Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Christmas Eve in Lutcher

There's a little town about 45 minutes from my home in Louisiana called Gramercy, and every year on Christmas Eve they build a long series of bonfires along the Mississippi River levee and light 'em up. Since the wife and I decided we needed to have a Cajun Christmas, we wanted to go check it out. I didn't know where exactly in Gramercy the bonfires were, but I figured that as long as I could get to Gramercy, it shouldn't be too hard to see a huge line of massive bonfires extending along the river, so I just got on Mapquest and got directions to anywhere in Gramercy. I wrote down directions there, figuring that I could just follow the directions in reverse to get back home afterwards.

The bonfires were cool. We actually got there late because we ate dinner with friends beforehand, and overestimated how long the bonfires would burn. I thought it was funny how my wife insisted that we bundle up our kid to protect against the cold, given that we were going there to stand near a big fire. When we were done enjoying the smouldering heap, we got in the car to go home.

I should say that when we first arrived in Gramercy, I failed to make a left turn that I quickly realized I should have taken, and we passed into the neighboring town of Lutcher, to the west of Gramercy. As we hopped in the car to go back home, little did I realize what a fateful role Lutcher would play in our Christmas Eve experience.

Following my written directions in reverse, I proceded east (back towards New Orleans), and was very quickly surprised to see a sign that said "Welcome to Lutcher." You may recall that the previous time I accidentally ventured into Lutcher, I was going west from Gramercy. So what was this madness? I got increasingly nervous that I had made a mistake, so I made a right turn (now, I was ostensibly going north), and it was only half a mile or so before I again saw a sign that said "Welcome to Lutcher." What the devil? What was going on? There had to be some sort of mistake here. But I stayed on that road for a little while, until I saw a sign that pointed to the state route I was looking for. I breathed a sigh of relief, which was cut short when I realized the state route went left and right, but there was no sign indicating which direction either of them went. There are no landmarks in southern Louisiana other than trees, and it was very late at night, so I had lost my sense of direction. I picked a direction, drove for maybe a minute, and then saw a sign: "Welcome to Gramercy." I was back on the exact same road I started on.

And then it dawned on me. There was no escape from Gramercy. "Lutcher" is not a town, but rather a code, meaning "the impenetrable void that surrounds Gramercy," a space-time continuum anomaly that allows outsiders into the seemingly innocent town of Gramercy, but which never lets you leave. Gramercy is like a roach motel for stranded motorists: you can come in, but you can never leave.

Think I'm exaggerating? I pulled into a gas station when I realized the nature of the cosmic forces which were determined to keep me in the Gramercy/Lutcher Loop. I figured that if anyone could help me overcome the mindbending physics involved in creating the Lutcher trap, it was a gas station attendant in southern Louisiana. The very kind lady told me to leave the station and go left, follow the road about four miles and then turn left. The guy in line at the gas station said "right." The lady said, "oh, yeah, turn right." That, she explained, would get me to the Interstate. You can bet that inspired a lot of confidence. But armed with my new knowledge, I followed her directions and did, in fact, get to the I-10.

End of story, right? Wrong. Shortly after getting on the I-10 going east, towards New Orleans, I saw yet another sign for Lutcher. I screamed the name, that of a hated nemesis, and sneered at the sign's audacity in suggesting I again brave the Gramercy/Lutcher Space-Time Loop. I passed the Lutcher exit, confident that I had won.

Thirty minutes later, I saw another sign that said Lutcher Exit: 2 Miles. What was this madness? How big could Lutcher possibly be, that I could drive for thirty minutes at 95 miles per... I mean, the posted speed limit, and still be near Lutcher? Was Lutcher the South's secret metropolis, like a great Redneck Atlantis, biding its time until the South should rise again? Was New Orleans only a clever trick, designed to attract attention away from the sinister plot unfolding in Lutcher?

I quickly accelerated (up to the posted speed limit) and passed the nefarious exit, fighting back my suspicion that I had seen through the trees a massive army of monkeys and Danes, preparing for their inevitable assault on civilization. It had to be my eyes playing tricks on me, right? Danes and monkeys live in Denmark and zoos, right? Even now, I must confess that I'm not so sure...

Anyway, I'm now back at my home in New Orleans. But is it really New Orleans? Or is it really a city that doesn't yet realize it's been absorbed into Lutcher, another unsuspecting town that got swept up into the unstoppable, cosmic force that will eventually sweep us all into Gramercy, never again to emerge with our sanity intact?