- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
The Big Easy and the Holy City
Walking around an Uptown neighborhood in New Orleans has the feel of Hampton Park in Charleston: airy homes on lots with lush trees in a semi-tropical climate where summer steaminess is as accepted as white on rice.
But there are differences in these two famous Southern cities, both heavily influenced to this day by early European settlers. Here are some observations on how Charleston and New Orleans are similar and different:
Outward appearance. While Charleston has some downtown loudness in bar areas, the community as a whole is more akin to a quiet church – a clean place where order trumps disorder. Not so in New Orleans, where a griminess seems to coat the city, more than three times the size of Charleston. The Big Easy is more like a noisy bar, not just in the French Quarter, but all over. It’s fun, rowdy and larger than life, while Charleston’s scale and temperament definitely seems more staid and English.
Diversity. New Orleans is filled with all kinds of people – Cajuns, Creoles, Indians, whites, blacks, Latinos and more. It has a palpable feel of being a real melting pot, compared to Charleston which is mostly black and white. New Orleans also has more people who hang around all over the place. They seem to do little. Again, it’s part of the city’s earthiness, compared to Charleston where the homeless and bums are less visible.
Religious influence. One resident noted how the prevailing religious influence on New Orleans is European Catholic, while the more conservative Christian Bible Belt ethos is dominant in Charleston. As a result, people in New Orleans are more relaxed about relaxing. They’ve got a different way of handling things. And while all of the partying, gambling and gluttony may be at odds with religious teaching, they roll with it.
Schools. Both communities and their states have challenged public schools. While both offer private education alternatives, the parochial school system throughout New Orleans is fully developed and offers schooling at rates more affordable to working people than the hoity-toity private schools. This makes sense, though, as New Orleans is more tied to Catholicism.
Good food. Both communities are blessed to have outstanding restaurants and food. The major difference? The dives – the non-pretentious eateries that fill New Orleans and whose offerings – po’ boys, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and mounds of fresh seafood – are a true delight. My wife Courtenay, a native of New Orleans, says (and rightly so) that Charleston could use a few more dives.
Infrastructure. If you think the roads and infrastructure in Charleston are bad, wait until you see New Orleans. Although some problems still exist from Hurricane Katrina, the city’s pockmarked, pothole-ridden roads on which you can get lost at the drop of a hat need serious work. Some of the sidewalks, which reportedly have to be maintained by homeowners in residential areas, are so broken up by tree roots that it’s obvious the community must keep a stable of slip-and-fall lawsuits on the court dockets.
Traffic. It takes a long time to get from Point A to Point B in New Orleans – you have to allow yourself extra time for the traffic delays that are sure to happen. But one thing missing in Charleston that it used to have is a network of streetcars, which are fun ways to travel – and avoid traffic – in New Orleans.
Housing. Charleston has its single house. New Orleans has its shotgun house. They’re similar in that they’re both one room wide. But the single house has a side porch that leads to the front door on the side of the residence, while the shotgun house often has its front door on the front. As in Charleston, the old housing stock is constantly being repaired, beautified and upgraded, although Katrina’s wrath still has some areas pretty down and out.
New Orleans is an entertaining place to visit, but after a few days in the Big Easy, I’m ready to get home to the Holy City.
Andy Brack, publisher of Charleston Currents, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
HB 1023 and SB 377 are now slithering through the dank halls of Georgia’s government. These bills would allow business owners to openly discriminate against gay Americans by denying them employment or services: banning them from restaurants, hotels etc. (Translation: anybody who wishes to discriminate against someone for any reason need only say that it’s because it’s part of their “personal religion”.) The so-called "Preservation of Religious Freedom Act" would, in effect, permit any individual or for-profit company to ignore Georgia's anti-discrimination and civil rights laws. Legal experts warn that such "religious-freedom" bills are so vague and all-encompassing that they fling the doors wide Read on →
When they were small my husband used to say, “With a mother like you, Columbus would never have discovered America.” I knew I was over-anxious and didn’t want to burden them; I could barely contain my anxiety when small boys walked along a pier by the sea peering down at the fish (I couldn’t swim) or stood on a cliff’s edge (I suffer from vertigo) but I could keep quiet about my night vigils when they were growing up. In their late teens and early twenties (it’s legal from age 18 to drink in British pubs) they sometimes came in drunk and I relie Read on →
Instead of naming their new subdivisions the Dune Cottages, the Ocean Forest Cottages and the Riverside Cottages and then running their Dune Avenue down the Sea Island Spit, where the Loggerhead Turtles nest and 144 species of birds come to rest, making reference to the sea of effluent on which their cottages sit would be more honest, but it wouldn't attract many new buyers for Sea Island Coastal Properties' million dollar lots, would it? And it probably wouldn't please the realtors trying to move the 29 extant mansions in the million dollar plus range (For anyone looking to pay less for Read on →
The feeling of your tires losing traction on an icy road is hard to label. You'd think it might feel like falling, a sudden stop or start, a gut-twisting vertigo as the ground drops away, but it's not that dramatic. Instead of physics slapping you with your own momentum, you feel, perhaps, like the road has just started lying to you. The motions of your hands and feet, something you've felt so very confident in for years, aren't following through on their promise. You're clearly steering in one direction, applying just so much pressure to the pedals, but the road Read on →