As I spend my last day in New Orleans, I have been thinking what makes a city great? I have travelled a bit, more than many, less than some. There are a few cities I have been to, that pull at my heart.
When I arrived here Thursday, having not been back since 2003, I threw my luggage in my hotel room and walked to the French Quarter and cried. It is a place of great emotion and feeling for me, walking those streets, feeling the history, the special history of this great city, of survival, of change, of destiny.
It has been ruled by the French, Spanish and Americans and like New York is not really a typical American city, rather has a feel unilke other American citiies. There is its unique music and food and you really don't have to do anything to have the experience. How I feel about Paris-there is nothing to do but keep an open heart and walk. I bought a book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the Beat poet at the Faulkner Bookstore in the French Quarter and he writes about "Poetry as Insurgent Art." He says "Be subversive, constantly questioning reality and the status quo." That is the mark of a great life and a great City.
I came here first in 1990, though when I arrived at the airport and walked around, I felt I had been here before. It is nearly 20 years later, my life has changed and it hasn't but the feelings remain. It is one of those great cities to relish and revisit. Paris, Lisbon, Mexico City are other places for me that resonate for me in the same way, pulling at my heart. And of course, New York and Brooklyn.
I think a great city is a place that has an energy, a purpose, that brings creative people together. A place where you don't want to sit in your hotel room, rather explore every minute you can. New Orleans has suffered greatly since Katrina-it has lost more than half its population. But people are returning and as Americans we owe its people our continued dedication to its recovery. Visit and eat and listen to music and walk the Garden District and the French Quarter and visit City Park and the Ninth Ward and become a supporter of this great experiment that has survived fires and hurricanes, that has a language of its own.
We need to keep fostering the vitality of American cities-it's one of the things that keeps our country great. Support New Orleans and the City you live in.