Country Roads, Acadiana: The Farewell Tour of People and Places Tuesday, Apr 21 2015 

I’ve driven the highways and bayous of South Louisiana regularly for almost all of my adult life: first as a college recruiter in the late 1970’s (I met my wife on one of those memorable road trips in 1976!), as an old field hand “running” drilling mud in the mid 1980’s, and for the past almost 18 years as a college administrator traveling often for administrative high school visits.

My itineraries for these 30+ years of driving South Louisiana highways have led more often than not to

Last Thursday's "farewell tour" passed along familiar secondary highways and trails through quaint, rural places.

Last Thursday’s “farewell tour” passed along familiar secondary highways and trails through quaint, rural places.

colorful off-the-beaten-path prairie communities on secondary highways, towns and villages like Iota, Church Point, Prairie Basse and Prairie Ronde, Midland, and Erath. I have grown to love these byways so much more than the grand thoroughfares and Interstate highways that go places faster and farther, because the highways and the communities through which they run have culture, character, and friendly folk.

Last Thursday, I drove what was probably a 104 mile long farewell tour of some of those familiar places as I ran errands meeting familiar friends and colleagues at schools in Acadia, St. Landry, and Evangeline Parishes. I use “farewell tour” in the sense that, owing to impending retirement and the approaching end to the school year, I may never see some of those faces again….ever! That was a sobering thought as I bid farewell after farewell in the schools I visited.

So that thought lent a measure of sentimentality to the mission. Not the kind of mushy sentimentality that makes my eyes tear up, but a gratifying sense of fulfillment because of the relationships and friendships, professionally and socially, that I’ve forged over the years with these dear folks in these dear places.

People and places, huh? No wonder that people and places are so often the subjects of poems and stories and memoirs.

People and places should be meaningful stuff in our lives. My life is richer for knowing these.

Guys vs. Gals: The difference between shopping and store hopping Tuesday, Apr 14 2015 

I wanted to buy a suit.  Last week I noticed a good sale ad for one of the mall department stores, so I proposed to Sarah Ann that we go Saturday morning.  We got to the mall shortly after 10; By 10:30, I had rummaged through the racks,

That girl can spend three hours searching in 17 stores and never find what she's looking for.

That girl can spend three hours searching in 17 stores and never find what she’s looking for.

picked out the suit I wanted, tried it on, and paid for it.  Done.

Shall we go home?  No, Sarah is looking for skinny jeans, so being the patient and considerate spouse that I am, I happily consented.  Why, she had borne patiently with me for the 20 minutes of my shopping, so why shouldn’t I return the favor?

Six or seven stores (really, I lost count) and an hour and a half later, she had no more skinny jeans to wear than she had before.  The search was a complete flop.  We left the mall and went on to the supermarket.

This episode is but an example of a propensity I’ve noted for women-as-shoppers for years.  Both of the females in my household are much better store hoppers than store shoppers.  If the question is “Which is more important? The journey or the destination?,” they would certainly say the journey, because they can travel from one store to the next for hours on end without buying a thing.

I’ve heard the anthropologists’ explanation: Men are hunters, women are gatherers.  Hunting is a finite pursuit with a defined objective: you hunt, you find, you kill.  Gathering is an open-ended pursuit: you hunt, you find,  you keep looking to see if the next find is better than the last.  Thus, women are imbued with a patience unknown to men.  Likewise, men are imbued with objective determination unknown to women.  It’s well that we don’t hunt for them, for we might kill them; and it’s better that they didn’t find us in their gathering, because once they’d have found us, they would have taken a look, sized up the shortcomings, and kept looking for the next.

How nice that we can be civil to one another, considering the alternatives!

Scene-splitting on Friday afternoon Friday, Apr 10 2015 

A little after 4:00 p.m. on Friday (as if anybody on campus is watching the clock?) . . . a weekend waits, tantalizing moments away.

How’d we say it in ’68?

“Let’s split this scene!”

The best scene to split on Friday afternoon!

The best scene to split on Friday afternoon!

How does one split a scene?    Even as figurative expression, that makes little sense. But no matter, other figures that have the same meaning are equally senseless. For example, …

let’s hit the road…

let’s jet…

let’s haul ass…

let’s beat it…

let’s get the hell out of here…

Oh, well, it’s too late in the day in the week to make sense out of silly tropes and figures of speech.  What does make sense is turning out the lights and locking the door behind the scene that I’m walking away from for a couple of days.  That’s the best scene to split . . . especially on Friday afternoon.

An Etymological Proposal for Renaming Monday Monday, Apr 6 2015 

Mani and Sol, father sun and mother moon from Norse mythology, typify the days of the week traditional relation to astrology.

Mani and Sol, father sun and mother moon from Norse mythology, typify the days of the week’s traditional relation to astrology.

The encyclopedia declares that the day of the week Monday aligns with a celestial body, the moon, from which the proper noun is formed.

Really? Celestial rings with a connotation of enchantment, lending an exotic air to this noun naming the first day of the work week.

But Monday’s astrological sign is Cancer. What a hideous word! Admittedly, the usage context doesn’t refer to the disease. But the vile connotation attached to the word and its association with dread disease certainly fits the use better for naming the dread first day of the work-week.

Thus, a proposal: The first day of the work week should be renamed Cancer. It retains the astrological sign of the moon—-—- but assigns the day with more fitting associations of dread and ill-humor. These are the unsavory associations that the calendar evokes on Sunday evenings as workers contemplate the mournful morrow: so let our nomenclature be so flavored!

Revised expressions like “Cancer Night Football” or “rainy days and Cancer always get me down” may have to grow on us, but over time they will.

Good Friday Meditation: Whose Sorrowful Passion? Thursday, Apr 2 2015 

David Pulling:

I posted this piece 6 years ago. After Holy Thursday service this evening, it came back to me. Good stuff!

Originally posted on Inventio!:

I started off Good Friday with a leisurely extra cup of coffee and lingered longer than usual before the morning TV news before loping off for an 8:30 a.m. run through the park.  It’s good to have time off.

But amidst  the leisure, and true on every Good Friday in memory, I can’t help but reflect on the weighty significance of this annual commemoration of the Passion.   Even as I jogged this morning, the refrain of a familiar part of the Catholic mass kept reverberating in my thoughts: “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

That refrain is cast as a prayer.  I understand the weight of the petition, because the Passion certainly evokes profound feelings of unworthiness in the believer, understanding as the Christian does that Christ’s atonement is an intensely personal matter that the believer could never achieve without…

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How Light Looks at the End of a Figurative Tunnel Monday, Mar 30 2015 

I’ve been counting down months and days to “R” day (retirement) since February 2014. The July 26, 2015 date has remained a more or less conceptual ideal that’s been slow to materialize in reality, since I continue from day to day in the same routines and rhythms of going to work as I have for many years past.

Helping a student with registration this morning, though, I came across the first symbolic representation that suggests “R” Day is more than a concept. It’s a reality whose substance materialized on the display in LSU Eunice’s my.courses, the academic services interface we use for advising students and managing registration. When I opened up the frame for Fall Semester 2015, here’s what I saw for my teaching schedule:

No courses scheduled: Free at last!

No need to verify—-It’s correct!

For the past umpteen years, the upcoming semester schedule on that frame showed my assigned classes, a list of two or three courses by title and section number.

My first reaction seeing that empty space with the “no courses” was “Yikes!” as if my self-actualization had been cancelled—- I am zealous for teaching, as I invest much pride and effort in the work:  You know, “I teach; therefore, I am.”

But after the idea settled in, I dealt with it just fine. Now I recognize the imagery of the vacant screen as an allegorical representation of light at the terminus of this figurative tunnel in which I’ve burrowed for almost 28 years.

Yes, I see the light: There is an end, and it’s in view!

Short Timin’ Thursday, Mar 26 2015 

Today marks the 4-months-remaining checkoff from retirement, or at least phase 1 of retirement since I truly don’t intend to stop work. Anyway, I got some satisfaction in an Academic Council meeting this afternoon as we laid an agenda item on the back-burner to be revived and rolled out for advisor training at the Fall Semester Faculty Workshop in August.

I won’t be there for the training!!!!

I move on, the University moves on, and life moves on. I find some strange fulfillment in this process.

The revised academic permissions form we approved today will not affect me: I'll be gone!

The revised academic permissions form we approved today will not affect me: I’ll be gone!

What comes around goes . . . or rolls . . . around Thursday, Mar 19 2015 

Ten years ago, a college student would rather be caught dead than riding an old-school cruiser bicycle. My own kids, of that undergraduate generation, called these bikes “MaMaw” riders.

These pastel-colored girlie cruisers are the present rage on campus.

These pastel-colored girlie cruisers are the present rage on campus.

But this two-wheeled ride is the vogue on the campus where I work this year. The students view these throw-back bikes as cool.

What’s the next come-back fad? Full-length racoon-skin coats? Freshman beanies? Panty raids?

We’ll see in the next year or two . . . since, as the ancient teacher of Ecclesiastes surmised in Near Eastern antiquity, “What is [truly] new under the sun?” We (or our parents or grandparents) have seen it all before.  The current generation of students is not as chic and original as they fancy themselves.

Of course, neither was my campus generation  40 or so years ago.

Daddy and the Banana Boat Legacy Thursday, Mar 12 2015 

I buy bananas by the quick-sale tote bag. Yes, partly because I’m cheap and the price is reduced, but also because I prefer eating a brown speckled banana that’s a shade past ripe—-ideally, midway between perfectly ripe and slightly overripe. Sarah took this photo of the batch I brought home from Rouses earlier in the week and posted it on Facebook to poke fun at my on-the-cheap bananas bargain.

Cheap 'nanners from the quick-sale rack:  The stuff of family lore.

Cheap ‘nanners from the quick-sale rack: The stuff of family lore.

After reading some of the ensuing comments and jibes that began to appear in the Facebook thread, I remembered stories Daddy told of his childhood in the Mississippi River suburbs of New Orleans. In those days, banana boats from South America—-ships, actually—-docked along the shore. The ship’s crew discarded overripe or damaged bananas by tossing them overboard into the River. Daddy and his resourceful buddies, conditioned by the economic hardship of the Great Depression and no doubt savoring bananas as an exotic treat, dove into the water and salvaged the fruit as reclaimed bounty. I think he told us they sold bananas for a few pennies or a nickel each, but I’m also pretty sure he and his buddies liberally tasted their wares, too. Fresh fruit of any kind in working class households of that underprivileged era amounted to a luxury that my spoiled generation can hardly appreciate.

All that makes me wonder: As Daddy was a professed cheapskate and an accomplished ‘nanner scavenger, could my fetish for reduced-price bananas from the grocery’s discard rack stem from DNA?

I don’t know the answer to that question for sure, but even if the propensity isn’t genetic, it’s certainly bound in heritage and adds another entertaining yarn to the collected family lore. May posting it as a memoir here preserve it for posterity.

Harbingers of spring: DST and pine blossoms Tuesday, Mar 10 2015 

Pollen is part of the price of spring.

Pollen is part of the price of spring.

I can make it now . . . to spring.

My last post lamented the dogged and relentless grip of the 2015 winter season. What a difference a few days makes! And warmer days just in time for the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. I celebrated the first weekday of DST yesterday evening by transplanting a shrub after supper. Yes, yard work after supper! For the past five months, “after supper” meant varied degrees of too dark/too cold to do anything outside.

Actually, I would have done more in the yard yesterday but for the nasty drizzle that set in, but at least we relaxed outside on the patio until well after 7:00, enjoying the daylight and the comfortable outdoor temperature.

This morning during a break from the office, I noticed the pine trees are beginning to bud. That’s a reinforcing omen that the grip of winter is loosening. In a few weeks, those blossoms will ripen and release sheets of yellow-green pollen that will generously coat outdoor surfaces and the linings of our nasal and sinus passages. An episode of hayfever and a sneeze or two notwithstanding, the gay advent of spring will be well worth the fleeting pollen season’s discomfort and irritation.

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