Small Town ‘merica

Nov 8, 2010 by

Its easy to forget, and I’m guilty of it myself, but New Orleans is a small town….really small. Part of this is the way the city is abstractly compartmentalized. There aren’t really barriers per se, but there’s a tendency to stay in the areas you live in. If you live in the Quarter, your lifestyle adjusts itself such that you don’t have much, if any, reason to leave the Quarter; the same is true of uptown, midcity, Lakeview, etc. Over years of living in New Orleans, you may find yourself living in different “compartments”. This will lead you to meeting people in that compartment. Anytime after that, should you go back, you’ll undoubtedly see someone you know. And there is crossover…places that, when you’re there, you’re likely to see people from any compartment on any given day…a show at House of Blues would be one of those places.

Having said that, there are also weird anomalies in that you may never see people living in your compartment even though you’ve both lived there for years. You may even have dozens of mutual friends or acquaintances. Your friends may even tell you stories about these people. Its always weird when I meet a new person and within a few minutes of talking with them, either they “know of me” or I “know of them”. This makes me suspect there are many people still that I haven’t met that are right there in front of me all the time. In many ways, this adds to a very strong sense of community that’s hard to find in a town as geographically big as New Orleans. Of course there are also down-sides to this.

The internet has become the newest cross-compartmental compartment in New Orleans. Sometimes the internet, especially the social media aspect, has the danger of running into someone you don’t want to see at any point. Even if you aren’t directly connected with them anymore, if a mutual friend tags a picture of you, or comments on something you post then….well, its putting yourself out there in a very real way. Privacy can become an abstraction and before you realize it, you’ve put information out there that you’d maybe wish you hadn’t. You can try and pull it back, but, well, its like trying to un-ring a bell. And keep in mind I’m saying this having been online for a very long time. But even as I write this I find myself thinking a little more carefully about what I’m saying, how its phrased, and watching for ways someone might interpret what I’m saying as an attack on them (or whatever). Honestly, its starting to seriously sour me on the whole thing. Professionally, it can be less than ideal to have shit out there; and personally it can be emotionally draining. Furthermore, its much more difficult to get away from people and for them to get away from you. Maybe I’ll write my predictions on the burgeoning Internet Morality and its corollary to the move from farming communities to manufacturing communities…but now back to my original point.

This post came from my thinking about the people that just seem to materialize from the past like they fell through a wormhole or something equally unlikely. And I know other people have similar experiences all the time and was hoping to hear a few of them in the comments. I’ll get the ball rolling by telling you all about, by far, my strangest experience like this. I was walking home from work from the CBD to uptown on St. Charles. It was early evening and a beautiful evening. From just over a block away I see this girl and guy walking toward me. The girl looks familiar but I can’t see her very clearly and can’t place her anyway. Oh well, probably someone I’ve shot pool with or something. From about a half block away recognition started to creep in….it looked like an ex from school, but that’s weird since I went to school in Ohio. Even more striking is the fact that last I’d heard, she was in Europe and had been for quite a while. It was like my brain was resisting the information, cause, you know, it just didn’t make sense – there had to be a more prosaic explanation. Like it just looked like her, or I’m asleep and having a nightmare, or someone at my office had slipped acid into the coffee. But it was her. We were polite and said hello, but I don’t think I even stopped walking during our very brief exchange. Total, it was maybe a 30 second incident, but here I am probably 8 or more years later and its still very clear in my head – to be honest though, I hadn’t thought of it in years until I started writing this post.

So maybe this explains why I so regularly drastically change my appearance? I joked to someone this weekend that I change my appearance about every three months so I can hit on the same girl (that rejects me) 4 times in a year and she may not recognize me one of those times and accidentally say yes. On the bright side, I’m very bad with names. I’m also very bad at recognition, so if I haven’t seen you in a while and we didn’t spend much time together then its more than likely I would not recognize you if we bump into each other (I’m thinking of you Liprap). So if you run into me and I don’t say hi it isn’t that I’m slighting you – its probably that I don’t recognize you – which I suppose is more insulting in some ways…but its just a thing with me. I’m better at it than I used to be but still not good at it.

We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget :Joan Didion

Thanks for reading….hope you liked it.

Jack “Monkeyboy” Ware

Related Posts


Share This