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Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



Sarah Palin brought her indomitable road show to my hometown of Baton Rouge this week with the flair and the chutzpah of a larger than life personality, which she just might be.  Security was tight at the local Books-A-Million, and the crowd of over 1000 was given strict instructions of what it could, and could not do.  From the way her entourage carried on, on you would have thought she was trying to be like Louisiana’s own, Governor Bobby Jindal.

Jindal, for the benefit of you readers outside Louisiana, has set a standard for inaccessibility that is unmatched in Louisiana history. As is the case in most states, Governors in general are openly available public officials.  A few, like the Governor of South Dakota, even answer their own home phones.  Stories are legendary in Louisiana of average citizens just showing up at the Governor’s office, or even the Governor’s mansion, asking for help, or even just to pay a visit. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour receives accolades from locals in his home state for being easily available to the press and the general public.  Jindal has taken the opposite approach.

When the Louisiana Governor is making a speech, even in the far reaches of the state, the Baton Rouge press corps complains that they are often given only a few hours notice, if any notice at all.  The national press gains easy accessibility to Jindal where the locals, at best, get a self-serving quote from a staff member ““ an approach similar to the one taken by Palin back home in Alaska.

I live just a short walk from Books-A-Million, so I decided to mosey on over to check out the Sarah phenomena.  I read Palin’s first book, Going Rogue, which came out last year. Yes, it was an easy read, but you know what?  I learned a lot.

First of all, it was no surprise that Sarah didn’t actually write the book.  Few celebrities do these days.  Writing a book of personal experiences is a long and drawn out labor of love as I know from my own experiences, both as a writer and a publisher. The breezy Palin memoir was written by former Bush speech writer, Lynn Vincent, but there are still enough “you betchas” in the book to give it the lady’s special Alaska flavor.

Wanting to read all the juicy tidbits first, I immediately went to the index to get an idea of what Palin listed as being of particular importance.  Surprise!  There is no index in Palin’s first book.  Nor is there an index in her new book.  So there was no choice for me but to wade on through.  I did make a few page number notations so I could share with you, my loyal readers, some of the more relevant parts of the book — key words that should wet your appetite for more.

First, a stop on page 102 is a “must read,” just for the lyrical prose:  “As the soles of my shoes hit the soft ground, I pushed past tall cottonwood trees in a euphoric cadence, and meandered through willow branches that the moose munched on.”Â  Faulkner would have been impressed.

During the campaign, there were questions of Palin’s reading habits.  Who can forget her non answer when Katie Couric asked her what she liked to read.  She cleared up any uncertainty in her new book by listing cookbooks (p. 15), Reader’s Digest (P.15), Sports Illustrated (P. 27), The Wonderful World of Oz (p. 16), and my favorite, Ranger Rick (p. 27).

Then, of course, there is Palin’s vivid description on page 302 of praying in the shower with Rev. Rick Warren.  I kid you not.  OK, maybe I inferred too much.  She was in the shower when the California Evangelist called, so she pulled in the phone to join him in prayer.

And  food?  She makes no bones about how she loves and cooks Alaskan edibles.  Her specialties include halibut tacos (p. 1), reindeer sausage (p. 1) and caribou lasagna (p. 218). She recounts how on the day she got married “we stopped by the Wendy’s drive-thru for our wedding dinner.” (p. 49).  Palin also makes it quite clear that “I love meat,” particularly “the seared fatty edges of a well-done steak.”Â  (p. 18).  She follows this homily with one of the book’s deeper and more poignant quotes:  “If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat? ” (p. 133) Nuf said.

So after getting a taste of these and other Palin homilies, you can imagine my enthusiasm to join the throng of Sarah diehards marching on my local bookstore.  But before getting near the store entrance, I was confronted by a team of guards who spelled out the rules. There was a list of requirements for anyone who wanted Sarah’s autograph on her book.

To be allowed admission to Palin’s book signing, you had to have a wristband.  But to get one, you had to show up two days before, on Sunday, and be one of the first 500 in line.

On book signing day, you had to show up one hour in advance, with a copy of Sarah’s book to be allowed to get in line. No photos or video of any kind were allowed, and all cameras and cell phones had to be checked outside the bookstore.

Look, this was a real labor of love to stand there for hours and go though all these procedures just to get a book signed.  The process was similar to visiting a relative in prison, or maybe waiting to see Kim Kardashian.  But as much as I would have liked to visit with Sarah, the hoops you had to go through were just a little too much for me.  So with some reluctance, I walked back home.

Now, like I said, I live just a stone’s through away from the bookstore. So when I got home, I decided to climb up on my roof. It’s flat, with a full view of the shopping center where the bookstore is located.  And then it dawned on me.  We have a common bond, this lady and I. Remember back during the campaign when she was asked about her foreign policy experience?  She said she could see Russia from her house.  Well guess what!  I can see Sarah from my house!  Pretty cool, huh?  “You betcha.”


”Only dead fish go with the flow.”

“”Sarah Palin, quitting her job as governor, July 3, 2009

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South.  You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com. The show is televised at http://www.justin.tv/jimbrownusa.

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