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The Net Takeaway: New Orleans, Brass Bands, and Rebuilding


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New Orleans, Brass Bands, and Rebuilding · 01/15/2007 01:45 AM, Personal

I recently (December) took the family to New Orleans to see my dad, brother, and other family. My dad and brother both live Uptown, in the “Isle of Denial”, where things are pretty much back to normal… or at least, back to the economic decline NoLa was in before Katrina.

Galleries and other art-oriented commerce (antique shops, etc.) are disappearing. Tourism is so down that major landmarks felt deserted.

Now, the rest of the family is just now moving back from devastation. You all heard about the 9th ward and other poor areas, but no one talked much about Lakewood South, the upscale area on the border of New Orleans and Metairie. This area, like Lakeview, is not far from a canal and got devastated. I didn’t take any pictures of my great-aunt’s house or of any of the others I saw, but here is an example of the kind of houses which got devastated… From, from a collection by Danielle Heuer.

Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3

So, some of my family from this area is now farther out in Metairie (closer to the airport) and all living in one house which was redone after the flood.

As for the rest? Either they are Uptown, or they are gone. With a population down to 1/3 of the original, there’s far less need for doctors, lawyers, IT professionals, you name it. Conferences are barely trickling in. Tourists still think everything is destroyed. Murder rates are back up to historic highs.

What can be done? Well, here’s a thought. Let’s say Google, or Yahoo!, or one of the biggies took the risk: they relo 100 top programmers down to NoLa. They can do their jobs anywhere there is a connection, and the cost of living is probably 60% less than in the Sili Valley. Then, those folks (and their families) pitch in to help schools and communities develop an information based economy.

Look, NoLa is dead if it expects to live based on tourism and the ports. Every major corporation formerly headquartered there (well, Oreck Vacuum cleaners and Freeport-McMoRan (of Bre-X scandal fame)) is looking to get out, and the economy has no fall back. They need something not reliant on physical products, so no factories, no industry, and no import/export. Instead, bring the experience of living in NoLa back to life by having people want to live there again, by basing the economy on technology, and by letting tourism rise up on the swell of optimism.

Yes, its a tall order. La. is 3rd behind Miss. and Ala. as having the worst school system in the nation. And asking 100 families to move there in the bad times is not entirely kind. But its not like I’m asking them to go to Antarctica. And maybe my idea is crazy… but I think its the basis for the only thing which can save that area. They can’t build a knowledge economy on their own, but with the right push, I think it could rise up…

And in the meantime, if you are trying to get a feel for what make New Orleans so different from the rest of the world, pick up some Modern Brass Bands. Modern Brass mixes the classic tight horns of Dixieland jazz with the modern rhythms of R&B (or hip-hop). These newer generations of Brass players pick up where the old guard left off. If your only exposure to a brass band is from “Live or Let Die”, its time to open your ears.

The Louisiana Music Factory is the best place in the world to keep up with the modern brass world. I recently picked up the following, all of which are highly recommended:

No, I’m not leaving my old school rap or electronic big beat or 70s one hit wonders behind… and I ignored this stuff when I lived in New Orleans. But now, maybe because so much was destroyed, I want to collect and spread what may never come back again in quite the same way. Go to the Music Factory, listen to a few tracks, and let that unique New Orleans feel remind you of days when hurricanes were just big drinks in the Quarter.

* * *


  1. Well, I agree almost completely with the sourpuss. NO has tried to ride the same industries for decades, and the convention center was just an offshoot of tourism… But anything construction related buys and rents any available office space now, and Pitt / Jolie just moved to the quarter on the 12th of Jan, for what it’s worth. My fav quote: Jolie wants to meet some “normal mothers.” My response: Good luck finding normal. And I think the Silicon Swamp strategy was explored a little while back, starting with the Naval Tech facility at UNO. Not sure what other businesses they tried to woo…

    Darren    Jan 20, 06:48 PM    #

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