Cities as siblings

Chris Roberts-Antieau New Orleans 6/4/10 12:17 AM

In my head, I've always personified major US cities as members of an unruly family. New York and LA are the two hot shot fraternal twins (Sweet Valley-esque, as it were--LA is so Jessica Wakefield to New York's Elizabeth, no?). DC is the Type A, industrious one, waking up early to hit the gym; Baltimore is its more artistically talented, but somewhat defensive and disorganized younger sibling, who bristles if you draw comparisons (maintaining that a quirky character is far more impressive than showing up to things on time). Chicago is the hilarious uncle who you always want to sit next to at family gatherings, though beware the nasty temper; Portland is the token hippy, no surprises there; Cleveland's the chain smoker who's been working on his novel for the last several years and is going to finish it eventually, once the kids find jobs and move out of the basement.

And then there's New Orleans, which I visited for the first time last week, the lazier, charming, somewhat alcoholic cousin; a lovable ne'er-do-well. But mostly there was a wonderful artistic casualness to the city that I found refreshing.  In a band? Just play on the side of the road and plop down a hat next to your CDs. Draw pictures? Put them in the back of your truck and hawk them on Frenchmen street. You don't need the organizational skills that are one of DC's key selling points--no Facebook groups or laborious grant applications, or public art committees--just throw your stuff out into the world, and see what sticks.