In the weeks after August 29, 2005 there was this silly notion that we could emerge from epic disaster as an economically vibrant city. This is a recurrent dream, and a silly one. Not because we can’t achieve fortune, but because we flat out don’t want to. In 1895, Grace King tried to explain this disappointing lack of ambition:
Our city brought her entire character from France, her qualities…and her defects. It is extremely doubtful if she will ever be rich, as riches are counted in the New World, this transplanted Parisian city. So many efforts have been made to make her rich! In vain! She does not respond to the process. It seems to bore her. She is too impatient, too indiscreet, too frank with her tongue, too free with her hand, and —this is confidential talk in New Orleans— the millionaire is an impossible type to her. She has certainly been admonished enough by political economists: "Any one," they say, "who can forego a certain amount of pleasure can become rich." She retorts (retorts are quicker with her than reasons): "And any one who can forego a certain amount of riches can have pleasure."
Ah New Orleans, a perennial museum of wobbling decay. While other cities proudly herald their light-rail systems, we’re content with rumbling Street Cars and Lucky Dog carts. If you want to go somewhere important then by all means take the train, but to find that exotic corner in the Universe you’ll have to travel by imagination. And you’ll probably pass through New Orleans on your way.