"Everybody is miserable because you can't go anywhere without getting caught in traffic. We went to dinner the other night and it took an hour and a half to get our food." That's the lament of a co-worker of mine.
He's talking about life in Metairie, the bedroom community next to New Orleans. They suffered some flooding and wind damage from the hurricanes, but nothing on a scale to compare with my neighborhood, or the neighborhoods to the East.
As a result, most of the population of Metairie is back, along with a big chunk of New Orleanians in need of places to live, work, eat and shop. The results: gridlock, long lines, loss of civility, indigestion. Oh, the humanity!
This is a curious turn of events, indeed.
You would expect that those of us "struggling to survive" in the decimated city would be much worse off than our counterparts on the other side of the 17th Street Canal.
But listen to this: I can go out to eat at any of several restaurants, and waiting is not a problem. Neither is traffic. Or parking.
A few nights ago, I took the family and a friend out to eat at Mona's Cafe on Carrollton Avenue. We walked right in and had food on the table faster than you can say "Shish ka-Bob's Your Uncle." Excellent service and eats. Lebanese tea, falafel, hummus, authentic background music.
And just yesterday, we met my parents for lunch at the Freret Street Cafe, a cute little place that is essentially an early 20th century gas station painted yellow. The weather was beautiful, so we sat outside under the canopy painted with palm fronds. They serve a variety of sandwiches and grilled plates, the best of which was the shrimp po-boy that my wife ordered. It was bursting with fried shrimp to rival any I've ever seen in New Orleans.
I guess what I'm saying is, life is good in New Orleans. Uptown is doing just fine, thank you. Even in its current condition, it's a great place to be.
For my Metairie friends, I am reminded of Emma Lazarus' verse, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Who knows, maybe that yellow paint at the Freret Street Cafe is supposed to be gold.
Mona’s Cafe, 1120 South Carrollton Ave., 861-8174.
Freret Street Cafe, corner of Freret and Lowerline.