Christy Lorio: Get out of your neighborhood

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Christy Lorio (photo by Leslie Almeida)

If you live in New Orleans proper, chances are you or someone you know might suffer from being ‘hood bound. You know the type, the friend that you who won’t meet you for happy hour because they’d have to make a 10-minute drive. Or what about the guy who complains about how much of a trek the Bywater is from Uptown? People become restricted to their neighborhood for a number of reasons. Transportation issues, sheer laziness, or just the convenience factor are all factors that play into turning into a hyper-local. I’m definitely all too familiar with the n‘hood rat mentality because I suffer from periodic bouts of it myself.

I used to live and work in the Garden District, which was both a blessing and a curse. I had a five-minute walk to work and often the longest part of my commute was trying to cross Magazine Street during midday traffic. I lived less than two blocks from the Balcony Bar, which made for fun times of beer and late night pizza and while I slowly eked out the contents of my gas tank by not moving my car for months at a time I also got a little stir crazy.  Don’t get me wrong, living walking distance to some of the most popular shops and restaurants in the city was pretty awesome, but it also got old sometimes.

So when I moved I was secretly relieved that I had a longer commute. I get to see different faces and places vs. the same handful of people at the same hangouts. Even just mixing up my route to work affords me the chance of stumbling upon an interesting old house or a tucked away cafe that I’ve heard of but never thought to try. One in-town trek that I’ve been meaning to make is taking the streetcar down to the French Quarter then hopping on the ferry for an early evening jaunt through Algiers Point. Maybe I’ll do it next month when the weather is a bit cooler and I can wear a sweater while strolling along the levee.

Changing zip codes is a lot more motivating when you have an agenda in mind. Give yourself an excuse to leave by perusing event listings, call up a friend that lives on the opposite end of town and meet them in their neighborhood for drinks or just give yourself an extra 10 minutes in the morning to get your latte at a slightly out-of-the-way coffee shop. For the ultimate change of scenery, go on a day trip to the Northshore and ride your bike down Tammany Trace with a stop at the Abita Brew Pub or rent pirogues and take a self-guided swamp tour in Lafitte on the West Bank. New Orleans is a treasure trove of interesting neighborhoods, and the experience of living here can feel that much richer with just a little sense of adventure or even a serendipitous detour.

Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.

10 thoughts on “Christy Lorio: Get out of your neighborhood

  1. “Or what about the guy who complains about how much of a trek the Bywater is from Uptown?”

    Just a theory, but the possibly lazy, probably hood-bound guy is complaining because he’s riding his bike on crappy roads, getting cut off by drivers who aren’t mindful and trying not to melt in 100 degree heat.

    Your suggestion about getting a latte at a “slightly out of the way coffee shop” is downright precious. Try actually depending on a bike or on the RTA for more than a Sunday joy ride on an antiquated, un-airconditioned streetcar–and then come back and preach at us.

    • Mindfulness is a two-way street. I wish I had a $1 for each time a bike rider sped through stop signs, stop lights, rode the wrong way down one-way streets, and neglected to wear a helmet, because then I’d have paid off my student loans by now. It’s hard to take up that mindful slack for vehicle operators that aren’t willing to be responsible.

  2. 99% of those “hyper locals” as you call them, especially from the Bywater, can’t afford a car or choose not to own one. It takes about 45 minutes of stressful pedaling from the Bywater to uptown (and another 45 back). You’d be lucky to feel fresh after that, especially after a few drinks.

    When I lived there I saw a lot of uptowners hanging out at Bywater cafes and bars on weekends, the reverse just doesn’t happen also because the Bywater neighborhood culture is seen as more on the fringe and uptown is seen as yuppy and thus unappealing to the local wildlife – they have the Marigny to fill in the gap.

  3. Wonderful piece! I’ve always found it to be the “below Canal” or “above Canal” mentality a la the TP rental classifieds. It also leaves out all the generalizations of the widely different neighborhoods on either side. Apart from biking or public transpo, the classic walking thing is great too, but bring an umbrella maybe. I walked from the Warehouse District to Freret & Upperline the other day. It took 45 minutes which is not the end of the world, AND I had some pretty interesting conversations through Central City along the way –

  4. I love the antiquated street cars!!! Would we really want them to have AC? I don’t think so. Great article Christy! See you on the ferry!

  5. I don’t have a car. I walk everywhere, ride my bike, take the streetcar or bus, and I love it. Don’t miss it a bit. (I have a scooter as a backup, but I’ve only put 1200 miles on it in 3 years). I live next to Audubon Park on Magazine and walk downtown, often to the Marigny, 3 or more times a week, even in the summer. I’ll walk along the streetcar lines or the bus route, in case I get tired or am running late and need to jump on public transportation (which is great in this town, other than the irregularities of the schedule).

    It saves me $9k a year not having a car. I get exercise, meet people, notice architectural details, etc.

    We live in one of the most walkable cities in America, especially Uptown. There’s really no need to have a car here.

  6. Well, my commute to and from Stennis Space Center is 55 miles each way, so I definitely get out my neighborhood on work days. It’s just that when I get home after that drive, I really don’t want to travel any further than the two block walk to the Buddha Belly.

    I do know what you mean about staying within your own neighborhood, though. I do it on my days off when I should really be doing something different, but the crowd at Buddha really is better than television.

  7. Maybe if the streetcar was more reliable I might get out of my neighborhood more often. As it is you have to pad your schedule to make up for the systemic “quirks.”

    And can anyone explain why the RIDEGuide is a big fat joke and the people who eventually answer your phonecalls (IF they answer your phone calls AT ALL) have NO information and cannot help you in any way??? I may as well ask the drunk passed out on the nearest stoop why a streetcar hasn’t passed by in an hour. The RIDEGuide folks act like you have interrupted their afternoon nap and are asking them to do quadratic equations.

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