Jul 182012

Jean-Paul Villere

Monday morning I woke up with a crusty old ’90s grunge rock song rattling around in my head, which I suppose isn’t too big of a surprise.  It was “Overblown” by Mudhoney.  And unless you were or are a student of grunge, which I kind of was, or spun the soundtrack to the movie Singles more than a handful of times (guilty) you might never have heard this jangly noise bomb.  It drives a careening beat and rhythm accompanied by these opening lyrics:

Everybody loves us
Everybody loves our town
That’s why I’m thinking lately
The time for leaving is now

Hey, hey, hey, hey (x4)
It’s so overblown

That’s right!  In the history books of the future, New Orleans will be remembered as the 21st century American city that trounced the second decade, the comeback kid of the first quarter of that century.  And I love it.  But I also kinda hate it.  So it goes.  That said, I ain’t going anywhere.  In fact, in case you missed it, everybody is moving here.  Apparently, we’re the fastest growing city.  This on the heels of being the strangest.  And also having an NFL quarterback making the highest amount ever.  I say, “For now.”

All these -ests.  Fastest.  Strangest.  Highest.  Overblown(est)?  Hell, yes.  People are moving here; it’s true!  And some whitebreads that once wore some beads on Bourbon St in the hot July heat might also think that unusual and therefore strange; or maybe they just read about it.  And yes, Mr. Drew will be paid handsomely for his goods and services over the next 5 years.  Ain’t saying he doesn’t deserve it; I’m saying who cares?  Why does it matter?  I say what’s been said before: more money, more problems.

A double edge sword, all this attention is.  But does it keep you from being held up while you wash your car late evening, the only cool part of a New Orleans summer’s day?  Nope.  Will it lower your property tax?  Most definitely not.  Might it fill every remaining hotel room and otherwise undesirable hovel for a hundred miles Superbowl weekend 2013?  Duh.  As my neighbor says “The propaganda machine must be manned at all times.”  Any press is good press (I guess), but it won’t make you safer or lower your taxes.

But at the end of the day wouldn’t you rather those things than a flash in the pan?  Maybe?  All these -ests don’t last forever.  And it would be a lot less interesting around here without them.  Of that you can be certain.  Even then, we’d likely all be standing around complaining, wishing something would happen.  Like maybe a grandiose Hollywood wedding.  Yes!  That’s what we need!  More attention!!  Stop it already.  Leave Branjelina alone.  Let them be wed in peace.  After all, that’s why many stars come here, to escape the hyper reality their lives can be.

So let’s bring our lives back to reality too.  Maybe my fill in the blanks might then be peppered in real.  Where the tax bills slap you in the face like the broken streets that can pop the chain off your bike.  Where the summer heat will cook your gourd like a slow, meandering streetcar makes its way down the avenue.  Before you know it, you’re there.  And before we know it, the population will be ratcheting upward bringing all kinds of new car traffic and misunderstandings along with it.  No, you can’t turn left.  Or right.  Unless there’s a green arrow.  Welcome to New Orleans!  Now, let’s talk about how I can tell you where ya got them shoes…

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 UptownMessenger.com, he also writes an occasional real-estate blog at villererealty.com and shares his family’s adventures via pedicab on Facebook and Twitter.

  • billstin

    Jean-Paul – I think you miss the importance of it. Having always been the “worst-est” in every category, it’s nice to see something positive. Good things bring good things. With a professional workplace moving in (as opposed to leaving) it will create more higher paying opportunities for us local-yokels. Better opportunities should lead to better schools, more tax revenue and long-term, less crime.

    As for celebrity weddings, I’ve often heard celebrities like New Orleans because we are courteous, welcoming and stay out of their business. You don’t see much paparazzi around here….

    I’m the father of 3 boys, and I always suspected they would have to leave New Orleans for opportunities. I now have hope that they may have the option of staying here. I’m bullish on New Orleans, and I’m glad the rest of the country is too. I like New Orleans being the best-est…

    • Jean-Paul Villere

      Please don’t misunderstand; I too like New Orleans being the best-est. You have 3 boys. I have 4 girls. My wife and I could live anywhere having chosen the careers we have, but we have chosen and will continue to choose New Orleans. My muddled point amounts to a grain of salt. We have to see the big picture here. By example, Seattle drew droves for almost a decade in the 90s, but all things popular utlimately fade. We can’t afford to hang our hat on this label too much. You are right, companies like GE investing in the city’s future are an absolute positive and will hopefully and in theory demonstrate a law of attraction. In the same breath, we must remain grounded in that a single event can turn us upside down and backwards. No one talks about the benefits of a quiet storm season, but one good storm – or even a pip squeak of one – can off set our momentum like that. Let’s take the compliment Bloomberg provided us and get back to work –

  • Jo

    This column is about as entertaining and informative as watching a Nirvana cover band on VH1 Storytellers.

  • Uptown Spyboy

    I disagree with Jo, informative maybe not terribly, but entertaining surely.

    “Where the tax bills slap you in the face like the broken streets that can pop the chain off your bike.”

    thats good stuff Jean-Paul.

  • HaHaHa

    Jo – Being a critic is too easy. Perhaps you’re feeling perplexed by the lack of a witty phrase to complete Mr. Jean-Paul’s sentence.

  • GrrrlRob

    I am trying my darnd-est to move to NOLA. At this point it’s at least 2 yrs before I can make that happen, tho. I’m just hoping all the attention you are receiving won’t have a huge effect on the qualities I love about you. I want the Big Easy to still apply when I get there.
    My home town has been one of the Best-ests since about 1995 and it has changed us considerably. And we just had a round of praising articles in GQ , NYTimes etc. to start it up again.
    People are shocked when they find I am born and bread. There are more of ‘them’ than ‘us’ now and some of our draws like southern hospitality, neighborly kindness and quirky lovable individuals have dwindled as a result.
    Please , please, plan for growth and stand up to the newbies when they try to ‘improve’ the parts they see as broken just because it’s different.
    See ya in 2 yrs. Hopefully.

  • SpacelySprockets

    I enjoyed this column, too, Jean-Paul. Vivid expression of the ambivalence caused by such dramatic change.

    Wonder if GrrrlRob is from Austin? I moved back here after Katrina, and at the time it didn’t seem too drastically changed from the Austin I knew in my UT years, despite the growth. However, the more people move here, the more it seems they just saw the city on a Top 10 list, came to a music fest and then decided to move to Austin and turn it into California or Dallas or whatever place they just left. I hope the same fate doesn’t befall New Orleans. Some of the changes in both town are good (now we both have 2 Ethiopian restaurants!), but when places get “hot,” they generally become unaffordable for the very folks who made them so interesting and desirable.

    It may turn out that some of the historic negatives of New Orleans — crime, hurricanes, government dysfunction — help save it from Greenwich Village Syndrome.

    • GrrrlRob

      No , not Austin but, apparently suffering the same fate. You hit the nail on the head tho. My biggest beaf has been the gentrification that has made it nearly impossible to find affordable rental property in the city. I had to move ( after living in the same hood for 25 yrs) out to suburbia. I am NOT a suburban girl. People came in from other cities and bought up alot of the rental housing and turned it back into single family. Which is cool I guess and pretty but , there was no planning for the displaced renters. With the rental shortage the prices shot sky high. Now , I can’t even afford to live in what used to be called the ghetto. It’s sad.
      There’s more to a neighborhood than who has the latest $50,000 bathroom.

      • SpacelySprockets

        I guess it’s a nationwide epidemic! Best wishes for your eventual return to urbanity — I grew up in the suburbs and am not a suburban girl, either, so I feel your pain.