Friday, May 18, 2007

Psychogeographic Zones of New Orleans

This material was first published in the spring of 2005, four months before hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and made it the center of national attention. "A major hurricane in an urban area like New Orleans brings with it a lot of attention, especially to our understanding of how cities work. As New Orleans is rebuilt, the slow forces that normally guide the evolution of an urban environment will be dramatically amplified and focused into a short period of time. But I expect that the rebuilding will follow some basic trends which were already in place prior to hurricane Katrina. " "The two most common nicknames for New Orleans are “The Crescent City” and “The Big Easy”. The Crescent City refers to the shape of the old part of the city, built along a curve in the Mississippi river. This shape has reached iconographic status in the form of a crescent moon and stars, shown on the sides of police cars and taxicabs. A more poetic version of this symbolism, showing a crescent moon emitting linear rays onto a field of stars, can be seen on the water-meter covers which dot the sidewalks all over town.

"But what about “The Big Easy”? I asked a former professor of mine, a graduate of Tulane Medical School, about the origin of this nickname. He replied: “Well, I can’t really explain it, but it just makes sense. You’ll see when you get there, things just sort of have an easy way about them.” Another old professor also lived in New Orleans in the early 1960s, and he remembers two other nicknames for the city in addition to “Crescent City” and “The Big Easy”: “The City that Care Forgot” “The City that Sin Forgot” He claims that these names could be seen on public signs around town. When he told me about these names, I was on a cell phone and I misheard the names as: “The City that Care For God” “The City that Sinned For God” "


Anonymous said...

I believe the Big Easy was a tourist slogan in response to New York being the Big Apple. People liked it because it was a playful play on words and it was true. It just kind of stuck after that, esp. after the movie of the same name came out.

Princess Haiku said...

I visited New Orleans one and found that the people were easy going and friendly.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid growing up in New Orleans in the 60s & 70s I never heard of the nickname "big Easy." It was not until the late 80's that this nickname started taking hold.

As far as the "Cresent City" this has been part of the history of the city since the early 20th century.