DESK NOTES: Getting away and seeing the good out there

Aaron Looney

Today marks my return from a week-long vacation away from the office and hustle-bustle of the newspaper industry.

While I’m wishing it could have lasted longer, my seven days away came at a good time for me. Working nearly 10 months without time off besides weekends and holidays can take its toll on anyone. But while the vacation served as a getaway, it also allowed me to see a lot of change, mostly positive, in this part of the state.

I woke up Friday morning and did some chores around the house. An admitted news junkie, I then grabbed my metaphoric board and surfed the Web on my favorite news sites. Anyone who knows me also knows that I can never truly disconnect from the news, even when I’m supposed to be on vacation. As I read, I?found at midday that Louis Lambert had dropped out of the 23rd Judicial District Attorney race, making Ricky Babin the winner.

The move came as a shock to me, as I’m sure it did to most people. I was expecting a spirited month of campaigning between the two and reporting from the campaign trail. But, I respect Lambert’s decision and I wish both he and District Attorney-elect Babin the best of luck in their endeavors.

After the reporter in me calmed down, I spent most of the day relaxing and remembering why I was glad to be at work during the day, as daytime television offers little to no interesting programming for my tastes.

I was able to get away from everything for at least a couple of days. Friday night was spent in my old stomping grounds of Lafayette, taking in the culture and cuisine that made it so hard to leave after I graduated college. But I also noticed how different the city looked from when I roamed the UL Lafayette campus. I finally got to experience the wonder that is River Ranch, a traditional neighborhood development that has received both accolades and criticism. While the sheer size and look of the development impressed me, as well as a great meal at Bonefish Grill, stories of the exorbitant prices for living there did not. It was good to see what a TND that had been built out to some degree looks like, giving me ideas of how some of the similar developments in Ascension Parish will look once they begin to take shape.

Saturday, I made my way to another favorite area of the state, Thibodaux, to visit friends. Growing up in Donaldsonville and having family and friends that attended Nicholls State University, I spent a lot of my formulative years running the roads along Bayou Lafourche. The area, much like Ascension Parish, is still working to clean up after Hurricane Gustav. In fact, a couple of weeks earlier, I was in the area helping one of my best friends put an infamous blue tarp on his roof.

The people in Thibodaux know they’re in harm’s way every time a hurricane hits Louisiana. To see the resolve and spirit of those who live there even a month after the storm blew through gives me hope that I can continue visiting the area in the future and that even as bad as we got hit here, many got it worse.

Sunday, I made my way to the Crescent City to catch the New Orleans Saints decimate the Oakland Raiders. When I walked into the Louisiana Superdome, a place I hadn’t been in since before Hurricane Katrina destroyed it in 2005, I noticed that the building had been markedly improved. I figured that when it was rebuilt, it would have been put back the way it was and that would be the end of it. But I sensed something different. There was an air of happiness and hope in the building – and not because the Saints were putting it to former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. All of the stories I’d heard of the misery and pain and suffering this building held in Katrina’s aftermath were nonexistant. The building was again a haven for people to celebrate.

Monday, I stayed in New Orleans and visited the French Quarter with my girlfriend. Surprisingly crowded for a weekday, we made our way to the French Market to peruse the wares of vendors inside. Seeing the crowd of people roaming the streets made me think of how New Orleans, a city so dependent on tourism, may suffer because of the current economic situation. Many people are cutting their fun time to save money for more important things. Seeing such a large crowd shopping and eating in the quarter made me think that it might not be so bad after all. Not yet, at least.

After watching the final presidential debate Tuesday night, I returned to work today refreshed and ready to face whatever news comes my way.

With everything going on in the state and our country right now, that positive attitude may become a necessity.

Aaron E. Looney is the editor of The Gonzales Weekly Citizen. He can be reached at