Monday, January 07, 2008

If this is good news, what could possibly be the bad?

"This is why I don't live in Lafayette anymore."

Lately, that is my response to almost every article I read about my hometown. It's not the most reasoned or intellectual response in the world, but neither is it knee-jerk. And, man, is it a versatile phrase! Whether the subject is speed vans, rose-colored glasses on the unemployment rate, the continued lows hit by the school board, the anointment of Bobby Jindal or any other of myriad idiotic issues, "This is why I don't live in Lafayette anymore" is an increasingly unrivaled catch-all.

Take this recent jewel, for instance. Oil prices hit $100 per barrel, which everyone knows is just fantastic news! YAY! Everyone is just dancing in the streets over this awesome development. You know, because they can't afford to do anything else on the road.

Back in 1998-99, when oil and gas prices dipped to $11 per barrel and finding gas as low as 76 cents was no road trip, the economy was killer. Of course, many in Lafayette thought it was the death knell for the area, because its still-monolithic economy relies on high gas costs. A killer economy, it seems, really kills the area.

This is why I don't live in Lafayette anymore.

Lest the above article doesn't spell it out succinctly enough, we have another one: "Oil prices good for Louisiana: Louisiana's economy usually the opposite of nation's." Figures I'd be gone now, as opposed to the supposed "good" years when Lafayette couldn't keep pace. Yet things are just totally tubular now, dude! But don't take my word for it:

"The good news is, the country might be in a recession, but you live in the best 200 miles in the world," Cloutier told a Rotary Club gathering in Lafayette on Wednesday.

Let's parse that statement: 1) a financier 2) told area executives that 3) the misery of the American working stiff will butter their bread and that 4) the area's ability to milk a bad economy, rather than any cultural or intellectual uniqueness, is what defines "the best 200 miles in the world."

I don't know what's in the water in south Louisiana (besides pollutants), but there's a pervasive attitude that what's good for the upper echelons of big business is good for everyone. I'd call shenanigans, but I don't think the sentiment is anything but sincere. Idiotic, yes, but sincere.

I've lost count of how many friends of mine either dropped out of college to work offshore, or graduated from college (in any given major) and went to work in the oilfields. And that's no knock on the dedicated people who do that work; but it is a damning indictment on the opportunities available for those who train for more intellectual pursuits.

This is why I don't live in Lafayette anymore.

And, of course, there is this forum, the ultimate repository for opinions that locals would never dare use their real name to express (which is saying something). Every vicious personal attack, flawed analysis and unquestioned acceptance of Big Brother finds its way into some of the most fascinating (yet morbid) reading this side of Catcher in the Rye. But those sentiments long predate the technology that gives them such an amplified voice and the ability to drown out any reasonable dialogue.

And that is why I don't live in Lafayette anymore.

1 comment:

Michael Krahn said...


I recently read Catcher in the Rye and posted some thoughts about it at:

Check it out if you're interested.