by Max Brantley
New Orleans. No city in America rings such an emotional chord.
For other New Orleans fans, here's your reading assignment. It's an on-line column by former New Yorker writer Dan Baum for a series in the New York Times about coping with hard times.
New Orleanians rejected all the plans for a “bigger and better” city, either by hounding the planners out of town or refusing entreaties to sell their ruined houses to developers. They’re putting New Orleans back together the way they like it, which is pretty much the way it was before Katrina. All the old neighborhoods are intact – even the Lower Ninth Ward, which was pronounced dead many times over. Life still revolves around second lines, the meticulous year-long building of Mardi Gras Indian suits, the boiling of crawfish and the lowing of saxophones.
Another good thing about living in New Orleans these days, according to some; it’s a great refuge from the recession. The gyrations of the Dow, the collapse of General Motors, the prospect of regulating credit default swaps – even the collapse of the housing markets – mean little to most New Orleanians. The city operates at such a low level of economic activity that it never really prospers in good times or suffers in bad.
Baum is the author of "Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans," a tour de force of reporting that captures the accents, tastes and rhythm of New Orleans and its people as well as anything I've ever read. But here's the thing: The city's residents and fans speak just as eloquently. Check out the mountain of comments that have rolled into the Times on Baum's latest piece.