Saturday, September 27, 2014

Louisiana: What They Do in North Louisiana For Fun

Heretofore, my primary cultural informant on northern Louisianans has been Dave Robicheaux, and he's a fictional character. Dave doesn't think much of northern Louisianans.

An actual North Louisianan recently offered me some information about his homeland.

While it may be true that not much drinkin,' dancin,' music-makin' or boudin-eatin' may be going on (and y'all know these are sure-fire fun), let it not be said that North Louisianans don't know how to have a good time.

Three Things North Louisianans Like to Do for Fun: 

1. Poke a wasp nest with a stick and then run like H- E - Double Hockey Sticks

This was a favorite, childhood past-time of my informant. As noted above, my informant is of the male persuasion, information that is probably redundant considering the nature of the activity.

2. Tie a string to a june bug's leg and fly him like a kite.

When the same North Louisianan told me that when he was a child, he and his friends would tie a string around a june bug's leg and walk behind it while it flew, it sounded fantastical, but, damn, it's true! Not just in North Louisiana, but elsewhere. 

Below is a story about this very thing from a North Carolinian. The story is called June Bugs, a page from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story, administered by the library of the same name.  I wouldn't normally post an entire story from another source, but this well-told story seems to be on an archive page, and I'd hate for it to be lost in the ethernet. Wish I knew the author's name.
I REMEMBER THE FUN we had during June bug time. These big green bugs appeared from nowhere just about the season that our peaches got ripe.

We would get up early in the morning to hunt June bugs. The only equipment needed was a jar to put them in and string to tie on their legs. We had to be very particular about the kind of string we used because a piece that was too heavy would cut down on their ability to "june," and a piece that was too fine and sharp would cut off their hind legs.

An overripe peach was an excellent place to find June bugs since they like to eat soft fruit. Whenever we spied a cluster of them on a peach, we crept up on them as quietly as a cat stalks a mouse. The poor unsuspecting bugs would be poised with their heads down in the fruit and their fat green bodies sticking up, enjoying a luscious meal when our hands would close over them like a vise. They scrambled madly in our hands. Sometimes the tickling of their tiny feet was too much, and we’d have to let go. Usually, we held on until one or two were deposited in the jar.

After a good number were caught, we selected a big strong-looking bug and tied a string on his hind leg. Then we were ready for him to "june." When we threw him out in the air he would fly frantically in an arc making a buzzing sound. Sometimes one would be stubborn and wouldn’t begin to fly quickly enough to suit us, so we would give him a few hard swings around in the air to stir him up and start him buzzing.

We always evaluated each bug’s ability to "june" because some performed much better than others. As they were put through the selection process, the strings with the best "juners" were tied to a banister or a bush while the auditions continued. Quite frequently, all of the tethered ones would decide to start buzzing and flying around at the same time. This created quite a commotion and became a serious problem.

"Oh!" we screamed as we saw what was happening and then made a dive for them, but we were often too slow. The strings would get tangled in a hopeless mass as the bugs buzzed in and out around each others before we could separate them. In desperation, we would cut them loose and let them fly away, strings dangling behind them like kite tails. Sometimes, the poor things would get caught on a limb or a bush and hang there buzzing madly. If they were not too high up in a tree, we would try to liberate them, but their fate was often to provide a bird with a delectable dinner.

I mustn’t forget the awful stink that accompanied hunting for June bugs. They had a sickening odor that made vigorous hand washing necessary before the smell could be eradicated.

We usually emptied our jar of bugs in the evening, but each morning during June bug time, we would again be on the hunt to replenish the jars with big green bugs.

3. Immigrate to South Louisiana


Friday, September 26, 2014

Louisiana: New Iberia: The White Sugar Festival

I was scoping the horizon for things to do this weekend and found the Sugar Cane Festival in New Iberia. Woohoo! Ever since I arrived in South Louisiana last November, I'd wanted to be sure and go to this festival.

Excited, I checked out the bands that were to perform.

Oh. That's odd. Most often, South Louisiana festivals feature a mix of regional music: Cajun or Creole, zydeco, swamp pop, and the occasional oldies cover band. Even venues that highlight only one band at a time tend to rotate the genres.

I don't subscribe to the idea of "black music" or "white music." There's no such thing. (As a friend from another country once said, "people confuse culture with color.") Nevertheless, as I looked at the music line-up for the Sugar Cane Festival, I noticed it was firmly homogenous.

But you decide for yourself:
  • Taken Back Yesterday. Rock 'n roll cover band. 
  • Spank the Monkey. Rock 'n roll.
  • Louisiana Red. Cover band - many genres.
  • Wayne Toups. "Zydecajun."
  • Bad Boys. "Variety and dance band"
  • The Vermilion. unknown.
  • Debbie Deb.
  • Chee Whiz. "Kiss" cover band.

I can't find images for the Bad Boys or The Vermilion. I don't see the members of Wayne Toups' band. Of the bands where I can see their members, I see one black musician.

The city of New Iberia is 53% white and 42% black. Louisiana at large is 63% white and 32% black.

I perceived an exclusionary subtext in the musical line-up.

Is perception reality? No, of course not. But as they say, "perception is everything." And as I dug deeper to see if I was jumping too early to conclusions, I discovered there is a history of bad feelings surrounding this festival in the New Iberia community. 

Based on my perceptions, I made a decision not to attend this festival.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rootless: Long Walk: "This Wild Call From Inside Me"

Sarah Marquis. Source: Femina

"After a year, year and a half, I get this urge to go. I get cranky. And my family says, ‘All right, it’s time to go.’"
Source: New York Times, 25 September 2014.

Sarah Marquis is one of National Geographic's Adventurers of the Year for 2014.

The New York Times has a long interview with her in The Woman Who Walked 10,000 Miles in Three Years.

I like reading about women who take long journeys. Some previous examples: 

Rootless Lit: Eighty Days - about Nelly Bly's and Elizabeth Bisland's competitive race around the world in 1889.

Janet Moreland's (a fellow Missourian of a certain age) solo kayak trek down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in 2013.

"One Thing That Scares You A Day Keeps Apathy at Bay" with references to Molly Langmuir's solo hike in the Grand Tetons and Cheryl Strayed's solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels around the turn of the 20th century.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Louisiana: Franklin

Franklin, Louisiana.

Behind the main drag, I like the colors and shapes.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Louisiana: Delcambre: Blue Boats

Blue boats, Delcambre, Louisiana. August 2014.

Blue boats, Delcambre, Louisiana. August 2014.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Louisiana: Are You a Teacher?

Oh, how many times have I been asked that since I've lived in South Louisiana!

Strangers ask me this question, and it happened again just last night.

I respect teachers. And because South Louisiana must have more teachers per square inch than perhaps anywhere else in the world, I've had the pleasure of meeting many lovely representatives of the teaching profession here.

I have discussed this "are you a teacher?" question at some length with a local buddy, also a transplant from Not Around Here. He is of the opinion that he can identify a teacher from afar. His claim has some credibility because he used to be a teacher and had ample time to study many females of the species in their natural habitat. Last night I asked him to define exactly how one profiles a (woman) teacher, and here's what he said --> A woman is possibly a teacher if she wears a:
  • Jean skirt;
  • Flow-y skirt; 
  • Skirt that falls below the knees; 
  • Sandals with wide straps; 
  • Gabardine shirt;
  • Blouse that is worn over a skirt (i.e. not tucked in); 
  • Blouse or dress with a bold print; or
  • Shirt that covers her ass.  

He suggested I could probably go online and find websites devoted to what teachers wear. I said I would definitely do this, because based on my experience in South Louisiana, maybe my very own photo is on those websites as a Sample Teacher.

Here are the results of my search on what teachers wear. You be the judge of my buddy's analysis:

Teachers Have Lives, Too

Chioma's Evolution of Style

Pencil Lead and Lace

Again, I love teachers. But it's got to be said that teachers don't have the same panache as, say, librarians.With librarians you never know what they're going to do, like pull off their glasses, let down their hair from that tight bun, and you know, become very un-librarianlike while maintaining their presumed intellect. Librarians are unpredictable, thus a little dangerous. But not teachers. Nope, teachers go to prison for doing what librarians do.

This morning I shared my experience with several women, all of whom are native South Louisianans. I wondered if such queries might even be a local culture thing - maybe other people are approached with conjectures about their profession. Maybe it's just a conversation starter.

The jury's still out on all that, but we considered a couple of new responses to the question:

"Yes! I teach pole dancing! How could you tell?"

Flash a fake badge and say, "No, I'm with the FBI on an undercover operation, and things are about to pop. Move away or you might get hurt."

One of the woman said, "Well, what profession do you want people to think you have?"

Good question. I don't want them to have an assumption about my profession. If anyone is going to say anything, I'd like them to say to me what a stranger said to me in Bernalillo, New Mexico: "You are really having fun, aren't you?" and the answer would be yes.

Note: The fact that I am a teacher is beside the point. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lafayette, Louisiana: Sweet Baby Breezus!

Awhile back, one of my kind cultural informants introduced me to The French Press Cafe in Lafayette.

The menu seduces with smooth south Louisiana charm:

I remember my very first encounter with the sensual pleasure of a spoonful of Steen's Syrup. It felt like the shocking rush of a narcotic. Or what I imagine such to be. Not a substance to play with. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Louisiana: Lake Martin, Late Summer, #3

I like the composition and textures of this scene.

Lake Martin, Louisiana. Septmber 2014.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Louisiana: Lake Martin, Late Summer, #2

There's something about the lilypads on Lake Martin that draws me.

Lake Martin, Louisiana. September, 2014.

Lake Martin, Louisiana. September, 2014.

Lake Martin, Louisiana. September, 2014.

Lake Martin, Louisiana. September, 2014.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Louisiana: Lake Martin, Late Summer, #1

On a recent kayak tour on Lake Martin, I saw water droplets on lilypads that were more beautiful than any designer crystals. If I disturbed a leaf, the droplets moved like liquid creatures across the surface. 

Gad, how difficult it was for me and my companion to maneuver the kayak to the right spot and without movement to get a decent pic! Didn't quite succeed, but these are the best I could get:

Lake Martin, Louisiana, September 2014

Lake Martin, Louisiana, September 2014