When people ask you where you live and you tell them a big city like Chicago or New York (I'll stick to the East Coast since it's all I've known), there are a number of reactions. They wince at the sky rocketing rent you pay, or ogle at the nightlife, or ask how the crime is, or is it true what they've heard as visitors about the area. People in general expect cities to crazy or extreme simply because there's more people smooshed into a small area. Or they rely on folklore, or the city's history, which is often extended and historically significant. Other towns and locales have maybe been around even longer but in cities is where things begin.

I am quite aware that New Orleans is not like the bigger cities, but it is to date the only city I've lived in. It is as far as I know the only city whose draw is almost total debauchery, with a side order of historical significance as the city that never should have been. I won't pretend that I know alot about the area, but all I can do is gauge what it is known for by its tourists, and you can imagine what image that stirs up.

When I tell people I work with in Metairie (a suburb of New Orleans) that I live in the city, they shrug their shoulders and dispel a decent share of pity. Most people who live in the area work very hard to avoid having to live in the city if work calls them there, the result of which is steadily sprawling subdivisions and overnight neighborhoods in the surrounding areas.

To live in the city means that the party years have not yet passed for you, that you still like being dangerously close to the action, or that you are determined to never grow out of it. You work in the service industry or attend college, or like me, came here to get lost. You found your existence cheap at cost and the delusions within arm's length and more than you could count on sober fingers. It means to be young in the way that people in a mall are embarrassed by punker teens is young, to annoy people simply by doing something different.

When I first started this job, people could tell I was "from the Quarters" by the way I dressed, how I acted, what I knew. They could tell I wasn't one of them, and they stiffened for a while until I let them put me in a uniform and look like everyone else. Even still, they shake their heads when they find out where in the city I live (it's either poverty or wealth, side by side) thinking how unsafe it all must be.

They don't know that the richest district in the city is the most dangerous and that the French Quarter streets are the safest to walk down at 4am than any other neighborhood. They are fooled into thinking that suburbia is safer, cleaner. The suburbs remind me of a pastor's daughter who was my middle school bully, who made my life a living hell but listened to Amy Grant and sang at church.

To live in the city is to be alive and to know what is what in the world.

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