Dec 072011

Jean-Paul Villere

What’s with this Travel & Leisure readers poll slapping yet another label on the residents of the Crescent City?  Now we’re “the strangest.”  Really!?  The strangest?  That’s just how I want to raise my kids and have them self-identify their home and rearing.  “Don’t feel bad about not being like all the other 21st century American children, we’re just stranger than everyone else.”  Um, no.  I’ll accept most distinctive, most resilient, and / or most fun to be around, but I for one veto strange, at least insofar as defined by most.

The author of this poll hails from Denton, TX.  Ever been to Denton?  Wanna talk strange?  I’m a native Texan and don’t play that card too often, but when I contextualized the poll’s contents and its author, the definition of strange became more apparent to me.  Because as far as I define strange in American cities I would have to argue not a one has anything saleable for a travel magazine and its readers.  I asked her her further thoughts via Facebook but she did not reply.  I thought it might be fun to transpose New Orleans and Denton, sooooo let’s do that now, shall we?

My message offered up 5 categories, and here’s how I think they might play out:

A Friday night looks like 
NOLA Artery clogging local fare, brew, and oodles of live, local music
Denton Maybe a little Olive Garden followed by Starbucks

Tuesday morning 2AM looks like 
NOLA Rebirth’s 3rd set at the Maple Leaf
Denton Flashing red lights at empty intersections

Best Fest
NOLA Gotta be Jazz Fest
Denton This one feels like their state fair.

Most notable local celeb in mainstream media
NOLA Li’l Wayne, maybe Nic Cage or John Goodman
Denton Sylvester Stewart “Sly” Stone of Sly and the Family Stone

Most notable local celeb only locals know
NOLA Mr Okra
Denton Phyllis George

In all honesty when I came across this piece last week, it brought me back to piece I read over 10 years ago in Utne Reader.  Utne published a “Beyond Hip” issue (Nov/Dec ’97), and in it a piece entitled “Hip Hot Spots” called out The Lower Garden as the number one hippest place to live then (see pic).  So I wondered “What would the authors of that piece have to say about T + L’s recent poll?”  So I shot off some emails and low and behold got a response from co-author of that piece, Jay WallJasper, and he noted:

If New Orleans is strange, it’s a strangeness that we need a lot more of in America.  There’s a pulse, a sexiness, an affirmation of joy and community that NOLA exudes while the rest of the country dutifully and efficiently goes about its business as if that was the meaning of life.

So there you have it.  I know a lot of people last week posted on their social media accounts a lot funny comments in relation to this poll, but frankly I don’t see it as a laughing matter much less something we should align ourselves to or with.  We have a special tribe here, a collective of natives and non-natives alike, and we acknowledge our home as a unique space we all choose as our home.  We know our ways are unlike most, but so it is with almost anywhere willing to forge an identity.  And that simply isn’t strange.

Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and the Du Mois gallery on Freret Street and father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at, he also writes an occasional real-estate blog at and shares his family’s adventures via pedicab on Facebook and Twitter.

  5 Responses to “Jean-Paul Villere: New Orleans, the “strangest”? How about “hippest”? Or, just ours”

  1. Those types of attitudes about people willing to stand out and be different are why I left Green Bay and moved to New Orleans. Your description of Denton could just as easily be applied to Green Bay.

  2. No. This city is strange. Just because we are used to it doesn’t mean it isn’t a little unfamiliar to a large portion of Americans. The funny thing is, most people embrace it. People come here and love this town because it isn’t like everywhere else. Is everyone in the city strange? No. But there are things I’ve seen around this town that are, yes, strange.

    Regardless of whether or not I’m as offended as you are by the article, I don’t think it is fair to lambast its author. At no point does she frame “strangeness” as a negative attribute for a city. And she certainly doesn’t preach the virtues of suburban living. So to go out of one’s way to track her down on facebook and launch personal assaults seems a little over the top.

    I’m excited that poll was published. Most people get it…you can come here and NOT be like Denton. And publicity like that will attract exactly who you want to move here: creative, educated, anti-suburbanites, which it turns out, is something a little strange in America today.

    • Agree! I myself had no idea we did things differently around here until I started to meet people not from here and traveled a bit. I love our strange city. I don’t consider myself to be strange but that is debatable

  3. I don’t think “strange” is an appropriate word to use. How about “loose” or “unplugged” or “ready and willing?” People here let down their hair. With all these creatives coming together, the synergy is amazing. I moved here from North Carolina to spike my life with a little more fun. I found even more than I expe

  4. My aging parents, who are from Europe, wanted to be near one their children as they grow older. Their first selection was New Orleans, not only because I live here, but because they felt “home.” With its urban density, neighborhood stores, neighborhood restaurants, and for the large part, friendly neighbors who actually look after one another (for the most part), it was a no-brainer.

    Katrina changed that, and now they live in a subdivision in the exurbs of Dallas…close to Denton. They are MISERABLE. They find most of the people (who are usually not native Texans) boring. They find the cities boring. Each city, including Frisco, where our former mayor, Ray Nagin, bought some “investment property” to use as an escape when hurricanes drawn near, largely consist of just one strip mall (with a Kohl’s, Target, and Best Buy) after another. And yes, there’s that Haute Cuisine epitomized by Bucco di Beppo, Chili’s, and yes, Olive Garden.

    They JUST LOVE attending the local festivals, such as the CoServ Co-op Barbecue…sponsored by none other than…CoServ, their electricity co-op. It’s held in DENTON! Golly jee! That’s about as fun as it gets.

    So as not to offend my sister, my parents have ruled out an out-right move. They are aging, and I will say one thing, the Dallas area’s healthcare services are impressive. However, I am purchasing a duplex so they can live in the Dallas area as well as New Orleans, where their heart is. When I told them that, their faces lit up with delight.

    If I had to choose between THAT and New Orleans, viva la Nouvelle Orleans.

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