Sunday, June 30, 2013

Governor. Prison. Newlywed. Pregnant: EWE Hits For Cycle

From today's Times and News-Star

Before this past week in Choudrant, the most recent time I’d seen former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards in person had been Monday, Oct. 21, 2002. I wrote a story about it for Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2002, that began like this:

Former governor begins 10-year federal sentence
By Teddy Allen The Times

FORT WORTH, Texas - Thirteen minutes.
For Edwin W. Edwards, that's all the time it took between the beginning of something familiar and public - a news conference - and the beginning of something foreign and private - a 10-year prison term.

Far from the Governor's Mansion or Mardi Gras or Tiger Stadium or Las Vegas - far from happier days - Edwards began a side-of-the-road news conference just outside the grounds of the prison here by thanking the authorities for allowing him to self-surrender. "I gave my word. That's why I'm here."

The former four-term governor of Louisiana woke in his Baton Rouge home Monday, walked his dog, ate breakfast, then flew with his son David to Fort Worth. He ate a hamburger and vanilla ice cream at Chili's, then rode to the Federal Medical Center, a 33-acre prison surrounded by a 12-foot-high fence.

At 12:39 p.m., Edwards, in a green Taurus driven by his son, arrived at the prison's front gate on a non-striped road of buckling gravel. More than 25 members of the media - six satellite trucks and more than a dozen cars hugged the road's shoulders - waited.

For the next 10 minutes, 30 yards from the prison's gate, Edwards answered questions with the same off-the-cuff yet polished and composed demeanor he has perfected in more than 30 years as the state's most popular politician. He wore a warm-up outfit, a cotton sports shirt and New Balance shoes. He carried with him a folder of personal items, including a Bible and his personal journal.

Nothing about either his appearance or his delivery suggested fear of being moments away from beginning a decade-long sentence for his conviction on racketeering, extortion and fraud charges.

Just before he got in the car to ride into prison, someone asked if he’d change anything.

“My friends,” he said.

Then before he closed the car door, he said, “Don’t try to follow me in. 
They might not be as nice to you as I was.”

Then to the guard’s gate, then up the hill to the prison’s front door and, eventually, to other lockups, for more than eight years.

But last week at the annual Squire Creek Peach Festival, here he was again, far removed from a state-issued jumpsuit, witty and personable, 85 and still as relaxed as he’d always appeared as a four-time governor, speaking to a welcoming luncheon crowd. He talked of how he’d first worked for the state when he was nine, giving water to a road work crew, 80 men drinking from the same dipper. And how he’d worked for the state again in his 80s, as the prison librarian.

And he talked of his wife, Trina, 50 years his junior and at home pregnant with Eli Wallace Edwards, due in August. “We’re making pins – E.W.E. 2056,” said Edwards, a man who, say what you will, did his time, and with no whining or complaint.

“The Governor’s Wife,” a reality show featuring the couple, is scheduled to premiere this summer on A&E. Maybe it will be watchable, but my guess is this: Nothing taped could ever come close to matching the real thing.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

No Man Is An Island -- Except Maybe Jimmy Buffett

From today's Times and News-Star

As Robin Hood is yoked to Sherwood Forest, Churchill to Great Britain and Humpty Dumpty to the wall, so is Jimmy Buffett synonymous with Margaritaville.

Where you find one, you find the other.

Most naturally, Margaritaville Casino’s opening in Bossier City screams Jimmy B. Think “Buffett” and you can hear steel drums and taste sponge cake. And cheeseburgers. In paradise.

I wonder if, at the casino gift shop, you can buy a “Lost Shaker of Salt.” It’s all about merchandising!

Buffett’s signature 1977 song has spawned Margaritaville Lager Chicken Wings, Margaritaville Frozen Seafood, even Margaritaville Outdoor and Beach Furniture. In the commercial Margaritaville World, no one is wasted away.

Not everyone likes Jimmy Buffett songs. Probably more people are lukewarm than are hot toward his music, which is fine with Parrotheads. Not everyone likes sushi. But the ones who like it REALLY like it.
Same with Jimmy Buffett. And say what you will, the boy’s got talent.
As Buffett wrote in “If I Could Just Get It On Paper,” (a song dedicated to William Faulkner), simple words can become clever phrases. He’s one of the best at that. If you just take song titles alone, my Top Five Buffett’s are these:

“We Are The People Our Parents Warned Us About”;
“Growing Older But Not Up”;
“Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season”;
“The Wino and I Know”;
And a favorite of my friend Chief, “If The Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me.”

Even his tours are cleverly named. There’s been the A Hot Dog and a Road Map Tour (1980), the Feeding Frenzy Tour (1984), the Off to See the Lizard Tour (1989), the Rece$$ion Rece$$ Tour (1992), the Beach House on the Moon Tour (1999), the Tiki Time Tour (’03), the Year of Still Here Tour (’08), the Welcome to Fin Land Tour (’11), last year’s Lounging at the Lagoon Tour and this year’s Songs from St. Somewhere Tour. (If you were in the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Mass., last night, I hope you enjoyed the show.)

In honor of Margaritaville Casino’s opening, here are the Top 10 Buffett Tunes According To Me. If nothing else, this gives you something to argue about this summer instead of who buys the next round or whether it really IS not so much the heat as it is the humidity. (P.S. It’s always the heat: that’s why it’s hot.)

And for leaving them out, pay-it-forward apologies to the deserving “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Trip Around the Sun” with Martina McBride, “Who’s the Blonde Stranger?,” “Fruitcakes,” “Coast of Marseilles,” “Gypsies in the Palace” and, of course, the weathered but faithful “Margaritaville.”   

10. “Come Monday”: Mellow, non-island Buffett.

9. “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere”: With country superstar Alan Jackson. The country folk of my generation all want to sing or hang with Buffett, who was “new” when we were in our 20s, and is still basically the same.

8. “Somewhere Over China”: A sadder, Far East version of “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”

7. “Where’s the Party?” Unlike the title suggests, it’s slow and pretty.

6. “Last Mango in Paris”: Clever. And biographical, a story about a person, as many of his songs are.

5. “Boat Drinks”: Ever shot holes in your freezer?

4. “Cuban Crime of Passion”: Very salsa-ish.

3. “Manana”: Don’t be something you’re not.

2. “Miss You So Badly:” Sentimental Buffett!

1. “Havana Daydreamin’”: If you’re new to the Buffett bandwagon, there’s more good stuff like this back on those old records. Pull up a beach chair. Give it a listen. Fins up.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hi-tech Trolling For Chicks In The Barnyard

From today's Times and News-Star

Had we not been living in a pea patch, we would have been less surprised to learn that high-tech dating has reached Rural America, where “Let’s go shuck some corn” used to mean just that.

Not so sure anymore.

The reason:

This is in no way making fun of, advertised as “Online Dating for down to earth singles (and) growing across America’s Heartland coast to coast!” Whenever a farmer uses an exclamation point as above – “Tornado!” or “I b’leeve it’s ’bout to rain!” -- the situation has escalated one way or the other. Your top-shelf farmers use punctuation like they use insecticide and fertilizer: only with purpose.

But dating online? Somehow that doesn’t fit my mind’s notions of rural romance. “Did you hear the one about the farmer and his daughter and the salesman and the Windows 8 virus?”

What price purity?

I grew up way in the country next door to a man and woman who had 12 children, together, just those two. A dozen. This couple arrived on the scene long before computers and, unbelievably, after contraceptives. The point is, they needed no electronic hookup. If they’d had a computer, it’s obvious from their impressive offspring count that they would not have had time to use it.

Oh, I have heard all the farmer pickup lines: “Can I strum my banjo and sing you to sleep?” “Let’s plow.” “Nice field.”

None of them work. Back home if you asked a girl to bail hay and she agreed, she’d be sweating and itchy when you dropped her off, but it wouldn’t be because you’d taken her parking in a tick field. And it’s doubtful she’d be so eager to agree the next time. (If she did, set the wedding date.)

But times have changed. Once the boy’s been to the city and knows how to call up ESPN and the Victoria’s Secret catalog online, or even find with a punch of his cell what’s happening today in pork belly futures instead of waiting for the farm market report on AM, it’s hard to keep him down on the farm. Farmers are people too. Sure, they enjoy the simple pleasures more than most because they are surrounded by them. But remember the couple next door with the 12 children? Cows and fresh eggs, fatback and homegrown tomatoes weren’t the only things they were interested in.

Today’s farmer has open to him now a world of folks who understand what it’s like to milk at 5 a.m. and turn in long before the evening news. “City folks just don’t get it!,” suggests.

No. They do not. A city person meets another city person at the gas station, at Chili’s or Walgreen’s. How many people does a farmer or a cowgirl run into on their way back to the barn, either for more twine or see why the stupid hydraulic on the dadgum tractor ain’t goshdarn working right?

A majority of the time, the only ones who understand the effects of pest control or a faulty barometer reading – not to mention the rigors of castration day or slaughter day at the hog barn -- are your four-legged friends. Trust me: that makes for awkward conversation.

You don’t need our permission, but Mr. or Miss Farmer, if you want to date online, plow that field. It’s worked for others. Plant a seed and see what happens.

And to you ne’er-do-wells, best wishes, but if you try this stuff online after 8 p.m., we’re all gonna know you ain’t a farmer.