I think the biggest change that's taken place in New Orleans is that it's gone from being a cat city to being a dog city. It sounds kind of stupid, but if you think about the symbolic implications, it makes a lot of sense. It's becoming an American, golden retriever city. There used to be something more aloof and mysterious about the way New Orleans was, and now things are being sort of parceled off and understood and made to be more accessible.
There is more competition in the city now, and that is a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, it's a bad thing because competition usually is about individual betterment. And a lot of New Orleans, the way it's developed has been community-based. It's been about community experiences and community betterment. The community aspects of New Orleans are despite all of the oppression that the people of this city have been saddled with, and despite the difficulties of life here. And it's been really special. ...
I think what's changed is that there's a new player. Things are being sold now as a New Orleans experience to a more savvy consumer. It's not the same as Bourbon Street was 10 years ago or whatever, where you would have this really kitschy experience and go home to wherever and say that you had your "New Orleans Experience" but everybody knew it wasn't real. Now, the real New Orleans and the New Orleans Experience are kind of confused. Everybody feels confused, at this point, about whether what they're living is the real New Orleans Experience. Even I do and I've lived here my entire life.
My parents were transplants, so I feel like I'm a second-generation transplant. It's something really important about New Orleans that is transplant culture. That term really annoys me, but that's what people call it. The people who move here are really important to the identity of the city. I think it's the volume. There are more people moving here, and people are asking the city to accommodate them more than they choose to accommodate the city. I don't think that's all bad. It would be really awesome if the bus system in New Orleans was the same as the bus system in any other major city in the U.S. ... I think there are a lot of things that are part of this systemic oppression, and I want to be really clear that I'm not confusing that, I'm not feeling nostalgic for this darkness, but it's part of the conversation, still.
We have to acknowledge that when things change for the better, the beautiful ways that people coped with darkness are also going to change. — AS TOLD TO JEANIE RIESS