A few months ago, when I was in New Orleans, I wrote: "New Orleans must be the byproduct of a boozy one-night stand between Vatican City and Tijuana." And when both the sacred and profane elements of the city revere and call up their ghosts, you can't help but walk the streets there and feel as if you're walking in the valley of the shadow of death.
Of course, surely at no time does it feel more so than now. Talk about your city full of ghosts, and where those ghosts have brought out the good and the wicked alike. And I have thought to myself: If I lived in New Orleans, would I go back?
The answer is, of course, yes, absolutely, in a New Orleans minute. Ghosts are nothing new to the South. Think of the elemental characters of Southern Gothic: the demented oldster and her (always her) compatriot, the no-nonsense grandma; the sly shyster (usually from the North), the "simple" (read: "slow") girl next door. In literature as in all other things, the South proves itself a place to embrace and have sympathy with its grotesques, and no place exemplifies that more than New Orleans. The city will come back; and although a good many people never will return, those who chose the place so they could walk in the valley of the shadow of death will.