Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sanity's not all it's quacked up to be

The New York Times went to Alaska and discovered -- surprise! -- the Republicans' vice-presidential nominee is just another power-hungry, crony-appointing, paranoid, authoritarian clone of the guy we say we desperately want out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.


IT'S A PITY the Daily Kossack "nutroots" pretty much inoculated Gov. Sarah Palin -- at least among the socially conservative and the fair-minded -- against the political consequences of her own shenanigans by letting their visceral hatred of motherhood, Christianity and disabled infants get the better of them.

After such an eruption of Naziesque "final solution" invective -- spleen vented at the image of a "hockey mom," her Down syndrome baby and her preggers teen daughter -- the American people might feel sorry enough for Palin to place her a heartbeat away from the presidency. And John McCain in it.

That would be a bad thing. Not that, alternatively, electing Barack Obama would be a good thing, mind you.

But that's not important now.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT is that Ruthie the Duck Girl is dead at 74. It says it right here in New Orleans' Times-Picayune newspaper:

Ruthie the Duck Girl, a French Quarter eccentric who zoomed from bar to bar on roller skates, often wearing a ratty fur coat and long skirt and trailed by a duck or two, died Sept. 6 at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge. She was 74.

Ruthie, whose real name was Ruth Grace Moulon, had been suffering from cancer of the mouth and lungs when the residents of her Uptown New Orleans nursing home were evacuated to Baton Rouge as Hurricane Gustav approached, said Carol Cunningham, a close friend who watched over her for nearly 40 years.

"I've always looked at Ruthie like a little bird with a broken wing, " Cunningham said. "She was always so dear to me."

Miss Moulon, a lifelong New Orleanian, became a French Quarter fixture, achieving legendary status in a city that treasures people who live outside the mainstream. Along the way, she acquired a coterie of people like Cunningham who found places for her to live, paid her bills and made sure she got home at night.

A tiny woman with a constant grin, she frequently sported a bridal gown and veil on her forays because, people said, she considered herself engaged to Gary Moody, whom she met in New Orleans in 1963 when he was a sailor.

Moody showed up at a 2001 birthday party for Miss Moulon at Mid-City Lanes Rock 'N Bowl, but the two never got to the altar. According to a Times-Picayune interview that year, Miss Moulon had a stock reply whenever anyone asked if there might be a wedding in her future: "I got engaged; that's enough!"

In 1999, Rick Delaup made her the subject of a documentary, "Ruthie the Duck Girl."

Miss Moulon's daily routine consisted of roaming from one watering hole to another, mooching drinks and cigarettes. She could be sweet one minute and unleash a torrent of profanity the next.

Although people deemed Miss Moulon's behavior unconventional even by French Quarter standards, no one ever diagnosed her mental condition because she refused to see a doctor, David Cuthbert wrote in The Times-Picayune in 2001.

"She's not out of touch with reality; she's just not interested, " photographer David Richmond told The Times-Picayune.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT is that we are a nation that looks at Ruthie the Duck Girl and sees something just short of humanity.

What's important is that we are a nation whose elites look at little Trig Palin, the candidate's son with one too many chromosomes, and condemn his mother for bringing him into the world.

What's important is that a culture can make short work of the gap between aborting little Trig Palin and devising a "final solution" for society's factory rejects, who zip around the Vieux Carré on roller skates -- ducks close behind -- mooching drinks and bumming smokes.

What's important is that I can see either McCain-Palin or Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, slapping on the roller skates and zipping down the Boulevard of Broken Schemes (and screams).

What's important is that, right now, Americans see a city like New Orleans -- broken and flood-damaged and, quite frankly, a little nuts -- and wonder why we just didn't remove the feeding tube. Remove all life support from the one place in America that could see Ruthie the Duck Girl as a cause for celebration, not consternation.

I particularly liked this comment on the Times-Picayune obit:

Posted by vaticanlokey on 09/13/08 at 7:07AM

Years ago, when I was still working at Poppy's Grill (and the Rouses in the Quarter was still the A&P), I recall meeting Ruthie on Rue Royale with her duck in tow. For some reason, she wasn't wearing her skates that day. We talked a bit, I gave her a few cigarettes (I was still smoking back then) and she went to go inside the A&P, telling the duck to stay put. While inside, the duck wandered out into the street and got hit by a car and killed. Someone rushed into the A&P to get Ruthie. She walked out with this indescribable look on her face, wandered out into the middle of Rue St. Peter to look at the carnage, and literally yelled at the dead duck

"I TOLD you to stay put, duck!" and without another word, wandered down to Rue Bourbon and disappeared.

I have never forgotten that day, and I will never forget Ruthie the Duck Lady. She is one of the many reasons I proudly call New Orleans home.

Au revoir, Ruthie, and give the duck my best!
WELL . . . OK. This one, too:
Posted by NOLevee on 09/13/08 at 10:05AM

Once when tending bar at Lord VJ's (now Ryan's) Bar Ruthie in came Ruthie with her duck, she climbed up on the bar-stool placed the duck on the bar and in her duck-like sounding voice said: "Give me a rum n' coke, give my duck one too."

Taken a bit back I said, "What?"

In which her sardonic side expounded, "What? Are you deaf? I said give me a rum & coke and make one for my duck too."

So I did. And the both of them preceded to enjoy their drinks.

She was definitely one of a kind.
WHEN I LOOK at what we Americans most value today -- and especially when I look at the fine electoral mess we've gotten ourselves into -- it occurs to me that Ruthie Moulon, the Duck Girl of the Vieux Carré, wasn't the nutty one.

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