When I was a younger man, my friends and I regularly ate at a restaurant in Fat City called Crazy Johnnie’s. There were two primary reasons: good steaks and low prices. The fact that one of my friends had a connection the place didn’t hurt either. I met the restaurant’s namesake owner, Johnnie Schram, there and at a few social events, but I can’t claim to have really known her other than by reputation, which was of a kind, generous and caring woman who spread love in part through food.
Ms. Schram passed last week, and a memorial service will be held on May 19 from 1 to 2 p.m. at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, at 2216 Metairie Road. Crazy Johnnie’s closed a few years ago, and my friend contacted me both to give me the news and to ask my advice on how to get the word out to those loyal customers of Johnnie’s who might not be aware but would want to attend the service. I hope that if you fall in that number, you’ll be able to attend.
I was out of town for most of this week attending a conference at a client’s headquarters in Connecticut. It’s an annual event that I look forward to, not least because I’ve made a number of friends among the other lawyers who attend from all over the country. I’m a bit of an outlier, being a solo practitioner in a room where most of the other lawyers are members of firms numbering in the hundreds or, in a few cases, thousands, but it’s a collegial group.
One of the friends I’ve made is a lawyer who practices in Puerto Rico. I first met him a few years ago when we sat next to each other at a dinner. We bonded over food. I knew I was going to get along with the guy when he told me that he and his three or four best friends regularly got together at one or another’s home to cook and perhaps drink a bit of wine. I still regret that, when the conference was held in New Orleans a couple of years ago, I didn’t have the opportunity to cook with him at my house as we’d intended.
He didn’t make the meeting last year, and then as you may have heard Puerto Rico was hit with the latest in a series of disasters – this time a hurricane. The island was already reeling from a financial crisis, and because it exists in a state of limbo somewhere between a colony and a state, it has been terribly difficult to rebuild. My friend was among the folks who presented at this conference, and in 15 minutes he laid out a concise and passionate explanation of the myriad problems – some the result of historic wrongs and some due to current mismanagement – that at the moment leave him less than optimistic for the near term. It was incredibly well-presented, and I wished I’d recorded it. It was also sobering, and of course it made me think of our experience after the levee breaches.
If there was one silver lining, I suppose it was his answer to a question I posed. I told him that within about three or four months after Katrina, people who were otherwise quite friendly towards me felt compelled to explain that New Orleans should not be rebuilt because we live in a bowl below sea level and/or we’re degenerate, alcohol-fueled malingerers. I asked him if he’d heard anything similar, fully expecting an affirmative response, but he looked a bit puzzled and said no. I’m marking that down in the “progress” column.
I mention this because my friend concluded his talk by asking the group to contact our congressional representatives and urge some action on Puerto Rico’s behalf. In the context of that meeting, the request was quite literal; there were almost certainly people in that room who have the cell phone numbers of representatives and senators. I do not, but perhaps you do? If so, let me second his request that you recommend some action to assist Puerto Rico to recover both from the storms and from the intractable financial condition it’s currently facing.