Tuesday, April 2, 2024

10 Years Ago: Louisiana: Broussard's Happenin' Goodwill


Wikihow proposes 3 Ways to Urinate When On An Automobile Trip. I'm guessing the author(s) giggled while writing this primer because it is so straight-facedly basic. And also, the sample woman always seems to drink out of a plastic bottle immediately after peeing. Which, if I were a preteen (not now, of course, because I am an adult), I would, of course, wonder what exactly was in the bottle? Really? 

The assurance that all of the information in the instructional was fact-checked makes it all the more amusing.

Ah, you're wondering why I'm talking about pee when the title is about Goodwill. Well, read on.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Louisiana: Broussard's Happenin' Goodwill

Borjomi, Caucasus Georgia - Mineral Spring Park - Wilderpee calling. April 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.
Borjomi, Caucasus Georgia - Mineral Spring Park - Wilderpee calling. April 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.

The need to empty one's bladder can lead to unexpected encounters.

Sometimes it's a dead animal.

Disintegrating dog encountered on a wilderpee. Highway 152, New Mexico. March 2010. Credit: Mzuriana.
If I didn't already have to go, this disintegrating dog would have scared the pee out of me! Credit: Mzuriana.

Or a descanso.

Altar, Carson National Forest, New Mexico. November 2008. Credit: Mzuriana.
An altar on the other side of a wilderpee, Carson National Forest, New Mexico. November 2008. Credit: Mzuriana.

Yesterday, on my way to the Dragon Races in New Iberia, on Highway 182 in Broussard, I noted that I had to go to the bathroom. Hmm, wait til I get to New Iberia - find a McDonald's - or ..... oh, look there's a Goodwill Store, and I need a skillet.

I pulled into the parking spot in front of the entrance and saw a woman taking a photo of a man there. Then a photo of the man and a woman. Then I think the 2nd woman clicked a photo of the man with the 1st woman and the man. Cognitive dissonance. Taking pics in front of a Goodwill? Why? New marketing campaign? Some famous person who shops at Goodwill? Both seemed unlikely.

Walked into the store and asked a man within, "Who is that guy?" - referring to the subject of the 1st woman's photos. He said: "Oh, that's a guy on .... what's that pawn show?"

I suggested, "Swamp Pawn?"

"No, that other one ...."

I suggested, "Oh! Pawn Stars?"

"No .... " 

And a woman shopper offered, helpfully, "Cajun Swamp Pawn."

"Yeah, that's the one," the man said. "He's the guy who comes in with crazy stuff to sell. He's the one who makes that show fun."

This man with the answers is no slouch himself - he's a five-time winner of a local pepper-eating contest. He also plays fiddle at a weekend jam in Breaux Bridge.

I love my job as a tourist-in-residence.

I even found a skillet, and used the restroom, of course.  



Monday, April 1, 2024

Word of the Year: Migration: The Warmth of Other Suns


Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. "A negro family just arrived in Chicago from the rural South." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1922. 


The post I wrote back in 2011 fits perfectly in this year's word of the year series. I haven't yet read Ms. Wilkerson's newer book, Caste, but it rests beside me as I type.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rootless Lit: The Warmth of Other Suns

"Rootless lit" - Literature that speaks to travel, migration, displacement, exploration, discovery, transience, divesting of stuff, or portability. 

Rootless lit book review: The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson.

Summary from Publisher's Weekly: "... Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's ... study of the     "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest."

Credit: Amazon

I thought I "knew" what it was like to be black in the American South before institutionalized segregation ended. I "knew" it was bad.

But as I moved through the book, I realized:

  • Even though I had never articulated it to myself, I must have held the untested belief that black Americans had somehow acclimated to the reality of Jim Crow repression in the South.   
  • As much as I thought I "knew" of atrocities such as lynching, mortal beatings, and being dragged behind vehicles til dead, there were even worse monstrosities.
  • I knew nothing about the aggressive actions southern states took to keep black Americans from leaving.

Ms. Wilkerson tells the story of the Great Migration through the voices of three people who migrated north in three separate decades. Reading their stories, it really hit home that one never gets acclimated to daily humiliations, whether petty or grand. There is anger, bitterness, frustration, fear, despair - most of which could not be expressed during the Jim Crow years because the consequences of doing so might mean terrorism, brutalization, or death, for even the slightest infraction of the "rules."

I like how Ms. Wilkerson framed the Great Migration in the context of other migrations, such as the Eastern Europeans to the U.S. She made a good case for identifying the South as the Old Country and the North as the New World, noting differences in speech, customs, food, education, etc.

The author made the matter-of-fact and consistent choice of the word "escape" to describe what motivated, in full or in part, the immigrants' journey from the South. This kept the profundity of the Great Migration in front of me throughout the book.

She also used the phrase "caste system" to describe the realities in the South (and the North, as well). I found this helpful, too, because it made the point that even though the Great Migration was a story about black Americans, it wasn't "just" about race. The Great Migration was a universal story of people who fled from oppression and caste assignment and who sought better lives for themselves and their children.

I liked, too, that Ms. Wilkerson didn't sanctify or otherwise glamorize the three people she chose to tell their stories. They were ordinary, flawed individuals.

The Great Migration ended circa 1970. That is only yesterday, sociologically, and its effects continue to unfold.

Friday, March 8, 2024

A Long Trek Revival?


Road to Kazbegi, Caucasus Georgia. Credit: Mzuriana.
Road to Kazbegi, Caucasus Georgia. Credit: Mzuriana.

So back in a day, I made plans to walk from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego. The trek would mark an important birthday. I gobbled up all of the online long-walk journals I could find. However, other interests interrupted, and I pushed the plan onto the shelf.

Now I've revived said plan, in a way. This time not to walk its length, but to traverse it via various methods, including walking, cycling, or on motorized wheels, whether mine or a public bus or tourist van, or all of 'em. And maybe I'll start at the bottom and go up instead of move from top to bottom. Too soon to tell as yet. Or maybe I'll do as some hikers do on the Appalachian Trail: by sections over non-continuous times, and maybe not even in a sequential order.

So I'll be gathering up long-trek sagas again. 

I already gathered some here.

I guess I'm still not ready to put down roots yet, after all. 

Saturday, March 2, 2024

10 Years Ago: Louisiana: "Kaw, That's a Big One!"

Kaw, those were some big ass frogs! 


Some other frogs, living and dead and indirect: 


Three Creeks dead frog in water. Boone County, Missouri. April 2018. Credit: Mzuriana.
Three Creeks dead frog in water. Boone County, Missouri. April 2018. Credit: Mzuriana.


Blue poison dart frog. Kansas City, Missouri. September 2018. Credit: Mzuriana.
Blue poison dart frog. Kansas City, Missouri. September 2018. Credit: Mzuriana.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Louisiana: "Kaw, that's a big one!"


     "Kaw, that’s a big one!” said 59-year-old Danny “Eagle” Edgar.

    “That’s a man,” agreed 56-year-old Clay Switzer.

    “Boy, he really is big,” hissed Harry “Hop” Dugas, who at 47 is the baby of the group.

    “It’s got eyes like an alligator,” murmured Edgar in wonderment.

Tense excitement bled through the three men’s Cajun accents. What could have had them, with nearly 150 combined years of life in the woods and on the water, so excited? Were they perched on a rickety bamboo machan, hunting a man-eating tiger? Were they perched in the flying bridge of an offshore boat, gawking at the massive bulk of a great white shark? 



Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.

A friend and I went to the Acadian Memorial Heritage Festival in St. Martinville today.

Some kick-ass music, good food, gorgeous day along the river, and, and, and ..... holy swamp gas! Gigantic bullfrogs!

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.

Who knew frogs got so big?!

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.

I was so fascinated by these creatures, I had to go back a second time during the course of the festival, just to gawk some more.

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.

I understand about the frog legs for eating, but what happens to the rest of the bullfrog's body? Returned to the water for recycling? Used as bait for fishing? Given the popularity of frog legs in southern Louisiana, we're talking about a lot of skin and guts here.

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.

Interesting articles about bullfrogs and frog hunting: 

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana.  Credit: Mzuriana.

 My mother and a brother are coming to visit next week. Maybe we'll try some frog legs.

Bullfrogs, Acadian Heritage Memorial, St. Martinville, Louisiana. Credit: Mzuriana.


Friday, March 1, 2024

Word of the Year: Migration: The Devil's Highway

Below is a reprise of my 2011 post on Luis Alberto Urrea's book, which impacted me deeply. 

The book affected me so much, I uploaded the stories of the volunteers who delivered water to the desert into my brain's cloud storage, knowing that some day - some day - I would be one of those volunteers. And so I was, when I took up my tourist-in-residency in Tucson in 2019-2020.

Rootless Lit: The Devil's Highway: A True Story

"Rootless lit" - Literature that speaks to travel, migration, displacement, exploration, discovery, transience, divesting of stuff, or portability. 

Rootless lit book review: The Devil's Highway: A True Story, by Luis Alberto Urrea

Credit: Amazon

This is the story of the desert passage undocumented immigrants make between Mexico and the U.S. Many die en route because of lack of water and the heat. More specifically, it is the story of the Yuma 14, when fourteen men from one group died in 2001.

There were parts of this book, especially at the end, where it was painful to read. Mr. Urrea described the final hours of the dead in vivid, personal detail. One description particularly stands out for its horrific sadness. A survivor reported: "One of the boys went crazy and started jumping up and down. He started screaming, 'Mama! Mama! I don't want to die!' He ran up to a big cactus and started smashing his face against it. I don't know what his name was." The boy was 16 years old.

About another who died, Mr. Urrea wrote: "Nobody knows the name of the man who took off all his clothes. It was madness, surely. He removed his slacks, folded them, and put them on the ground. Then he took off his underwear, laid it neatly on the pants. He removed his shirt and undershirt and squared them away with the pants. As if he didn't want to leave a mess. ...He lay on his back and stared into the sun until he died."

I like how Mr. Urrea spoke for the dead as they rode in their body bags in the air-conditioned hearses.

Mr. Urrea's description of the Border Patrol's activities seemed nuanced and even-handed to me. He offers thoughtful notes in the last chapter regarding the financial costs and benefits of undocumented immigrants, of other violences perpetrated in and around the desert border.

It's difficult to describe Mr. Urrea's writing style other than to say it is personal, often in second person narrative. His portrayal of almost all of the players in the undocumented migrant universe is empathetic. Exceptions are the drug gangsters and the coyotes they run, plus certain aspects of the Mexican government machine.

Whatever one's position on migration, this book forces the reader to acknowledge the immigrants' humanity. At least for a day or two.




Friday, February 16, 2024

Jefferson City, Missouri: At Least I'm Not Camping

Although my apartment offers charm in views, design, and location, it is as breezy inside as a log cabin that has lost its chinking. 

For some reason, this state of affairs reminds me of the so-called bozi flower in Caucasus Georgia, aka prostitute flower. My apartment windows are as loose as a bozi's legs. 

And the walls are cold. Because there ain't no insulation in this 100-year old building. 

Sometimes I'll feel an actual push of cold air that flows by me, but when I get up to investigate where the hell it's coming from, it's untraceable. A frosty spirit? 

During a recent two-week arctic blast, when temperatures sank into the single digits, my first thought upon awakening each morning was: "At least I'm not camping."  

Cold comfort, as my living space was frigid.

I wore (and still wear) a hat to bed and for most of the day inside my place. I'm wearing it as I write this. During the day, I typically wear three layers of clothing.

Oh, sure, I could crank up the thermostat, but with the super-high ceilings, the billowy blasts of cold air coming through the windows and walls, with the registers affixed to the high ceilings, and electric heat pushed up such a long way through vents that are quite possibly lined with a thick layer of dust plaque - from a furnace of unknown age - which is way down in the basement of this old building, to which I have no access, thus I can't check the filter ("We change the filters twice a year!" say the property managers, as if that's a generous amenity) - and a bill that could easily hit $250 for just one month, I started out with a 65-degree thermostat setting before frugalizing even further by dropping it to 63 degrees.

Since the leaden cold has descended, I don't see my charming outside views because I've covered my windows with two cold-air barriers in addition to the blinds already installed: Plastic sheeting and fabric curtains, and for some windows, Reflectix, too. Against the walls below the windows, I've pushed bulwarks of boxes and pillows to block the cold air swooshing in through the frames.

My charmless winter decor to repel the cold invasion. February 2024. Credit: Mzuriana.
My charmless winter decor to repel the cold. February 2024. Credit: Mzuriana.


Other cold tales:

Rustavi [Caucasus Georgia]: Warmth Strategies

[Caucasus] Georgia: Cold

[Caucasus] Georgia: Warmth

Birmingham, Alabama: An Annoyance of Facts 

My winter in Birmingham was the very same that hit Houston so hard in 20/21. My winter in Birmingham is when I bought both an electric mattress pad and an electric throw to put on my bed.

The year I wintered in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2018, I said this: "No, no, no, no. I am finished with winters in cold lands." I made this proclamation after it snowed on Easter. In April

Yeah, and now look what I've gone and done again. 

At least I'm not camping.


Friday, February 2, 2024

10 Years Ago: Worst Travel Advice



Dubious travel suggestion. Nazret, Ethiopia. Credit: Mzuriana.
Dubious travel suggestion. Nazret, Ethiopia. Credit: Mzuriana.

Ten years ago, I posted the article below. 

In searching for fresh pieces of bad travel advice, I'm not seeing anything that adds much value to the 2013 Lonely Planet list - or mine. 


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Worst Travel Advice

The Lonely Planet has a list of the worst travel advice ever here. It's not bad. 

Here's my list of worst tips: 


1. "Let's ask if they can help us buy some coke." 

Yes, a temporary travel companion did propose this to me in Ecuador.

Don't do this.

2.  Bring candy, pencils, and small coins to give to the children in the streets.

This tip is offered to those visiting a country such as Ethiopia.

Do not do this. Do not do this. Do not do this.

It promotes begging in lieu of school (for those who have access to school). It causes a plague upon the tourists who follow you, as you set up the expectation that foreigners are walking Santas.

Besides, you will never have enough stuff to distribute. Never.

Finally, it is at best, a gesture of noblesse oblige. At worst, it is akin to feeding bread crumbs to pigeons - dehumanizing. 

If you want to contribute in some way to a country you're visiting, to offset in some way the terrible disparity of resources between you and most of the country's population -  identify an in-country organization that you admire and give it a donation.

3. Take traveler's checks. 

Travelers checks have gone the way of rotary phones. ("Rotary phones" - look it up.)

No matter how remote the country you're visiting, trust me, travelers checks are over.

Instead, take some cash (dollars or euros) + cash (local currency, upon arrival) + two cards that you can use as debit for ATMs. Stash the second card in a place that's separate from the other card.

And remember to inform your financial institution that you'll be traveling - you don't want to be abroad and find your card is locked.

4. From locals, about an area in their country - "Don't go there, it's too dangerous." 

This can be superb advice that you'd do well to heed. 


I've discovered that locals in all countries suffer from the same malady as the locals in my country. How many times do we hear compatriots caution against going to a particular U.S. location, be it an entire city or a part of a city, or a certain rural location? Again, sometimes the advice has merit, but more often than not, it's a generalized and unsubstantiated fear that has little connection with reality.

So if a local cautions me about going to a particular place, I'm going to listen to her, but I'm also going to ask more questions, do some independent research, and then make a decision.

5. Wait for the official instructions ... 

Like #4, this is sometimes the exact right thing to do. I learned in Ethiopia to be patient and let staff, such as those at a bus terminal, help me. They knew what they were doing and it was in their best interest for the maintenance of efficient operations to get me through the process smoothly.

But in an unusual situation, look at what the locals are doing. Are they waiting for instructions or are they moving?

In Ecuador long ago, a trio of us (all Americans) were on a train from Ibarra to San Lorenzo. En route, we encountered a landslide that had obliterated a section of track.We passengers disembarked and milled about for a bit. The train maestro said we should wait for instructions about what to do next.  While we waited, we noticed that all of the other passengers began streaming on foot through the compromised pathway.

By the time we decided to follow, our fate was sealed: On the other side was a waiting train - older, smaller -  in which all of the seats were taken.

This experience was a laugh-about-it-later one.

But on a much more serious level, there were people who died in the World Trade Center when they complied with instructions to "stay put."

6. Go here - the food is AMAZING!!! 

Yeah, OK, maybe.

But I invite you to redefine the term amazing!!!  to mean:

It is the ultimate experience in mediocrity! Nowhere else will you spend more money for such a stupendously average experience than this! 

I promise: If you redefine the word amazing as I suggest, you will never be disappointed. In fact, your expectations may be exceeded. Win-win.

What's your worst travel advice?