Apr 16, 2010

New Orleans was never built to code! and we loved it that way

Reading "Restoring the Real New Orleans" in Metropolis magazine Feb 2007, one section of the article caught my eye particularly because of the high cost-of-living and housing prices in Hawaii.The excerpt reads thus:
The lost housing of New Orleans is quite special. Entering the damaged and abandoned houses, you can still see what they were like before the hurricane. They were exceedingly inexpensive to live in, built by people's parents and grandparents or by small builders paid in cash or by barter. Most of these simple, pleasant houses were paid off. They had to be because they do not meet any sort of code and are therefore not mortgageable by current standards.
It was possible to sustain the unique culture of New Orleans because housing costs were minimal, liberating people from debt. One did not have to work a great deal to get by. There was the possibility of leisure. There was time to create the fabulously complex Creole dishes that simmer forever; there was time to practice music, to play it live rather than from recordings, and to listen to it. There was time to make costumes and to parade; there was time to party and to tell stories; there was time to spend all day marking the passing of friends. One way to leisure time is to have a low financial carry. With a little work, a little help from the government, and a little help from family and friends, life could be good! This is a typically Caribbean social contract: not one to be understood as laziness or poverty -- but as a way of life.
Living in Hawaii, I am accustomed to being in a tourist destination. But as the economy matures and we become part of the global village, I can't help but feel that Hawaii is losing it's sense of place; it's cultural identity. When strip malls and national brand stores take over, what makes Kalakaua Avenue any different than LA?