I live on a beautiful, oak-lined avenue in Mid-City that my wife and I love. Neighbors are acquainted and keep watch. On pleasant evenings and weekends, people walk dogs, push baby strollers and jog along nearby Bayou St. John, the picture of urban tranquillity.
But as in much of New Orleans, the tone and tenor of the neighborhood changes drastically blocks away. Streets are dark. Houses are unkempt. Young men loiter. Drugs are sold. Gunshots within earshot are not infrequent.
I am not involved in the drug dealing and beefs that spark much of the shooting. But the boundaries of violence are porous, and stray bullets do not discriminate. Living in New Orleans requires a constant calculus of pros and cons. Crime is easily the most destructive, urgent con.
These exact words can be said about my neighborhood.
I live in a beautiful,Â historic house surrounded by a number of friendly people who are very talented at what they do – artists, doctors, professors, lawyers.Â We were a peaceful neighborhood before and in the year immediately following the storm and flood.
Now, a nearby guest house, which I used to recommend to visiting friends, is aÂ drug haven.Â Crack-addicted prostitutes walk up and down my sidewalk, their johns in tow, while a pimp keeps watch on the proceedings from a block away.Â We catch each other’s eyes, I look away and hurry into myÂ car.Â
I get off the bus and into my driveway to hear gunfire at the closest intersection.Â I run intoÂ the house, call D to warn him in case he’s on his way home and then call 911.
Entering my car at 6pm, I hear seven shots.Â One of them hits metal, another is sucked up by what sounds like flesh.Â Half a block away, a man on his bicycle has been “taken out in a revenge killing.”Â I drive by the dead body, not seeing it for the fading evening light.Â Four squad cars rush to the scene, but it’s too late, the hitmen are long gone.Â Where are the other five bullets lodged?Â In the outer walls of people’s homes, one of which contains a good friend.
Sitting down to dinner, I hear the report ofÂ an AK or twoÂ coming from the direction of Liprap’s house.Â D is near there picking up pizza.Â I call Liprap to make sure she’s alright, we argue whether the sound is gunshots, a nail gun or firecrackers.Â D returns home to confirm they are gunshots as does a tweet from a friend who was driving in that area.
We are mere blocks away from the corner of Dauphine and Gov. Nicholls when and whereÂ Wendy Byrne is killed by a teenager.Â She was a close friend of close friends and about to be married.
On foot to make a deposit at a downtown bank, I sense someone following me.Â I stagger my path to the bank, he follows, so I turn around and quickly walk back to work.Â It’s not worth it.Â I’ll make the deposit on Saturday from the safety of my car.
A geophysicist colleagueÂ is chased through beautiful, tree-lined, normally-dog-filled Coliseum Square Park by a couple of young thugs in broad daylight.Â His neighbor sees him running up, andÂ opens the window to yell at and scare off my friend’s assailants.
The gunshots are louder and louder, closer and closer, earlier in the day, bolder and bolder.Â Â D and IÂ refuse to live in fear, butÂ we’re not stupid.Â I refuse toÂ become pregnant and raise a child under these circumstances.Â D’s company is moving to Florida in the next few months.Â A decision nears.