New Orleans Is The Best City In America, Change My Mind

New Orleans Is The Best City In America, Change My Mind

The Big Easy. The Crescent City. The Hollywood of the South. All these and more are the nickname for the greatest city in the South — New Orleans, Louisiana.


Say what you want about the big little city of New Orleans, but you will never be able to say that you didn't have fun there. The birthplace of Jazz, voodoo and Ellen DeGeneres, this city has more culture and flavor than any other place in the country. Known worldwide for Mardi Gras celebrations, the city has more to offer than just the drunken partying that takes place on Bourbon Street and Canal Street.

One thing that makes New Orleans unique though is its Mardi Gras celebration. With parades happening every weekend for a month leading up to Mardi Gras Day. With things like the krewes, Zulu, Endymion, Bacchus, Orpheus and more, out of town people easily get confused when New Orleanians start talking about their Mardi Gras plans. It's more than just a raging party (which is true) — it is the most anticipated season, not a holiday, of the year. New Orleanians plan their whole winter/spring lives around Mardi Gras. The parties, the parades, the balls, and the food are endless during the time between Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras day. Endless oceans of purple, gold, and green can be seen throughout the city. The delicacy of New Orleans, the King Cake, makes an appearance only during this season, and it is every New Orleanian's dream breakfast and dessert.

New Orleans is also the most European city in America. Compare New Orleans to other old cities like Charleston, SC. Both cities are heavily influenced by their European backgrounds. New Orleans has French and Spanish influence on every corner. There is obviously the French Quarter that everyone knows of — but it is actually Spanish architecture, not French. This is all thanks to a fire blazing the Vieux Carre and destroying the original French architecture and the Spanish rebuilding it all during their time in New Orleans.

The food reflects this as well.

Even though the French Quarter is really Spanish does not mean that the city itself isn't. French slang is still spoken throughout the city and state. When in New Orleans and there is an abundance of something we say there is "beaucoup". For instance, we would say "there is beaucoup beads hanging from the streetcar cables." Another term often said in communities like the African American community is "passe blanc". Other words and sayings you'll only hear in the Big Easy are things like "cher" when the old Creole or Cajun men talk to women, "makin' groceries" when we're about to go to the store, "Nainain and Parain" when talking about godparents, "Neutral grounds" when talking about the median in the middle of the street, and "Snowballs" when talking about what everyone else incorrectly calls "shaved ice". If you ever have to navigate "Tchoupitoulas" Street, ask for the pronunciation before you try — it is not how it sounds.

The thing that makes New Orleans the best city is the culture itself. The feel and the vibe of the city is unprecedented. There is no other energy of happiness that compares to the victory party in Champions Square after a Saints victory. There is no greater way to honor the dead than a second line through the streets on the way to the Metairie Cemetery. There is no greater feeling than your neighbors and friends all banning together after a storm to help you go through your house and see what is left when the waters rise. When hard times hit the city there is nothing greater than that. Neighbors helping neighbors, New Orleanians flocking from across the nation to their hometown to help out. New Orleans is the biggest small town, everyone knows everybody, but it also is one big family that parties and celebrates the greatest city there is: together.

As actor John Goodman once said,

"If I could put my finger on it, I'd bottle it and sell it. I came down here originally in 1972... and had never seen anything like it — the climate, the smells. Someone suggested that there's an incomplete part of our chromosomes that gets repaired or found when we hit New Orleans. Some of us just belong here."

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.

After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

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