Where We Know
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Excerpt


From the introduction by David Rutledge:

History continues in New Orleans. Even after the cameras — the news cameras, the tourist cameras — New Orleanians find themselves living through history each day. The decision to rebuild or to demolish a house; the choice to leave one’s home or to gut and try again; the culture and the traditions that make living here so rewarding, even as we face unprecedented challenges; the constant promise of this city: these are historical circumstances, these are current circumstances. These are among the topics one will find in this book.

Then there are those days when one tries to return to “the Big Easy,” that dream of what this city once was, even if living here never really was so “easy.” These are the days when one tries to forget the immediate past, to forget the pressing concerns of today, to celebrate Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, to put aside the problems one has with one’s house, one’s insurance, one’s escalating rent. One’s dysfunctional city. On those days, too, history imposes itself: there is rarely a day when the situation of our city can truly be put out of mind. But the precarious nature of our place can intensify time, as Eve Abrams shows in her essay “Borrowed Time.” That deeper understanding of time can lend itself to some excellent celebrations. Perhaps that is one reason why, historically, this city has been so much better at celebrations than any other American city.


History continues here as we face situations that the rest of the country will face soon, if they have not faced them already: the decay of American infrastructure; the ruin of the American environment — or, more specifically, the ruin that corporations have left of the American environment; the breakdown of American cities; the blunt fact of American poverty and the attempts by some business-minded leaders to sweep that poverty out of view, off to another city if the opportunity (ie, a national disaster) presents itself. Health care on the ropes, schools in need of redefinition. Big parties that are still a whole lot of fun.


This book is about the choice of making — or not making — New Orleans one’s home. This is not a post-Katrina book any more than New Orleans is a post-Katrina city. The story of New Orleans is much more than that; the stories of New Orleans are much more than that. New Orleans is, to say the least, a problematic home. It is also a rewarding one. As with our previous anthology, Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?, this book celebrates a resilient city and the culture that cannot be kept
down. As Wynton Marsalis points out, it is culture that gives one’s life integrity. It is culture, ultimately, that makes New Orleans meaningful. It is culture that makes it home.


There could be a book on the displaced people of our city and how they are coping with another culture, perhaps striving to maintain some sense of home in a new city. The incompetence of BP may add to the number of displaced people. But that is another book. Where We Know stays inside of the city, and shows some of the parallels between historical and current accounts of this place; it will swerve through the past, back to the present, commenting on and contemplating the topic of New Orleans. The result, we hope, is to convey some of the poetry of home.

Copyright © 2010 by Chin Music Press Inc. (Broken Levee Books)