Loathing And Dread: A New Orleans Theme Park?

Will the frenzy of New Orleans' 'defiantly idiosyncratic character' be replaced by a few tame, touristy neighborhoods like the 'Disneyfied Vieux Carre'?
February 22, 2006, 9am PST | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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"Truth is, fears of New Orleans becoming a theme-park version of its older, authentic self are nothing new. More than 20 years ago, the writer Walker Percy described the city as 'being curiously dispirited in those very places where it advertises itself as being most alive.' Bourbon Street had become, in his view, 'little more now than standard U.S. sleaze, the same tired old strippers grinding away, T-shirt shops, New Orleans jazz gone bad, art gone bad,' and all of official Mardi Gras was just as empty. Yet Percy leavened his verdict by noting that pockets of authentic life persisted: 'The real live festival of Mardi Gras takes place elsewhere,' he wrote, 'in the byways, in the neighborhood truck parades.'

...What's always powered it is that diverse collection of people forever mixing it up, whether making jazz, or an eclectic cuisine, or a truly creole culture. Get rid of the neighborhoods that are home to a crucial part of that human gumbo, neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward, and you end up with ... what, exactly?

Well, probably not even a very good theme park."

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Published on Monday, February 27, 2006 in U.S. News & World Report
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