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Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Bayou State residents are well aware that Louisiana is a pleasant place to live. Some would sarcastically say that we are fat, dumb, and happy down here in the deepest of the deep southern states. The state motto is, after all, Laissez les bons temps rouler. For you out of staters, that’s pronounced Lay say lay bohn tohn roo lay, and means “let the good time roll.” So it should be no surprise to the locals that in a survey of 100 cities listed as the happiest, and published by the U. S. National Bureau of Economic Research, Louisiana walked away with the top rankings.

The top five happiest cities in the U. S. include Lafayette, Houma, Shreveport, Baton Rouge and Alexandria. Lake Charles weighed in at number eight. The unhappiest? New York City. What? The Big Apple? How can that be? Simple. The cost of living in New York causes two thirds of the city’s population to just get by.

With a number of family members now living in New York City, including several of my grandchildren, I’m up there for a week at a time, once, sometimes even twice a month. The differences are vast to say the least. Let’s start with my five “Fs.” Food, family, faith, fixin’ flats, and football.

Food? Sure there are great number of good bistros and cafes in New York. But the cost of a decent meal is twice what you would pay for the best dining in New Orleans or in a number of first-rate south Louisiana restaurants. And these “fine dining” establishments seem to think flavoring their food consists of sprinkling on some salt and pepper. It’s rare to find the Cajun holy trinity of seasonings (bell pepper (poivron), onion and celery) in New York Cuisine.

Family seems to play a more significant role for residents of Louisiana, where you find the highest percentage of those still living in the state of their birth. Your friends want to know about how “your mama and them” are doing. An active family life is very much the Louisiana way, and this creates a happy environment. In New York City, you find waves of newcomers who have heeded Frank Sinatra’s call that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. But hundreds of thousands make a long commute each day from outside the city because of the high cost of just about everything. Most New Yorkers I have come to know are transplants and have immediate family members that live a great distance away.

Faith matters more in the Bayou State. A recent Gallop poll found that 54% of Louisianans consider themselves quite religious. In New York, the number is 32%. Local pastors tell me that church attendance is up, particularly in Catholic and Pentecostal ministries. African American church attendance has always been high down our way. Faith brings contentment, and this leads to more happiness.

And how about fixin’ flats? No, this is not just another Jeff Foxworthy humorous put down. Folks down our way seem more self-sufficient. Many have gardens, and neighbors pitch in more to lend a hand or volunteer for a good cause. In New York, everyone seems too busy, too self absorbed — oblivious to those beyond their own immediate circle.

The final “F” consumes most Louisianans this time of year. September means football — tailgating outside Tiger Stadium, heading to the Superdome to cheer on the Saints, and packing into Cajun Field at UL-Lafayette. But it’s also a symbol for intense athletic participation at all ages, from high school sports to packed golf courses and barbeques on the weekends. Music has a life of its own all over the state. Locals in Louisiana are a lot more active outdoors than are New Yorkers, and this leads to more pleasure.

Sure, many folks in Louisiana have a multitude of problems. And the state has a good way to go in dealing with education and healthcare troubles. But within their limitations, Louisianans just do a better job of making the best of it. If New Yorkers would spend some time down here, they would learn pretty quickly why the happiest cities in America are all located in Louisiana.


“This state has a depth that is simultaneously beyond words and yet as natural as breathing. How can a place be both other-worldly and completely pedestrian is beyond me; however, Louisiana manages to do it. Louisiana is spooky that way.”

“• Don Lemon, Transparent

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.


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