Moving to New Orleans
March 30, 2012 11:48 AM   Subscribe

As mentioned in a previous question, I'll be moving to New Orleans in the fairly near future. I have a few questions and a need for reassurance.

A little background and then some questions:
My soon-to-be-ex was born/raised in NO and all his family is there. His parents are getting on in years and we have a deep desire for our son to spend as much time with them as possible for the time they have left (we estimate perhaps 10 more years).

I'm neither excited nor dismayed about the move - there are pros and cons on both sides.

My biggest concern, though, is this - will the city really ever recover from Katrina?

I know that my view is a bit skewed because I currently live in one of the cleanest metro areas in the country, but it just looks so .. decayed.

That being said, I have a couple of other questions:
Are there any active and helpful listservs? I'm on 3 up here and the wealth of information is amazing.

If no listservs, is there a good central location (website, forum?) to find things like hairdressers, yoga studios, playdates for my son, etc?

I've searched & read all the "New Orleans" threads and gotten some good information, but nothing about the more "trivial" stuff that I will need to sort out as I settle in.

Any and all advice would be helpful.
posted by dotgirl to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
New Orleans is a tropical coastal city in the middle of a swamp. It's *always* looked slightly decayed. That's pretty much the nature of a climate that is warm and humid. On the flip side, it's also vibrant and lively where anything (cultural things too) grows at the drop of a hat.
Will it ever "recover"? I dunno. It'll never be the same as it was before, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. In some parts of the city you'd be hard-pressed to find any signs that Katrina ever happened. In other area's the storm hit last week.
posted by Runes at 12:09 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

New Orleans is a very old city with a lot of character in a climate that's very different from Seattle. It is going to look different to you. But it's not decayed because of Katrina, not really (at least not most of it), and it's not really decayed at all.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:02 PM on March 30, 2012

Response by poster: Just wanted to add a little bit of clarification - I've spent a lot of time in New Orleans - 6-7 visits per year for the last ten years - I was married there, spent my honeymoon there .. in fact, I wanted to settle there instead of Seattle, but was overruled.

However, it really does feel different to me than it did before 2005. Maybe that's just my perception.

At any rate, beyond that question, any ideas/thoughts on the best way to start finding all the "incidental" stuff I need would be much appreciated.
posted by dotgirl at 1:06 PM on March 30, 2012

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by listservs. I don't know of any citywide subscription/message boards that cover a broad range of topics., the online version of the Times-Picayune, has a bunch of discussion forums but I wouldn't describe them as an amazing wealth of information.

Playdates for your son will likely develop through school connections I would think? I'm not a parent so I definitely can't speak on that.

Hairdressers, yoga, etc: Yelp seems to be pretty active, but I don't participate so I've no idea how useful it is. I'd probably go with the classic approach of asking someone whose haircut I admired where they got it. I can tell you I get my hair cut at Salon Diversions in the French Quarter, because I work in the Quarter and can go on my lunch hour. It's fine. (How's that for a ringing endorsement?)

Where you're living will probably impact where you take care of your incidentals - feel free to email me your neighborhood if you want more specific recs on anything.

Not going to touch the recovery question. Different in some ways, good and bad. Same in some ways, good and bad.
posted by CheeseLouise at 2:36 PM on March 30, 2012

I'd advise you to move to Metairie, which quite near N'awlins without actually being New Orleans. Much of it is above sea level (if, you know, 3 feet above sea level) and, to paraphrase that movie title, There Will Be Flood.

My own grandparents lived down there, along with the majority my father's family. I don't know the area well because I've never lived there, but it has its good places and its bad, and you can probably learn and avoid the good places. You will, at some point, probably have to do a Hurricane evac, so get prepared for that once you move in.

Also, my friend at L-Soft may or may not thank me for mentioning that ListServ is a registered trademark and not a generic term for electronic mailing list. :^)

New Orleans and much of Louisiana are as corrupt as the day is long; don't count on the government, don't trust the police; you'll have to do it all yourself if you want to get it done. Aside from all that, there's a ton of fun to be had there, both in terms of active recreation and liquid recreation. More culture in a cup of mud down there than the entirety of some cities I could name. It's true that southern politeness can be the thinnest veneer, but the golden rule applies, and friendliness will be returned with interest.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:30 PM on March 30, 2012

It makes a huge, huge difference which part of the city you're moving to. The suburbs, uptown, downtown business district, and French Quarter are all pretty much back to their pre-K state. The lower 9th ward will never recover. Chalmette and Mid-City are about half-way, and may never go the rest of the distance. Lakeview has come back big but looks completely different because all the new houses are two-story with disposable first floors. New Orleans East is still very sparsely populated and has very few services.

Go a little further afield to Slidell or Mandeville ("far" by our standards, but very close compared to the similar suburbs of Seattle) and things are booming. (I was born and raised in the city, but live in Mandeville today.) Metairie is also a suburb that survived but don't kid yourself that it's safe; it's still in the bowl of flood but it got lucky in the matter of which side of the 17th street canal breached first.

New Orleans is a much smaller city than Seattle so even if Katrina had never happened you'd notice a lack of culture and services in many ways compared to Seattle. The entire metro area, including all suburbs, is about 1.5 million people, and is about back to its pre-K levels but a little less in Orleans Parish and a little more in the burbs. The closest "real" cities by West Coast standards would be Houston, Memphis, and Atlanta, all about 400 miles away in different directions.
posted by localroger at 4:46 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Anecdotally, I have only been living here for a year or so, but my experience is that in that time, my neighborhood at least (upper 9th ward), is starting to really bounce back, lots of renovation, quite a few new businesses, not a lot of vacancies. Things feel safe and friendly.

More objectively, things also seem to be getting better.
posted by St. Sorryass at 7:07 PM on March 30, 2012

I can't think of any e-lists or forums or anything like that, but I would just look at Yelp and maybe some of the "Best of" lists, like the Gambit polls every year. Also just ask around, and Facebook friend everyone you meet - I get good recommendations for stuff by posting "Hey, can anyone recommend ___?" In terms of your son meeting kids to play with...won't he meet kids at school/day camp/soccer/etc?

If you MeMail me I can recommend a yoga studio and hair salon, since you asked. Actually feel free to MeMail me with any specific questions, I'd be happy to help!

Yes, New Orleans is dirty and gross and falling apart, but that has less to do with Katrina than just the general attitude of the people here, and the fact that there are a lot of really old buildings in a swampy, muggy mess!
posted by radioamy at 8:06 PM on March 30, 2012

I'm not entirely sure what your question is here — maybe it would be helpful if you could talk about what specific "incidental" things you're actually looking for? And your Katrina-recovery question just seems like chatfilter as stated — are you looking for some specific information there?

Anyway, as people have kinda suggested above, it may be harder than you expect to find local recommendations online, and you're going to experience a bit of Internet-deprivation culture shock coming from a place like Seattle. New Orleans culture operates on word of mouth far more, and public Internet discussion far less, than any other American city I know. The local mindset seems to be to rely heavily on personal connections, knowing a guy who knows a guy, for all kinds of things like service and business recommendations and event publicity and so on — even when you'd think it'd be to a business owner's or event promoter's advantage to advertise more publicly. New Orleans' Yelp is pretty underpopulated and not always reliable compared to bigger and more Web-savvy cities, but it's nonetheless the best place I've found to start looking around at local businesses. But if you have family around here, you're probably better off asking them and then asking their friends for pointers.

Still, here's one thing I recommend to anyone moving to New Orleans from a larger American city: you're probably going to be aghast at the high prices and low quality at local furniture stores (e.g. the mile of ripoff mattress stores out on Veterans Blvd) — and there's no Ikea within any reasonable distance. Fortunately the (incredibly nice) folks at Bluebag have made a business out of delivering furniture they'll buy for you on their weekly trip to Ikea in Houston, while charging far lower rates than Ikea's own trucks.
posted by RogerB at 10:15 PM on March 30, 2012

I'm late to this, but:

However, it really does feel different to me than it did before 2005. Maybe that's just my perception.

I find the general attitude of New Orleans people, and the feel of the city, to be better than pre-Katrina. I think most people left in New Orleans now have made a decision to stay (or move there), and appreciation of the city is higher.

And people seem to forget that many of the problems (corrupt government, police, education) were around, in different degrees, before Katrina. This was not a perfect city pre-Katrina.

One of the biggest problems as a direct result of Katrina is health care. Some parts of the city have very little.

I LOVE New Olreans, and may move there eventually (2 and a half hours away). But even I would say you need to love the city to live there. I would never move to Seattle, because I would miss the food and music and soul and history and melting pot. But if you don't, it's probably going to be a tough move (I can't think of two cities more different than Seattle and New Orleans).

I'd advise you to move to Metairie

For me this would be missing out on what I love about New Orleans while not really escaping that much. If I move to New Orleans, for good or bad, I'm LIVING in New Orleans.

Yes, New Orleans is dirty and gross and falling apart, but that has less to do with Katrina than just the general attitude of the people here, and the fact that there are a lot of really old buildings in a swampy, muggy mess!
posted by radioamy

Radioamy lives there and I do not, so take this for what it's worth (I could also be misunderstanding her point), but the people of New Orleans are, to me, what makes it special, and since Katrina there's been an influx of people that care about the city and want to see it rebound. And yes, the city, while different, has made great strides since Katrina.
posted by justgary at 6:34 PM on April 21, 2012

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