Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ignatius J. Reilly is Back!

Ignatius J. Reilly
TODAY has been an interesting day today, so far. Let me tell you a story about why, but first, let's go back two weeks from today, OK?

Two weeks ago, I was walking up Canal Street, probably thinking about Mardi Gras, when I passed the Chateau Bourbon Hotel just past Bourbon and Canal. Some of you might remember what this place used to be-the old D. H. Holmes department store ("meet me under the clock by Holmses, baby").

Well, "Holmses" went away, the Chateau Bourbon filled the empty building, and some sweet soul put up a bronze statue of Ignatius J. Reilly (photo at left) in the veranda right there in front of the hotel entrance. For those of you who don't know who the heck is Ignatius J. Reilly, he's the central character in a fiction/satire novel about his life in New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces. This book, one of the funniest I've ever read, won the Pulitzer prize, and became required reading at UNO by the time I got there in 1982. And the reason why his statue is in front of the Chateau Bourbon/the Old D.H. Holmes is because of the first scene in the novel. Ignatius is supposed to meet his mom there, under the clock.

Well, so, as I passed by the Chateau Bourbon, I immediately noticed that the statue of Ignatius was gone, missing, not there anymore. I was distressed. "Oh no!"

I thought all sort of thoughts. Did he pass out of favor amongst the hotel staff? Was popular sentiment in New Orleans somehow turned against poor Ignatius J. Reilly, the genius of his age, and a paragon of Religion and Geometry?

No. Let me explain.

TODAY, I was again walking up Canal Street, nearing Bourbon and Canal, my thoughts turned to that day two weeks earlier. I saw a man in a suit in front of the hotel, and decided to ask him if he knew what happened to the statue. As I approached him (he had a hotel badge above his breast pocket), I noticed a worker wheeling the statue of Ignatius towards the place he had been before.

"Ignatius!" I called out involuntarilly, in delight. They were putting the statue back! The man with the suit and name badge laughed, and a guy standing next to me (his hotel name badge said "chief engineer") smiled at me openly. "Yeah", he said, "The only reason Channel 4's not out here is because Mayor Landrieu's jealous of his popularity." We all laughed, large, loud belly laughs. The chief engineer was still smiling at me, so I shook his hand, gave him my best smile, and said "Thank you all". This made my day.

Ignatius is back, and so now I know all is not lost in New Orleans.

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