No NOLA

Today I had to cancel a planned vacation to New Orleans for next week's French Quarter Festival. This is a major bummer for me, as I have not been down to my spiritual hometown since my infamous 2006 trip – and I've never been down for the Fest. Unfortunately, with economic conditions being what they are, this cancellation was necessary.

But why write about it?

Photo credit: Colleen SienkiewiczBecause, first, I'll use any excuse to talk about that amazing, strange, exciting, frightening, weird, untamed, unapologetic, and not-quite-Americanized corner of the country.

Second and more importantly, New Orleans for me is not just a place. It is a place, of course, but it's also a state of mind, a way of being, a lost art of living. In New Orleans, things that Americans typically do not think about seriously, things like music and food and leisure, are given their proper due.

New Orleanians know what constitutes the good life, and it's not working 40 or more hours a week in a cubicle farm and taking two weeks off each year to poke your head up a bit to see some small, pre-defined touristy part of the world. That ain't living, no sir.

I'm here to say you haven't lived until you've done a second line down the streets of the Faubourg Marigny. Or the Quarter. Or Gentilly. Or anywhere else life happens in this city where life still happens.

Yes, life involves music, food, and leisure. Americans in general have – even though they might deny it – lost touch with all of these fundamentally human pursuits. The existence of New Orleans is a standing rebuke to this modern oversight, an oversight that approximately 299.5 million of us are guilty of. Shame on us.

Finally, although Ann Arbor is, of course, no New Orleans, what I really appreciate about this town is its open-endedness, its acceptance of the weird and different, its particularity. At a time when so many cities and towns of America are becoming exactly like every other city and town in America, Ann Arbor stubbornly maintains its own identity, just as New Orleans does.

I've spent my entire life in Michigan. I was born here and I grew up here. I know Ann Arbor is different enough from most other Michigan cities that Michiganders of a certain stripe seek it out, over the Detroit suburbs and the rural towns, for a taste of the "other."

It ain't New Orleans – not by a long shot. But it's what we got. And it's pretty damn good, all the same.

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