New Orleans has the highest murder rate in in the United States, twice as dangerous as Detroit and Baltimore. 95 per 100,000. Detroit is 46 and Baltimore is 45, and those are the cities the rest of my family lives near and sees on the news all the time. We're also the second most dangerous city in the world, behind Caracas, Venezuela. I also live in one of the more dangerous neighborhoods of New Orleans. I like to shock people by telling them I live in the 9th Ward, like the kindergarten aide at the faculty meeting this afternoon who's a New Orleans native.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself and ask if this is really my life. Three years ago I was fresh out of college and back living in very safe and comfortable Hampstead, Maryland, working as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I could safely go out for a run at 11 pm. Then I came down to New Orleans for what was supposedly just a volunteer trip in March 2006 and, as D. would say, New Orleans had "somethin' to say" about me ever leaving. As they say, "New Orleans chooses you." I live in the 9th Ward and teach at a school named hope.
I never had romantic ideals of New Orleans, never spent spring afternoons sipping coffee in a courtyard in the Quarter or at Jazz Fest or riding the streetcar down St. Charles. Heck, the St. Charles streetcar wasn't even running when I came to visit and the Canal Street streetcar just ran as far as Claiborne and was free 'cause hardly anyone was visiting. My first Mardi Gras was spent at the St. Anne parade through the neighborhood followed by dinner at Sugar Park. My first impression of New Orleans was from the Claiborne bridge down into the Lower 9th Ward. But jeez, I never expected to have a drive-by shooting 2 doors down on a Sunday evening.http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2008/11/new_orleans_has_highest_crime.htmlhttp://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4480
In more positive news, Chicago came to visit and brought us cake this time. If only all faculty meetings consisted of 6 layer lemon cake.