Walter Pierce

RE: Oh, nine

by Walter Pierce

2009 was more a year of what didn’t happen

The idea for this week’s year-end cover story came from a staff writer whom I hadn’t realized was given in any way to kooky ideas. What’s more striking to me is that our no-nonsense editorial director actually bit on it.

The idea is simple in its way: Rather than roll out the tired, threadbare year-in-review edition wherein we look back at the big stories of 2009 and write blurbs about them, we decided to create an astrological-style map of the year and populate its various regions with the personalities and stories that made 2009 what it was. But unlike astrology, our map would have a basis in reality.

And the reality is, 2009 was a little on the blah side. UL’s New Iberia Research Center made national news for all the wrong reasons, the least of which was providing the opportunity to so many to use the phrase “monkey business” when referring to primates. The Stanford bank scandal seemed remote but in truth siphoned possibly hundreds of millions of dollars of wealth out of our community. LUS finally launched its much-anticipated and -ballyhooed fiber service. Elbert Guillory broke the Cravins’ lock on the state Senate District 24 seat. Rowdy, late-night crowds in downtown Lafayette had us talking. State Rep. Rickey Hardy said some stuff. Blah. Blah. Blah.

What was most striking about 2009 was what it wasn’t — cascading foreclosures, “going out of business” sales and lines at the unemployment office. Compared to 2008, Lafayette wasn’t in tall cotton, but relative to the rest of country we’ve fared remarkably well. Just ask the Milken Institute,, Southern Business & Development Magazine, Equifax or Fortune Small Business. All of them placed Lafayette and/or our economy near the top of some type of good list. Being a native Louisianan, occupying the top tier of a good list is a rare treat. If you’re still in doubt, log on and read a year-in-review piece from a newspaper in California, Florida, Michigan or Nevada, and keep the Kleenex handy.

Personally, 2009 has been a year of stark change. I came to The Independent near the quarter pole after six-plus years as a news producer at KATC, and as I complete this final furlong of ’09, I feel like I’m finally getting comfortable in the saddle.

A constant during these nine months has been the task of policing the comment section at E-mail notices alerting me that comments have been posted come into my in-box on a continuous basis, and like a town hall meeting in August, it’s generally the malcontents who are standing up and screaming. But there’s been almost no defamation and very little profanity to delete, although there has been a lot of hot air. And then there’s NORTHSIDIAN SHOTGUN, who has tested my patience and tickled my funny bone.

He appeared in the comment section sometime around September (earlier, I suspect, using a different screen name) with gems like, “DA FIRST 10 BUYERS GET AH FREE CAST-IRON PIGGY BANK AND AH POUND OF CRAKLIN FROM DA CRAKLIN $ BOUDIN STOAH RIGHT HEAH ON MAIN STREET. WE INVITE ALLUS ONES LIKE BOUDIN $ CRAKLINS TO DA FAIS DO DO.” As you might imagine, deciphering a longer comment in that heavy Cajun vernacular takes time; so much so that I finally posted a reply to one of NS’s comments urging him to contact me directly via e-mail. When he did, I delivered an ultimatum: tone it down and minimize the UPPER CASE or it gets deleted. After much trial and error — I’ve deleted dozens of NORTHSIDIAN SHOTGUN comments these last few months — he seems to be coming around. His most recent comment as of this writing, posted to the blog last week about Edwin Edwards’ biography selling briskly: “OPRAH, Selection oh da “MONTH” a must read.”

Well, on second thought...