How's Bayou? The Queen and I
My eyes came close to welling up with tears when I read that Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, is scraping bottom these days, with only $1.6 million left of her personal funds, above government subsidies, for repairs to Buckingham Palace and other royal properties. With only a 60-year-old boiler system to augment furry hot water bottles on wintry nights, the upper lip must be growing stiffer by the day.
I felt an immense wave of sympathy for the dear old girl, as my slush fund for Madewood repairs was down to about $1.60 as well, but with no million after the numbers. Didn't we redo basic plumbing and other services half a century ago? Might the heat go out, suddenly and irreversibly, tonight?
My English-country-gentleman-with-a-Southern-accent persona was shaken to the core. Had I become a distant cousin to impoverished aristocracy?
But I'm not the only Louisianan having trouble keeping the doors open and a roof over his head.
It's all too much for celebrated New Orleans trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, who can no longer stand laboring over a hot stove, instead of tooting a hot horn, all morning to keep his Treme Speakeasy going.
As he tweeted Times-Picayune music writer Keith Spera last week, "the restaurant 'is stopping me from PARTYING!' And taking too much of a toll" financially.
That is the inevitable result of contracting what my wife Millie and I refer to as "The Matt Lauer Retirement-Fallacy Syndrome."
Years ago, when Lauer took the helm of the Today show, a reporter, desperate to find a new angle in an interview, asked the virgin host what he planned to do when he retired.
Lauer casually tossed off that he might buy an old house in New England and open a B&B so he could spend time fishing.
IN WHAT PARALLEL UNIVERSE?
Does he not realize that when someone doesn't show up for work, YOU do the dishes? And that your dream of planning innovative menus, playing restaurateur and presenting elaborate desserts, requires more than just a fertile imagination?
Ruffins, who when speaking with Spera did not indicate when he fell prey to the debilitating syndrome, nonetheless reported the feelings of euphoria that sufferers initially feel. Running Speakeasy, he confessed, was the first day job he'd ever had.
"I finally had something to get up and do in the mornings," he told The Times-Picayune. But mornings apparently are not all they're cracked up to be:
"I had that restaurant itch, and I think I scratched it enough," he said. "I'm not making any money. I tried and tried, and it's a lot of fun. But for the most, part, I'm not even breaking even."
The sadder-but-wiser musician, Spera wrote, "does everything from 'going to get the garbage bags to cooking up food to hiring the bands, to paying everybody.'"
Matt Lauer, take note. I can confirm everything Ruffins says.
But if you're kinda stuck with Buck House, as the Royals sometimes refer to their London residence, I have some advice -- especially if, as I suspect, Her Majesty is a confirmed upscale hoarder.
At the age of 87, with dozens of tiaras in her "collection," residences here, there and everywhere, and enough hats to fill a millinery museum, she might find some inexpensive trinkets at an Oxfam thrift shop to hold down palace expenses. You know, when a toaster stops working, or you've broken your last everyday wine glass.
Last week, feeling a bit sorry for myself, I hit a thrift shop, and left with refreshed memories as well as second-hand items:
- A souvenir ashtray from Le Tour d'Argent restaurant in Paris, where Millie spotted Farrah Fawcett and her momma at the next table on our honeymoon, is a perfect replacement for a broken soap dish.
- Two copper-bottomed 1960s-vintage Revere Ware pots, in fine condition, remind me of the time Madewood housekeeper Francis Dorsey whispered to me that she'd polished the copper bottoms of all our pots "so that you won't be embarrassed if your guests come in the kitchen."
- And a set of 12 etched-glass shrimp cocktail goblets reminded me of fancy appetizers from my childhood, as well as a recent trip when, in admirably-retro fashion, shrimp actually were served this way.
Such practical steps may not save the Monarchy, but they may help Her Majesty sleep more easily at night.
And Matt Lauer? The message is: Rethink your retirement plans. And party on like Kermit Ruffins.
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.