It was a crazy week on the stock market; in fact, it’s been a crazy few weeks if you factor in the adult adolescents playing their “dare you” games in Washington. A person could get downright depressed watching so many folk appear to slither to the dark side.
But just when I was considering moving to New Zealand (no, that’s too far from my kids; maybe Italy; no, that’s a mess; maybe Ireland; gosh no, they’re bankrup0t. Running out of places I would go, I did what all New Orleanians do: I called some friends and went out to eat.
Driving across the lake, watching the pelicans glide by on our way to Sunday brunch, restored a little sanity. But it was the darling and guileless Miss Joyce who put it all back in its place.
A tiny bird of a person, 59-year-old Hammond native Joyce Bates has been a presence at La Provence restaurant in Lacombe for 32 years — a fact celebrated last Friday. And throughout those years, many of us who have frequented this charming echo of the South of France on the North Shore were the recipients of poems that she had written.
Never complicated in their thoughts, many took on the appearance of prayer cards; others, always loving, would be at home on the inside of a greeting card.
Miss Joyce started out as a waitress, working for that late beloved, ebullient and brilliant French chef with the Greek name, Chris Kerageorgiou. John Besh now owns this pleasant spot, and Miss Joyce is still there, having risen to the rank of manager and overseer of the bar. If anything, it means even more work, since she says she’s there at least 60 hours a week. But she loves every moment of it.
“I started writing poetry in the eighth grade,” she says. “My teacher, Mr. Shannon, told me I should always keep on going with my poetry.”
And so she does, writing them not only for select folk coming into LaProvence, but also for Presidents and First Ladies, famous warriors and well-known politicians.
“I write a poem and send them, and the people write me back,” she says, opening what she calls her “portfolio.” Inside the black case, encased in plastic see-through binders, are thank-you letters from three Presidents – George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barak Obama – along with notes from General Colin Powell, the late Senator Edward Kennedy, First Lady Barbara Bush and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, among many others.
So, as I, like you, don’t flee, but instead go back into a work world that, undoubtedly, will include more angst, fiscal grief, and a level of idiocy on the national level that boggles the mind, I am going to think about Miss Joyce and her poetry.
Here’s a sample:
The days are passing faster now, the years no longer wait
The time is much too near at hand for us to hesitate
The hours pass so quickly by into a yesterday
And quietly go the memories that somehow go away.
So seize each moment, each thought, each smile
Share in laughter once in a while
Gather the moments while you may
Before they become dust and are blown away.