Memoirs of a Fly
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A Conversation Overheard On the Wing, As Told to Carson W. Maxwell
A note to the reader:
This tale was recounted to me by a mere fly who reported himself to be affixed to a wall during a most interesting dialogue. Believable as it may be, absolutely no truth can be guaranteed or implied through this exchange, as no one in their right mind would have any faith in the words of a flittering insect. The reader should further note that the whereabouts of the supposed material witness are now unknown, and, due to the length of time elapsed since the event, his continued existence is questionable.
One September afternoon, as I reposed on a wall in the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion, I eavesdropped on a dialogue between Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin. I was truly stunned to be part of this historic meeting between two such newsworthy personalities. As you know, a fly’s lifespan is not very long, so I will probably never again witness such a momentous occasion. Please allow me the pleasure of recounting the repartee that took place just a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina.
First, Mayor Nagin entered the room and sat on a rather plush armchair. Within moments, the governor followed with a flair one can only describe as flamboyant.
“Good afternoon, Clarence! I hope your travel to my humble abode was enjoyable and further hope your brief stay will be well worth the trip,” the Governor said as she seemingly sailed into the room.
“Well, governor, it was a long trip, but it is nice to be in air conditioning once again. As you know, the electricity is off throughout New Orleans and conditions are miserable, to say the least.”
“Well, Clarence, I understand the problems you are facing down there. The air conditioning unit here went out a few weeks ago and I had to cope with the heat for quite a few hours. The only thing circulating around here was hot air.”
“Governor, I don’t like the name Clarence and prefer not to be called by that name,” the mayor exclaimed as though he was insulted. “Please, call me Ray.”
“O.K., Clarence Ray.”
“No, just Ray!” he retorted as though egregiously affronted.
“If you insist. Say, Ray, would you like some hot tea?”
“Sure governor, you always have the finest blends. Do you have Earl Grey?”
“Why certainly,” she replied as she haughtily pointed one of her staff members toward the direction of her tea caddy. “I guess we must talk about that pesky storm, Katrina. How are you handling things in New Orleans?”
“Quite well, I feel,” he replied. “My family is out of that hell hole and we are looking to purchase a home in Texas. This will be our retreat from the meager existence that I know will be commonplace in New Orleans for some time to come. You know, my house received only minor damage during the storm, but I cannot live in such conditions—it would be, well, beneath me. Due to this simple fact, I consider myself homeless at the present time.”
“You poor thing,” the governor mumbled as she poured a cup of tea for the apparently down-trodden mayor. “I can hardly imagine what you are going through—being homeless and all.”
“Yes, I’m going through some tough times, but I’ll survive. I know job cuts will have to be made in city government, but as long as I can maintain my pay and the pay of my higher echelon comrades, um, I mean, employees, things will be alright.”
“It is important for us to remember ourselves in times like this,” the governor sighed as she casually sipped her tea. “Incidentally, I’m considering changing my hairstyle. People constantly say that I look like Moe from the Three Stooges. What do you think?”
“About the hairstyle or looking like a Stooge?”
“The hairstyle,” she said with haste.
“I certainly would think about it, if I was you. Speaking of looking silly, did you catch the footage of Mary Landrieu during your post-Katrina press conferences? What was she constantly snickering at?”
“Oh yes, that silly girl. Every time she spied a camera or saw herself on a television monitor she got absolutely giddy. She’s such a ham. No one has to tell her to smile at the birdie—it seems to be an instinct—as though it’s the only thing floating in her little head.”
“Speaking of floating, governor, what are we going to do about New Orleans?” he asked inquisitively as he scratched his glistening bald noggin.
“What do you mean when you ask, ‘Do about New Orleans?’ I’ve done my job at making the poor feel unwelcomed in your city— I can do no more. I feel that it’s your job to rebuild the city as you envision it. Besides, I have an equine center in Morehouse Parish that must be built.”
“Thank you for what you’ve done for me and the confidence you have in me, but I’ll need some help. I’m not the leader that I’d like to be, or, rather, not the one I want my constituency to see. When I was elected, I brought my friends from Cox Communications with me to camouflage my lack of ability. They’ve all left me now, except for one lone hold-out. I can call together groups of rich business people to talk about rebuilding, but I cannot implement anything on my own.”
“That’s a fine thing to do. Call together a panel of influential people in New Orleans to talk about rebuilding. Lay everything upon their laps. When things don’t get accomplished, blame them. I’ll do the same thing here. I’m used to doing things like this. Focus groups and summits make the public think work is actually being done. Sometimes things are accomplished in groups such as this, and when they are, you can take the credit for them! That’s what true leadership is all about.”
“I’ll work on it right away, governor. Thank you for the wonderful idea!” he said as he stood from his chair, seemingly ready to pounce on the notion.
“Very good, Clarence Ray,” she said as they both started for the door. “I hope you will return soon, as I would be happy to continue being your patron in leadership.”