Have you heard about the study of close to 600 cities across America ranking Metairie as the 27th best place to live? Metairie is not incorporated like Kenner or Harahan in Jefferson Parish, so it's not technically a city, but let's pretend it is for the purpose of this column.
I grew up in Metairie, and I live there now. As a kid, I walked a couple of blocks to play pick-up basketball and touch football at Girard Playground. We also lived a couple of blocks from the lake, so I spent a lot of time riding my bike along the levee back when there were trees along the bike path. I used to walk to John Quincy Adams Middle School every morning. Life was good, and as a kid, I never felt like I lived in a big city. The most excitement we had as kids was riding our bikes behind the truck spraying chemicals designed to kill mosquitoes. Some would say that explains a lot about how I turned out.
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I've traveled quite a bit in my life. When asked where I'm from, I always answer, "New Orleans." I'm not ashamed of my Metairie roots. I just didn't want to have to explain where Metairie was. Okay, that's not true. I told people I was from New Orleans because it sounds way cooler than saying I'm from someplace called Metairie. I'll admit, I am ashamed of my roots. Can you blame me? Everybody wants to be from somewhere intriguing, exciting and exotic. Metairie doesn't cut it. Being from Metairie may not be as uncool as being from somewhere like Peoria, Illinois, but it's close.
New Orleans has a reputation as a fun city rich in traditions, customs and culture. The second line last week honoring Fats Domino, where hundreds showed up to dance in the streets celebrating the life of a music legend, doesn't happen in other cities. There's no place like New Orleans, as the millions of tourists traveling here each year will tell you. I would venture to say these words have never been spoken: "Hey honey, let's pack up the station wagon and vacation this year in Metairie. Beautiful, pristine, exciting Metairie."
The problem with Metairie is, it's just like any other suburb in America. Safe, clean, and boring. If Metairie were a city, it would be the fourth-largest in the state, with more than 140,000 living here. Metairie's close proximity to New Orleans does have its advantages. Metairie's restaurants serve authentic New Orleans cuisine. And we do have Mardi Gras, I guess. Although parading down Veterans Boulevard doesn't have the same feel as Canal or St. Charles. Veterans, flush with its fast-food chains and big-box offerings, doesn't exactly scream old New Orleans charm.
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The study ranking Metairie as the 27th most livable city out of 590 was done by a group called 24/7 Wall St. It praised Metairie for having a sports team. Had they asked the name of the team, it would have knocked us down the list at least few hundred notches. Hi, my name is Dan, I'm from Metairie, home of the Baby Cakes, may I buy you a drink?
I was listening to WWL talk radio host Scoot this past week talking about this study. Scoot lives in downtown New Orleans and walks to work. One morning, he was mugged on his way to the office. He also said he hears lots of city-related noise in his apartment like sirens and gunfire. Scoot admitted downtown life is not for everyone. Ya think?
While Metairie may not carry the swag of New Orleans, you do have a far less chance of getting shot. And the property taxes are much lower, and there are not nearly as many potholes in Metairie as in New Orleans. And the drains work in Metairie. If you do live in Metairie, you can always do like me when you travel. Tell people you are from New Orleans. Then, when you get home, your house will be dry, you won't get shot or mugged, and people elsewhere will still think you are cool.
Dan Fagan, a former TV and radio broadcaster who lives in Metairie, writes a column that appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.