Life in New Orleans is all about making the present--this moment, right now--as pleasant as possible. So New Orleanians, by and large, aren't tortured by the frenzy to achieve, acquire, and manage the unmanageable future. Their days are built around the things that other Americans have pushed out of their lives by incessant work: art, music, elaborate cooking, and--most of all--plenty of relaxed time with family and friends. Their jobs are really just the things they do to earn a little money; they're not the organiing principle of life. While this isn't a worldview particularly conducive to getting things done, getting things done isn't the most important thing in New Orleans. Living life is. Once you've tasted that, and especially if it's how you grew up, life everywhere else feels thin indeed.
Other people's children went off to college, which for years Ronald had interpreted as a positive thing. Lately, though, he wasn't so sure. The children who went off to college hardly ever came back. It was as though the hard work of getting that college degree bent them out of shape, focused them too much on their own personal achievement. Once you got that degree, it was all about getting ahead in that monetized struggle, and they forgot the community that raised them. Ooh, live in the Lower Nine; not me. Ooh, do a day's work with your hands; I won't touch that. The neighborhood gained something when one of its children went off to become a doctor or an engineer, but it lost something, too.