Frank may be muddled, but photos back him up
It is a year now since I started my personal experiment in social commentary. I decided to try two things: First, to never mention the names of people who appal me; and secondly, to say out loud the names of people I admire.
It hasn't always been a raging success but, overall, I've liked the way it has forced me to think and write - my own small effort, not to fight the darkness, but to try to make the light brighter. I'm sticking with it for the time being.
From where I'm sitting in my favourite writers' bar in New Orleans, this rule has made it pretty much impossible to say anything directly about the news from home and the revelations in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics.
Instead, I will tell a small story about Frank. Frank owns the hotel we stay at every year in the French Quarter. Based on a conversation with his neighbour who said Frank was a World War II fighter pilot, I'm guessing he is now in his 90s. He looks maybe 75.
The story Frank himself tells is that he bought this historic building when he retired 40 years ago and has lived here ever since.
In his Louisiana drawl he tells us: "These used to be apartments, that's why the rooms are so big. All the movie stars stay here. The pool is salt water - the ladies like it, it's good for their skin. I was a pharmacist before I retired so I know how to keep it right. You feel the breeze here? Ain't it fresh? Comes off the river. Best place on Earth. Where y'all from? New Zealand? Now ain't that a thing. Y'all look like movie stars. You make my place look good. You tell the front desk you're a good friend of Frank, the owner. They'll take care of y'all. I'm serious, now. Love having you here. I been here 40 years since I retired. These used to be apartments . . ."
And Frank begins the story again, around and around in a circular way by the saltwater pool, until one of his staff - many of whom have been here all their working lives - encourage "Mr Frank" gently inside. His daughter runs the place now. But everyone - guests included - lets Frank think he does.
Frank may have forgotten where the story begins and ends, but the details between are all true. The walls of his bar are covered with photos of Frank taken over the 40 years with movie stars and musicians. In one of my favourites, he's there with a baby Stella McCartney flanked by Linda and Paul.
Not a bad legacy. Not a bad way to spend your last years, chatting kindly to people by your saltwater pool, surrounded by friends and strangers who are inspired by your kindness to give it back to you, twice as much. I read something about that in Hager's book - "the double rule". Always reward with double.