I arrived in New Orleans Sunday night after a week out of town and oh, what a difference a week makes.
More accurately: Oh, what a difference a week makes when the Super Bowl is coming to town.
The airport is a frenzy of renovation, repainting, rehanging, replanting.
Cool leather retro lounge chairs dot the concourses and a red carpet and rope line greets taxi patrons like they're making entree to an awards show.
But a close inspection – which I don't recommend; just a temporal glance is much more beguiling to the eye – reveals a tender facade; some obviously temporary quick-fixtures and adornments that we can only hope are durable enough to withstand the impending throngs.
Downtown, mercifully, there are fewer construction vehicles and roadblocks, more paved roads and sidewalks.
And more banners and plantings to draw the eye away from the city's more onerous institutional and architectural eyesores.
If the goal is to make New Orleans look better for the visitors – to say nothing of more functional – then perhaps a success is in the making.
But what of the lay of the land beyond?
Like Oz, we proclaim: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain – and the vast city behind him.
In Gentilly, the Nines, Broadmoor, ever stretching to the lake and the seas, there still lay the ravages of Katrina, all these years later.
These are areas the Super Bowl visitors will not likely see, but the national press corps will no doubt inform their readers and viewers still exist on their obligatory trips to the Lower 9th Ward
And I reckon I'd be pretty ticked off about all the pretty going on downtown – the colorful banners and expensive palm trees – while my block still looks like an earthquake pushed up the asphalt from underneath.
Therein lies the disgruntlement, the blowback, all of it merited and long-simmering.
Not judging right or wrong here. In this case, it's all a likely necessary oversight.
The improvements that are permanent and not simply fragile facade – the streetcars, the smooth paved roads – they are long-needed advances for our city's march into the 21st century.
So much of the rest is a fancy touch-up designed to corral good press and good times for our visitors.
So enjoy the next three weeks.