Living by the Name

March 2, 2012
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New Orleans, Louisiana is home to a lot of history, good food, and a strong French culture. It is a city different from any other I had ever been to, with friendly people and a laid back atmosphere. Throughout my visit, I found that the entire city, from the music to the people, lived by the nickname that the city obtained, The Big Easy. The streets were constantly filled with smooth jazz coming from all around. The people were filled with that southern hospitality that they say you could only find down south. Finally, it amazed me that a city so heartbroken just a few short years ago could live in such a worry-free kind of way. The people, the music, and the story together make the Big Easy a name that the city truly lives by.

My family and I visited New Orleans to have a nice family vacation. We would visit the zoo, the cafes, and all of the historical must-sees of the city. The moment I stepped into the French Quarter, the most historical part of the city, I was in complete disbelief. I felt the southern hospitality in the air. Music surrounded me as bands played on the street corners. I watched as a woman set up her microphone and her band mates sat on their milk crates, like they probably had done hundreds of times before. She was ready to throw a concert as she asked the crowd, “Y’all ready?” We joined the crowd that was forming around them as they started playing, the woman singing. It was the cool jazz that I had only seen in the movies; the guitar strumming, trumpet blasting, the crowd clapping along to the beat. In that moment, I no longer felt like I was on vacation. Instead it was as if this was my home and these people were part of my family, all connected through the music.

I wasn’t a musician, and I had no idea how to play a guitar, but in that moment, all I wanted to do was join them. It was as if all those people wanted to do was play music and they would be happy. I asked my mom for some money and threw it in the open guitar case. The woman looked over and caught my glance. I knew she was thankful for my contribution, but I was more thankful for being there, able to hear her sing. We continued walking around for the rest of the afternoon, stopping and hearing the bands play as we went. The music was so moving,

The people of New Orleans knew how to live; they were happy, cheerful, and friendly. It was as though they were all born with a different mindset than anyone I had ever met. They were all just so happy all of the time. It wasn’t too hard for them to figure out that we were tourists, visiting all the tourist spots and carrying around our thick ride-in-the-cah-and-get-some-chowdah New England accents. Nonetheless, they all had that Big Easy feel, like the name suggests. Walking down the street, a woman passed by us, her mouth stretched out from ear to ear as she said, “What a cute little boy!” gesturing towards my, at the time, four year old little brother. “Y’all have a nice day now” she said as she kept on walking, as if it were just a regular thing for her. I was amazed that a total stranger just made small talk with us being that that would never happen back home. My mom and I exchanged glances, both having the same look of disbelief on our faces.
This kind of friendly behavior continued for the rest of our stay in the Big Easy. When walking by smokers they would blow their smoke towards the wind so we wouldn’t catch any of it secondhand. Everyday seemed like a dream. Like some sort of alternate universe where life was like the perfect fairytale, living life to the fullest and being happy. The people had been through so much, and still they were happy, cheerful, and grateful to be alive.


The people of New Orleans had been through a lot over the past few years. Four years before my trip, Louisiana faced the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, who came roaring through the south, destroying everything in her path. It was a devastating time for those living in Louisiana, Alabama, and Missouri, who were hit hardest by the storm. New Orleans was one of the cities hit hardest by the storm. When I visited, I figured that the people would still be picking up the pieces, that life was hard and it would show. When I visited, it was the complete opposite of everything I expected. Although there were small neighborhoods around New Orleans who were still cleaning up after Katrina, New Orleans was booming with people. From the streets, to the restaurants, to the stores, everyone was so happy. Seeing how all of them were living even after such hard times made me think about how some things I go through feel like the end of the world. How petty all of those things really were.

The name the Big Easy is certainly one that the city lives by, through the music, the people, and the story. Visiting New Orleans was such an eye-opening experience. The jazz music filled the entire city with this laid back feel. The people were polite, happy, and friendly. The story of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina made it so remarkable how the city is such a happy one. I hope that everyone gets a chance to visit Louisiana at least once in their lives because it is a life changing experience.





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