New Orleans is simultaneously one of the best cities on earth — and one of the most... well, I was going to say 'troubled,' but given the gravity of this story, screwed-up would be more accurate, though not nearly strong enough.The slaying last night of New Orleans comedian and YouTube personality Messy Mya would be disturbing enough on its own — a man shot outside his own baby shower — but what catapulted the story into the upper reaches of social media around the world was what happened next: someone (or someones) on the scene decided to photograph Mya as he was dying, and then (what else?) upload the photos to Twitter. The photos were deleted, but the Internet being what it is, they've cropped up in a million other cybercrannies.
I'm sure this story will break out of the local and online universes and go national at some point this week, if only because it fits the narrative (particularly the post-Katrina narrative) of New Orleans as a locus for some of the most senselessly violent behavior in the country — which is, unfortunately, hard to deny because it's partly the truth. Of course, it's not the whole truth or even the main part of it, which is that the vast majority of us manage to go to work, hit the grocery store or go out to dinner without dodging bullets (though you'd never know it from nola.com comments or local talk-radio callers). But, yeah, for every wonderful thing that happens in town, something equally horrifying seems to take place, and though it's not an easily summed-up narrative, it's a real one — a narrative that escapes both the rah-rah civic boosters and the people for whom nothing, nothing ever good can come out of Orleans Parish.
The most wonderful place ever and the biggest nightmare. They're both right. They're both wrong. And if you're looking for any of it to make sense, you are definitely in the wrong city.
Cliff Harris over at Cliff's Crib probably put it as well as anyone could. In the meantime, let's all get ready for the latest round of national publicity, and it ain't gonna be about po-boy festivals.