Be a Saint

We have a running list of “reasons why living in New Orleans is like living in the developing world.” It’s quite a long list; the comparisons are uncanny. Today, we have one more to add to the list.

An athletic event can hold the hopes and dreams of an entire population, shutting down the normal functions of a even an entire city, to focus all energy on that game. Incredible challenges of daily life are completely forgotten and winning or losing becomes the ultimate symbol of the value and importance of an entire population.

This is what life in New Orleans feels like today. Today’s game — can there possibly be anyone in the United States, or even the world, who isn’t invested in today’s game?? — holds the hopes and dreams of our city. The desperation to win, to go all the way, has somehow gotten wrapped up in our personal survival. Something tangible that we can point to show that we matter.
I’ve thought hard on why even I am caught up in it all. Paul and I fell in love with New Orleans in the days before Katrina. But it was after Katrina, watching our city fall apart while others minimized the loss, rationalized the tragedy, and responded in passe, tacky ways (“Tell them about all the free stuff Katrina evacuees are getting!”) that were so arrogant and ignorant that it was hard to put into words how isolating and insulting it felt. (“It’s not like you lost anything, your house didn’t flood.” ) The stifling depression that set in after Katrina was perhaps more toxic than the sediment left behind by the flood. Paul and I, after experiencing the comparatively posh life of expats in Peru, came close to the cut-and-run. Life here, especially right after the storm, was intense. But when it came right down to it, we couldn’t leave. Our decision to stay was wrapped up in a web of emotion, experience, and pride too difficult to articulate. Perhaps one of the reasons we stay is for the shared understanding that everyone else here has gone through the same incantations. We can complain about the city, our taxes, our safety, the poor schools, the failing systems — but do so in a safe space where we know that the discussion exists within the context of incredible love for a place unlike any other in the world.
Community pride is important and I don’t mean to wax on, as us New Orleanians are known to do, boasting about the unique qualities that make our city such a gem. I imagine other folks in other communities feel pretty strongly about where they live, too. I don’t want to get into a pissing contest over which where is better… but I will say that I’ve never heard anyone sing “I know what it means to miss Centreville.”In the here and now, we are all in black and gold. On Friday, the kids has a Saints pep rally at Abeona. It was a serious affair. I spoke with Emmy at quarter to 8 Friday morning as we searched for black and gold facepaint and markers. Paul and I tore through our wardrobes for black and gold to wear (unless you’re Liberace, or a Hilton girl, who has gold in their wardrobe??) Other parents ran around town for fleur-di-lis patches and yellow sweatshirts. At school, the kids were eager to learn the nomenclature. When he got home Friday afternoon, Will told us that when you yell “Who Dat!?” you scare away bears. This morning, our street is filled with cars and pedestrians walking up to Whole Foods for King Cake and football snacks. Black and gold banners fly from cars; everyone is wearing their Saints best. I’ve bitten off all my nails and my stomach is in knots. We hear the kids next door, running around with excitement as game time closes in. It’s a big day in New Orleans.