An old friend who lives overseas came by to visit today. We met decades ago here in Louisiana, and he is back in the area visiting friends. He’s writing a novel set in Louisiana. I asked him, given that he’s not originally from here, and that he has lived a pretty adventurous life abroad, why he chose to write a novel about Louisiana.
“Things are just more vivid here,” he said. “We love harder, we hate harder, we just live life more intensely.”
I love that “we.” He’s not a Louisiana native, but he has adopted the state as his home. It really does get in your bones. My friend continued, “Besides, I’ve never lived anywhere that there is such an appreciation for eccentricity as Louisiana.”
With that in mind, here’s a passage from a recent essay by the magazine journalist Tom Carson, who lives in New Orleans:
[W]e left the park to stroll along Frenchmen Street. That’s where we ran into our friend Andrew, who was beerily celebrating another successful discharge of his weekend duties as Pope.
Years ago, when New Orleans’s annual Running of the Bulls was in its infancy – our parody of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona features roller-derby queens replacing the bulls – he’d been appointed to wear a miter and give a blessing. This year, he gave it to 25,000 people and more international news coverage than Pamplona probably rates these days.
Andrew is my fellow State Department brat, though he made much better linguistic use of his time than I did. He was off to give interviews to Pakistani TV in his fluent Urdu and Polish TV in his unpolished Polish. But he found time to give us his latest CD – a collection of American chestnuts sung in Urdu. “You have to hear ‘You Are My Sunshine’ in Urdu!” he said.
Then he confessed that he and his band had recently performed it for Bobby Jindal’s sister, with Bobby present and apparently delighted. “You’ll have that on your conscience forever,” I teased him. “You gave him a moment of happiness he doesn’t deserve.”
“I can live with that,” he said. “I was put on this earth to give moments of happiness to everyone, deserving or not. Even Bobby.”
It took me about 20 seconds of Googling to figure out that “Andrew” is Andrew Ward. Below, you may see Andrew sitting on the Mississippi River levee in New Orleans, singing “Down By The Riverside” in Urdu. On that blessed day, when Reihan Salam finally comes down to visit me, we are going to go to New Orleans and we are going to find Andrew Ward, and we are going to drink beer and learn Southern Gospel songs in Urdu. Because that’s how we roll in south Louisiana: