Chris Rose: New Orleans 2.0?

Published: Sep. 25, 2012 at 1:20 AM CDT|Updated: Nov. 20, 2012 at 2:20 AM CST
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Big, red, double-decker buses debuted over the weekend to little fanfare in New Orleans.

Their launch was very unlike the protracted, acrimonious battles over pedicabs two years ago, wherein opponents portrayed the bicycle taxis as affronts to the very character of our city.

Joining the busses and bikes as novelty tourist tropes common in other American cities are those gravity-defying, zero-emission, cross-terrain personal transporters known as Segways.

In a flash, ferrying tourists by means of internal combustion engines or beasts of burden seems so... 20th century.

What's the message here? Is this New Orleans 2.0?

Take the newly streamlined, high-def Downtown Joy Theater, or The Saint – the upstart boutique hotel on Canal Street – former location of the city's last Woolworth's lunch counter.

These are high-investment renovations in old New Orleans buildings.

They cost a bundle, appointed with the newest gadgetry and unequivocally clean, sleek, minimalist.

But one prominent architectural and design feature they share is the unambivalent lack of decidedly New Orleans ambience, style or motif.

They look and feel like Miami. Or L.A.

Very nice cities.

But some folks are uneasy at the notion of New Orleans being described by the term that most pointedly conjures this city's worst existential nightmare: Like somewhere else.

This phenomenon extends to the latest wave of restaurant openings.

Take SoBou, for instance (s-o-b-o-u).

The name invites comparisons to two of the nation's most elite dining and entertainment districts, WeHo and Soho – respectively West Hollywood in L.A. and South of Houston in New York City.

But unlike SoBou – slang for South of Bourbon – WeHo and SoHo are actual places, as opposed to a trendy name in search of hipster cred.

Odd that SoBou is the provenance of the most credible, respected family name in New Orleans dining: Brennan.

But Commander's Palace this is not, all bright, shiny and emo. Mixologists instead of bartenders.

How and when did so much change begin to seem so un-New Orleanian?

And is it our inescapable future?

Consider: The New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation recently switched its $10 million advertising budget from the half-century-old, New Orleans family-owned Peter Mayer agency to Dentsu America, a Japanese conglomerate more attuned to "brand partnering" and establishing killer apps than, say, singing the praise of indigenous music festivals and loquacious regional chefs with funny names and accents.

For those who doth protest -- by hitting "dislike" on Facebook, naturally -- the question is:

Just because it's Monday, do we all have to eat red beans and rice?

Discuss amongst yourselves.