No Sweat? No Way! Tuesday, Jul 19 2016 

God did not create  Mid-July  in the Deep South for man’s comfort.  This week, we enter the climatological peak of the summer season, in fact.  The  atmosphere, saturated with dew point and dripping humidity, remains intolerable for the entirety of each 24 hour period, save for occasional relief from the downdraft of a passing shower.  But even those periods of thunderstorm relief are short-lived, because once the storm passes  and the clouds give way to the re-emergent

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Actors in Summer Commercials: They always smile, they never sweat.

sun, the rain-dampened earth cooks up a natural steam bath more sweaty than before the storm.

So this time of year, when I see commercials on TV set in verdant sun-drenched landscapes, showing carefree characters lounging about comfortably in light pastel colors or engaged in pleasurable pursuits  of outdoor recreation and leisure, with nary a bead of perspiration popping out on their  brow or sweaty armpit rings dampening their shirts, I declare, “Humbug!”

And I wish I could crawl into the phony, idyllic world of that commercial just for a few hours.

But alas, all we can do is pine for shorter, cooler days come October.  Meanwhile, we sweat on.

 

Dog Daze? Tuesday, Jul 12 2016 

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Marley: “Wake me up to go outside when it’s October.”

The climatological peak of summer along the Deep South Gulf Coast is upon us.  An hour ago as I drove through town on some errands, the temp registered 97.

No problem for Sadie and Marley, though.  Their dog “daze” comes not from panting in the sweltering, dusty shade outside but from napping the afternoons away on the cozy carpets inside the air-conditioned house.  They’ll come to life for a few hours late this evening right before sunset, go outside and bark at passing cats and bike riders they can see on the next-street-over from their backyard outpost, and on really lucky days, chase down an unlucky lizard crawling along the side of the house.

But once the sun starts to set and the mosquitoes begin to buzz, they come in to retire for the night in their kennels.

Sure looks like some variation on hibernation to me.  And if not hibernation, then I guess we’ll call them plain old spoiled-rotten.

Grilled Gator, Anyone? Saturday, Jul 9 2016 

IMG_0563Browsing through our local Winn Dixie yesterday, we came across a display featuring these packages of frozen alligator filet.  Looking more closely at the  label, this package is processed right here in our South Louisiana hometown.  Authentic Louisiana fare!

I wonder how other parts of the country regard alligator as  grilling fare?   We run into alligator occasionally on restaurant menus.  For example, I’ve had fried gator nuggets as an appetizer, and I once had an alligator sausage po’boy  in New Orleans.  I know, too, that some Cajun cooks use it in sauce piquant, though I’ve never sampled gator in that genre.

Do I like alligator?  Why not, I suppose.  (If I would eat Rocky Mountain oysters, I surely wouldn’t run from a slice of gator flesh!).  For my taste, it’ll never replace oysters or even shrimp as my go-to seafoods of choice.  But I’m certainly not opposed to eating alligator, either.

The idea of grilling it seems novel, but some Facebook friends assured us that the packager of this product, Riceland Crawfish in Eunice, Louisiana, publishes a cookbook that has tasty recipes.  We’ll do a little research and see what happens.  Grilled gator on the patio just may be a Lou’siana thing to do on a Saturday afternoon.

Mid-Summer Review: The State of the Vacation Monday, Jul 4 2016 

It’s been 19 years since I had a school teacher’s summer off, but the rhythm of the routine is  coming back to me.  Today, July 4, marks the more-or-less mid-way point between the last school year’s glorious release and the tension of the upcoming school year’s ramping up.

“How’s it going?” I ask at this half-way juncture?  I spent some time today reflecting on the answer to that question.

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Summer vacation is the season of patio-dwelling.

Basically, the time has gone gloriously well.  Unlike summers over 19 years ago when I got off from teaching for June/July/August, I wasn’t really off because I had to work and/or go to graduate school.  And the last 19 summers at LSUE, of course, were work as usual in the relentless administrative grind of higher ed, which afforded no time off for summer.

This summer, by comparison, is totally a lark.  I rise each day (without the annoyance of an alarm clock’s demand) with a plan to do more or less what I want to do when I want to do it.  The routine I’ve cultivated includes work out/sweat in the morning, followed by chill-out in the afternoon when the sultry Gulf Coast’s inhospitable summer heat and humidity spoils any enjoyment of the outdoors.  We run to Lafayette at least once a week and raid our favorite shopping places, especially Rouse’s market where we look for weekend patio fare.   I have thought little—if any—about school next year.

The routine will begin an evolution from this point on.  I’ll continue the laid-back activity pattern, especially for most of July, but I’ll also begin thinking some about school next year.  I’ve already calendared some school meetings later this month, in fact.  The determined disdain of all thoughts pertaining to school and school work that prevailed in the early weeks of June will evolve into thoughts, ideas,  plans, and even excitement for the upcoming academic year as its advent rises on the horizon.  Recalling the early years of my teaching career in the 1990’s, I now recall that familiar rhythm of the school year, which gives teaching quite an advantage over other occupations that don’t have beginning-and-ending cycles, including a 2 1/2 month season of renewal during the summer.

Yes, I like this rhythm.  Especially since I am collecting two pay checks throughout the summer months—-one for retirement from the State, the other for active payroll—-without having to report to work.

So in  final analysis, the review of Summer 2016 at this mid-point concludes  “Thumbs up.”  This is a good lifestyle—-I wear it well.

 

An Evolution of Happy Spaces Thursday, Jun 30 2016 

We created our backyard happy place out of a dog pen/storage area.  From year to year since circa 2010 we’ve added and embellished the natural effects with landscaping and decor.  This comparative view from June 30, 2013 to today’sdate shows part of that evolution.   Sadie and Marley were on the patio this morning but couldn’t be coaxed out of their comfort to replicate the pose from 3 years ago.

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2013

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Today, 3 years later

 

Run in the Sun, Walk in the Shade Monday, Jun 27 2016 

At 9:30 this morning, the temp was 90, the humidity 90, and the dew point 76.  Perfect misery.  The conditions have been like this for almost a week now.  Do I get used to it?  Not really.image

But I do adjust the strategy for workout routines.  Whereas I attempt to run more than walk in moderate seasons, I back off the intensity on days like these.  The pattern that works is run in the sun, walk in the shade.  Hustle through the vicious spaces flooded by ultraviolence, tarry through the respites of the deep tree shade.

It’s still miserable, but so far the strategy has averted heat stroke.   Now, if we can just make it to October …

Summer Solstice: Favorite Day of the Year Tuesday, Jun 21 2016 

Yep, I believe June 20, the anniversary of the lunar cycle’s summer solstice, is the best day

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This longest day is the best day.

of the year simply because there’s more day in the day.  Here’s a short list of reasons.

  • In my post-retirement career, the entire month of June—-along with July—-is a total vacation.  As a result, June 20 affords more hours of vacation than any other day of the year.
  • The summer solstice occurs at the peak of bloom and blossom.  The outdoors are lush and verdant.
  • We are outdoor-loving patio dwellers at heart.  We live and play outdoors, weather-permitting, most of the year.  We rarely come in before dark, so this is out longest-lasting evening of the year for many of our favored pursuits.
  • The despised dog days of summer are yet to come.  Some of spring’s temperate moderation persists for most of June, so there’s usually nothing in the weather to abhor, as there will be a month or so later.

Heat Relief? Saturday, Jun 18 2016 

Was it just over a week ago that I took this photo from the high point of the Trail Ridge Road, high above the tree line, in the barren, snow-swept heights of the Colorado Rockies?

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Pinch me: Was I really beholding this breath-taking scene just a little over a week ago?

Today is the Saturday after returning from the Rockies. Since coming home this past week we observed the heat index surpass 100  every day.  Worse, from day to day, the moderating breeze we noted early in the week has grown fainter and fainter.  If early-afternoon patio conditions were oppressive Tuesday and Wednesday, I don’t have a word for what the conditions felt like the last couple of days.  Words like murderous, brutal, cruel, and withering come to mind.  Adding to the discouragement we feel about this early season oppression is the consideration that we’re still officially in spring.  Summer doesn’t begin until next week!  How much longer must we endure this sun-swept season of mosquitoes, flies,  and slimy sweat?

The prospect for relief is dreary, since the calendar’s reality  is as unalterable as Gulf Coast climatology.  The rest of June, along with July and August, must run their inexorable  steamy courses as we yearn for the relief that attends the arrival of September and October.  (And hopefully dodging hurricanes as we make out way through those months!)

With little prospect for relief, I’ll just gaze at this photo from our Rocky Mountain spring  as I close my eyes and recall the sensory details of that vacation morning: the sky-blue canopy overhead, the frosty chill of the thin mountain air,  and the biting wind sweeping across the tundra on that morning may not evaporate today’s humidity and perspiration, but I will certainly smile appreciatively that I have those memories to covet against the ravages of summertime in Louisiana.

 

The Rocky Mountain Oyster Review Monday, Jun 13 2016 

I grew up in South Louisiana.  I married Cajun and saw my kids raised Cajun.  As a result, you can’t tell me much about exotic culinary fare.  The resourceful people of Louisiana are renowned for their creative preparation of anything that’s remotely edible, from pigs feet to beef tongue to gar fish to  stuffed pork stomach and dozens of other tasty delights that, to the taste of the American masses, would seem questionable at best, disgusting at worst.

So when my family was introduced to Rocky Mountain oysters 14 years ago on a visit to a childhood friend in Colorado, we weren’t as skittish as a lot of folks are at the idea of trying out this regional delicacy.  (If you don’t know what Rocky Mountain oysters are, look it up–I’m sure Google will explain.  I’m pretty sure the recipe is a cowboy thing).  The RMOs we tasted were batter fried and, like almost everything fried in hot grease,  they tasted pretty good.

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Rocky Mountain oysters served at the Wapiti Pub in Estes Park

On vacation last week in Colorado, my son, who was a college student when we first tried the dish 14 years ago, came to Colorado committed to sampling RMOs once again. He went online and searched the menus of eateries in Estes Park.   He found the Wapiti Pub, which offers RMO’s as an appetizer.  So last Saturday for lunch we sought out the Wapiti and ordered our  appetizers before our main courses.  My daughter-in-law and granddaughter had never eaten RMOs, so they were baptized to the experience.

We all were pleased with our choices, although  I believe our satisfaction was as much about being brave enough to consume RMOs as it was about how good they taste.  They taste fine, of course, but I would draw this line: I will NEVER trade a mess of fried RMOs for a mess of real Louisiana fried  oysters.

But, I may have them again next time I dine at a Colorado restaurant that serves them.  Eating Rocky Mountain oysters makes me feel adventure, and Colorado’s all about that.

 

 

 

Of Mountain Streams and Poetry Thursday, Jun 9 2016 

Thoughts along the banks of Fall River, Colorado …

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Of poems and earth: a mountain stream rushes downward on its noisy course, splashing over rocks and branches. Praise to the almighty Author of this magnificent piece!

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