I grew up in small towns in Mississippi and Georgia, got my accounting degrees at the University of Georgia, lived in Atlanta for several years and Montgomery, Alabama for several months.
In 1977, at the age of 32, I moved to New Orleans for health reasons. I remember my first taste. I walked into Coliseum House, a mental hospital in a suit and tie. I had been in Mississippi helping Daddy make a timber sale of well over a million dollars. After that deal was consummated, I set about trying to organize the family timberland into a formal business. A bipolar episode ensued and thus the trip to New Orleans.
Somewhat soon after I entered the hospital, a fellow “prisoner” remarked, “You’re not going to make any deals in here.” And I thought to myself, “He’s absolutely right.”
While my introduction to New Orleans was less than awe inspiring, it actually turned out to be a pivotal point in my life, eventually…
After hospitalization I moved into an all-adult apartment in a suburb of New Orleans. My brother, Paul, came to town to visit and stayed with me for several years—first in Metairie and then at his request, Uptown.
With Daddy putting up the cash we purchased a condominium on St. Charles Avenue on the traditional Mardi Gras parade route.
We moved in right before carnival season in 1980, and I’ve lived in Uptown ever since—this area simply shines in my mind and heart. At 3201 St. Charles Avenue, all one had to do was walk out front during the Mardi Gras parades and they were there—forecast in the distance by the marching bands announcing their presence.
Later, I would court and marry my second wife who was a former New Orleans debutante. She would introduce me to a social scene that lasted from 1982 till our separation in December, 1998. Since then my social life has been a mere shadow of my years with her. But slowly, New Orleans has taken on a new shine, one of spiritual awakening, one of purpose and meaning that I never had before at any time in my life.
New Orleans is a place. But it is also an idea, an emotion and a wholly different and unique city, especially since Katrina. We have our own words (such as “making groceries”), characters, music, architecture, food and love of the moment—all present in some way throughout its history.
We now have our charter schools, thanks to Katrina and concerned citizens. We are trying to be better, and have even won a Super Bowl along the way since that devastating hurricane. But Katrina was a defining event for our Crescent City. We weren’t killed or vanquished—not all of us—and we came back stronger, not only in football, but in education, business, music and perhaps most important of all—our own concept of our city.
I now call New Orleans “home” because I have a deep connection with this place—everything from the symphony to the Saints—and a whole, whole, whole lot more.