Monday, February 28, 2011

Is it worth the Price Tag?

The heart of the city of New Orleans, the French Quarter

I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans two weekends ago. This was my fourth consecutive year to visit the city, and I felt that I needed to come away with a different experience and overall perspective than the previous three years. I had grown agitated from the class of people there, thus I was thinking with a closed mind. I made it my goal to talk with as many people as I could whether they were locals, visitors, or homeless men and women looking for a few dollars. One conversation can lead to a unseen connection. These interactions proved to be the highlight of my weekend as I discovered a side to New Orleans I had never seen.
I have grown up a life long Atlanta Falcons fan, a team that has historically been bitter rivals with the New Orleans Saints. I was down in New Orleans last year during the same weekend as the Super Bowl, and I found a new respect for the city and all the hope that a football team could bring to a seemingly lost city.

The one purchase I made on this trip that I cherish is the pictured wine bottle above. For the entire weekend Saints fans, locals, and tourists went around yelling "Who Dat?" A simple interpretation: “Who is going to beat them Saints?” And no one did beat them as they went on to become World Champions. "Who Dat" merchandise was more prevalent by far than any other item within the city. While the price tag on the bottle reads $12.99, the bottle holds no market price value as its meaning is worth much more to me. This purchase came into my mind shortly before we left for New Orleans and was the basis for me becoming more open to the New Orleans culture and their people.
The most meaningful purchase I made in New Orleans this year
The street vendor I learned the most from was a man named Alexander, a vendor selling paintings around the French Quarter. I have a growing appreciation for artwork, and when I saw this, I immediately knew that I would purchase it no matter what the price. While Alexander didn’t necessarily paint this, the conversation I had with him about the city and what the word’s on.
The French Market has hundreds of vendors
The majority of my great experiences came with the vendors within the French Market, which is pictured above. I made an effort to connect with everyone I talked to even if their English wasn’t quite up to par.  Probably the most unique find was the picture to the right.
I had a great conversation with the lady about the process that she went through to flatten the bottles to make them into cheese platters.  Does anyone else see the irony here: eating cheese off a flattened wine bottle? There were numerous bottles including various types of vodka, wine and bourbon. I plan to follow up with the vendor and make several more purchases.

I made several other small purchases; those are the significant ones that stick out to me. While I might have spent a good deal of money in New Orleans on materialistic items, I see them as much more than that. Before I purchased an item, I would get to know the vendor. Dig as deep as I could in a casuals conversation to how they got  They would talk to me and explain their business and their motives behind what they did. The lady who sold me the flattened wine bottle had a passion for what she did. She took me through the entire process of how they were made and answered all of my questions with great enthusiasm. If you are ever in New Orleans, I highly encourage you to branch out and meet some of these local people who are not so different from you and me.

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