I used to avoid befriending New Orleans transplants, because loving them is a dangerous game. Their AmeriCorps stints end or they get accepted to grad school or they have a kid and decide to move someplace with good public schools… and I’m alone, so alone with my fellow Louisiana natives, bitching in dive bars over bloody marys at noon about how much transplants suck.
Yeah, sorry about that. Y’all don’t suck. New Orleans is a port city and as such has always been defined by its travelers. We need you; we welcome you and we miss you when you’re gone. Having said that, here are some ways to make your departure sting a little less.
Don’t make a big scene about how you’re leaving because the city has changed, the crime has gotten worse, you don’t feel safe or whatever. I remember one friend of mine proclaimed, “New Orleans is over!” after his favorite squat got converted into swanky loft apartments. But having observed this city for close to four decades, I can say it hasn’t changed all that much, except for in 2005, when 80 percent of it flooded. And even then it got pretty much back to business as usual within a few years, high murder rate, corrupt politicians, Saints fervor and all. We go through phases of our life, and your new phase may necessitate a different city, and that’s fine. Just don’t bash New Orleans because you’re ready to move on. Because truthfully? It’s really not us. It’s you.
Don’t write personal essays that compare New Orleans to a woman you fell in love with but must leave. If you do, please keep them to yourself.
Open your new home to friends when they need to evacuate. Having lived here, you know it’s a question of when, not if, you’ll have to pack up and leave all your worldly possessions at the mercy of a hurricane. So tell your NOLA friends that when the next Big One comes, they have a place to stay. That should guarantee you a spot to crash for Jazz Fest.
Give away your stuff. Unload your valuables on Craigslist or Buffalo Exchange first (moving is pricey and I get that you need the $$$), but then, if you want to be super sweet, donate unwanted stuff to Goodwill, put it out on a free table for neighbors to pick up, or share it with friends. My neighbor Adriane Quinlan gave me first dibs of her unwanted clothes, and I am now proud owner of a vintage Icelandic stewardess dress.
Tell your friends your apartment is opening up, but also list it on Craigslist. If you have a good spot with affordable rent, you’ll definitely want to hook your friends up. But you should also make it available to the general public via Craigslist, a cardboard FOR RENT sign outside or some other outlet. It’s not always easy to find affordable housing, and New Orleans has more than enough nepotism. This is one small way to change that.
Visit. Come back to New Orleans whenever you can–if that’s just Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, great. But it would be even greater if you could come more often than that and maybe during times of the year that aren’t insane. That being said, we really don’t care when you come back. We just want to see you.
Become a truth-speaking evangelist for New Orleans. It staggers me how many misconceptions are out there about New Orleans. If you hear people talking smack about its citizens, Katrina response or anything else, please gently set them straight. Remind them of the challenges its citizens face, such as living in the world’s prison capital. Please also let the world know about the double-whammy impact of climate change and a rapidly disappearing coastline.
Continue to support Louisiana businesses. Order king cake, Community Coffee and Zapp’s, and ask your grocery store to stock Tony Chachere’s if they don’t already. You’ll do NOLA a solid and make your kitchen a vastly more delicious place.
Move back to New Orleans. Sometimes, New Orleans ruins you for life anywhere else. I personally find it impossible to be content in a city without Mardi Gras. Don’t fight these feelings. Just move back! I promise you, the city will welcome you with open arms. It will be like you never left… because many of your friends never did.
Dedicated to Jenn Nunes, Sophie Lucido Johnson, Jeanie Riess, Adriane Quinlan, Andrew Marzoni and Abe Kinkopf, all of whom recently bid the Crescent City adieu.