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  • Nov 08 / 2008
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Celebrate “World Freedom Day”!

Tomorrow, November 9th, is “World Freedom Day,” an international commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Evil Empire — a commemoration that I, personally, had a hand in establishing. From 1995 to 2001, I produced a nationally syndicated newspaper and radio commentary called “Behind The Headlines,” promoting free enterprise and limited government. It was the best job I ever had: propagating ideas that are manifestly true, though widely rejected. One of the ideas I propagated, year after year, was “World Freedom Day,” the brainchild of Hoover Institute scholar Arnold Beichman. Every November 9th, this commentary was republished in newspapers and rebroadcast on radio stations throughout the nation, reminding millions of Americans how lucky we are to live in a free country, and how many people throughout the world are not so fortunate.

I lost that job shortly after 9-11 when financial difficulties forced my sponsor to discontinue the program. On Monday, November 5, 2001, I noted with sadness that the annual dissemination of my “World Freedom Day” commentary would not occur that year. Then I had a brilliant idea: I would email President Bush and request that he issue a World Freedom Day proclamation.

It was short notice, of course: November 9th was only five days away. And the president, I had no doubt, must receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails daily. So, I knew it was a crazy idea and that it was completely unreasonable for me to think that the President would actually read, much less act on, my request. But, what the heck, there’s no harm in asking, right? And it wasn’t like it took a great effort on my part to write the email explaining the concept and how it tied in to 9-11 (even the date, 11-9, is a mirror image). After all, I was unemployed and had nothing better to do, anyway.

To my amazement, on the morning of November 9th, there it was: President Bush’s proclamation of World Freedom Day! I was stunned.

About a month later, the mailman came to the door with a gigantic flat package — from the White House! The only person more curious about the contents than him was me. Inside were five official copies of the World Freedom Day proclamation! One of which is framed and proudly displayed on my living room wall to this day.

So, tomorrow, I will do what I do every November 9th: Celebrate World Freedom Day — and thank God that, when it really counted, we had a President who understood the value of freedom and did what he could to preserve it for us and to extend it to others.

  • Nov 07 / 2008
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Beausoleil Is Coming Your Way!

Bob & Evann's wedding waltz, Le Petit Theatre, French Quarter, 10.18.86

Beausoleil, the best Cajun band in the world, is playing in Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin next week — and Chicago, Minneapolis, Wilkesboro, and other venues nationwide early next year. Michael Doucet (the fiddler) and his group played at our wedding in the French Quarter in New Orleans in 1986 (see photo above).

I first heard Beausoleil (and their Cajun rock incarnation, Coteau) in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1976. Mike’s wife at the time was one of the best two-steppers in Acadiana, and I often took advantage of the fact that her husband was unable to dance with her while playing the fiddle. The story I wrote about my Sunday night trips to Boo Boo’s Lounge in Breaux Bridge to hear Coteau and dance with Linda Doucet was published in a Baton Rouge weekly and quickly led to my first real job, as editor of the bilingual Cajun monthly La Gazette des Acadiens.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the publication of “The Fiddler’s Wife,” I decided to turn the story into a song:

THE FIDDLER’S WIFE
My favorite Cajun band
Is playing here tonight,
So I’ll grab a seat
And tap my feet
Near the fiddler’s wife.

She can’t dance with him
While he plays the fiddle.
That gives me
A chance to dance
With the fiddler’s wife.

Have the fiddler play
The song called “Jolie Blonde,”
‘Cause the prettiest blonde
In tout le monde
Is the fiddler’s wife.

She can’t dance with him, ETC.

She’ll go home with him
When the band is through,
But until they’re done
I’ll have some fun
With the fiddler’s wife.

She can’t dance with him, ETC.

Beausoleil came to St. Louis early last year and played at a casino near our house. I hadn’t seen Mike in years and had a lot of fun getting caught up with him. And my wife and I got a chance to demonstrate that we can still do a mean two-step — mais, chere, next day we were sore, yeah!

Inspired by the outing, I decided that Doucet deserved his own song, so I wrote this for him a few days later:

DANSER, DOUCET
Little Doucet when he was young
Didn’t know how to dance.
All the girls in town would crowd around,
But he wouldn’t give them a chance.

Danser, Doucet?”
“Je ne peux pas, ma chere.”
“Danser, Doucet?”
“Je ne sais pas le faire.”

Little Doucet had to compensate,
So he picked up grandpa’s fiddle.
He tightened the strings till they started to sing
And he learned how to play a little.

“Danser, Doucet?” ETC.

Little Doucet got to be real good
And formed a band called Beausoleil.
They worked real hard, won a grammy award,
And they’re playing for you today.

“Danser, Doucet?” ETC.

Despite his fame, Doucet hasn’t changed,
He’s a victim of circumstance:
All the girls in town are still crowding around
Trying to get Doucet to dance.

“Danser, Doucet?” ETC.

  • Nov 06 / 2008
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Gumbo Time

November 6th and I’ve still got okra blooming in my garden! Amazing! My Dad always grew okra and tomatoes, back in New Orleans where I grew up, and here I am, 50 years later, doing the same thing in St. Louis. I’ve got several plastic bread bags filled with chopped okra, frozen in my freezer, ready to be thawed and tossed into gumbos during the coming cold weather.

Gumbo is an African word for okra, so, technically, “okra gumbo” is redundant. I assume the dish became known as gumbo because okra was the main ingredient. I was playing Scrabble on the computer last night when my villainous, inanimate opponent, the self-styled “Maven,” played the seven-letter word “bendees,” which, according to him (who, in his dual role as referee, cannot be challenged), means okras. Whatever.

Okra is in the hibiscus family, and I’ve always thought its delicate yellow flower is just about the prettiest thing on earth. My wife once had a dress that color — and looked good enough to eat in it! Unfortunately, the flowers don’t last long once picked; and, if you pick them, you don’t get the okra pod that would have replaced it.

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