Lives Mystery Magic Death Life New Orleans  Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

LIVES MYSTERY, MAGIC, DEATH LIFE NEW ORLEANS. TOPIC; Dan Baum works ensure readers understand life New Orleans life America. The people New Orleans things differently Americans.

When you first lay eyes on Dan Baum's Nine Lives, you don't really know what to make of the book. That is, you are a little confused of whether or not it is a fiction book. It does have that aura of a fiction book, a sort of mystery entangling it. But once you start reading the ?About the book? introduction, you find that it is not actually, that is, a fiction book. It is in fact a cursive lining up of people testifying their lives and that it would indeed appear unimaginable for them to carry on living some place else other than New Orleans. And that, because, as the author tells us, ?that New Orleans is like no place else in America goes way beyond the food, music, and architecture. (Baum 12) When he was sent there in 2005, two days after Katrina stroke, to write about its devastating effects, Baum found it tiresome having to dwell over and over on the hurricane. He'd discovered something more, the ?unusual nature? Of the people living there and the ?weird nature? Of the place where it had all happened. Baum finally settled on writing his book on some nine people he met along his documenting. By that time, in fact, long before that, people from the outside as well as on the inside found that New Orleans had it all: crime, poverty, corruption, indeed, an all together mass ?civil disobedience? like no place else in America. But somehow, people of New Orleans knew more to it than anyone else peeking from the outside in. None of the fact that New Orleans was rendered the decay city of America mattered, Baum tells us, because these people did not live by the same standards nor were they interested in reconstructing New Orleans a new "better" city.

The nines in Baum's book are all too different from one another, no particularities binding them together, except perhaps for the Mardi Gras traditions which, living in New Orleans, was part of each of these people's lives undoubtedly. One a millionaire, the other a convict, one a transsexual, the other a coroner, etc., nothing seems to bring these people together. However, they appear interrelated through some sort of mutual understanding that indeed the place where they carried on living was on the most undesirable outskirts of America, that is, for the people outside the city. Because the ones on the inside had learned to live with the circumstances and indeed they seemed to want nothing more of life. Ronald Lewis learned from an early age that people on the Lower Ninth Ward had to live with the fact that they were being looked down at by the rest of New Orleans. In fact, as a boy witnessing the Betsy hurricane, he knew ?it was as far downriver -- as far down the social ladder -- as you could go in New Orleans. (Baum 21) This is no singular case, in fact, Baum reveals how most people of New Orleans accepted such norms as if it were the most regular thing to do. What's more, they didn't seem to be bothered by that at all. This enabled them to understand life differently than other Americans who fought hard having to feed and support their families. To these people, such financial issues were secondary, what mattered first was having time to enjoy time.

If anything, New Orleans was the place where a hurricane didn't always bring people down; instead it made things better (Baum 30). The hardship of New Orleans had strengthened these people's character, so that, what they experienced as children growing up in the outlaw city, served as foundation for their following grown up experiences. John Guidos was a fifteen years old football player in 1965 who had a thing for his mother's bras, especially ?the light blue one with the cotton rose between the cups. (24) By the time Katrina made its entrance, he had become JoAnn Guidos, a bar owner who decided not the flee the city as many had done, but instead keep her bar open as the place where all those who ?didn't fit in? could find a home. In this respect, none of what made New Orleans an ordeal to outsiders was similar to JoAnn's perspective. She developed a sense of belonging, what's more, a feeling that she was to care for the people who were being rejected. Indeed, ?what mattered was that it was a place where anybody could feel safe, where people could be themselves? And ?JoAnn felt this was more than a job; it was a mission. (Baum 222) The nines in Baum's book seem to be compelled by the circumstances not to ago about in complete ignorance of what is happening around them and instead choose to fight back the injustice in New Orleans. Joyce and Tootie Montana who'd lived in 1966 being afraid of the Indians ?as anyone else? later fought for justice on the streets of the city as leaders of the Mardi Gras Indians. In the meantime, they continued to create more elaborative costumes each year for the festival. Frank Minyard, as much a womanizer as he was, a gynecologist and a jazz musician, was unable to turn a blind eye to the ?political reasons? that killed people in New Orleans. In this respect, the nines developed a sense of awareness that what was going on was as much an individual responsibility as well as a communal consequence of acting. Living according to New Orleans' own rules, did not make these people plunder into its mischievous downside of it. Instead, they did whatever possible to overcome injustice and this is where the positive of all that was wrong with New Orleans surfaces.

It is not a matter of the nines having completely rejected typical American norms, it is rather that they had been raised in an environment where no such typicality existed. New Orleans had a life of its own and this life was everything the nines knew of. That is not to say that they were completely oblivious to the environment around them, but that racial conflict, financial collapse, catastrophes, all had been part of their lives since born. Above all these, New Orleans held a particular personality to its people, something the tourists were not allowed or were unable to seize. This is what caused people to resist change and indeed suppress it. Billy Grace would ask himself ?What's wrong with us? Are we proud of being backward and insular?

(Baum 127) when thinking back on the multiple times New Orleans had been offered the opportunity to develop and it ?turned a cold shoulder?. Because people, in a peculiar way, adapted to the conditions in New Orleans, became unable to comprehend anything that was coming from the outside, anything that was big enough to shake their world. When Katrina came, Americans sought to build a whole New Orleans but it could not do so due to people's resistance. And this is what keeps New Orleans stranded in the old ways which, for all that matters, is as good as it is regressive. The highlight of New Orleans' influence on these people was that they knew they could only count on each other and it helped build up a sense of humanity communion within its borders, especially after Katrina.

New Orleans is made of subcultures and that goes without saying. That means that one thing applying in a ward may have nothing to do with what happens in another. And there are 17 wards that make up New Orleans and the people in Baum's book…

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