Bizarre as this might sound given the name of my blog, I sometimes think that I don’t write enough about what I love about New Orleans and why.
So here’s one reason why: it can heal broken hearts. To explain, I have to backtrack. Last week I went to a new play here in London: Heartbreak Hotel at The Jetty, an waterside arts venue in north Greenwich, out where the river bends and close to what was formerly east London’s shipping heartland.
The experience reminded me of being in New Orleans. Spending a hot night by the river, with the presence of the past strong and the nearby strangely sculptural Thames Barrier a reminder of how vulnerable my city’s future is to water. Seeing a play whose name is a reference, of course, to the song made famous by Southern boy Elvis Presley and first performed in Louisiana. And maybe having one or two cocktails too many.
The play itself took the form of taking “guests” through a series of rooms in what appeared to be a ramshackle pierside hotel, presenting a series of interlinked pieces about heartbreak – an unhappy marriage, the death of a child, a tour of a museum of love affair mementos – and concluding with a cathartic singalong finale in the early evening sun on the roof.
And New Orleans too has always felt to me to be a place where you can bring your past experiences, be forgiven and forgive, and get put back together again.
If you want to get theoretical, New Orleans – like London and all great cities – is built on the ebb and flow of new people, ideas and experiences that its geography makes inevitable. And, as we’re all new arrivals in our own future lives, these cities give us a pattern for surviving and living, where the past can be acknowledged but refashioned.
Put more simply: if I’m feeling blue, I think of New Orleans, and instantly feel better.