Friday, October 30, 2015

Opelousas: The Honey Comb Barber Shop

The Honey Comb Barber Shop, Highway 190, Opelousas, Louisiana.

Every time I passed this barber shop, which is on the west end of Opelousas, on Highway 190, I wanted to pull over to take pictures. Finally, I did so.

The Honey Comb Barber Shop, Highway 190, Opelousas, Louisiana.

I'm glad I did because there is a plan to repaint the barber shop, according to a gentleman who lives nearby. But maybe the new will be just as sweet as the old.

The Honey Comb Barber Shop, Highway 190, Opelousas, Louisiana.

I always smile when I think about men in barber shops, and also in local diners, where groups of them gather in the mornings after the first breakfast rush passes. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Women take the rap for gossiping, but men are no slouches in this department.

The Honey Comb Barber Shop, Highway 190, Opelousas, Louisiana.

In the photo below, I like the listing of oils, lotions, and incense. A tradition of millennia, is it not? To soothe one's skin and spirit with tactile care.

The Honey Comb Barber Shop, Highway 190, Opelousas, Louisiana.

A ritual of self-grooming and social grooming that all of us living creatures seem to need.

The Honey Comb Barber Shop, Highway 190, Opelousas, Louisiana.

Monday, October 26, 2015

South Louisiana Musicians: The Band Courtbouillon

The Band Courtbouillon, Festival Acadiens et Creoles 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana.

The Band Courtboullion is an assembly of principals from three crazy-popular South Louisiana bands: Wilson Savoy of the Pine Leaf Boys, Wayne Toups of, well, Wayne Toups "zydecajun," and Steve Riley of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.

The Band Courtbouillon, Festival Acadiens et Creoles 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana.

At the Festival Acadiens et Creoles 2015, Courtbouillon played on the lawn of the Hilliard Art Museum.

The Band Courtbouillon, Festival Acadiens et Creoles 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana.

As their bands' leaders, the three musicians play the accordion. But as The Band Courtbouillon, Wilson Savoy often picks up the fiddle and Steve Riley the guitar.

The Band Courtbouillon, Festival Acadiens et Creoles 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana.

The three men have distinct singing voices. This cubes the band's repertoire, as the band can present three songs with but one set of lyrics, with each lead singer able to offer a different translation of the same song.

The Band Courtbouillon, Festival Acadiens et Creoles 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana.

The Band Courtbouillon, Festival Acadiens et Creoles 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana.

Here's a short interview the Courtbouillon members in 2013:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Loose Ends: New Mexico: Bottomless Lakes State Park

Bottomless Lakes State Park in New Mexico presents sweet surprises to its visitors.

I discovered recently that I have a 360 video of a spot in the park's Wetlands Trail: 

Below is my original post about the park, published on May 7, 2013:

Bottomless Lakes State Park: Another New Mexican Surprise

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico 

I didn't have high expectations for Bottomless Lakes State Park. The photos on the New Mexico state parks page are a bit shoulder-shrugging, but since visiting all of New Mexico's state parks is one of my goals, I made my plans and went.

(A note to the state of New Mexico: I like your "find a state park page," but once you click through, the information for each of the state parks is inadequate in presentation and content. There aren't even directions to get to the parks. And wouldn't a link on each park page to your parks events calendar be nice? And because New Mexico is so rich in federal public lands, perhaps a link in that direction, as well?)

One of the coolest things about New Mexico's geography is that in one spot, you can look out over the horizon and see an uninterrupted plain of scrabbly flora and sandy soil. But take a few steps forward and a new world opens at your feet.

Thus Exhibit A at Bottomless Lakes State Park:

Exhibit A, Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

 And Exhibit B, just a few steps into the frame, so to speak:

Exhibit B, Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

Thanks to the very pleasant volunteer at the park's visitor center, I learned how deep are the sinkholes - or cenotes - that dot the park, and how salty the water.

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

Visitors can swim in one of the sinkholes. At that lake are a couple of pretty stone buildings and shade structures with picnic tables.

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

On the day I visited, there was lots of activity at the swimming hole.

Just across the street from this large sinkhole was a quiet boardwalk trail (the Wetlands Trail) with intermittent stick-built structures, I'm guessing birdwatching blinds, but also the perfect cool, shady places to lug your folding chair to and have a cool lunch, with only the sounds of birds, bubbling water, and sweet breezes to keep you company. I had this pleasant boardwalk trail entirely to myself.

On the surface, the wetlands soil is a mass of white or off-white crystalline crusts, some flat against the surface; others clustered around twigs, plants, or objects. If you push your finger into the surface just a little bit, you'll bring up water.

Do you see the perfect little paw print below?

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

I placed an earring close by for a size perspective.

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

It's funny how there's a thin, red layer of silt over the white gypsum at the park.

The tamarisk, aka the Water-Sucking Soldiers, were in bloom the weekend I visited. 

A slide show:


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Washington, Louisiana: Squirrel Cookoff

Je suis desolée that I missed the Squirrel Cookoff at Willie's Campground in Washington.

But holy gee, already this past weekend I was committed to the superb inaugural Experience Louisiana Eunice festival, a visit to the Saturday morning zydeco doins' at Cafe des Amis, a musical food fest at the Opelousas Farmers Market on Saturday afternoon, put on by Wilfred Kinnerson of Briskett Baskett, the St. Landry Catholic Church cemetery tour in the evening, capped off with my first time at La Poussiere in Breaux Bridge. 

Damn it.

How did they prepare the squirrel? Did anyone offer squirrel brains? Were bushy squirrel tails somehow insinuated into the festival? Did diners have to pick buckshot out of their meals?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Opelousas: Magnolia Fruit

Magnolia fruit, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.

On the campus of the St. Landry Catholic Church, on the corner where Union Street takes a 90-degree turn, across the street from the "Turkey Neck Dinner" diner, is a magnolia tree.

Magnolia fruit, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.

In October, its fruit laid among the fallen leaves, mulch, and a bottle or three of pocket-size Seagram's.

Magnolia fruit, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.

Magnolia fruit, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.

Magnolia fruit, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.

Magnolia fruit, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.

Magnolia fruit, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Louisiana: An Evening Hike at Chico State Park

From an evening hike a couple of days ago at Chicot State Park:

Mushrooms on a log, Chicot State Park. October 2015.

Golden silk orb-weaver, Chicot State Park, Louisiana. October 2015.

Sighted, but not photographed, were a couple of speedy armadilloes and a dainty pair of deer.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Washington, Louisiana: Cedar Hill Cemetery

Cedar Hill Cemetery, Washington, Louisiana. Eugene Lemontey, born in France and died in Washington.

The village of Washington, Louisiana, lists four historic cemeteries:

  1. Cedar Hill Cemetery
  2. Hebrew Rest Cemetery
  3. Hinckley Family Cemetery
  4. Old Church Landing Cemetery (aka Yellow Fever Cemetery)

Cedar Hill Cemetery, Washington, Louisiana.

One day, I took a quick look at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Cedar Hill Cemetery, Washington, Louisiana.

I have so much appreciation for individuals who give their time and careful attention to identifying and mapping the inhabitants of graves in cemeteries. Here is a list of the deceased buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery.  The names. These families are still here, as they have been for hundreds of years. From the name list, you can click through to a photo of the person's grave. Sometimes there is additional information about the individual.

Decades ago, when my mother researched her family's genealogy, she traveled to different sites in the US and in Canada, visiting libraries, exchanging letters with people and organizations who might have the information she sought. Now - so much of this data is a click away. 

It's a beautiful thing.

Cedar Hill Cemetery, Washington, Louisiana.

I am curious about the putty-colored box in the tree above. Is it for beekeeping?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Learning to Dance: The Pause

Dancing La Marinera in Tularosa, New Mexico. San Francisco de Paula Festival 2013.

Last year, at the Feed 'n Seed, I danced with an older gentleman. A slow-ish song. About 30 seconds into our dance, he said quietly in my ear, "Slow down, we're not in a hurry to go anywhere."

This centered me right then, and for the rest of the dance, I could be in the moment with where my partner was going and which rhythm line of the song he was choosing.

Holi Festival 2014, Lafayette, Louisiana.

Earlier in the year, before the Feed 'n Seed experience, at a Vermilionville Bal du Dimanche, a woman generously tutored me on a zydeco movement. I had taken zydeco lessons a month or so before, and I'd learned a basic zydeco shuffle in which every beat of the eight-count in zydeco was accounted for with a step or tap. But this woman was showing me something different. I didn't see the eight counts in her steps, I couldn't replicate her movements, and it confounded me.

I asked her about the step count, and she said - bless her generous heart - "don't worry about counting, just move with the music." I couldn't do anything with that information, so I asked her to keep demonstrating her steps until I could solve the mystery. She graciously complied.

Finally, I saw it.

On the third and seventh steps, she PAUSED. The fourth and eighth step were there, but "silent." Ohhhhhh.

When I excitedly shared my newfound understanding, the woman looked a little puzzled, and then shrugged, as if to say "whatever," apparently not excited as I about my tremendous breakthrough in understanding. I'm guessing she had so internalized her step movements, she didn't even notice the pause, and thus didn't think to explain it.

Feed n Seed, Lafayette, Louisiana.

These two experiences planted seeds in my neonatal dance mind, but they didn't stick until I took a new round of zydeco dance lessons this month.

The instructor informed me several times that I was going through movements too quickly. He EXPLICITLY directed me to pause. He hammered these points when I struggled to make turns correctly, so that I'd finish on the right foot at the right beat.

Finally, I got it. I have to PAUSE when I take that first turn-step.

The pause makes all the difference.

There is a maturity, an elegance, a sensuality, in the dance pause.

It's gratification delayed, it's listening and feeling, it's a breath.

Related posts: 

Learning to Dance: Solving for X
Learning to Dance: The Tao of Following

Friday, October 9, 2015

Good Night, Newm.

I left New Mexico in September 2013. This is a lost love letter, found.

Good night, Newm.

Good night, trains going east, west, north, and south.

Good night, dancing skeletons.

Good night, soaptree yuccas, my waving roadside soldiers.

Good night, American, Navajo, Mescalero, Chiricahua, Lipan, Jicarillo, Zuni, Hopi, Pueblo, Tortuga, Spanish, Mexican, German, and all of the ghost residents who rest below your soil.

Good night, fragrant roasted chiles.

Good night, Sacramento, Organ, San Andres, Jemez, Guadalupe, Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Good night, twin sunrises and twin sunsets.

Good night, shimmery White Sands.

Good night, grandiose Tularosa Basin.

Good night, sonic booms.

Good night, little red ants.

Good night, tarantulas.

Good night, pretty tamarisk.

Good night, tumbleweeds.


When I left New Mexico and entered Texas, back in September 2013, on my way to Missouri, I felt the slightest physical tug, as if I pushed through a living membrane that separated one world from the next.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

South Louisiana Musicians: Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters

Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters. Washington Catfish Festival 2015. 

Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. is what some folks might call a show musician. He and the Zydeco Twisters are high-energy.

You might notice the apron that Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. is wearing. Based on what I've read, the use of the apron became a tradition for some Zydeco accordionists, as it protected the instrument from the performer's sweat.

Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters. Washington Catfish Festival 2015. 

He doesn't pull as many people onto the dance floor as other performers, but he definitely keeps the audience's happy attention.

Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters. Washington Catfish Festival 2015. 

I caught him at the Washington Catfish Festival 2015. A gorgeous festival day in a beautiful park.

Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters. Washington Catfish Festival 2015. 

 Enjoy the video below from the 2012 Oyster Festival, covering a James Brown and a Michael Jackson song:

He's the son of the original Rockin' Dopsie, who died in 1993, and who was born in Carencro, just down the road from my temporary Opelousas home. Another of the original Rockin' Dopsie's sons, Alton (Tiger), plays drums in the Zydeco Twisters band, and a second brother, Anthony, plays accordion and sings. A third brother, Dwayne, fronts his own band, called Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers.

From Heart of Louisiana: The Dopsie Brothers, by Dave McNamara: 
Their real family name is Rubin, but dad became Dopsie when he first started playing music.
"My daddy said he got the name from a guy that danced jitterbug from Chicago," said Rockin' Dopsie Jr. He used to be a jitterbugger and his name was Dopsie, and when he died, my daddy took the name as a young kid and started playing accordion and he call himself Duped , little Dopsie."

Rockin Dopsie (original), aka Alton Rubin. Source: All About Blues Music.

(In the photo above, what do you notice about how Rockin' Dopsie, Sr. held his accordion?)

Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters get your blood racing, sha.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Louisiana: Cane Harvest Begins, and a Song

Harvesting sugar cane. Louisiana. November 2013.

On Saturday morning, on my way to Lafayette, as I listened to KRVS' Saturday morning show, Zydeco Est Pas Sale, the DJ acknowledged the start of the sugar cane harvest. In its honor, he played Clifton Chenier's bluesy waltz, Je Suis en Recolteur (I Am a Farmer).

The words in English:

They call me a cotton picker
They turn around and call me a corn breaker
I'm a cane cutter, oh yes, I'm a cane cutter.

I'm a potato digger.

Ain't no way, ain't no way, baby, you're gonna starve with me around.

I'm a cotton picker, a potato digger
I'm a cane cutter.

Oh, oh yeah, yeah darlin'

I'm a cotton picker
I'm a pecan cutter 
And baby, I'm a potato digger.

But everybody got to know where I'm a farmer
Everything gonna go wrong.
Everything gonna go wrong.
Oh yeah, baby.


Related links:

Louisiana: Sugar Cane (December 2013)

Jeanerette, Louisiana: The Sweetest Place in Louisiana (January 2014)


Friday, October 2, 2015

Louisiana: Neutral Ground and Buggies

Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. View from the boulevard. September 2011.

Neutral ground

A couple of weeks ago, two acquaintances talked about Crowley and the wide expanse of its Main Street, mentioning the neutral ground. I smiled inside, feeling pleased that I actually knew what they meant when they said "neutral ground."

This is only because, back when I first moved here, a native North Louisianan had told me that the "neutral ground" is what South Louisianans (really, more specifically, perhaps folks in New Orleans) call medians. Which is what Midwesterners like me call that (often) grassy strip of grass that divides a highway or thoroughfare.

Some New Orleans people attempt to explain the history of the neutral ground below:


By the way, here's an old movie of downtown Crowley from 1915:

And here's what downtown looked like after a 1940 flood:


Horse-drawn or baby-carrying, right? Or vehicles you drive over sandy hills?

True enough. But in South Louisiana, a buggy is what Midwesterners call a grocery cart or shopping cart. I didn't know anything about this until I was checking out at a Champagne's (shawm-pines) grocery store, and the cashier asked me if I needed help with my buggy.

Perplexed, I asked, "What?"

She repeated her question.

While my brain gears slowly rotated in search for meaning, she realized I wasn't from here and translated for me.