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How’s Bayou? When I’m 64

A mammoth Jazz Fest-crafts-booth-worthy fraternity drink mug

Listen up, John Boehner: Sure I’m concerned about plans to alter seniors’ entitlement programs, and what I have to say is going to sound a bit like “Silver Threads” (Bettye Anding’s delightful nolavie column) Part II. But what I really want you to understand is that there ought to be a law against a 64-year-old man like me working this hard.

I just can’t do these To Bed, or Not-to-Bed 2 a.m. evenings the way I used to. Generally, overnight guests at Madewood retire after coffee and brandy in the parlor that follows dinner, and I’m turning out the lights by 10 p.m.

Our former manager, Christine Pinault Gaudet, who lived in the United States for almost a quarter century, had become accustomed to American ways. She was shocked when she returned to France last year.

“The French are so different!” she e-mailed me from her new job at an upscale chateau in Burgundy.

“But you’re French,” I replied.

“I know,” she lamented. “But I’d forgotten that they take three hours for lunch, and their wedding receptions go on till 4 in the morning.”

I know just how she feels. Last weekend, Madewood hosted an evening fraternity party that began at 8:30 and ended a 1 a.m. – technically not much longer than a wedding reception. But I was running out of steam by the time the last belle of the ball tripped as she headed up the steps of the luxury motor coach that would return her and friends to the real world of college . . . and the daunting prospect of studying for exams after – whoops! – a few too many rum & Cokes.

After the first cup of coffee Saturday morning, I had been ready to start the countdown.

By mid-afternoon, we’d double checked all our lists. Specialty beverages? Under lock and key. Chef for the buffet? On his way. Dressing rooms? Spotless. Keith? Exhausted. But determined.

Then, doubts began to set in:

Those centerpieces won’t do – need more flowers. Climb dwarf magnolia tree to retrieve 14 tiny blossoms as Clio barks below, mistaking me for a large squirrel in jeans and T-shirt. Must inform her that squirrels don’t wear clothes.

Make note for bartenders: Save all 40 (yes, 40) Crown Royal bags. (Silver stored in them will not tarnish if bag is sprayed with 3M’s tarnish retardant. Much cheaper than jewelry-store silvercloth bags.)

Maybe a power nap, now that things seemed in control?

Two hours later. Sunset. Last dressing room check. Where’s Mr. Whipple when you need him: Just a single roll of Charmin in the ladies room? But don’t worry, Miss Carolyn’s on her way with more. And paper towels? Those, too.

“That’s it?” I ask, as I’m handed a combined total of seven rolls of toilet tissue and paper towels. For 150 people?

So once again I make an unscheduled trip down the road to the local store, aware that at any minute, buses could pull up and staff would hear cries of “Uh-oh . . . UH-OH! From behind the massive closed door of the ladies restroom before I return.

Twenty minutes later, I am hurling paper products like fastballs to staff who fan out across the property on their mission just as the guests arrive.

I look at myself and flee to the Chinese-designed shower unit that – you may recall – Mr. Kruse installed so deftly in January, to clean up for the party.

I almost did a “Stacey Lawrence,” (a pseudonym) as it’s called in our family. Years ago, when we lived across from the Royal Orleans hotel in the French Quarter, Millie and I were invited to a queen’s supper at the hotel after a carnival ball. I parked the car, and Millie suggested that I head on to the dance — she’d just nip across the street and get a new lipstick before sweeping into the party.

Half an hour later, no Millie.

“Where are you?” I asked when she answered the phone. Sheeplishly, she replied that she was in bed, drinking a Diet Coke and finishing a novel.

“I don’t know what happened,” she explained. “I was getting ready to go downstairs, but before I knew it, my clothes were off, and I was in the shower. It seemed silly to get dressed all over again.”

So “Stacey” never met Millie at dinner — and now the mosquito-netted king-size four-poster bed in the next room at Madewood began looking very attractive.

One of the “Il fauts” (“Must do’s,” for those of you who don’t read The Times-Picayune social column) of this annual fraternity event, is that dates must hand-paint enormous plastic mugs with serpentine slurping straws to share with beaus and ensure that there’s plenty to drink for all. (So far, all Jack and Jill mugs; no Jules et Jim models were spotted.)

Among the many abandoned at the end of the event, I selected the one in the photo the next morning and attempted to chug a mug of water. No could do. Back to being 64.

Truth is, guys preferrred the long-neck beers two-to-one — something I realized late in the evening as bottles crashed on the brick patio at the feet of the security detail who, in the spirit of youthful laissez-faire exuberance that prevailed, had joined in the fun instead of monitoring it.

By then, it was 30 minutes and counting. Why spoil the fun? It was a great party; and, even with the last bottles of booze surrendering their final drops, everyone had behaved.

But, John, let me assure you: I wouldn’t be 21 again for all the Crown Royal in China. I just want my Ensure covered by Medicare.


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