The Louisiana oyster industry's current problems with freshwater from the Mississippi River (due to the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway) brought to mind one of my favorite oyster stories (and favorite New Orleans stories too).
In the mid-’90s, when Lady Katherine and I were dating, she lived and worked in New Orleans. When her Mid-City duplex was sold, she found another place Uptown, on Constantinople Street, where Ignatius Reilly and his mom used to live.
The apartment was in the front part of a big two-story house, in early stages of decay.
The night before her furniture was to arrive, I helped her clean the apartment.
When it was time for a dinner break, I told her I had seen a burger joint over on Magazine Street, and would run over and pick up some sandwiches.
As I drove up to the brightly lighted chain burger place, I thought to myself, "What am I doing? Man, this is New Orleans!"
So I kept driving, and soon came across Casamento's, the mosaic-tiled home of great oysters.
When I showed back up at the house, bearing not a mediocre chain burger but a huge, warm oyster loaf, Lady K was so thrilled that she moved back to Baton Rouge and married me.
Well, actually, that happened a year or so later — but I credit that oyster loaf with kicking off the process…
Evidently many of my readers — fine people all — are in the habit of leaving water or soft drinks out for the folks who pick up our trash, a tough and usually thankless job.
Faye Hoffman Talbot goes one step better:
"I give my Clinton men cold drinks AND chips.
"My cans are left at my front door."
And Paul Major, of Livonia, tells of a gent who went several steps better:
"Recent comments of people leaving water and soft drinks for their garbage/trash men brought back a memory.
"Years ago in Baton Rouge, when garbage was put by the roadside in actual metal cans, one of my neighbors would make sure he was out by the street when his garbage was scheduled to be picked up around Christmastime, and would hand the garbage men a bottle of whiskey.
"He never had to worry about his garbage cans being dented or crushed, or having trash left behind in his yard."
I've received about a ton or so of comments about the marble games of our youth, and every one of them has mentioned the heinous practice of "razoo."
Jacob Scardina says when he played marbles at Baton Rouge's North Highlands School, "Kids older and generally bigger than us would shout 'razoo' as they ran through our game, grab up as many of our marbles as they could and take off."
And Larry Sylvester adds, "In Lake Charles, at Landry Memorial School, we added a poetic touch to the term 'razoo.'
"The protocol on our playground was 'Sky's blue, razoo!' when the bell rang, as the more agile students scooped up all the marbles."
In later life, they went into politics…
Several readers have told of various forms of gris-gris used by marbles players to hex others before they shot.
Tim Palmer, of Lafayette, tells of another hex for another game:
"My mother is from Bunkie, and in Bunkie, when you wanted to cause someone to miss a shot, you put a 'tick-a-lock' on it.
"We didn’t use it for marbles, but we used it to keep someone from making a shot on the pool table."
Hell of a place
Terry Grundmann, of Kenner, discussing my mention of Hell, Michigan, says, "I remember once picking up the newspaper and seeing that in Hell, Wisconsin, the Arctic polar vortex dip had it down to 43 degrees below zero. Hell had indeed frozen over.
"There's also a funny story that Hell, Michigan, got its name in 1841 when town founder George Reeves was asked what to call it, and responded he didn't care, 'Call it Hell for all I care.'
"Seems they took him up on it."