum sauce for dessert. A Cajun on the other hand, would prefer crawfish etouffee, a beer, and bread pudding with whiskey sauce.
Again - BIG DIFFERENCE!
If you read my tip on McDonald's in New Orleans, you will know that the people here do not move at the same speed as many of us out-of-towners. This is especially true for those of us from places where it is cold; we just move and talk much faster. So when you are in New Orleans and you think the service is too slow, just relax and be patient. Time is different there. Besides, you're supposed to be on vacation!
For anyone wishing to gain an understanding of the local customs of the people of New Orleans, the book A Confederacy of Dunces should be considered required reading. This book is invaluable in gaining insights into the thoughts, language and soul of everyday people here in Nola. Through the eyes and actions of the horrifically tragic Ignatius Reilly, you’ll be introduced to the steamy underbelly of the New Orleans lifestyle as well as the actual neighborhoods and streets where it all happens. It really helps to explain why that crazy, multi-colored-umbrella-hat-wearing, bible thumping preacher guy stands on the corner of Canal and Chartres and does what he does rain or shine….
If you are already an Ignatius Reilly fan (or if you become one), there are a few Ignatius Reilly statues at 819 Canal Street...
Unlike Moscow militsia (c.f. my Moscow travelpages) the NOPD officers are some of the friendliest stars in the policing universe!
They were courteous and would not accept any kind of bribe from me - even in the form of a doughnut. They thought I was a BBC journalist or something and one let me take a picture with him (or her, I can't quite tell). Anyhow, they rival LAPD in their doughnut-eating capacity.
Unlike the U.K., where in London there is genuine multiethnicity, New Orleans has blacks, whites, half-castes, and thats more or less it. The police force reflects this 'mix'.
I know, I know. Pimping isn't exactly a wholesome profession, but I didn't graduate in human biology for nothing you know!
Psychology, behavioural drive, the birds and the bees, statistics training, experimentation. All of the key skills learned in four mind-bending years of British university education, paid by the generous tax-payer, will not have gone to waste. Oh no!
I have decided to pimp cheerleaders from Louisiana colleges and keep only a 30% cut for myself and professional services.
These two likely lasses are my first employees and I hope to be driving my first Buick off the forecourt within the week!
Seriously, people, I'm not a pimp - thats strictly for the mafia and I don't mess with the mafia. If you are in the mafia, look, no disrespect, I give you muchos respect, don't stab me please, but you know, you are the kings of pimps and I don't want to mess. Respect.
You will find that the people of New Orleans are very friendly and they expect you to be nice too! Say one bad word against the Saints and you will make enemies! (remember too, to us old suthnurs the Civil War was not civil at all ... it was the War Between the States!)
Be nice to the locals! These people have tourists (mostly drunk ones) on their doorstep 24/7 365 days a year! They are not always in a mood to tolerate silliness. I found that if you're patient and polite, the people of New Orleans can be some of the friendliest in the world.
A quick story. We were at a restaurant uptown and needed to figure out how to get back to the quarter. The waitress wasn't having the best day, but we just took it in stride. Before we left, I asked her where we could catch the bus back into town. She said if we're willing to wait 1/2 hour, she drive us to our hotel! Pretty cool...