I was 19 when he died … 28 years ago today. I’ve known my father-in-law for 22 years now … longer than I knew my own father. Well, that’s not quite right. I still know my dad. But I only had him here in person for 19 years. Ah, well. This is what happens with the passage of time. I’m older now than my father was when he died. It makes me think of the lyrics to a James Taylor song.
As much as I teased my dad about his choice of music, I’d like to think that he’d like to listen to James Taylor with me. And maybe he’d tell me that the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Time goes by. Dad gets farther away. But maybe I understand him just a little bit more with every passing day.
We asked the concierge if she could recommend a nearby restaurant that’s quiet. Quiet? In New Orleans? (I’m sure she wondered, “What is WRONG with these tourists? Who comes to New Orleans for quiet?) She knows her restaurants. She recommended the perfect place, Olivier’s Creole Restaurant.
Except for some fairly loud, very well-dressed girls who showed up after the Hanson concert at the House of Blues (I somewhat expect to get struck by lightning just for writing that), it was very quiet with great drinks and delicious food.
Here’s our waiter, Chris. He looked up how to make a Zombie for us.
Here is that amazing food.
We went back the next day to get pictures outside. What a fabulous place!
I just finished reading A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi. I received a review copy from the publisher, Penguin.
When I first got this book, I thought, oh great. Another book about a bunch of dead guys. And it was, indeed, a book about men. It was about some of the most noted leaders in history — Lincoln, Sherman, Churchill, Gandhi, FDR, JFK, MLK and Ted Turner — and how mental illness either hurt or helped them as leaders. And it’s not what you might think.
He argues that a leader who suffers from, say, depression is the best leader during a time of crisis. With such a mental illness, he says, a leader is more likely to have the qualities of realism, empathy, resilience and creativity — all of which are needed to lead others through a crisis.
He also argues that leaders who are mentally healthy — Bush, Blair, Nixon — do more harm than good during crises.
I was skeptical at first. I figured this might be someone with a singular focus into which he wanted to fit this idea. It actually turned out, though, to be the opposite. He had a much more varied background — a degree in history, another in philosophy and another in public health — which helped him see patterns that others would not. A historian, for example, might fail to see the dimensions of mental illness in a subject’s life. Ghaemi, however, was able to draw from all of these aspects of his background to see a subject more clearly and completely.
He asked an important question after discussing Hitler (whose manic-depression was made worse by how and with what he was medicated), “Why not just exclude the mentally ill from positions of power?”
Because, he answered, “… such a stance would have deprived humanity of Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Kennedy. But there’s an even more fundamental reason not to restrict leadership roles to the mentally healthy: they make bad leaders in times of crisis — just when we need good leadership most.”
I expected his writing to be dry or somewhat academic, but it wasn’t. He’s engaging and compelling, and the book is a great read. I highly recommend it.