One of the best writers to emerge in recent years asked his social media followers and friends about our city and about gentrification. He was intrigued by one example I used in our discussion and asked to include it:
Darlene Wolnik talked to me about how what we eat has been altered. She explained how mirlitons represent my changing hometown. “Back when the city had hundreds of chain-link fences, mirliton vines thrived and could be found everywhere. Our grandparents stuffed shrimp in them and made it a holiday. Once those chain-link fences were torn down for high wooden walls, the mirliton had nothing to hang on and largely disappeared.” Darlene had pinpointed the connection between the choice of so many New Orleanians to build fences you could see through versus high-collared bulwarks to blot out the world. A desire to isolate killed the mirliton.
Maurice has captured the mixed emotions of life “after” recovery in a disaster city, and is slowly recreating the scene of the crime that we all witnessed from 2005-2010. I urge everyone to read anything that you find with his name on it and to share with those who are in harm’s way, either of nature’s making or from their government’s malfeasance. In other words, everyone.
Other standout pieces by Maurice:
I found this one of the best things I’ve read. Part of that is because it reminds me of the truth in the fractured, violent and yet sweet place that I call home. It reminds me that we can all show up for the Saints games, but not all of us get to hang out in the fancy bars afterward without sidelong glances being thrown. That Mardi Gras is a street thing, but some of those krewes are locked up tight. Or, that job we disdain or the apartment we moan about is not open to anyone and everyone. And the other part of it is that Ruffin writes simply and poignantly and with fire in his veins.
We would have laughed in the face of your naïveté if we didn’t like you so much. It was sweet the way your eyes widened as your understanding of what we saw in our everyday lives played across your face. You were dismayed that your own blood didn’t care about the lofty constitutional precepts of justice and the pursuit of happiness for all. Your recognition of our separateness saddened us. It was like watching a child learn the truth about Santa Claus.
Maurice Ruffin’s piece