Dear New Orleans, What a big, beautiful mess you are. A giant flashing yellow light—proceed with caution, but proceed. Not overly ambitious, you have a strong identity, and don’t look outside yourself for intrigue, evolution, or monikers of progress. Proud of who you are, you know your flavor, it’s your very own, and if people want to come taste it, you welcome them without solicitation. Your hours trickle by, Tuesdays and Saturdays more similar than anywhere else. Your seasons slide into one another. You’re the Big Easy…home of the shortest hangover on the planet, where a libation greets you on a Monday morning with the same smile as it did on Saturday night. Home of the front porch, not the back. This engineering feat provides so much of your sense of community and fellowship as you relax facing the street and your neighbors across it. Rather than retreating into the seclusion of the backyard, you engage with the goings-on of the world around you, on your front porch. Private properties hospitably trespass on each other and lend across borders where a 9:00 A.M. alarm clock is church bells, sirens, and a slow-moving eight-buck-an-hour carpenter nailing a windowpane two doors down. You don’t sweat details or misdemeanors, and since everybody’s getting away with something anyway, the rest just wanna be on the winning side. And if you can swing the swindle, good for you, because you love to gamble and rules are made to be broken, so don’t preach about them, abide. Peddlin worship and litigation, where else do the dead rest eye to eye with the livin? You’re a right-brain city. Don’t show up wearing your morals on your sleeve ’less you wanna get your arm burned. The humidity suppresses most reason so if you’re crossing a one-way street, it’s best to look both ways. Mother Nature rules, the natural law capital “Q” Queen reigns supreme, a science to the animals, an overbearing and inconsiderate bitch to us bipeds. But you forgive her, and quickly, cus you know any disdain with her wrath will reap more: bad luck, voodoo, karma. So you roll with it, meander rather, slowly forward, takin it all in stride, never sweating the details. Your art is in your overgrowth. Mother Nature wears the crown around here, her royalty rules, and unlike in England, she has both influence and power. You don’t use vacuum cleaners, no, you use brooms and rakes to manicure. Where it falls is where it lays, the swerve around the pothole, the duck beneath the branch, the poverty and the murder rate, all of it, just how it is and how it turned out. Like a gumbo, your medley’s in the mix. —June 7, 2013, New Orleans, La.