Generations: Celebrating from whence we came Sunday, Jun 28 2009 

The theme of June 09 for me and my family is unquestionably generations.

This theme began when we moved Ann to Baton Rouge at the beginning of the month, the beginning of the “empty nest” for Sarah and me as we confronted the prospect for the first time since being newly-wed, gazing at one another and declaring, “Baby, you’re all I’ve got!” And we’ve grownReunion8 closer together as a result, it seems.

Then we went to New Orleans week-before-last with Zach and Autumn and Payton and did all kinds of stuff I remember doing with my parents when I was a kid: riding the street car, visiting the Audubon Zoo, walking Canal Street and the French Quarter, and having cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde.  And here we were, grandparents, watching Payton digest the same adventures!

We visited Rocky and Carlo’s in ancestral St. Bernard that week, too, with Zach and Autumn, helping me remember the evening family gathered there before Daddy’s open heart surgery umpteen years ago to feast on mac and cheese and oysters one last time before the sobering surgeon’s knife did its life-saving work.  Before Rocky an Carlo’s, we also took a detour down Friscoville Avenue in Arabi so Zach and Autumn could for the first time where old Papaw lived just a few blocks from the levee.

Then, we come to the past weekend at Daddy’s birthday party in Bogalusa, attended by  ancient family friends and relatives and memories as far back as I can remember.  My favorite remembrance was Lorraine Jenkins’ recollection of her Dad, beloved “Uncle Gordon,” who stated way back in the late 50’s/early 60’s, “I wish Brother Pulling would preach on the radio. Then I could turn him off.”  We laughed loud at that.  I can hear my late “Uncle Gordon” uttering such a good-natured jab at Daddy.    Daddy and Uncle Gordon were mutual admirers.  And I admired (and still do) Uncle Gordon.Payton Falls

This generational theme was solidified last week when Zach sent the photo of him and Payton in front of Laurel Falls in the Smokey Mountains National Park.  I remember Laurel Falls from childhood, and Mama probably has some pictures from the time they brought us as kids; my family went to Laurel Falls on a Smokey Mountains vacation less than ten years ago, so we have some pix of the time we brought them; and now, Zach has pix of his own little girl revisiting the sights and scenes of her ancestors.

“Thank God, praise God, thank God.”

That’s all I can utter, reflecting on a life so richly blessed from generation to generation to generation.

To beat the heat . . . tropical relief, or tropical something else? Friday, Jun 26 2009 

Gosh, it’s been hot.  Over 100 every day this week.  Such temps are unheard of in Louisiana.   I think we’ve set records for highs for the past three or four days.

So where do we look for relief this time of the year?  The Gulf of Mexico.   Not for tropical storms or hurricanes, of course, but for polite southerly winds and gentle tropical waves that produce those garden-variety showers that keep the plants lush, the humidity stifling, and the mosquitoes breeding. 

Nothing like that coming yet.  My assistant’s husband called her from offshore earlier today and told her he’s never seen the Gulf as glassy smooth as it is in this heat wave.  Such smooth sailing offshore means no tropical disturbances in sight.

Such smooth sailing, coupled with the searing heat, does mean the sea surface temperatures must be gaining nicely.   The “bathwater” conditions in the Gulf usually don’t arrive until the cumulative effect of the summer sun works on the waters for the entire season, but with this brutal heat and with the waters so calm, the bathwater conditions may materialize before the peak of the tropical season.

If tropical systems stay away, that’s fine.  We can manage.  But if the systems don’t stay away, they’ll have explosive heat energy to lap up from the tepid wInvest 93aters.  So how interesting that today, we receive the first suggesiton of a tropical system entering the Gulf: Behold what the Hurricane Center has labeled Invest 93, with sights potentially aimed at the central Gulf of Mexico some time next week, where all that bath water is heating up.

Tigers win, and so does Louisiana, and so do I! Wednesday, Jun 24 2009 

We hung onto every nervewracking pitch since Monday, so we were elated and ecstatic and giddy when the game ended with the Tigers decisively on top.

Geaux, Tigers!  QCSWMPZGBUBLTVS.20090606135138-1

And, of course, as an LSU System employee,  I revel in the purple and gold  win.

I feel a little extra pride in the national championship now that Ann’s officially a Tiger, too.  Driving through campus last week on the way to her apartment reinforced that feeling as we drove by fabled Tiger Stadium on the left and the Alex Box Stadium on the right.  LSU is an enchanting campus, so much of the lore associated with sports, and Ann’s so excited to be part of that scene.

So what’s wrong with that?

“Nothing!” I declare.  In a depressed state that ranks close to last in everything from education to economic vitality, LSU championship sports means more to Louisiana than just about anything else.

So I’m proud . . . to be an LSU System employee, an LSU parent, a national champion supporter.

For all that’s wrong with Louisiana, LSU is right!!

For a greener green, rice is nice Wednesday, Jun 24 2009 

I pirated the photo here from my niece’s blog.  (Pardon moi, Susan, but t’anks!  Your camera’s better than my smartphone, anyway.)

Rice is nice (and green)!

Rice is nice (and green)!

You see, I’ve been meaning to take a snapshot of a rice field for weeks now, every time I drive across the prairie past the fields that spread away for miles and miles across the flatness.  The fields are notable this time of year because of the rice’s ultra-verdant color.  Fields of other local crops, like soy beans and corn and sugar cane, pale alongside emerging rice’s brilliance.

In time, of course, like any other grain crop, rice turns “gold unto harvest.”   That’s a neat color, too.  After the crops are harvested, in fact, the golden stubble spreading across the flatness makes the Louisiana prairie strangely resemble Kansas.  Maybe in July and August when the farmers cut the rice, I’ll update the blog with a post “For a golder gold, rice is nice.”

Yay! Tigers win! Monday, Jun 22 2009 

I can’t believe I spent four and a half hours in front of the TV on a summer’s eve when ordinarily I’d be out and about until dark:30 or so (between 8:30 and 9:00) doing stuff.  But the college world series championship rated enough interest, given our beloved Tigers’ involvement, so I worked my schedule around the TV viewing.

XVFUOAVQGHENAEQ.20090620012507Mikie Mahtook (pictured here courtesy of LSU baseball’s web site) was an amazing role player.  In two critical at bats, deep in the hole against the pitching, he was living proof of the maxim “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”  But then again, lucky is as lucky does, and he made his luck–or took advantage of what the competition gave him, so hat’s off to Mikie, one way or the other.  Bottom line: We won!

I recall last spring when high school senior Mahtook and his St. Thomas More Cougars came to Bengal Stadium to play our hometown St. Edmund Bluejays.  In my role as stadium announcer, I was not sure how to pronounce “Mahtook” and had to ask someone.

Today, I know who he is!

Geaux, Tigers!!

First day of summer: Hot? Hotter? Hottest? Saturday, Jun 20 2009 

One of the local meteorologists reminded viewers last night that Sunday is the first day of summer.

Ah, so it’s still spring?katc_eight_day-1

And if it’s not summer yet, and the mercury is regularly bumping 99 degrees these past three days of spring, what gives for summer?  I’m a little concerned.  This searing last week of spring is causing lawns to dry up and yellow, soybean seedlings to wither in lately-planted fields, and air conditioner compressors to drone on and on and on.

Summer is supposed to be a happy outdoor season, but I feel little enthusiasm at the outset this year.  Surely, God will forgive me for not celebrating the Gulf of Mexico waters’ early boost in fuel-building surface temperatures, just in time for hurricane season.  Nor will He chastise me for grumbling about next month’s utility bill.

Yes, at this point, I have already endured enough heat and humidity.  Why don’t we just skip summer this year and move on to fall and football season?  The Saints and the Tigers both stand to be highly improved!

Restaurant review: Rocky and Carlo’s Thursday, Jun 18 2009 

O.K., so you’re staying in the French Quarter for a couple of nights.  You’ve got Antoine’s, Gallatoire’s, Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s, and dozens more world-class dining establishments to choose from.

And where do you eat?

In Chalmette,  the blue-collar suburbs, across the tracks from the rusted aluminum plant on St. Bernard Highway, at Rocky and Carlo’s.Rocky and Carlo's

“Why Rocky and Carlo’s?” you ask.

For a number of reasons.

First of all, Rocky and Carlo’s is connected to the earth.  The folks who frequent the establishment tend to be locals (just listen to the noisy “down in the Parish” accents).  And the joint is ethnic: how about “Italio-Cajun” cuisine?  That’s how I describe it, since the menu is filled with Italian classics like Wop Salad and Eggplant Parmesan, but the tables come set with condiments of ketchup and Louisiana Hot Sauce.  And, the Louisiana fried seafood is all-Louisiana fried seafood!

Second, Rocky and Carlo’s is connected to my ancestry by geography.  My Dad’s side of the family goes back to the Parish for several generations, from Delacroix Island to Arabi, so within the tight-knit confines of St. Bernard Parish, those connections count!  Even though I’ve never lived there, I “belong” (and so do my kids and family).Rocky and Carlo's Comfort Food

Third, as the sign on the painted window indicates, “Ladies Invited.”  You can bring your wife, your daughter, your daughter-in-law, or your granddaughter (as I did).  Rocky and Carlo’s is not sexist!

But finally, the main reason we go: Good food, and abundance thereof!  For example, Sarah and I ordered one oyster platter with a choice of sides.  We chose the macaroni and cheese (a Rocky and Carlo’s trademark!).  We split the oysters (16 on the plate) and the mac & cheese, and both of us were full!  If you’ve never imagined much-less-seen a mountain of macaroni and cheese, go to Rocky and Carlo’s.  You’ll see Mount Mac&Cheese!  (And it’s edible!)

And don’t forget: the prices are much more reasonable than Commander’s Palace!

More joys of grandparenting: Les grandparents en Ville Wednesday, Jun 17 2009 

The New Orleans escape continued with novel mPaytonstreetcar Rideodes of conveyance, firsts for little Payton. 

We rode the St. Charles street car Line to the Audubon zoo in the morning and capped the day with an aller et retour ferry boat ride on the Mississippi from Canal Street to Algiers Point.Paytonzach Ferryride

Our parents took us as kids on the same adventures.  We grandparents made these excursions with our own kids when they were squirts, so the reward of grandparenting now is to witness our kids’ time of parenthood on one hand, but mostly we just get a kick out of watching Payton. 

Yep, from generation to generation to generation, this is good stuff!

On arrive en Ville (New Orleans)) Tuesday, Jun 16 2009 

The travelogue begins.  After a leisurely drive to the City, including a lunch date in Baton Rouge with Ann, we arrived in NOLA about 4 p.m.  We hit the streets right away, prowling the French Quarter and the River Front in the sultry heat.

We got Zach and Autumn to pose against this backdrop of St. Louis Cathedral across Jackson Square.  St. Louis CathedralPayton seemed distracted, although she really had a good time. Her highlights included clapping and grinning to the music of the jazz ensemble at the Market Cafe and to Papa’s   stroller racing antics in the River Walk Mall.

Dinner in the open air at Cafe Pontable was fine.   We skipped the ferry ride right before dark because Payton was too pooped.   Maybe we can make up that activity tomorrow as our climax to a day at the zoo!

On va passer en Ville! (New Orleans, that is) Monday, Jun 15 2009 

royal st charlesThe old Cajuns described going to New Orleans as going “en Ville”–to “the city.”  And so tomorrow will go “en Ville,” the Pullings of Eunice and Crowley, for a two-day date/escape which will include a trip to the Audubon Zoo and the familiar venues: Cafe Pontalba, St. Louis Cathedral, the River Walk, Cafe du Monde, etc etc.

We booked hotel reservations a few weeks ago at the Royal St. Charles, a boutique hotel a block off  Canal Street, at bargain-basement rates.  I hoped then that the mid-June summer would not be as brutal as summer gets later in New Orleans (like July and August–yuk), but it turns out the next few days will feature above-normal temperatures and heat indices.

Oh, well.  I practiced for the heat last Saturday by working outside in  all day long, coming in seldom.  The heat wasn’t too bad as long as I stayed near the shade.  We’ll see how it works out in the next few days.

I200px-AlgiersFerry_TJefferson_arriving3‘m looking forward to my favorite New Orleans attraction: the night-time ride across the Mississippi River on the Canal Street to Algiers Point Ferry.  Sarah and I discovered that free treat years ago when we began visiting New Orleans for date retreats, and that moonlight boat ride has become a romantic theme of our life together.  A visit to New Orleans would not be complete without the boat ride on Old Man River!

So off we go in the morning.  Oyster po-boys and moonlight boat rides forever!  More from “en Ville” in days to come as our mid-summer Crescent City adventure unfolds.

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