Tuesday, October 19, 2010

America's second-dirtiest city

Sophie Wright,  New Orleans educator.
Travel and Leisure Magazine ranks New Orleans as America's second dirtiest city.  I'm not going to say New Orleans is April fresh and clutter-free.  It isn't.  I've passed through clouds of questionable smells while walking through the French Quarter and other neighborhoods.  They are the kinds of smells you can't put your finger on and wouldn't want to if you could.  These are organic smells, not the industrial or chemical scents that define other cities I've visited.    

Canal Street is clean.  Magazine Street is Clean.  Prytania Street is clean.  Banks Street is clean. There isn't an inordinate amount of litter that I see.  I think the impression of dirtiness comes from the state of disrepair that afflicts the city's architecture.  I can't say that St. Claude Avenue is dirty.  It just doesn't sparkle.  I feel this way about St. Bernard Avenue and Washington Avenue and Freret Street, the whole St. Roch neighborhood, Treme, heck, even the Vieux Carre itself.  It isn't litter, it's just disrepair.  In an old, moist city the decay and peeling paint are inevitable.  Some would say this is part of New Orleans's charm, others would say it indicates a lack of civic pride.

If New Orleans lacks anything, it isn't civic pride.  This is a place that inspires fervent love in its inhabitants.  It does in me and I'm new here.  I'll take any street in New Orleans warts and all over the prim, manicured vistas of Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.  Plop me on Jefferson Davis Parkway or any stretch of Broad Street or Chef Menteur Highway and I will find something to catch my eye and someone to talk to.  An entirely different city, New Orleans has the vibe of New York (the dirtiest city on the list).  Everyone is up to something.  They may not be chasing a buck but New Orleanians are engaged with their lives and their surroundings, working to make a mark.

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