“Through a Glass Darkly” column for April 10, 2013

BY BOB ANDERSON

When IBM announced a couple of weeks ago that it will open a software development center at The Advocate’s old site downtown, talk focused on the economic prospects.

For me, those thoughts were secondary as I imagined a pair of tall buildings on that special spot along the Mississippi River.

My first thought was about the view of the river I had for years from the third floor of the Capital City Press building on Lafayette Street.

Some days that view proved to be a lifesaver.

Newspaper work with its deadlines and daily demands to produce stories is pressure packed.

When pressure threatened to blow up my boiler like that of an exploding riverboat, looking down on the Mississippi provided a relief valve that didn’t involve popping off at fellow workers.

Not only was the view aesthetic, but the slowly moving water had a naturally calming effect. Often the current carried driftwood or some unidentifiable object worth pondering.

“What do you think that is?” fellow writer Mike Dunne would ask from our enviable newsroom spot, which he dubbed Park Place.

We’d stand, stretch for a minute and consider the flotsam. Our speculation on what the odd shape might be usually rose gradually from the realistic to the absurd.

After our tensions floated downriver like the latest mysterious item, we’d go back to work feeling relaxed enough to be creative again.

Tugs and other boats worked the river daily, providing an ever-changing view from our windows.

Occasionally an adventurer would pass in a canoe or other craft bound for New Orleans. Mike and I would share a bit of wanderlust.

Our windows also provided great sunsets. One year, when Keith Lawrence arrived at the paper and was still getting to know people, we bought a small menorah and lit candles to celebrate Chanukah with him each day as the sun sank.

The windows also gave great views of thunderstorms moving in. Sometimes they even kicked up whitecaps. The power of those storms, with lightning splitting the black clouds, seemed especially evident from our vantage point, until the accompanying rain would obscure our view.

Once I wasn’t near the windows, but in Copenhagen when a series of tornadoes hit the Baton Rouge area.

Glancing at a TV showing international news, I suddenly felt I was looking out of my window at The Advocate as I watched a tornado strike West Baton Rouge. I’ve never found out if it was actually shot from my Lafayette Street window, but the view was as good as if it had been.

As architects consider the design of a pair of tall buildings in the 500 block of Lafayette Street, the main advice I give them is to put in lots of windows.

I hope the workers at IBM enjoy the view as much as my co-workers and I did.

Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to banderson@theadvocate.com