Katrina, Five Years Later

Most of who I am as a writer is thanks to my last eight years living here in New Orleans. There are many places in this world where you can never own "local" status; you have to have been born there. New Orleans is not one of those places. New Orleanians love creative, hedonistic people who are open minded, gregarious, and jovial. If you wear those qualities out in the open for all the world to witness, and can put up for, oh, two years with all the things wrong in this city, then you're local. Any native-born New Orleanian will tell you that as he raises his glass to toast you. Often this will be followed with a comment like, "Well, then you know."

Katrina added more depth. If you lived here "before the storm" and then came back, that definitely raised your status. If someone asks you, "How long have you lived here?" and you can answer, "Eight years," or seven, or six, then that will always lead into the conversations of "Where were you when...?" and "What was it like in..." name your neighborhood. The storm, for all its destruction, also engendered in the citizens of this town a sense of camaraderie. It united many of us. It created neighborhoods where, before, only blocks of houses stood.

There are some plants -- amazing wildflowers, towering trees -- that cannot bloom without their seeds first being burned in a forest fire. There are other seeds that will not sprout until they've been shat out by some animal.

Five years ago, we went through both those things. Now the flowers are blooming. Now the growth can begin.

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