On the way home from New Orleans

I’m hanging out in a hotel in Nowhere, OH, where I stopped tonight as I travel back from New Orleans. I was there for the American Library Association Conference - it was the first big convention to go there since Katrina. With about 18,000 attendees, it was noticably smaller than last year’s in Chicago - there, I could barely walk the exhibit floor because it was so crowded. This year, you could take plenty of time to talk to vendors. It was still a respectable turnout, though.

I drove down, since I wanted to stop and see my parents in TN, not having seen them in a year. My dad looks great - he had his larynx removed in the fall, followed by radiation and chemotherapy, and despite the prosthetic voice box and some lost weight, he looks marvelous.

New Orleans, though, was nothing like I remembered. I had a job for a couple of years that took me there about a week out of every month. I made it into the French Quarter and checked into my hotel. I was told by the doorman, the bellhop and the lady at the checkin desk how glad they were that we were here. I still wasn’t sure. This wasn’t the city I remembered, and even though I knew it wouldn’t be, I was having trouble reconciling my memories with with the reality I’d seen driving in.

I did the whole conference thing. I went to Bourbon Street. I did tourist things, saw friends and had a good time. But I couldn’t really face the destruction. In that way, I think I failed New Orleans. Because she’s not just the tourist side of things. She’s a hurting city. She’s recovering. I don’t know if she’ll ever be what she once was, but she is recovering.

I had a good time, though. And the city set out to do right by the 18,000 librarians who were there. And they did. And hopefully this will prove to other conferences that it can be done. Thanks for the good time. I hope we do come back in 2011, as is currently scheduled. Although I wish it was for Midwinter in January, not Annual in June!

I was catsitting for a friend who also attended that conference, and she said many of the same things you did. She also said the biggest shock was there being no pigeons in Jackson Square.

It’s good that you went and had a good time (overall), and it’s great that the ALA had their conference there. I really wished I could go. Maybe next year!

Lsura, don’t feel you failed us. Coming down despite the hurt and the heat and the bad press is the best thing you could do. Yes, away from the river are about 200,000 houses that are in vary states of dismemberment, decay, or repair, or all three. I’m glad you had a good time. Please spread the word that even though we’re not the same New Orleans, we still know how to show folks a good time.

I’m glad you went - I have a good friend who was also there, and she had many of the same misgivings. This article made her feel like it was really worthwhile for her (and, by extension, the rest of you) to be there.

Yes, please don’t be afraid of going to New Orleans.

Some snips of an e-mail I recieved from my sister :
(preface: she, her Hubby and 6 yr lld daughter fled and lived outside of the city for six months)

"(we) are all back here in “the pink house” (as (my daughter) calls it). Finally! … (my daughter) delivered a monologue to me a few nights back, before she went to sleep, .about New Orleans. It was heartfelt and definitive. It’s one of those “you had to be there” kinds of things, but she said that New Orleans was the best place to be; that she would not want to live in “any other city in the UNIVERSE” (direct quote), that New Orleans had the best things to do, the best kids, etc.
… Now that (a fallen tree) is gone we can see the back of our neighbor’s house in all its, er, glory. Put it this way: Trees really beautify a neighborhood sometimes as much because of what they disguise or cover up as much as for their greenery! …
It’s a little hard to describe New Orleans right now. … Tulane has a colossal amount of damage and we are racing the clock to be ready in time for the students’ return. … The amount of work to still be done down here is on a scale that’s hard to even comprehend. "

Part of New Orleans’ recovery is going to be the return of people who love the city. Please, do visit. They’d love to have ya. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the link. It got me all sniffly again.

I am glad I went. And I’ll go back. I’ve been trying to figure out how to state things in a note to ALA that I think they did the right thing in keeping the conference there - despite my original misgivings when I heard they were keeping it there.

Of course, next time around, I’d like monkey butlers to do my laundry while I’m there, so I’m not takinga pile of dirty laundry home. Can y’all work on that? :wink:

As much fun as it is to live in New Orleans, and as much as you think you really want a monkey butler, trust me: you don’t want our monkey butlers. Better to cart if home and DIY.

Chris Rose, author of the article that InternetLegent linked to, absolutely rocks. Very appropriately, he’s coming across as the ambassador of the soul of our city.

Again, I’m glad you had a good time. Thanks, ALA.