The renaissance of individual New Orleans neighborhoods is shifting away from the French Quarter being the only thing people thought we had going on here. Seeing corridors like Freret Street, the Riverbend, Oak Street, certainly what's happening in Bywater, Bayou St. John, and all these places that have their own things going on — neighborhoods are becoming more walkable and bikeable, seeing a wide array of businesses pop up.
People aren't necessarily interested in staying in the CBD, or in other cities, the "hotel district." That's not what everyone is looking for anymore. They're not looking for the Marriott Experience, the Hilton Experience. They want to be in neighborhoods and experience the place the way locals do.
At the restaurant, we went from people being cautious or openly against what we're doing, to openly embracing us. A lot of the people who were trying to prevent us from opening are now our regulars and appreciate what's going on in the neighborhood.
But what's going on with New Orleans, and Louisiana in general — Louisiana's HIV infection rate is twice the national average, and much of it comes down to our public policy, and a lot of our police policy makes no sense. Louisiana doesn't allow needle exchanges, and that absolutely impacts HIV infection rates. It just makes me so sad; there's a younger generation growing up here with a much higher rate of exposure to these things I was lucky enough to not pick up along the way.
One of the things I see going on in the city is apathy — just accepting the broken things about our city just because "it's New Orleans" and that's the way it has been — people trying to change things, being defeated, and giving up on it. A lot of the things I end up in hot water for — whether it's talking about bicycles or walkable neighborhoods or community organizations, the things people roll their eyes for — those things make my head explode.
New Orleans does a fantastic job of celebrating itself in this massive plurality, but individuals who want to make a change for the better are often smacked down. I wish we could as a city support people doing positive things instead of rolling our eyes and saying, "Good luck with that." — AS TOLD TO ALEX WOODWARD