I’ll go ahead and add my voice to the cacophony of those disturbed by 10th Year Anniversary of Katrina celebrations, though perhaps residents of a city that brags that it “puts the fun in funeral” ought to scoot off their high horse just a smidge. It’s a fact that New Orleans commemorates everything with live music and drinks. Even if you’re trying to be somber, that combo tends towards festivities. And not that there’s anything wrong with festivities!

One of the hardest things to get used to, now that I live in Kansas City, is actually trying to celebrate stuff without live music and drinks.

But maybe the local ethos just something I need to get used to. It’s just so weird, given that there’s so much music history here, especially Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Bennie Moten, and other jazz legends, and a small but lively local music scene even today (albeit mostly in Westport and in parking lots on First Fridays). As for the booze, it seems that statistically Kansas Citians already consume their fair share of it – they just do it in the comfort of their own homes. I can’t really fault them for that since beer (even New Orleans beer) is pretty cheap at stores.

abita on sale

Geez! I’ve never seen Abita Strawberry for less than $6 in Louisiana.

In New Orleans people pony up the ridiculously marked up prices at bars because they’re paying for an experience. Sometimes this experiece involves a 50-year old dude in full Marie Antoinette drag, sometimes a bunch of cats playing rock music.

The festivities start meow.

The festivities start meow.

Here there’s no experience yet. Unless you count the experience of paying double for a beer.

I’m sure someone will call me out on this and name a dozen cool events with live music and drinks that have gone down in this town in the past year, and of course they exist. My point is only that, in general, Kansas City celebrations are exactly that – events. They’re not a way of life. And maybe this isn’t a bad thing, because the locales that remind me most of New Orleans in terms of attitude don’t want to do the distinctly unfun work of fixing corruption, poverty, and other social problems. Cumulatively I’ve probably spent two years of my life in the Philippines at this point and it’s definitely like that there. When I try to think of places I’ve been that have their shit together but still know how to party, the list is short: Berlin, and New York City if we conveniently ignore the rampant criminality on Wall Street, which to be fair we really shouldn’t.

Will KCMO ever become a vibrant, progressive, ultra-diverse, hip yet ridiculously down-to-earth art, food, and fun capital of the world? I guess twenty years ago nobody saw it coming for Berlin, either 🙂 In the meantime I’ll continue enjoying it for how it already is. I’m very excited for Camey and my adorable genius of a goddaughter, Chloe, to come here. One thing the city has down pat: Between amusement parks, science centers, and kid-centered museums, it’s an amazing place for little people to visit.

i love chloe

And for little people to grow up in, too! My campaign to get Camey to move to Kansas City continues forthwith.

And yes, Berlin’s also surprisingly kid-friendly. I’m hoping its existence isn’t some freak error in the fabric of the universe, because just in case it’s real it would be a pretty inspiring urban role model. Yep, role model – if they can go from militarized Cold War chess piece to funky then anyone can get there if they put in the effort. So maybe I should stop pining online and do something to support the budding local celebratory culture in real life. From here on out I resolve to go see at least two shows a month, starting with the incredible band Truckstop Honeymoon this weekend.

The title of this blog post – “I have not worshipped wounds and relics” – is a line from a Leonard Cohen poem. Cohen, in my opinion the best English-language writer ever, is perhaps fittingly also the musician whose 2013 concert in New Orleans made me finally understand how deeply live music can drag us into sadness, ecstasy, and empathy. For it be omnipresent in a city would be a gift to everyone living there or passing through. One of Cohen’s more recent songs, “Samson in New Orleans,” also happens to epitomize the ambivalence I sometimes feel, now that I’m gone, about defending a place where the average white household makes nearly three times as much as the average black one, stuck indecisively as I am between pointing a judgmental finger at the New Orleanians who are insanely celebrating the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and longing to be just like them:

You said that you were with me
You said you were my friend
Did you really love the city
Or did you just pretend?

You said you loved her secrets
And her freedoms hid away
She was better than America
That’s what I heard you say