How's Bayou? A few of my favorite characters
I couldn’t believe I wasn’t being pitched an Allstate auto policy.
When George, a.k.a., Kentrell, first walked through the office door at Madewood several months ago, tall and thin, with a deep, sonorous voice, I was sure he was the ubiquitous guy in those ads, the one whose throaty pearls of wisdom about being adequately insured spill out of incongruous hippy and Hispanic mouths, “like Randy.”
He had stopped by to fill in for a staff member who couldn’t make it in for a big event. And he stayed.
His appearance out of nowhere got me thinking about the plethora of characters who have passed through my life in both Napoleonville and New Orleans; and it suddenly struck me that, personality-wise, if it hasn't popped up at some time or other at either Madewood or Dixie Art, it probably doesn't exist in human nature.
I've been blessed -- I think that’s the word I’m looking for -- with a four-decade procession of amazing, and amusing personalities at both businesses.
Let me begin with Mary, who became my secretary after the Jaubert drygoods emporium across the street closed. She was fine until I’d decide to go on a trip; then she’d rush into my office and exclaim, flailing her arms in near hysteria, “Oh, Mr. Keith, I’m sorry. I quit. I just can’t take it if you’re not going to be here.”
I’d calm her down, and things would be fine until the next trip.
Mary was totally devoted, to the point that once, coming out from under anesthesia, she replied to the doctor’s question, “What is the President’s name?”
As insurance against Mary fulfilling her threat one day, I acquired a fill-in secretary, Heather , a New Zealand lass who, with her sister Susan, was traveling around the US for a year. She was a terrific doodler and loved to hang odd notes on my office doorknob.
On a City of New Orleans trip to Guatemala, I snared a “Favor de No Molestar” do not disturb sign from the hotel. Heather troped the message as “Doan Moles’ da Boss,” which dangled from the doorknob till we moved.
Then there was Agnes, the longtime bookkeeper at a nearby auction house. After advising me to use the $500 credit I had before the company shut down, she came to work at Dixie Art.
Agnes is best known for inspiring the concept of Tiny Talk, idle chatter that is smaller than Small Talk. One day in the lunchroom, she recounted her conversation with her son, “Boogie,” regarding some leftovers.
“So I got him on the phone,” she detailed the event, “ and I said, ‘Boogie, I got this nice chicken wing left over from Sunday dinner here in my fridge. You want me to bring it over to you?’ Can you believe he told me no? A perfectly good chicken wing goin’ ta waste.”
Agnes always covered my back; and when she lay in a coma, I got a haircut before heading to her hospital room. I kept talking to my unresponsive friend and finally declared in a loud voice, “Angnes, darnit, I got a haircut just for you, so open up your eyes and take a look at it!
Slowly one eye opened and she smiled. That was the last time I saw her.
My prize employee at Dixie Art, however, was Stacy Lawrence, my immense, towering purchasing agent who always referred to the Mitsubishi Co. as those folks over at Mitsi-bitsi.
The television movie “A Woman Called Moses,” a dramatization about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, starring Cicely Tyson, had recently been filmed at Madewood, and I’d received a certificate from Edwin Edwards declaring me a “Colonel in the Governor’s Army.” Stacy gestured toward it one day and commented, “I got one of those from Uncle Earl,” referring to notorious Louisiana governor Earl K. Long.
Stacy explained that before a serious automobile accident, in which her insurance declined to pay for proper hip surgery, she had been svelte and seductive.
“I was “Stormy,” she continued, but I put on all this weight after the wreck and couldn’t handle the fan dancing anymore. It was Blaze Starr and I who plotted to spring Earl from the mental hospital. Remember that?
Oh, yes. Suddenly Stacy assumed even greater proportions in my mind; and I was stunned when, weeks later, she died one night in her simple apartment.
Who knows? If George had been around to hawk an Allstate auto policy to her, she might we twirling those fans today along with her buddy Blaze.
How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now juggles his time between Dixie Art Supplies in New Orleans and Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.
How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.