September 2011 / Maureen Brennan
Yours Truly in a Swamp
Leonard Earl Johnson
Photo credits: Cité des Arts
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It is a Wednesday in Lafayette, the day Pamplona Tapas Bar discounts wine and tapas.
"No wine for me during working hours," Maureen Brennan says, "but you may. Try it with the ciabatta loaf with chili oil and calamari?"
It is a working day for scribes, too, but who begrudges a tipsy writer.
She did not steer us wrong. The bread was Platonic, the calamari lightly dusted and fried to golden perfection. (The ciabatta bread was from the new Poupart’s French Bakery and Bistro, two doors down on Jefferson Street.)
Jerry Young, Pamplona’s congenial owner, waves to us from the bar. There is a comradery in Lafayette belying its boom town reputation. "The Hub City," a nickname derived from being at crossroads of highways, railroads and waterways, has become a major medical and oil center, and is now Louisiana’s third largest city. It grew by 40,000 immediately following the storms of 2005.
The exact population is a matter of local debate, but ranges from two hundred to five hundred thousand, and up. "Depends on how much hinterland is counted," Brennan says with clear civic pride.
She is a booster. A past president of Festival International de Louisiane, the largest festival in festival-crazy Acadiana, where music acts from the French world and beyond are invited to perform on open-air stages scattered around downtown, free to the public. (2012: April 25 - 29)
"My very practical parents probably always had concerns because I was such an unrealistic dreamer, interested in too many things, going in too many different directions, hyperactive and stubborn as the day is long.
"Now the latter I inherited from both of them, and it was those traits that gave birth to the dream of Cité des Arts.
"I probably am crazy. But, having been raised in an ‘Irish zoo’ I seem to thrive on chaos.
We met Brennan again recently in New Orleans in the company of New York playwright, Michael Roberts, author of Simply Langston, a play about Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes first produced by Brennan’s production company, Benrose.
It is the day before the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and we are at a Faulkner Society party in the Presbytere remembering The Storm.
John Biguenet read his funny tale about the lady standing the night atop a chair, chin held above water, wishing she had bought nicer things to watch floating past.
Later, nibbling salty little tomatoes before fine tall fanned windows overlooking Jackson Square, Roberts tells us he is not evacuating to our cozy coast to avoid Hurricane Irene’s threat to the Big Apple. "This trip was planned before."
Outside, smoke from the huge marsh fire in New Orleans East is blanketing The City.
" ‘Not again by flood, saith the Lord'," so saith L. A. Norma, as she left us for Jackson Square. We watched out the windows as she lit a Camel cigarette and blew her smoke into the mix.
© 2011, Leonard Earl Johnson, All Rights Reserved.
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