THE CONTROVERSY GOES PUBLIC
Script of this article reads:
Louis puzzles campus
Recently I sat in the smoking lounge of our own Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, dragging down the heady vapors of generic cigarettes while attempting to maintain my sanity through another evening of working calculus problems.
The lounge was quiet and nearly empty an hour earlier when I'd chosen it for my labors but became a midterm cram room for a pack of howling economics majors shouting a half-semester's worth of financial planning notes at one another. Worse yet, most of them were non-smokers and would wave their hands under their noses and say "gross" every time I lit a cigarette.
The ranting of this group studying at my table distracted me from my derivative problems, so I increased my carbon monoxide intake to help me concentrate (Surgeon General's Warning: Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide
and may cause militant anti-smokers
My noxious fumes irritated the future stockbrokers into emitting a higher-pitched flurry of "bond investment guidelines in the event of a national recession" while glowering at me with tearing eyes. I lit another and glowered back.
It was a study-room riot in the making. Fortunately an off-note avalanche of rhyming poetry broke the tense stalemate. Everyone turned their heads to see Tulane's own retiree in residence clad in his usual black with smoldering pipe in hand, sitting on a corner couch by himself.
Louis Rothbard stared at nothing in particular while vociferously reciting Edgar Allen Poe's "City by the Sea" from memory.
The non-smokers and I united to glower at Louis' bizarre intrusion, and a young woman sitting next to me whined testily, "That man has no right to be here."
Her sentiments are shared by at least one other individual, who recently vandalized the area in front of the University Center steps, painting in large, black, bold letters, "LOUIS GO HOME!"
I first noted the apparently dispossessed Louis last year when he daily could be found puffing his pipe (Surgeon General's Warning: Pipe smoking may cause you to look forlorn.) while seated atop the Hullabaloo news rack in the U.C. entrance.
He reminded me of an encounter Alice had during her sojourn in Wonderland when she "peeped over the edge of the mushroom, and her eyes immediately met those of a large blue caterpillar that was sitting on the top with its arms folded, quietly smoking a long hookah, and taking not the smallest notices of her or of anything else." (Surgeon General's Warning: Hookah smoking may cause you to go to Wonderland.)
Louis gives the same impression of not noticing the hectic world going about its business while he sits around campus and does nothing but talk with students.
The fact that a man doing absolutely nothing concrete causes some people to get indignant was shown by the insulting vandals, but Louis himself can surely be considered harmless after a year and a half of respectable behavior.
His popularity with such a large following from the student body indicates that he is very personable and worth getting to meet, yet his presence is disconcerting because of its singular peculiarity.
Louis is an alumnus of Tulane who has said he succeeded in his business ventures and, after becoming financially independent, retired.
This is the goal for which we are all hypothetically striving, but Louis makes you think twice about this desire because his success seems unimpressive and drab. He has nothing better to do with his time but return from whence he came, Tulane itself.
This means we are now at the point we are trying to attain, so the idea of ever leaving is redundant.
If all alumni retirees returned and picked a spot on one of our scenic benches, where would the students sit? Louis' quirky idea of a good time is harmless, and almost endearing, but if the notion caught on and Tulane doubled its retired residents yearly -- one this year, two next year, four the following and so on -- by the time we reached Louis' age we'd all have to come back and take our seats just to meet the quota. They'd end up leveling Audubon Park and filling it with bleachers to accommodate us.
This picture, though ridiculous, is terrifying nonetheless and is the root of the Louis enigma: You can't look at Louis without hoping you don't become like him.