How's Bayou? Acting your age, finale
Decades ago, at an English Speaking Union dinner in the just-restored Japanese Room at Antoine’s, Sir Such-&-Such Whomsoever cranked up the second carousel of color slides in his pre-dinner talk on “Leprechauns in Great British Gardens,” or something of the sort. With no advance notice, my exasperated, Helen-Hayes-like mother-in-law clanked down her second Scotch and water and audibly slapped the edge of the table with her free hand as she boomed:
After two columns, you may feel the same way about Madewood’s oak trees and other members of the Live Oak Society; but I have a few final words on the subject. Then, I promise, all will be silence.
The Eliza Foley Pugh live oak, named for the wife of Madewood’s builder, Colonel Thomas Pugh, shades the lawn just yards from the now-thriving Gertrude Graner Munson oak, which was stricken with deadly white-root disease shortly after dancers in an MTV video, filmed at Madewood while I was out of town, put a voodoo curse on the tree.
I’d hired a local priest to perform an exorcism on the tree, hoping to halt its decline and the spread of the disease to nearby Eliza; but the tree lost half its foliage and has struggled into its now-prosperous springtime display. Mrs. Pugh remained unscathed.
Millie and I were married under the Hettie Koy Porteous Oak, named for her grandmother, in 1981; and the oak named for my maternal grandmother, Laura Cooper Nelson, stands silent sentinel on the edge of the lawn.
Over the years, I’ve planted two new live oaks for godchildren Ted Stafford and Carolyn Louise Mahon; and, when Darrell died in 1999, the North Rampart Street veterinarian and proprietor of Dr. Mike’s Animal House, Mike Williams, provided a splendid live oak and memorial plaque in honor of his friend.
Have I not mentioned Darrell Chase before?
Mike’s neighbor and good friend, Millie’s soul mate in oh so many ways? Who when asked to bring me back some Horlick’s malted milk powder from his trip to England and France, accompanied by Millie and Mike and financed by the sale of his life insurance to a viatical company, hissed – as he was accustomed to do, “Horlick’s? That sounds like something you’d pay extra for.”
Who always referred to the two guys who lived next to him in the Marigny Triangle as “the husbands,” because he had coffee with them every morning, but no intimacy.
You get the picture. Unconventional to the nth degree.
When Darrell was diagnosed with AIDS, Mike found a lapdog for him at the pound. When Millie saw her – long-haired with auburn tresses like her own, and asked her name, Darrell, sheepishly, for once, replied, “Millie.”
It was always assumed that when Darrell passed, Millie Dog would go to Millie. But Darrell’s mom, Shirley, had taken a fancy to the quirky, ornery little quadruped.
Shirley, however, died just six months later; and the sanguine Dr. Mike advised Millie, “If something happens to you, I’m not taking that dog.”
Millie Dog had a great life with us in the Quarter, but began to decline with our post-Katrina flight Uptown.
One morning, the spring after The Storm, Millie Dog awoke whimpering, and Millie stared at her through the pink eye that had arrived overnight. Millie Wife, daunted by the distance to North Rampart Street, rushed Millie Dog to the nearest vet, who diagnosed glaucoma in the dog and warned Millie that pink eye might be a symptom of chlamydia.
Millie, stunned by that “Oh-by-the-way” bit of advice, couldn’t decide whether to be horrified, or flattered that the vet would think she was young enough to be so active.
Before Darrell died, Millie Dog stayed under his bed for a week. Last week, Millie slept with Millie Dog the night before she expired peacefully in our bed.
Some of her ashes will be spread around Darrell’s tree at Madewood, but in a less raucous manner than his ashes were interred there more than a dozen years ago.
The stately young live oak sat in the ground as Darrell’s friends spooned his ashes into the open site from a container as they sipped Skyy vodka from a huge martini glass and delivered heartfelt, if indecorous, eulogies. At some point , someone decided to start pouring the ashes into Darrell’s final resting place via the supersized, Phillips-Milk-of-Magnesia-bottle-blue cocktail glass as smoking friends flipped cigarette ashes downward to join Darrell, something he, a chain smoker, would have adored.
Some of Darrell ended up in the Mississippi River, courtesy of the Society of St. Anne, and Millie sprinkled a bit in the Seine on a trip to Paris, not far from where he had posed saucily under the street sign Rue Belle Chasse.
But she couldn’t bring herself to part from the last few ashes of her dear friend . . . until she excused herself from the dining room at the Ritz and spotted that gold-handled commode in the ladies room.
Darrell’s final hand, as we say, was a Royal Flush.
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. For more information on NolaVie, go to nolavie.com.
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.