In this season of giving thanks, it’s common to reflect on what you’re grateful for. As part of my process of falling back in love with Lafayette, I wanted to share with you a list of unexpected things I’m grateful for as a resident of this great city.
I know I’m in the minority on this one. But I am honestly grateful for how relatively good Lafayette’s traffic is.
Compared with big cities I’ve lived in or traveled to, Lafayette’s rush hour is more like a rush 20 minutes. And even at its worst you’re usually still moving forward rather than being stuck for interminable amounts of time. The stats back this up too as Lafayette’s average commute time is below the national average, according to the latest census figures.
Traffic here may be worse than it arguably should be given Lafayette’s size. And I’m privileged as someone who lives near Downtown and doesn’t drive on Ambassador Caffery Parkway with any regularity.
But even the sometimes annoying noontime rush is oddly charming, as it’s a direct result of this city’s love for eating.
Here’s another place where I’m in the minority. Lafayette can be very walkable if you’re in the right part of town. From my neighborhood by Olde Tyme, I have sidewalks all the way Downtown and to Girard Park or even the Oil Center. Downtown itself is very walkable, as are some parts of Freetown and around campus.
Now, in general, Lafayette is not a walkable city. It can be downright dangerous to walk here.
There are far too many neighborhoods that should be walkable to Downtown but aren’t because they lack sidewalks. And there are far too many sidewalks that aren’t accessible to people with mobility limitations.
I feel very grateful to live in a place where I can safely walk to all sorts of activities. And I’m hopeful that’s a quality we can build elsewhere in our community.
Eating well is one of my wife’s and my favorite things to do. And thankfully Lafayette has a more diverse food scene than I think it’s often given credit for.
Like my favorite restaurant in the world, Scratch Farm Kitchen. It’s pretty close to my platonic ideal for a restaurant with delicious local ingredients, prepared well, with enough variety and experimentation to keep things interesting.
Or great Korean food at Osaka, or Szechuan food at Magic Wok, or Venezuelan food at Patacon, or sushi at Oishi, or Thai at Thai with Love, or gelato at Carpe Diem, or gyros at Zorba’s, or Indian food at Priya’s or Destination India. The list goes on and on.
Lafayette may not be able to match the diversity or depth of choices in larger cities, especially for cuisines like Ethiopian (maybe one day!) or delicious healthier food options. But at least there’s enough here to scratch most of our culinary itches — when we’re not chowing down on the best Cajun and Creole food in the world.
Sure it’s a sauna from June to September. Yes, it can still be that way in April and May — and October. But there are many days of glorious weather on the South Louisiana calendar (like the day we’re publishing this!).
But every time I go outside and that thick wet heat slams into my face, I think to myself: At least my nose hairs aren’t freezing together.
Lafayette’s wet cold is cold. I’ll admit that as a native Minnesotan. But I’ll take the weather here over having every inch of exposed skin burning from air chilled to 40 degrees below zero.
And when the weather is nice here, it’s really really nice. There’s not much in this world I enjoy more than being outside with friends and family on a beautiful South Louisiana night enjoying good food, drinks, music and laughter.
Maybe it’s not the weather as much as the company, but I wear I can feel magic in the air that I haven’t found too many other places.
If you’re a regular reader and haven’t done a spit take yet, I’m guessing this is the one that gets you.
Obviously I don’t love everything about LCG or about what this administration in particular is doing with our money. There is a lot I do actually appreciate about Lafayette’s local government.
I am still amazed at Lafayette’s history of investing in public utilities like LUS and LUS Fiber. They’re institutions to be proud of and grateful for.
As frustrating and obtuse as engaging with LCG can be, it’s not like it’s totally inaccessible. City-Parish Hall is less than a mile from my house. I bump into LCG employees and officials all the time. Most of the council members return my calls, and are generally interested in hearing from their constituents.
And anyone who wants to get engaged in advocating for their cause can do so and has the potential to actually make a difference if they push hard enough, long enough, and/or are organized enough.
As much as LCG has been a source of consternation for me, I also am still hopeful that it can be changed if enough of us want it to.
I’m a lucky guy. But something we can all be grateful for is living in a community that we can change.
Together we can improve traffic, make neighborhoods more walkable, celebrate our diversity and make our local government more responsive to our needs. Even if we can’t make the weather better, we can keep creating more opportunities to enjoy the good days.
Lafayette’s future is whatever we want to dream it to be. And whatever we are willing to work together to achieve.
And that reality is what makes me most grateful to call Lafayette home.