Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Orleans Roots and a New Creative Class

Your fascination with extremes - Wall Street in the 1980s, Silicon Valley in the 1990s - seems to be a consistent theme in your work. Why?

Probably because I grew up in New Orleans, which is the complete opposite of these worlds. New Orleans is a stable, unchanging world.

-Michael Lewis in Robert Boynton's book, The New New Journalism, pg. 252.

Creative Nonfiction, like Lewis's Moneyball, and Boynton's New New Journalism may be the next great American literary movement, but the massive displacement of New Orleaneans after Hurricane Katrina could be the beginning of a new Creative Class.

Wherever these creators flock, the city thrives with commerce - Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Austin. New Orleans was like that. It had "culture" in abundance: museums, jazz clubs, bars, coffee shops, and other quaint establishments where like-minded individuals - writers, artists, etc - got together to converse and create. It was one of those creative epicenters.

Now, its residents are being shuttled to various cities across the nation. Most will most likely return when they can, but many will remember what they have waiting for them back "home." When they are evicted from their make-shift shelters, they have no where to go. They are looking for jobs and trying to get back onto their two feet in our backyards and playgrounds. They will be competing for jobs and contributing to their new, host cities. Their lifestyles and cultuers will follow them and will paint the towns a new color.

Bring on this Jazz class. Bring on these poverty-stricken individuals with nothing else to lose. What's to hold them back from re-locating some of New Orleans into the Louisiana border states? We have Chinatowns and Little Mexicos across the country, why not New Orleans? Maybe they'll stay and blend-in and maybe they'll seek out a way to create their own subdivisions or suburbias. Who knows what the next few months will have on them and on us.

I think Michael Lewis may have been wrong about New Orleans, but then, again, he may have been referring to its people rather than the dotten lines on a roadmap.