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Sweet Home NOLA


Host Intro: When you think of home, what does it mean to you? Take a second. What does “home” look like in your mind? Are you headed there right now or is “home,” someplace in your past? Maybe you’re still searching for it. Uptown Radio producer Tyler Pratt has been searching for home for years. And he finally found it.

PRATT: I’m having an affair.

Every time I close my eyes, I’m not here. I leave New York. I’m suddenly not in a hurry. I inhale. And I’m wrapped in the embrace of a New Orleans night in spring.

A light breeze rolls off the winding Mississippi. The city’s in bloom and jasmine fills the air. I walk down rickety, cobblestoned and broken street.  Gas lamps flicker in the night. Winking to to say hello. I nod and smile and lift a cold glass of bourbon to my lips.  

My mind wanders further back to when I first came to this magical place. Strolling down Burgundy with ghosts of the French Quarter. Smoking a cigarette as I rode a bicycle down Esplanade. Looking in wonder at the grand southern houses, with their columns and porches and decorations: black, gold, purple, and green. Dining on freshly-shucked, charbroiled oysters, piping hot and overflowing with garlic. And butter.

And the music, swelling in my heart.

FADE IN: MUSIC

Trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and sousaphones. New Orleans Brass. Full of energy and life. Pounding. Giving joy to a city that has known so much pain and strife.

FADE OUT: MUSIC

And suddenly I open my eyes. I’m back in New York.

CUE: SUBWAY SOUNDS

I’m on the subway. This is my stop. I’ve got someplace to be. There’s no time for daydreaming.

And it makes me sad.

I’ve been returning to New Orleans every free moment I get. For five years now. And I cry every time I come back.

My friends make fun of me. “You’re not even from there,” they say. And they’re right. I’m from the deserts of West Texas. Mesquite trees and oil rigs. Swamps and voodoo and Spanish Moss shouldn’t feel like home. But they do. This is where I’m supposed to be.

But I worry. Am I just acting like a typical millennial. Chasing happiness. Searching for the next new thing?

Am I appropriating? Taking someone else’s culture. And making it my own.

Am I part of something larger? Gentrification. Young, white people taking over a city that is low-income and black. And changing it.

New Orleans history is steeped in slavery. Terrible racism. And one of our nation’s greatest catastrophes.

When the hurricane hit and the levees broke. The city was flooded. Looted. Abandoned. Houses ruined. Lives destroyed. And family, friends and neighbors? Somewhere over a thousand- Dead. Drowned. Disappeared…

The New Orleans I know, is a different city than it once was. Yes, it’s come back. But it still suffers. Crime and murder rates remain high. Incarcerations, too. The education system is on the mend. But poverty is still a big issue.

But here’s the thing. Through it all, New Orleans still makes time for joy. It comes together in second lines, zydeco, frozen French 75s, fried seafood, beans and rice, parades, dancing in the street, and celebrating together. Weekly. Daily. If you haven’t recently been laughing with strangers and living up the good life in New Orleans then you’re doing it wrong.

FADE IN: MUSIC

Every day the city reminds you that it is special, unique and magical. And you are too.

I may not have been born In New Orleans. But she calls to me. And soon, it won’t be just an affair. I’m on my way to making her my partner. My friend. To support when times are tough. And raise up when they’re good. Making sure her voice is heard. Educating myself on her history and participating in her community.

New Orleans will be my home. I’m headed back there soon. And you should come visit. Call me up when you do. Because after a night out with me- You might just discover, you belong there, too.

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