Friday, February 25, 2011

What makes a great town?

Spent most of the week in Gonzales, Louisiana. This is a town that most of us would pass by on our way from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Flat country, not much to look at, but none the less, Gonzales is a great little town.

Went to lunch on Tuesday with some business acquaintances to a place called Brew Bacher's. Had a fried shrimp po' boy that was out of this world. Mike's daughter plays on the local high school softball team and most of the team was there. Beautiful girls, and they all stopped by to say hi. That's the memory that lingers. Everybody knew everybody and how they all came by our table for introductions. In no time flat I was an accepted member of the community. I can't remember anyone's name, but loved that they stopped by.

The two guys I worked with were Gonzales natives. Their office is next door to the high school where they both graduated some twenty plus years ago. They went off to college, of course, but came back.

Bought a King Cake at a local bakery to share with the guys.

Went to another place on Thursday called Sno's and had their Shrimp Helen. Lightly breaded and fried shrimp smothered in etouffe sauce, sprinkled with lump crab. Wow. I'd go back in a heartbeat. And they claim Sno's is "all right". More than "all right" by me.

So I ate well this week, but that's not what this post is about. I live in a mid-sized community in Florida where no one knows his neighbor, and all the high school graduates can barely wait to get out of town. We don't have a bakery, and our best restaurants are national chains. We're all transients, on our way from birth to death with a short, or maybe not so short, stopover in Florida along the way.

That's why we don't know our neighbors. The folks who lived across the street when we moved in here have all moved away. There are a couple of new people in the area, but they keep to themselves. So do we. The few people we know in the community are through my wife's work, since my job is more of a national scope rather than local.

I didn't realize how much I missed being a part of this type of community until I happened upon Gonzales, Louisiana. This town is a treasure. Not for its museums, not for its scenic beauty, not even for its restaurants. It has something far more important going for it. At the heart of Gonzales are some truly terrific people, people who were born there, grew up there, and came back to help their town get along.

To them, Gonzales is more than a place to make a living, it's a place to live.

So if you happen to find yourself traveling along I-10 westbound out of New Orleans, or eastbound out of Baton Rouge, stop by Gonzales and say hi. If you're feeling peckish, search out Brew Bacher's or Sno's for a bite. And when you do, watch the people around you. I'll be mighty surprised if you don't see people stopping by the tables to engage in some friendly small talk. It's common there, and that's what makes Gonzales special.

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