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An Exclusive Excerpt from Political Power Couple James Carville and Mary Matalin's New Memoir

In this exclusive excerpt from their new memoir, Love & War, James Carville and Mary Matalin reveal why they ditched the Beltway for the bayou, moving their daughters, pets, and conflicting worldviews to New Orleans.

MARY
James sometimes talks about me as though he were living with Marie Antoinette or Catherine the Great. Do I wear a different gown every night? Do I have any rooms covered in giant ancient amber? Not that I wouldn’t love to live like a queen for a day, but I am a working-class girl from south Chicago.

Despite our similar shoot-the-moon, go-big-or-go-home tendencies on everything else, when it comes to money, James doesn’t believe in energetic movement. Once it comes in, he never wants it to go out. Unless it’s your tax money.

This means that every lamp, rug, table, houseplant, dish, appliance, and one-of-a-kind antique we’ve ever put under a roof—not to mention the roof itself— has been debated like the Florida recount.

In other words, moving to New Orleans after nearly 20 years together in Washington, D.C., was a perfect storm.

JAMES
I had always had a deep affection for New Orleans. Mary and I got married there. But I’d never done that much to really support it. For so long, I had taken for granted that it would always be here, all of that emotion and passion and creativity. After Hurricane Katrina, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fragility of the place. As much as anything, I wanted to get back home before home disappeared.

MARY
I went house hunting alone. There was no other way. James hates shopping for real estate almost as much as he hates snow. I didn’t expect to find the right house immediately. But thanks to an astute realtor, I soon discovered the grand vintage New Orleans home of my dreams. I’ll admit, it was a tad pricey given James’s parameters, but did I mention it was twice the size and half the price of the house we were selling? I called my husband, flushed with victory. “You have to see this house!”

James took one look at the place and started laughing. He refused to even come up the front steps. I had to drag him inside. He stood in the center hall and looked up the grand staircase. He looked to the left and right, to walls adorned with their original Italian frieze borders, to the majestic fireplaces in every room—and what were his first words?

“Oh, Mary, love of my life, wizard of home and hearth, your wonders never cease to amaze me!” Guess again. What he actually said was: “Way too expensive. Not gonna happen.

Three months and several bouts of manly-man haggling over the price later, Chester James Carville was heading home again. Right decision? Wrong decision? Only time would tell.

JAMES
I didn’t move away from Washington because I wanted to run away from something. I just discovered that I didn’t want to live there anymore. People in D.C. tend to care very much about the latest political fight or the next campaign, but nobody cares whether LSU wins or loses. That alone was enough to make me feel like an outsider at times.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Washington. I loved being in the center of the storm all those years. I was very close to a president and the people who worked for him. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. But I was never going to be that guy in his 70s, living out his last days in some apartment building on Connecticut Avenue.
 
MARY
Like so many women, I deal with the logistics of family life. I came down to New Orleans ahead of James to get things ready in the house. I was buying pots and pans. I was finding schools for Matty and Emerson, who were going into the fifth and eighth grades. I was getting the electricity turned on, ordering cable for James, who thinks people just walk into a new living room and ESPN appears by magic.

In our first weeks there, as we waited for our furniture and clothes to arrive, I began to go for walks with our dogs. At first, we went just to the end of our block. But even in that short distance, I was overcome by the breadth of the junglelike foliage. I stared in wonder at the gigantic live oaks with their long arms sweeping high above the house and down to the street. I inhaled the new fragrances, so many all at once.

My previous operating principle in life was to figure things out as quickly as I could—check that task off my list. New Orleans demanded a different way of living.

 

From: http://www.vogue.com/