Madame Grande Doigts va passer ce soir! Wednesday, Dec 31 2008 

I never heard of Madame Grande Doigts (Mrs. Long Fingers) until I married a Cajun girl and learned of the traditional folk character who visits Prairie Cajun households on New Years Eve and stuffs the Christmas stockings one last time with a New Year’s gift or two.  Madame Grande Doigts’ gifts are typically on a lower scale than the main event of Santa’s passing on the preceding Christmas Eve, but the benevolent stocking-stuffer adds a final magical touch to the season of gifts and giving.

In our household, we observe Madame Grande Doigts faithfully every year.  Even now as I type, every member of the family, including the grown-up parents and kids, has a stocking tacked to the mantle with his or her name stitched or embroidered on it, waiting for la vielle to dispense her gifts while we sleep.

I Googled “Madame Grande Doigts” and didn’t come up with much.  (If it doesn’t have an entry in Wikipedia, does it exist????)  I really want to find out the historical roots of the tradition.  Does it come from France? Canada?  Or is it strictly a Louisiana tradition?  

I’m surprised, too, that many of the locals in this very Cajun part of Louisiana where I live are unfamiliar with Madame Grande Doigt’s New Years tradition.  So I’m curious.  Maybe someone who reads this blog will post an informative comment so we can all learn more of the cultural backgrounds.

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Hot wheels of grace Tuesday, Dec 30 2008 

The family gathering the day after Christmas in Bogalusa was awesome. When we left late that afternoon, I could not imagine anything greater than what we had experienced already. And as lagniappe, my pickup was loaded with firewood donated by my kind brother-in-law and sister. Life could not be finer!

But a final lesson of the day was yet to be learned.

The lesson started early that morning when we met our traveling companions, son Zach and his family in Crowley. I was surprised that Zach and family were traveling in his pickup rather than the SUV. “Surely,” thought I, “the SUV would be more comfortable.” But that decision was their business, so well enough. He and his little family followed us all the way to Bogalusa.

As we readied to leave Bogalusa at the end of the day, Zach mentioned his need to buy gas before he got on I-12. To myself, I mused, “Why should I wait on him? I have enough fuel to go home!” I felt at that point that we should part ways.

But I couldn’t separate us from our children (and grandchild!), nor would Sarah let me, so again we stuck together.

We got on the interstate at Covington after tanking up, and after a few miles, my phone rang. Zach, trailing behind us, told me urgently, “Pull over. NOW! Your tire is on fire.”

I pulled over alongside the Interstate. Turns out it was not the tire but the brake or some internal part of the wheel. White smoke billowed from the rim for several moments as I watched alongside I-12, the post-Christmas traffic whizzing by 70 mph in both lanes less than 15 feet from me.

After the wheel cooled off a little, just short of dialing 911, I decided we’d try it again. Three or four miles down the road, more white smoke from the wheel. I pulled over again.

This time, I suggested to Zach, “Let’s offload as much of this wood as we can from my truck to yours.” I was grasping at straws, perhaps more desperate than rational.  But right there, along the shoulder of the Interstate, we a little over half of the load.

And wouldn’t you know?  A hundred twenty or so miles after lightening the load, and several stops to check the wheel which by now was behaving fine, we made it home!

Why did my son’s family travel in the pickup?  Why did we stick together on the way home after I wanted to split up?

What can I offer but, “Grace rules!”  And family really does matter!

Po’boys at the Acme Oyster House Wednesday, Dec 24 2008 

Yesterday on a family holiday outing to the Acme Oyster House, anew-orleans-poboys legendary New Orleans French Quarter-based restaurant with several regional locations from the New Orleans suburbs to Baton Rouge, I ordered my traditional favorite sandwich of all times: an oyster po-boy. Gosh, it was good–almost as good as those classic po’boys I remember getting from Nathan’s Bar and Sandwich Shop in downtown Covington during the po160’s. Any po’boy I order today I measure by Nathan’s standards. The Acme oyster po’boy stacked up really well. Here are the requirements:

1. Gotta have the right bread. In the olden days, Nathan’s served po’boys on the traditional hard-crusted New Orleans style French bread. You had to set your teeth in the sandwich pretty firmly to tear off each chewy bite, and you’d better have a napkin in your lap or hold your sandwich over the table, because the crust was extra “crumby.” Acme’s crust was not as hard as the buns Nathan’s served, but getting a mouthful still took a pretty determined bite. So while I give Nathan’s the edge for the hard-core traditional bread, Acme’s was OK.

2. Gotta be big enough. I had an oyster po’boy a year or so ago in Lafayette, Louisiana, at a place that advertised “traditional New Orleans po’boys.” They ripped me off! The tiny little sandwich looked like a dinner role alongside Nathan’s or Acme’s, so much that when I got through eating, I looked around for something else to eat. The Acme sandwich was definitely big enough–I was more than fulfilled by the size and quantity.

3. Gotta have enough oysters. If you have to remove the top slice of bun to see the oysters on an oyster po’boy, you’re getting ripped off (like that one I described in Lafayette above). When you unwrapped a po’boy from Nathan’s in the olden days, the sandwich had so many oysters the bun would not contain them. When you picked the sandwich up, superfluous nuggets tumbled out of the bun as you squeezed and mashed and did your best to get control of your meal. Acme’s po’boy passed the quantity test just fine–no way the bun could contain all the oysters that came with it, so I had several little jewels left over after the sandwich was done, which I swabbed with ketchup and Tabasco and tossed down as the complementary coup de grace of the meal.

Yes, good ol’ po’boys. The New Orleans sandwiches come in a variety of other flavors, of course: shrimp, crawfish, catfish, roast beef, and on and on–the oyster sandwich is just my favorite.

So what’s the end of this po’boy critical review? New England has grinders, New York has subways, Philly has cheese steadavids-glassesks, and elsewhere in the Northeast, hoagies. I’ve sampled them all. But no sandwich surpasses an authentic New Orleans oyster po’boy. And to the wary consumer, with so many mediocre establishments claiming to serve the “traditional” New Orleans version, this reviewer highly recommends the Acme Oyster House, any of its locations, as a destination of choice to make sure you get “the real deal.”

Do babies think adults are silly? Friday, Dec 19 2008 

Who’s sillier:  grandparents, or grandbabies?   Viewer, be the judge!  (I took this video this evening at a Sunday School Christmas party for adults my age.   We had volunteered to babysit before we got the invitation, so we just crashed the party with Payton in hand.   Nobody minded.)

The art of graceful conversation Wednesday, Dec 17 2008 

Let your conversation be always full of grace, sea200px-stpaul_elgrecosoned with salt  . . .

–St. Paul

An interesting question:  What does it mean for one’s conversation to “be always full of grace,” much less “seasoned with salt?”  These admonitions are captivating and fresh.

If grace means “unmerited favor,”  conversation should have as its end edification, encouragement, admonition, recognizing that each one  deals with issues and limitations, and as fellow humans we acknowledge one another’s issues and limitations.   We all have them!   So, the call for  conversation to be “full of grace” is also a call to guard against sounding self-righteous, severe, mean, or judgmental.

What about  “seasoned with salt?”  The salt metaphor appended to the main clause supplies a characteristic of conversation that is “full of grace.” Since salt is a basic seasoning which makes food appealing,  conversation also should be appealing!

To be appealing is a novel idea that many religious folks miss because many religious traditions suggest the opposite.  Paul suggests we should be attractive (in spirit and personality). That we should be easy to get along with.  That we should be interesting.  That we should be fun.  That others who meet us for the first time should desire to know us.

That’s tonight’s exercise in explication.  Now, to live  out the admonition tomorrow is the challenge!

Peace on Earth 2008 Monday, Dec 15 2008 

OK, OK, I posted this same piece last year.  And the year before.  At Christmas time.  I decided to declare this post a Christmas tradition from now on.  I’ll do it again next year!

Peace on Earth?
By David Pulling
November 2003
choir-lites.jpg (Composed along the levee at the Red River, Alexandria)
“Oh, hush the noise, ye men of strife / And hear the angels sing!
–Edmund H. Sears

“Peace on Earth”
shimmering
upside down
in lights’ reflection
on the dark, moon-dappled River.
Lord, we long to hear
angels sing.
Save us
from
noise
and
men of  strife.
Rather
set peace aright
set our hearts aright
and
tune our ears
to hear
the angels’ sing.

“Fired up” for Louisiana snow Friday, Dec 12 2008 

The Great Gulf Coast Blizzard of o8 is history now.  We woke up pre-dawn Thursday morning and could sleep no longer, giddy and knowing the snow would be finished by sunrise and would be melted by afternoon.  We wanted to savor the rare and precious moments.

We were really excited for almost-20 year old Ann, who’s never seen a cover-the-ground snow in her young life.   Sarah woke her up before sunrise, thinking Ann might want to build a snow man or throw snow balls.  But Ann’s reaction was almost indifferent.  After checking out the scene on the patio, next thing I noticed, she was curled up in front of the fire with the ever-vigilant brutes of the canine patrol.  Yep, “fired up,” that’s what you call it.

fired-up

Papa knowz best, Payton. Just ask him! Tuesday, Dec 9 2008 

payton-luvz-papa1Payton is barely eight months old, approaching her first Christmas, but she’s already conditioned to the fact that her Papa is a magnificent bull-shooter and yarn spinner, his vivid imagination brimming with sensational details that delight a little girl’s fancy . . . his nonsense notwithstanding, of course.  She’ll grow old enough one day in eighteen or nineteen years to  discern the  bologna from the  real stuff, and that ‘ll be soon enough.  For now, Papa aims to stay in rare form.

More humble rewards of the profession . . . It worked! Monday, Dec 8 2008 

On today’s final exam in English 1002, one of my students, reflecting on her learning experience in this class, noted the following:

“Before this class I thought that once a paper was written, it was done.  However, I learned that once a paper is written, it has just begun.”

What a baeautiful statement!   It’s nigh poetic!

 I knew immediately I would blog it.  I might even frame it and share it with future classes, or perhaps play with arranging  the words and phrases to create a “found” poem.

Whether this student persists on her own in the patterns of drafting and revising that the methodology of the class required, she at least knows there’s a better way to write than what she knew before.   

Ah, yes, the humble rewards of the profession.  If only we could spend them at WalMart!

The Bayou Pom Pom Two-Step Thursday, Dec 4 2008 

Herre’s an unusual post.  The feature is music and video rather than writing.   The gang here includes some buddies at church last night as we practiced a two-step we’re playing for our Cajun-themed Christmas musical (to run Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights at FBC-downtown Eunice .  Everyone’s invited–y’all come!).  The musicians, left to right, are Billy McGee playing fiddle (son of the legendary Cajun folk musician Dennis McGee), me with the accordeon, Lenny Boulet on the  guitar, and Sonny Oge rappin’ the spoons.  The practice background is pretty noisy, so I’ll hope to have a more polished post from the better-quality recordings of the real performances this weekend. Thanks to my niece for shooting this little rehearsal piece, more or less impromptu.