Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Carencro: Red Blooms

Gardenias, Carencro, Louisiana, February 2015. 

What was that beneath the tree? Those red things. Scattered all over the green grass. Was it possible they were flowers - in February, already fallen from their tree? It was possible. More than that, there were tight buds, fully mature and ripe flowers, and the faded, silky brown elders.

Gardenias, Carencro, Louisiana, February 2015.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lafayette: Morning Train Rise

Morning train rise, Pinhook Road, Lafayette, Louisiana. February 2015.

A recent Saturday morning and I was on my way to a bird hike.

The morning sun and train flashing on these Lafayette buildings caught my eye.

Pinhook, I think, east of the Evangeline Thruway. Put another way: Business 90 before it takes one of those inexplicable Laffellian right-angle jumps from one road to another.  


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Relocation: Of Dreams and Reality

Moving house, near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. December 2011.

Yesterday was the third day over the course of the last two weeks that I drove up and down the streets of Opelousas looking for a black and red For Rent sign at the moment a property owner stuck it on the post, whereupon I was ready to leap out of my car, bound up to my future landlady, and make an arrangement on the spot.

Said house would be a charming little cottage or bungalow -  of which there is an abundance in Opelousa’s city center - shaded by bowed, leafy trees with a painted, plank-board porch and tall, twin front windows.

Yet again, disappointment.

My head’s been all over the map about my housing situation. Buy (because it may be more cost-effective than renting!). Rent. Go to a town I’m not all that interested in, solely because of the housing costs. Stay in Lafayette, solely because of housing availability. Hike my $500-budget up into the $600-dollar range as my new affordable and know that in Lafayette, even this gets you not much. Maybe I just need to say yes to 450 square feet and a mini fridge and smile about it.

It’s a very interesting mind-game that desperation plays on you.  More on this in another post.

In an internal Come to Jesus meeting, in which the questions about location versus charm versus price versus buy/rent floated about like words in that magic 8 ball, the desire for a location in Opelousas came out on top. The reality was that to get into Opelousas in the near future, I’m going to have to go for city limits + affordable, and forego ambiance.

There’s an apartment complex in Opelousas that may suit my newer, reality-based expectations, so getting a look inside will be my next course of action. In my current reality, I’m looking for function and not style.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lafayette: Are There Georgians Here?

No sunflower seeds, Chenier Branch, Lafayette Library, Lafayette, Louisiana.

This sign is on the entrance to the Chenier Branch of the Lafayette Library System.

The sign made me smile because it reminded me of Caucasus Georgia. 

It warrants a re-post from June 27, 2012, on the subject of Georgians and sunflower seeds:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Georgians Have Been Here

Georgians love sunflower seeds.

Sunflower seeds in Caucasus Georgia

Sunflower seeds in Caucasus Georgia

Sunflower seeds in Caucasus Georgia

I could write a post on this, but TLG colleague, Lauren, has already done it so well here.

My fantasy is of a murder mystery, where a savvy detective arrives upon the scene of the crime, looks everything over, then pronounces, "The killer is from Georgia."  When all of her comrades look at her, with mouths open, brows raised, the detective, a woman of few words, points to the ground next to the body and says, "Sunflower seeds."

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Relocation: Living With Uncertainty

Returning to South Louisiana for Year Two just two weeks before Mardi Gras may not have been the best idea. Based on my relocation experiences in the past - the speed at which I found wonderful permanent shelter, to be specific - it seemed rational to expect I'd be ensconsed somewhere cozy by the holiday.

  • The prices for temporary lodging right before a major holiday in these parts go way over my budget. 
  •  I've learned that the demand for rental property in the Lafayette catchment area exceeds supply, especially at my price range. 
  • Rental property is generally high around here, so there are significant compromises on condition, size, view, and ambiance

Based on the above realities, anxiety and discomfort have kicked in. There is a desire to stop this discomfort that has no time-certain end. This tempts me to retreat into what's comfortable, like staying in Lafayette in Year Two simply because it's a known entity, or snagging any place that is minimally acceptable solely to end the home hunt.

However, when I pause for a few minutes and take a breath, really, I've got to appreciate that I have exceptional freedom.
  • For example, I don't even have to stay in South Louisiana! I could go anywhere! 
  • The Mardi Gras holiday is only a few days - once I get past that economic hurdle, then prices settle down again and I have way more breathing space to find the right home. And if need be, I can visit another region during Mardi Gras.  A sunny beach, maybe.
  • I could buy instead of rent, taking me into an entirely new adventure. 
  • I can open myself up to a much broader range of South Louisiana location possibilities. 

Here's what a couple of folks say about living with uncertainty:

The Tiny Buddha: 7 Ways to Deal with Uncertainty

Psych Central: 5 Tips for Living with Uncertainty


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Relocation: Plan A, Plan B, and a Lie

That title comes from a quote from a former colleague: "I've always got a Plan A, a Plan B, and a lie."

I don't have a lie to tell, but when it comes to this year's relocation, I've got a Plan A, B, and maybe a C and a D.

As usual, I began my new housing search immediately upon my arrival in South Louisiana on Sunday. My Plan A relocation city is Opelousas, but yesterday, I heard the sad news that my competition for rental property in that small city is fierce, as is the competition for my price range. A real estate agent told me that you pretty much have to see the rental sign go up and knock on the door immediately or it'll be grabbed from your hands overnight.

Therefore, I've got to think in terms of Plans B, C, and D.

But before I get to those plans, this: Since Sunday, I've ruled out a number of potential residences, and I will tell you that some landlords should be ashamed of themselves for offering such wretched shelters at the prices they do. A cultural informant proposed to me that some renters, if they are tied to a particular community and have no independent transportation, are at the mercy of wolves. .... I see that. ..... And I see, too, that the towns apparently turn a blind eye to such disgrace, allowing it to continue without demanding  minimum standards of structural decency. Anyone who thinks the poor have a sense of entitlement - please. The poor are prey.

Plans B through D have me considering locales significantly more rural than originally planned.

As fictional character Bones said, "... in ignorance, I await my own surprise."

In the meantime, I'm in a comfortable airbnb house in a central Lafayette neighborhood, and I've made arrangements to move to another airbnb over the weekend.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Louisiana: My temporary home base

Joe, Daniel, and Kat in Freetown, Lafayette, Louisiana

My temporary home base is an airbnb place in Lafayette's Freetown neighborhood, which by the way, is less than a mile from my 2014 Lafayette apartment.

I first heard about Freetown when I drove down Johnston Street shortly after I moved to Lafayette in late 2013. I saw a colorful food truck that said "Freetown Fries."

Later I learned that Freetown was an early neighborhood of Lafayette (pre- and post-Civil War), home to gens de coleur libre and of men and women who were formerly enslaved and subsequently emancipated. 

Freetown is adjacent-ish to downtown Lafayette.

My airbnb hostess is Kat, Joe is the resident cultural attaché, and Daniel is a regular guest. I'm pretty sure I laughed when I met them all within my first hour of arrival, because the experience was so typical of South Louisiana - running into such interesting people.

Joe is a storyteller, anthropologist, cajun dance teacher, journalist, and ghost writer. We've discovered we know a number of folks in common.

Daniel is a sustainable fisherman and maritime professional. He grew up near the Salton Sea. In the photo above, Daniel is presenting the ceviche he'd just made. Delicioso.

Kat is a freelance copywriter and entrepreneur. Like a number of people I've met in South Louisiana, she only intended to stop a night or two in Lafayette - she was on her way to New Orleans from her home town of San Diego - and kept postponing her departure until she decided to rent a house in Freetown. To help pay the rent, she drew from her experience working at a hostel and became an airbnb host. I'm not sure Kat has made it yet to New Orleans.

Tonight, Joe doctored up two pots of gumbo that were birthed several days ago - one a gumbo vert with smoked ham and various greens pulled from the refrigerator and the other a chicken and sausage gumbo.

Two Chinese petroleum professionals are here for several weeks learning about the operation of some new equipment.   

South Louisiana is grand.

But damn it's cold this week! Where is my warm weather?  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Arkansas: Bathrooms for Tall People

The Tall-Woman Restroom

On my way to South Louisiana for Year Two, I dropped straight down through Arkansas.  I stopped at a rest area that was remarkable for three reasons:

1. Look. You men who hang stuff on walls: When you hang a mirror in a ladies' room, do NOT hang it at the appropriate height for YOU. "You" being your 6-foot, 3-inch self. I could see the top part of my head in these mirrors. Had to reach up to get soap, and then there's gonna be a cranky group of womenfolk battling to wash hands AND dry them on that piece of equipment between the two sinks. ... And while I'm on the subject, do none of you have children? They are shorter even than I. ... Then there are women in wheelchairs.

2. The cool thing about this rest area is that it actually has campsites.

3. Another notable thing is that it's the Salado Creek Rest Area. .... Which reminds me of another Salado place - November 2012, Salado Canyon, in New Mexico, where I encountered ...

Cloudcroft, NM: Salado Canyon Trail, and a Whistle Killer

Salado Canyon, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico

AKA: New Mexico: Fall Colors, Part 2

Recently, New Mexico's rails-to-trails organization opened a new trail route to Bridal Veil Falls, which is in the Salado Canyon, near Cloudcroft. Truthfully, it's closer to High Rolls, so you can go with that, if you prefer. 

I didn't go there.

But I did take a short walk on the related Salado Canyon trail, to the trestle bridge.

Before that, though, I did a due diligence search for some fall foliage, and I found a little here, at the creek crossing on the road that I have not yet followed to its end.

Salado Canyon, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico

I turned around at the creek and went back to one of the trailhead markers. Got out and almost as soon as I set foot on the trail, proceeded to slip and slide on the loose gravel.  What the heck? So I placed my feet a little more carefully, and all was fine. As I walked, I could just feel myself become lighter, airier, freer. Disney bluebirds were about to flutter into my bucolic bubble. Just as I puckered my lips in preparation for whistling a happy tune, I saw a flash of something unnaturally white in my peripheral vision, to the right.

Salado Canyon Trail, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico

I walked over to investigate.

Bones. A trail of them. Leading to an empty hide, dried and contracted from days of exposure to the sun. A dark brown pelt. Largish.

Mountain lion? Mountain lion?

Trail of bones, Salado Canyon Trail, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Carcass that used to cover said bones, Salado Canyon Trail, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico

The Disney bluebirds evaporated in a pouf, as did my whistle of a happy tune. My inner wuss had returned.

My rational mind told me not to be stupid. There wasn't even a sign at the trail head saying to watch out for mountain lions. But my wuss side tried to do numbers on my head.

This didn't keep me from continuing my walk to the trestle bridge, however. The train that used to chug its way through here was the Alamogordo and Sacramento Railway, primarily used to transport lumber from the mountains to the basin below. I'd learned from a museum docent a couple of weeks ago that once trucks were pressed into the lumber-transporting service hereabouts, it was discovered they were more economical than trains, especially since they were able to carry longer logs than the trains. So the train business petered out.  

View from trestle bridge. Salado Canyon Trail, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico

There were quite a lot of large droppings on the trail. Probably horses. I didn't take a picture of the droppings.

It was nice to stand on the trestle and listen to the creek below.

Later, once at home, and having successfully rebuffed all non-existent mountain lion attacks, I thought I'd exercise some cognitive therapy and find out how many mountain lion attacks actually occur in New Mexico. I estimated virtually none.

I didn't want to see this headline right off the bat: New Mexico Man Torn Apart by Mountain Lion.

I found a less salacious source of information here: Mountain Lion Attacks from .... . The author has compiled reports of confirmed (and unconfirmed) attacks for North America, formatted per decade. This link happens to take you to the 2001-2010 page.