Saturday, November 30, 2013

St. Martinville, LA: Free furniture! Crawfish burger! Banana Tree!

The title says it all, really.


Had lunch at the Steakhouse Tavern with a walking partner – took this photo of part of the menu:

Steakhouse tavern, St. Martinville, Louisiana

Items such as chiles rellenos and green chile stew in New Mexico have been replaced with delicacies such as crawfish burgers, crab burgers, and shrimp po’ boys.

Who says America has no traditional cuisine?!


I’d been mentally lamenting the dearth of second-hand stores in Lafayette, and here was a guy ripping out his kitchen on a St. Martinville side street, and placing the cabinets on the sidewalk in front of his house, just as we walked by. I mean this was fresh scavenge!

We each took a cabinet, put them in our respective vehicles, and felt very satisfied. Mine is perfect for my office set-up. The printer is on top and office supplies are on the shelves, which I can hide behind the pretty doors.

Banana tree!

Incredibly, there is a mature banana tree in the patio outside the back of the Steakhouse tavern. It’s huge, and a very large bunch of green bananas hung from almost the very top.

Banana tree, St. Martinville, Louisiana

Imagine. I live in a place where bananas can grow.


I stopped in St. Martinville during my 2011/2012 road trip here. A very pretty village.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Rootless: The Economics of Laundry

Laundry day, Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. August 2011.

I dislike having to use a laundromat. Although one can pass the time at a laundromat in a relaxing or productive manner in a number of ways, still, I feel trapped there.

In Alamogordo, it was great – I had the use of a free (!) washer and dryer only steps from my front door. The distance was no greater than when I had my house and I had my machines in the basement.

In Playa del Carmen, it was also good – it was affordable to drop my laundry off at a commercial laundry, where staff would wash, dry, and fold (!) my stuff, and I could pick it up at the end of the day. I’m not sure if this would have been as economical if I lived there long-term, but for the time I was there, I loved this neighborhood amenity.

In Caucasus Georgia, well, yikes. My first hostess had no machines, so I did all my washing and drying by hand. In my second hostess’ home, there was a washing machine (yay!) and we hung our clothes out to dry. Because water and sometimes electricity were unavailable, it was good policy to not delay one’s washing routine, as the outages were unpredictable.

Laundry day, Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. August 2011.

Here in Lafayette, I’m delighted that I’ve got a washer and dryer on site. The laundry shed is almost as conveniently close as it was in Alamogordo. What’s even better is that the machines are in good working order, and fast. The wash takes half an hour and the dryer takes 45 minutes.

The downside: Each load costs $1.50 for each machine.

Laundry day, Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. August 2011.

The economic consequences of my new laundry situation:

  • The machines take only quarters, so part of my new living routine must include the regular acquisition of same. This isn’t that simple for me, because I don’t use cash much in my transactions. To feed the weekly quarter habit, I’ll need to score 12 quarters! Maybe I’ll find a place where I can get a month’s supply at a time. …. Ah, just realized I can stop at a local laundromat (and maybe a car wash) and get quarters from their money-changing machines. (On a national scale, all this money-changing for washing clothes and vehicles seems like a lot of busy work. … surely some places are going to pre-loaded cards by now?)
  • Each washer/dryer load costs $3, so if I separate my colors and whites, that’s $6 per week. Which works out to $312 per year.
  • This is an incentive to do my clothes in one load per week to save $156.
  • The cost is also an incentive to avoid buying white fabrics in the future. As it is, I have already tossed my whites in with my colors to achieve one load of wash instead of two.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Louisiana: Thanksgiving

In 2010, I spent Thanksgiving in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where I was taking a CELTA course. A beautiful day, with a visit from my mother and Brother3, the jazz festival, a big ol’ orange moon.

In 2011, I was at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, on my way home for a visit to family and friends from Caucasus Georgia. I felt part of the ancient Silk Road there, doing what we humans have been doing in that area for centuries, crossing from here to there or back again for the good and ill reasons we do such things.

In 2012, it looks like I was listening to great music in New Mexico.  

This year, I’m in a new place, now in Louisiana. Still building my nest, so there’s that as-yet unsettled feeling, but in the main, as I walk down one of my new streets, I have to stop sometimes and look around and wonder at the pleasure of it. Not just being here in Louisiana, but the experience of New Mexico, of Caucasus Georgia, of Ethiopia, of Playa. 

There is wonder, too, at the deep benefits of technology that allow family and friends to connect on important days of the year, despite the physical miles that are between them.

A simple day today.

At home, ate some roast chicken, sweet potatoes, and pumpernickel toast. Drank pumpkin spice coffee. Listened to some trance-inducing, bone-reverberating music from Tinarawen. (Thanks to Phil inthe Blank for alerting his readers to this group.) 

In the evening, sipped a Louisiana beer while using the wifi at a local tavern, surrounded by the happy noise of some 60s-70s classic R&B and cheerful talk of other patrons.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Louisiana: Walmart freezer section

Louisiana trinity: Onions, celery, bell peppers

  • Sweet potato patties
  • Two-pound bags of the Louisiana trinity: chopped mix of onions, peppers, and celery
  • Extra-big bags of okra

Frozen sweet potato patties

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Louisiana and New Mexico: Sun v. Shade

As I settle into Lafayette, the contrast with Alamogordo is marked, with one exception.

The differences

Alamogordo --> Sun, light, aridity. The Sacramento Mountains on one side, the brilliant White Sands on the other, and the San Andres further west. Two sunrises, two sunsets. A sense of openness, expanse, far-away horizons.

From my apartment, I saw the Sacramento Mountains so close it felt I could almost touch them. The sounds of doves.

Lafayette --> Shade trees, their long, curvy limbs reaching across residential roads toward their sisters on the other side. Moist air. Fat rain droplets perch on the windshield like dew on grass. Dense traffic, narrow lanes, hurry.

From my new apartment, on the second floor, I see rooftops and trees. There is a spectacular tropical plant in the yard next door. The sounds of squirrels. 

Lafayette, Louisiana

A similarity

Since I’ve moved in, it has been cloudy in Lafayette. The cloud cover is close in, so much so that when I saw a plane rise from the Lafayette airport nearby, and then watched it disappear ghostlike, I couldn’t believe how completely the clouds obscured the plane’s body. Just like how the mist and clouds obscure the Sacramento Mountains.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Louisiana: Rite of Passage

Crawfish boiling pot and paraphernalia. Credit: Louisiana Crawfish Co.

Getting one’s first crawfish boiling pot is a rite of passage for a Louisianan. 

So reports a cultural informant, a man whom I’ll call Broussard. "Broussard" is kind of like "Smith" in American mainstream.

(In fact, all of my future Louisiana cultural informants will go by any of the surnames on this list.)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Louisiana: Armadillos, Undead

I was surprised to hear a small chuffing sound, then movement in the brush on yesterday’s trail walk at Lake Fausse Point State Park. I looked down and over to see not an American alligator, but an armadillo. Undead.

Undead. Imagine. Heretofore, I’ve only seen them dead.

Dead armadillo, Missouri

A few minutes later, continuing on the trail, I practically stepped on an armadillo. Also alive. Its apparent cluelessness about the prospective danger of a bipedal carnivore might explain the large quantities of its dead brethren on the roads.

Before my walk was done, I’d seen two more of the critters, both living.

This reminded me of Kate’s story about when she and Pam went on a safari about 10 years ago. It was the very first day of their very first safari, and right off the bat, they saw a herd of gazelles. The driver intended to keep driving, but Kate said, “No! Stop! I want to see the gazelles!” The guide said, “Kate, we will see so many of these, let’s continue without stopping.” But Kate said, “No, really, we must stop.” ….She took many photos before they drove on. …. It wasn’t too much later in the day when Kate, after seeing innumerable gazelles, saw that it was best to continue.

And so it is that my interest in a living armadillo evinced a sharp incline, a peak, and a rapid decline, all within the space of a quarter-hour.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Louisiana: American Alligator is the New Mountain Lion

One of the first signs I saw:

Lake Fausse Point State Park, Louisiana

Another sign helpfully noted the average size of an American alligator is between six and 12 feet. So it can be as long as a room.

Which reminds me of this sign:

McKittrick Canyon, Texas

.. which is like the sign I saw when I first arrived in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Predators all the same, just different teeth and wrapping.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Louisiana: Settling In

“Settling in” is a euphemism for spending a lot of money the first few days of a move-in. What I bought the first two days:


  • Toaster ($12)
  • Full-length mirror ($6)
  • Step stool that will serve as step stool, foot rest, and side table for the veranda outside ($9)
  • AA battery replenishment
  • Swiffer system – all my floors are vinyl ($20) + pad/soap refills
  • Colander ($2)
  • Dishwasher detergent ($4)
  • Small plates in the infant section – (five for $4)
  • Small glasses with lids in the infant section – (five for $3)
  • 62-oz size plastic food storage ware that I use for large bowls, such as for salads
  • Roaster pan for doing up my chickens and occasional turkey ($8)


  • Turkey on sale @ .69 per pound … Thanksgiving, you know
  • Two roaster chickens
  • Large bags of frozen brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and baby peas
  • Large bag of frozen “tropical” fruit mix
  • Plain, nonfat yogurt
  • Pumpernickel bread
  • Onions
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bag of frozen sweet potato patties
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Green peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Coffee
  • Eggs
  • Pam spray
  • Cooking oil
  • Sugar-free blackberry jam

Ouch, my wallet hurts!

What hasn’t translated to Louisiana from New Mexico

  • My shower/tub already has a shower curtain and rod, so there’s no need for the tension rod and curtain I bought in New Mexico, which I used to partition off my den from the living room.
  • I’m going to try and use my vacuum sweeper, bought in New Mexico, in my new place instead of buying a broom and dustpan. We’ll see.

What I’ve been able to re-use from New Mexico or prior purchases

  • Coffee maker
  • Flatware
  • Work table
  • Desk lamp
  • Cutting board
  • Spices
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Shelf stereo
  • Plastic 4-drawer, rolling storage cabinet
  • Skillet, some pots, baking sheet, and a small square cooking pan
  • Large stainless bowl
  • Vacuum sweeper (hopefully)
  • Twin-size sheets, pillowcases
  • Blankets
  • Pillows

As in New Mexico, I use my storage bins as side tables.

Still to get

  • Second-hand table for dining and to do artwork
  • Second-hand chairs for dining and guests
  • Second-hand office chair for working

I’ll get an air bed for visitors, but I won’t get one (or two) til right before they arrive.

I’ll work up my total relocation expenses in the near future.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Louisiana: Move-in day!

I left the hotel at a little past noon and I was completely moved in at 1:22.

I had to think a little to decide how to get the red chair/bed up the steps to my apartment. It’s not that the piece is heavy, it’s that it is very awkward, with its head and foot flopping out at random. What did the trick was to kind of roll it up the steps.

After I finished schlepping everything inside, the landlord’s main guy came by to do some work.

He did some stuff, then said: “I’ll be back tomorrow to finish. You’re moving in tomorrow, right?”

I laughed and said, “I am moved in.” 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ability to Be Rootless: The Seeds Sown

Here in Lafayette and back in Alamogordo, when I went to rent an apartment, I knew I wouldn’t fit the usual financial profile of a desirable tenant. My income is well below what lessors are looking for.

The reason I got approved at both places is that I’ve got an exceptional credit rating. I don’t have an exceptional credit rating because I was affluent in the past – that’s never been my situation. I have a sterling credit rating because:

  • I have always paid my bills.
  • I lived within my means so I could pay my bills.

A secondary reason for rental approval, if needed, is that I saved my money. I always put aside a certain percentage of my income into short-term and long-term savings. So I’ve got some savings that help reassure lessors that I do have the wherewithal to pay rent. 

I am debt-free.  

I’m not posting this to brag – I’m posting it for those of you who dream of long-term travel some day.

If you haven’t started college yet, avoid falling for the myth that you must take out student loans (or quite so much, especially for an undergraduate degree). Some strategies to offset large student loan debt:

  • Get an associates’ degree at a community college first, where it’s less expensive than a four-year university.
  • Price shop at universities. Look for value over brand.
  • Who says you have to graduate in four or five years? Take it slower and work your way through in six years. The money you save in debt could be far more important than the extra time you take.
  • Cut your monthly expenses, especially those that relate to data plans.
  • Got a late model vehicle that you owe money on, which also means full insurance and higher personal property taxes? Sell it and get a beater that you own outright, transfer to liability-only insurance, and enjoy lower personal property taxes. Crunch the numbers – this could make sense even if you lose money on the sale.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Louisiana: House Hunters, Again: Part 2

Yesterday I looked at exactly one apartment in Lafayette.

Applied for the apartment as soon as I finished looking at it.

Today: Green light! It’s mine!

I can move in on Thursday!

Do I feel lucky? Yes!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Louisiana: House Hunters, Again: Part 1

Here was my apartment hunt last year in Alamogordo.

My criteria for a place in Lafayette

  • Affordability --> As close to $500 or below as I could get
  • Location --> Proximity to music and event venues, with downtown being the top of the wish list
The hunt

Prices. I knew before coming to Lafayette that the average rents here are higher than in Alamogordo. Indeed, it seems there is an abundance of apartments for $700, with precious few at the $500 mark. When I arrived in Lafayette, I checked out a couple of the lower-priced possibilities I’d identified a week before I left Missouri, only to discover that the owners had just raised the rents by more than $150 due to a higher demand! These facilities were now way out of my price range.

There was a new development close to downtown with controlled rents designed for lower income folks, i.e. me. Even at that, the rent for the one bedroom place was a real stretch. But this didn’t matter because they were full up. Another development, also (theoretically) “affordable housing,” was not only fully occupied, its rent was completely out of my league.

Off to find a QuikQuarter, a classifieds publication that includes rental ads. I was more likely to find some places in my price range here. I did, but phone calls to the lessors revealed they’d already been snapped up.

Then I googled on “property managers” for Lafayette and got a few hits. One company had a number of rentals available, but when I filtered the results for $600 or less, only two properties remained. Eek!

Location. Neither had much curb appeal, but it was dumb luck that only that morning, when I’d gone searching for those pre-researched apartments (and subsequently learned they’d raised the rents), I had taken a wrong turn, and driven past a lovely, lovely area with a large park. So it was that I saw that both of these unlovely apartment buildings were in that area.

I favored one of the buildings for its less-unlovely looks and its cheaper rent over the other, and arranged to meet a property manager rep this afternoon:
  • Petite place, about half the size of my apartment in Alamogordo, but $50 more rent.
  • Some cosmetic and other issues, all fixable.
  • Pretty neighborhood.
  • Near main street arteries, but the traffic is not visible and, although audible, not very loud.
  • With walking distance of some very cool places.

It wasn’t going to get any better than this!

Completed the paperwork with the property management folks and settled down to wait for the green light re: approval.

Fingers crossed!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Louisiana: The Drive to My New Home, Day 2: "Why'd You Come Down Here"?

The hotel receptionist asked, "Why'd you come down here ... a man?"

I smiled. "No, the music."

She said, "Awesome."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Louisiana: The Drive to my New Home, Day 1

Nothing much to report about the drive down, although I laughed when I heard this song come on:

The lyrics

A long time ago, yeah
Before you was born, dude
When I was still single
And life was great
I held this job as a traveling salesman
That kept me moving from state to state
Well, I’m standing on the corner of Lafayette
State of Louisiana
Wondering where a city boy could go
To get a little conversation
Drink a little red wine
Catch a little bit of those Cajun girls
Dancing to Zydeco
Along came a young girl
She’s pretty as a prayer book
Sweet as an apple on Christmas day
I said, “Good gracious can this be my luck?
If that’s my prayer book
Lord, let us pray”
Well I’m standing on the corner of Lafayette
State of Louisiana
Wondering what a city boy could do
To get her in a conversation
Drink a little red wine
Dance to the music of Clifton Chenier
The King of the Bayou
Well, that was your mother
And that was your father
Before you was born dude
When life was great
You are the burden of my generation
I sure do love you
But let’s get that straight
Well, I’m standing on the corner of Lafayette
Across the street from The Public
Heading down to the Lone Star Café
Maybe get a little conversation
Drink a little red wine
Standing in the shadow of Clifton Chenier
Dancing the night away

© 1986 Words and Music by Paul Simon

Here's a Clifton Chenier song on Youtube:

You understand why I had to come to Louisiana, now, right?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Rootless Relocation: The Day Before, Again

Today's the day before the drive down to Louisiana.

  • Charged electronics
  • Did laundry
  • Finished loading the car
  • Filled up the gas tank
  • Finalized the drive route

On loading the car

The packing for going to Louisiana is different than the packing I did coming from New Mexico to Missouri. No camping involved, so it didn't matter where my camping gear was. One of the last things I did in my New Mexico apartment was to vacuum the carpet, so the vacuum sweeper got stuck into a free space behind my seat.  

My assumption for Louisiana is that I'll need to camp for awhile til I can find an apartment and get moved in. Consequently, I wanted all my camping stuff easily accessible, which I've achieved. The vacuum sweeper is stuck in the trunk up against the back seats.

Other departures

Here's what I did the day before I left for Alamogordo. 

And the day before I left for Caucasus Georgia.

And the day I left for Ethiopia.

And the day after I arrived in Playa

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rootless Relocation, D-Day Minus Two

My stuff - back into the car wit' ya!

I'm sick.

So I postponed my departure for Saturday instead of tomorrow, Friday. Which is OK - I prefer road travel on the weekends, anyway 

Didn't do much in the way of departure preparation except to wrestle the red chair/bed (my baby!) into the car, along with a big ol' storage box underneath the chair/bed's lap. Doesn't seem like much, but that act was a major packing accomplishment.   

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Rootless Relocation 2015: Planning Ahead, Maybe Too Much, But It's Fun

I'm thinking some time in January 2014, all settled in Lafayette, I'll be looking at my next international thing.

If I decide to go outside the U.S. then I expect my drive from Louisiana back to Missouri will be quite different from my drives to/from New Mexico and to Louisiana.

To wit:
  • I'll sell just about everything, my camping gear included. And the red chair/bed. 
  • So the car will be just about empty. 
  • Then I'll sell my car. 

Then I really will be at two suitcases and a backpack to my name.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Rootless Relocation Interregnum Fog

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, New Mexico. September 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, New Mexico. September 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.

I didn't know about this, but now having experienced it, I suspect it's a thing. The rootless relocation interregnum fog. Where there's only so much room in your front lobal and it's packed with too much social stimuli and routine things fall by the wayside. You don't even think about them. Like writing. Or communicating.

Lady of the Mist. Alamogordo, New Mexico. June 2013. Credit: Mzuriana.
Lady of the Mist. Alamogordo, New Mexico. June 2013. Credit: Mzuriana.

I left New Mexico at the end of September and now here it's November and I'm soon to leave my transitory stop in Missouri for Louisiana, and I haven't written about some very cool things still in New Mexico. Or much about the road trip with Carol to North Carolina and Tennessee.

Kutaisi, Georgia. Snow in the morning. February 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.
Kutaisi, Georgia. Snow in the morning. February 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.

Things are just kind of foggy.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tall Tarantula Tales of Tucumcari

From wikipedia. Artwork by: Reynold Brown

A few weeks ago, while I sat on a comfortable, raggedy couch at the Lupus General Store, in between sets at the Lupus Chili Fest, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman sitting nearby. Although he lives in central Missouri, it turns out he's originally from Tucumcari, New Mexico. .... where I'd just been before I left New Mexico, and where I saw all of those tarantulas crossing the road.

And he told me a story.

It began, "You're not going to believe this, but .."

His daddy, a farmer in those parts, told him about the time in 1955 or thereabouts, when they had to close the highway for several hours because there were so many tarantulas crossing the road one day. There were so many tarantulas on the move that the road was slick with the blood and guts of those that had been run over by the vehicular traffic, that it was treacherous to drive.

From Route 66 News, here's this 2009 account:
Mike Callens at TeePee Curios in nearby Tucumcari said that after the first frost, usually in October, the old road becomes nearly covered with tarantulas migrating. At that time, tarantulas are looking for a place to hibernate for the winter.

My new friend said he'd tried to find verification of his daddy's story, but hadn't been successful, and neither have I, yet. But based on how many tarantulas I saw within a few miles during my recent sightings, I could only imagine how many of the spiders had been crawling in the vicinity, that I didn't see.

And here's a story from cryptomundo about only one spider, but it was a giant one - in Louisiana, my new future home:

One cool night in 1948, in Leesville, Louisiana, 48-year-old William Slaydon walked his wife, Pearl, and his three grandsons to church. Among them was the youngest, Richard Partain, a child of six at the time. They walked north along Highway 171, and as the road began to dip, Grandpa Slaydon suddenly stopped his grandchildren with a gesture and had them step back quietly and freeze.
The grandchildren, aged six to thirteen, knew instinctively to obey this gesture without question. There was a rustling from the ditch, and an unbelievable creature emerged from the darkness. 
Richard Partain described: “It was a huge spider, the size of a washtub. It was hairy and black. No one, not even my grandmother, said a word.”

As they watched, the giant arachnid crossed the asphalt from East to West, and disappeared into the brush on the opposite side of the highway.

“We asked Grandpa what it was, and he said simply that it was a very large spider.”
Afterwards, all nighttime walks by the family to the church were cancelled. The incident was never discussed again with the grandchildren.