Foreign Home

A restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans. At the back, a waiter takes the order of a man and a woman.

Been writing about home a lot lately, and my thoughts on where I’d prefer to live and what kind of house I’d prefer to have. It’s something I value, as an introvert: having a home, a nice safe, quiet place where I don’t have to worry about presenting any specific personality.

I wonder, though, if I can write enough words on the topic of… what’s the opposite of home? Would it be not-home? Hang on; I’m googling the antonym of home, which turns out to be: 

…foreign? Wait, home is a noun; shouldn’t the antonym be a noun, too? How weird. That doesn’t make sense, but let’s go with it.

I have not traveled to a lot of cities in the world, either domestic or foreign. My tourism has extended to North America and the surrounding sea, exclusively. I am not, therefore, an expert, and I will be the first to admit that. I would love to see more of the world, much more than I have to date.

With that in mind, I can speak about the cities and places I have been, and compare them to my hometown of the Portland of Oregon.

My favorite city in the world other than Portland, is, without doubt, New Orleans. I’ve visited there twice, and each trip included so many good memories, sights of charming and unique architecture and scenery, and companionable natives. If I had to move away from Portland and were forced to pick my new home, I would settle in New Orleans. 

Sure, I was drunk most of the time I was there. Both times. But I’m pretty good at being drunk, so my impressions still have value to me. I was first struck by how different the buildings were from Portland. The strong French and Spanish influence, especially in and around Bourbon Street, reminded me that I was not at home, while still feeling welcoming. The basic grid layout of the downtown streets made navigation easy, especially for someone deep in their cups, as I’d been, and probably would be again on my future visits. And the famous Southern hospitality was miles away from the passive-aggressive NW Nice attitude. People talked to each other, even strangers, and that felt good, even to introverted me.

I should point out that my two visits were in the winter, though. It’s entirely possible my impression would have been much different if I was attacked by mosquitos or drenched in humidity. But I’m aware of these things, and I will reserve my ultimate judgment until after that day I visit in the summer months. 

Still, New Orleans is the subject of many a daydream for me. I can picture sitting on a balcony overlooking streams of people, while I sip on a gin and tonic, and listen to live music, staying up until the wee small hours of the night.

I have not been back there since Hurricane Katrina; another possible source of discouragement for my love of this city. I imagine, however, that the lore and history of the area survived even the Bush II Administration’s willful negligence. People rebuild after disasters, and people tend to preserve the past. I hope that New Orleans is still layered in a rich texture of food, fascinating construction, friendly people, and history. 

Someday I will return, New Orleans.