Farewell To Pierre
Recently, Cathy and I went to the Golden Nugget to see Three Dog Night, a rock band that was popular back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Most of those on stage with the band were original members, which means they are now in their mid-‘70s. That’s not unusual today; casinos across the country are booked every weekend with performers from the ‘60s and ‘70s. They may show their age, but they still put on a great performance.
I’m in my 70s now. When I was growing up, I thought people in their 60s were old; those in their 70s — they were really old; and if someone managed to reach their 80s, they were downright ancient. So it is reassuring to me to see these old rockers jumping around on stage belting out their old songs.
They say 70 is the new 50 and I think it is true. Back in 1960, the life expectancy of a male was 66 years; today it is 76, and septuagenarians are much healthier than they were five decades ago. Some well-known people my age who are still active include Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton (well, Bill seems to have his good days and bad days), Mitt Romney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Buffet and Bob Seger.
So it was with considerable remorse that I learned that one of my buddies, Russ Bordelon, had passed away at the “young” age of 68.
I don’t remember when I first met Russ. He worked in sales for KPLC-TV for a long time, but I don’t think I knew him in that capacity. He was involved in all sorts of community activities —Big Brothers, the Women’s Shelter, Boys Village, Family & Youth, Boy Scouts, the American Heart Association, the Lake Charles Symphony, the Arts Council, Little Theater, United Way, Rotary … If it was a good cause, Russ was all in.
I think our paths just crisscrossed. But once you got to know Russ, you didn’t forget him. He was a real character.
I think the best way to sum up Russ is that he was a humorist and a ham. Every conversation with him began with a joke, usually something self-deprecating about Cajuns. (Russ was 100-percent coon-ass from Avoyelles Parish.) He loved performing on stage. He was proud of the performance he put on as Huey Long in the one-man play The Kingfish. It was a role that fit him well; he had the right accent and even looked like Louisiana’s best-known governor.
I got Russ up on stage once to read A Cajun Night Before Christmas for a fundraising event. Another time, I asked him to do a five-minute Cajun comedy routine. That’s when I learned that if you gave Russ a microphone, you were going to have to pry it from his hand to get it back.
Russ wrote the popular Pierre Sez column for Lagniappe for over 30 years. I also have written for Lagniappe for over 30 years, but didn’t realize Russ and I were co-columnists until about 10 years ago, because the identity of Pierre was a closely guarded secret. (Or perhaps I just didn’t ask the right person the right questions.)
When I found out, I slapped myself upside my head and exclaimed, “Duh, who else but Russ Bordelon could write that column?” It was always full of Cajun humor and gossipy inside information that only someone well-connected in the community would know. That was Russ.
They say the only thing good about aging is that it is better than the alternative. But it is sad when you start out-living your friends, and the first thing you read in the newspaper is the obituaries.
Four years ago, on my 68th birthday, I had a heart attack. I was fortunate; Cathy and I were in New Orleans, and staying just a few blocks from the Tulane Medical Center at the time. They rushed me to the operating room and were able to open the artery to my heart and insert four stents. It was particularly scary to me because my father had died of a heart attack at the age of 47, leaving my mother to raise three young children on her own. (I was just three at the time.) When I processed out of the hospital, I got another bit of bad news: they informed me that I had diabetes. I had gained 2 pounds a year for thirty years and was now lugging around 255 pounds on my six-foot frame.
Above is a photograph of what I looked like the night of my heart attack and a photograph of what I look like now, minus my beard and 70 pounds. I’ve discovered that when you are older and you begin losing weight, people will say to you: “Oh, you’ve lost so much weight I barely recognized you. Are you feeling OK?” No, I do not have a terminal disease, and yes, I am feeling much better and I no longer test positive for diabetes.
I hate to preach to anyone about maintaining a healthy life style, because I worry that as soon as I do, I’ll get run over by a MAC truck or smushed like the coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons by a piece of space junk falling from the sky. But it is not fun to say goodbye to old friends.
P.S. Congratulations to my friend and fellow septuagenarian John DeRosier, who has lost 90 pounds and is looking great as he prepares to run for re-election as our District Attorney.