The New New Orleans, Part One:Henry Rhodes

New Orleans native; tattoo artist


  Before the storm, I lived in [Bywater] for years and years, and it was a bad neighborhood. People got attacked, people got shot. It was bleak. And it hadn't been that way when I was a kid. That neighborhood was working-class families almost entirely. I don't know when it started to change, but by the time I was 20 years old and living down there — and I lived there starting when I was a late teenager — it was so bad, I wouldn't walk around at night. And I didn't like walking around in the day.

  The reason I lived there was because I liked it being a bad neighborhood. I was left completely alone. I could do whatever I wanted, which was never bad — f—ing with motorcycles or playing loud music or having a party or something. And nobody cared. The tradeoff was that you just had to f—ing watch your back. And I was completely fine with that.

  Now, suddenly, the entire neighborhood is full of these young people from the suburbs who came in such f—ing numbers after the storm. They had this weird bubble of romanticism and entitlement, so they just walked around down there like nothing was wrong. Their overwhelming presence and complete denial of anything bad happening pushed out the criminal element from that neighborhood in a way that cops never could have or would have. And now at night you can f—ing walk around. To me, that is f—ing mindblowing.

  You know, when it started to get really gentrified and people were moving in, I was angry as f—. But after I saw what happened with the crime, I realized that even though it was more inconvenient to live there and I don't really like those people, it's so much safer that I'm not mad at them anymore. And I've gotten older. The other thing I realize is throughout New Orleans' history, it has been a destination where new people showed up. There has always been this port city, nationality-switching, kind of chimeric, weird element to living here ever since Bienville showed up.

  Once I accepted that, I'm not upset about that type of change, really. — AS TOLD TO MISSY WILKINSON

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