Late September: The Cajun Tennis Classic takes place and so does the Taste of Louisiana dinner, hosted by City Club in River Ranch. Sponsored in part by The Advocate, players from top rated schools converge to play and sample the local hospitality. The buffet was not the only thing that looked good.
First Name Basis, which provides in-home care for seniors, unveils an event to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Flower Shower” is similar to papering someone’s house, only they cover your business with plastic flowers and make you pay $50 to have them removed, or you can pay twice that and send the flowers to a competitor’s place of business. There’s great potential in this. Imagine if the symphony showed up on your lawn and played Ride of the Valkyries until you paid them to leave.
After several delays, I finally go to New Orleans to interview Gayle Benson and write about her house. It is not unlike being invited to Buckingham Palace, the protocols are nearly the same. Benson is gracious and composed in Chanel and her St. Charles mansion is just as elegant. Tom isn’t home, but is at the office having a moment with the Saints who lost to Carolina 27-22 the previous weekend. Gayle says she has to remind him the ball doesn’t always bounce on his side. The New Orleans Advocate photographer said that in his entire career, he’s never been inside the elite Audubon enclave.
God can take me after this.
Early September: My daughter buys a jeep and her boyfriend comes home, in that order. I’m uncertain as to what all a jeep can do, but you can go to war in them. There are also jeep clubs. Like four-wheeled Sons of Anarchy.
My interview with Gayle Benson is postponed due to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s coming to New Orleans. I am deflated.
The Lafayette Bar Association gives a stellar Hall of Fame Banquet at La Marquise. Several lawyers are singled out for accolades, including Miles Matt, Pat Juneau, Joel Gooch and Cliff LaCour, who is selected for the Fabulous Young Lawyer Award. He said to call it that.
9/11: Cover band On Call plays at The Grouse Room for donations on behalf of veterans. The Acadiana Honor Guard colors the occasion. On Call is made up of six doctors and a nurse—Gary Guidry, Steve Salopek, Ronnie Daigle, Vernon Valentino, Bradley Chastant, Rick Dearman and Leah Stokes. Not only are they on time for the appointment, they’re so good it may not be long before they’re billed as a band who happen to be doctors instead of doctors who happen to be a band.
The Northside High School class of ’65 has their reunion at The Petroleum Club, and seventy-five classmates from all over the country converge. Jane Landry Bearb says she doesn’t feel like 50 years has gone by and that they had a good time back in ’65. “It was good, clean fun.”
They also remember when a drive-by was a trip to the local burger joint.
Late August: Ted Viator turns 60 and Hurricane Katrina turns 10. Both attracted a lot of attention.
The Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Celebration takes the Cajundome Convention Center by storm as hundreds swarm to raise money to retain coaching talent at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Raoul Blanco is there, talking about his next couture show to take place in New Orleans this coming November 11 courtesy of Gayle Benson at the Benson Tower. One of the students helping out says he isn’t that into sports and doesn’t know who Tom Benson is. What are they teaching at UL?
Sept. 1: There is a book unveiling at the LITE Center hosted by Trent Angers and Acadian House Publishing for “The Terrible Storms of 2005” attended by Gen. Russel Honoré and former Governor Kathleen Blanco. LITE is overflowing, as there are more VIPs than hors d’oeuvres and lifeboats to hold them. “The purpose was to honor the people of courage who didn’t take no for an answer,” said publisher Trent Angers. Don Allen and I sign books, and my daughter attends. She doesn’t take no for an answer either.
It’s been ten years since Hurricane Katrina and as her anniversary rolls ashore, there is no shortage of looking back at what’s come to be called the Storm of the Century.
Although my daughter was gone for eight of those ten years—like a modern-day Odysseus, she wound up shipwrecked in Colorado, one of those who had to start over elsewhere—some things stay fresh.
Like my gratitude to Dolan Media for giving her a job and furniture before FEMA was even answering the phone. Corporations aren’t always cold and heartless, it’s just that we only write about them when they are.
And my debt to the officers who stayed and did their duty. My daughter said it would have been much worse if police hadn’t guarded the gas pumps. In addition, people left New Orleans in vehicles unable to make the trip and when they broke down, it was the police who stopped to help them. We only reported the ones who didn’t.
Out on the road, like Blanche Dubois, she said it was the kindness of strangers, most loaded up with animals and what they could carry, that she remembers. The family in front of her had a dog crate in the back of a pickup truck. She remembers the dog’s black nose and crawling for the next six hours to get to Houma, not knowing if the storm would find them on the road and trying to come up with a plan if it did.
And while a decade has washed away the details, she remembers the guy on the air at some small-town radio station in the middle of nowhere, telling them not to be afraid, to get off the interstate and take the highway, they’d save two hours. “You’ll be fine,” he said. “You’ll make it.”
I’d like him to know she’s made it home.
August 6: My daughter’s boyfriend comes home after months in Mexico for a few days, at the end of which he must return to Ciudad Del Carmen, “The Pearl of the Gulf.” It was a fishing village until mucho petroleo was discovered. They go to Marksville and she wins $1,000 playing three card poker at the table. Not sure where she learned that.
In the meantime, the Lafayette Association of Professional Landmen meet at Fratelli’s. They would like to know where their next “Pearl of the Gulf” is coming from.
Designer Raoul Blanco announces his “Uomo” collection (pronounced “wo-mo in Italian) for men and the call goes out for male models. Speedos are involved. I find one, Carson Noriega, willing to walk the runway and Blanco says he’ll get the rest from locker rooms and invites me to come along. Sorry, if I wanted to do that I’d be a sportswriter.
The Krewe of Bonaparte meets at LaFonda to observe Napoleon’s birthday. Or so they say.
Lafayette’s Absolut Best Martini finalists are entertained at Doubletree by Hilton. None of the entries bear any resemblance to a martini except for the glass. In the name of all that is holy, a martini is made with gin, vermouth, and olives, not sake, vodka and marshmallows. Wearing the Absolut Best Dress was Devin Delhomme. And yes, you have to look this good if you go transparent.
Like others who watched television in disbelief as the Grand 16 tragedy developed, the words “like a scene in a movie” came to mind. As a film columnist for years, I spent countless hours in the Grands, both of them, with no greater threat than bad acting.
Part of the job of a reviewer is to alert the public to change, and it seems appropriate in a society blog to say that Lafayette society has now changed.
And while there are no words to make sense of insanity nor any defense against it, there is something to be said for those who confront it. I often wrote when reviewing cop movies. “We need to pay these people more.” We still do.
To those police who rushed headlong into the theatre, thank you. Forgive us for taking you for granted, for reporting on you only when you make mistakes, and for paying less than you deserve.
As I tried to locate my daughter that evening—Trainwreck was a film she wanted to see—I received a text from a former New Iberia cop, a longtime friend of mine. She was checking in, and chatted by text that she and Col. Mike Edmondson came up together, that he was a rookie trooper when she was in law enforcement. She stood by while I found my daughter, which fortunately didn’t take long, and I thanked her.
She texted an emoji with a blue cap and a revolver, a reminder of those who protect and serve.
We are quick to point out their mistakes. Our gratitude should be just as speedy.
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Mid- July: Dealership diva Sharon Moss turns another year older and hosts a private party at Marcello’s, a champagne sit-down dinner for her close friends and family. A week and a half later, a rumor reaches me that I was told to be there, which isn’t true. At The Advocate, we’re the boss.
Parish Brewing in Broussard teams up with Cajun Paws Rescue for the first annual Barks & Brews. Cajun Paws Rescue is primarily a “pit bull” rescue located in Lafayette, whose goal is to rehome neglected, abused, and unwanted dogs and find them a forever home. They are a non-profit organization supported solely on donations. It is so hot, there are wading pools for the dogs. A combination fundraiser and adoption day, there is special beer for the owners. Canine society is pretty doggone good looking.
The Louisiana Hot Sauce Expo comes to Blackham Coliseum for the weekend. Plenty of participants are packing heat, and Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain judges the barbecue competition. Adam Gautreaux and Jason White take top honors while inside, Jersey Barnfire’s Austin D’Almeida has them three deep at his booth. Hot sauce society’s not bad either.
Acadiana’s own Barrett “Bear” Lancon, a captain in the National Guard assigned to Jackson Barracks, appears in Jurassic World in the role of an InGen contractor who removes dinosaur embryos. In addition to defending society against dinosaurs, Lancon also defended New Orleans after Katrina. That’s pretty hot too.
Also more dangerous.
First Week in July: Dr. James Noriega welcomes Dr. Edugie Omoregbee to the fold with a wine and cheese meet n’ greet in his Fernewood home. Omoregbee looks less like a podiatrist than she does a model and is surprisingly okay with the women’s shoes present. Everyone falls in love with her. My daughter falls in love with Noriega’s homemade salsa and takes it home. The cheese stands alone.
The mother of a former gifted student stops me in the supermarket to say I was the only teacher with whom he ever got in trouble. Jacob LeBlanc is now 17 and plays in Cajun bands in and around Lafayette. Fiddling around in class will always get you in trouble, Jacob, and if it’s any comfort, I stay in trouble.
My daughter’s boyfriend arrives home for 72 hours after eight weeks in Mexico, two delayed flights, a card fraud-alert freeze, and a three-hour drive from Houston. Some things are worth the trouble.
The Advocate sponsors the July 3rd Independence Celebration and fireworks at Sugar Mill Pond. The Youngsville police barricade every street leading to the event and redirect us to approach from the back. Shore Drive runs parallel to the festivities but there is no way to Shore Drive. Some residents recommend taking the alleyways but those don’t go anywhere either. One of them refuses to give his last name and finally says it’s Bob. I wonder if I should be turning Bob over to the police.
SFC Heath Comeaux and SSG Toby Saltzman make all the difficulties worthwhile. Like they say on Sons of Liberty, “Independence, gentlemen, independence.”
It rains all day July 4th.
Tara’s in trouble again. In the wake of recent tragedy, a massive recall of anything remotely (insert the Southern C-word here) is underway, from monuments right down to toy depictions of the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard.
All that stuff is gone with the wind.
And some would like to see that happen to the movie of the same name. But as a former film critic, a word of warning to society, particularly those brandishing digital pitchforks and torches on the lawn:
Gone with the Wind is simply the screen adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel. What advocates of banning the movie are truly bringing up is book burning, and that’s getting a little Third Reich. Yes, it depicts a view of Southern society you may not like, looking back on its context from today’s political perch. Authors wrote in their time, not yours, and the racist references in Huckleberry Finn were accurate for Mark Twain. However, he may also be on the list.
Be careful of deleting history the way you do your emails. History remains so that we may learn from our mistakes, and Germany wisely does not raze Buchenwald for that very reason. Many are worried enough that the Holocaust could be forgotten and rightfully so.
America and its quick-to-garner-favor politicians need to tread lightly. By the way, slavery is very much still with us– in the form of human trafficking– and a lot of women would like to see society upset about that.
As for me, I potty trained my daughter in nothing flat with Dukes of Hazzard toddler pants.
Never meanin’ no harm, beat all you ever saw. Now I’m in trouble with the law.
June 19: Go Red for Women hosts a heart-to-heart at the palatial home of Kathy Entes. Their mission is to publicize the #1 killer of women—heart disease—and there are several speakers, one of whom recommends that the event adopt a serious ad campaign or forever be a byline at the bottom of the society pages. I recommend they not say this about the society pages.
My daughter and I go to Baton Rouge. We leave Lafayette at two o’clock.
Traffic slows to a Katrina crawl some miles before the bridge. There are signs that say construction, but there is no construction. There is no accident, no apocalypse. We reach Bluebonnet Boulevard at 4:45 PM.
Later, my daughter checks her phone and discovers I-10 West is closed indefinitely due to a multiple rig mishap. She says, “No problem, we’ll just take 190 home.” Later, at the Acme Oyster House, she discovers there is a wreck on 190 also and the only alternative spits you out in Morgan City. How quickly life goes to hell in a handbasket.
We take 190 on the off chance the wreck’s been cleared. It has, but the Livonia Police Department has left the flares out to prolong the excitement. Traffic slows to rubberneck.
Near Opelousas, we pass two cowboys on horseback riding to the store for 40s. They get home sooner than we do.