What’s in a name? (The privilege of maternity!) Friday, Jul 31 2009 

A Casual Essay Composed July 2009, writing with kids In the Word Up! Youth Writing Camp this past week at Louisiana State University-Eunice.

 Me llamo David.  Je m’apelle David.  My name is David.  The same in many languages. 

 So what?

My namesake, King David (No family resemblance)

My namesake, King David (No family resemblance)

I’m named after a very famous Hebrew king of Old Testament antiquity.  After my oldest sister got the only secular name in the family (“Janice”), Mama, out of an act of Christian consecration, determined to give strong biblical names to the four of us who followed.  On that basis, I could have been named Methuselah Pulling.  Or Habakkuk Pulling.  Or Festus Pulling.

 Or how about Zepho Pulling?   (He was one of Esau’s sons.  Sounds like the nickname for a gangstah.)

 So David wasn’t bad, considering what could have been.

 The conclusion of the playful analysis from this writing exercise, whether we like our names or not, is that names are for parents.  And mostly for moms.  Like Sarah declared to me when we were thinking of names for our kids and she didn’t care for my suggestions, “When you can climb on that table in the delivery room and have the baby, then you can name the baby!”

 Yes, naming babies is the privilege of maternity.  So I am David because my mom liked the name above all other possibilities.  And, she never consulted me in the choice.  I live with the result, and “Hey, it’s OK.”  If naming me David made her happy and proud, then I’m happy and proud, too, because without her, I would not only NOT be David, I would not BE!   And I truly do like ME!

How I Became an English Teacher . . . Wednesday, Jul 29 2009 

This time of the summer, right before the start of school every year, I am called to remember how and what happened 22 years ago, close to this time of year.  It was a life-changing event, no doubt fashioned by God’s providence, so I journaled convocparentsthe recollection of how I went from being an oil field mud engineer to an English teacher.  I recall the details as I wrote the following at a Writing Project function in 2005:

I’ll always remember that August late morning in 1987 when Sarah drove up to The City Lake spot I had taken my four or five year old Zach to fish. I was caught up for the day on the yard mowing and house painting that a displaced oilfield service hand did to stretch out the unemployment checks until a more permanent and fulfilling occupation came along.  I had grown complacent about the future. Things were working out and we were making it o.k.

But she told me the principal at the junior high had called. He wanted me to call him right away, so we cut short the fishing and I went home to return the call (no cell phones in that day’).  Mr. Alfred [the principal] asked me right away to come to his office. He had a place, and it was mine for the taking.  I don’t recall exactly how it happened, but I recall his explaining that he had an eighth grade science opening and an eighth grade English opening, and he offered me the one of my choice. That’s how I became an English teacher without having a degree in English education, much less English. And all this happened two days before the start of school! The salary was about 50% of what I had made as a mud engineer, but it was a salary and it was a start.

So the rest is history. I ended up where God obviously had gifted me and wanted me.  Now if I can just hang on seven more years to retirement!

Les maringouins ont tout mange’ ma belle! Tuesday, Jul 28 2009 

I came across a relic from former years as I surfed YouTube earlier this evening, searching among the Cajun pieces that have been posted there over the years.  I found a video recording of an old-timey Cajun nonsense tune, which I originally recall as sung by the legendary Nathan Abshire by the title “La Valse de Holly Beach.”

This Andrew Carrierre, who performs the present version,  is an artist I’ve never heard of, but he plays and sings “dans le vieux facon” (old-timey).  The lyrics to the song, roughly translated, go like this:

Verse 1

The mosquitoes ate up my sweetheart, leaving only her big toes, for me to use for bottle stoppers.

Verse 2

Your father looks like an automobile, your mother looks like an elephant, your little brother looks like a bullfrog, and your little sister looks like the corner of the sidewalk.

I never have got the connection between verses one and two in the song, if indeed there is one.  It’s pretty funny.

Happy birthday to me Sunday, Jul 26 2009 

Papa and kids 7-26-09

Papa with Zach and Ann, two nice kids

I have no recollection of what happened 57 years ago today, but I will long enjoy the memories of this day, 57 years later.

Sarah, Zach, and I drove to Baton Rouge to go to church with Ann, eat oysters at Acme, take Ann grocery shopping (board for the college student), and then have birthday cake that Ann made with her own little hands just for her Papa.

We enjoyed worship at The Chapel on the campus–they’ve got a pretty “crunk” P&W band, and the folks were warm and pleasant.  We’re happy Ann’s making connections there.

Aside from a GPS glitch that complicated the commute from the Chapel to the restaurant, everything went smoothly.

The po’ boys at Acme squared up nicely in comparison with the sandwiches we had at the Covington location.  No one was disappointed with the lunch.

Even the grocery shopping was fun.  Only regrets: Papa’s other girls, Autumn and Payton, were still in

Papa's girls 7-26-52 (minus Autumn and PayPay)

Georgia, so he misses them.  They’re coming back tomorrow.  Autumn called  this afternoon to wish me happy birthday and the promise of a “make-up” party with her and Payton later in the week.  That sounds like a plan to me!

Papa with his two girls, minus Autumn and Payton

A “shingling” we go Saturday, Jul 25 2009 

Unquestionably, the largest (and most expensive)  maintenance issue any homeowner faces is roof replacement.  Unless the homeowner can afford a high-priced metal roof,  shingles have to be replaced every 15 to 25 years, depending on the quality of product.

The roof we’re replacing next week was a 25 year deal, and it lasted about 18.  The experts tell me that’s about right.  (So why do they advertise it as a 25 year roof??).  I’m going to replace it with a 35 year roof.  Maybe it will last 28 years?

I’m not happy I’ll have to shell out several thousand dollars on this project, but in some respects I’m excited.  I’ve disliked the present roof since the day I drove home and saw the roofer on the roof with his crew finishing the job.  The color of the shingles just didn’t match well with the brick siding of the house, and I wondered why that roofer didn’t counsel us better before we made that bad choice.

I was also disgruntled after the next first heavy rain that came along after that roof was put on.  Rain water came down the chimney into the attic where it found several channels to drip and trickle into the house.  (Never had that problem with the old roof!)  I called the roofer, and he showed up a little later with an indignant attitude.  “There’s nothing wrong with my roof.  That’s your chimney’s not sealed.”   And he proceeded to explain to me I needed to get some roofing cement and seal where the roof joined around the base of the chimney.  I did what he said, and it seemed to help, but I’ve fought leaks around that chimney ever since.

That was 18 years ago, and I wasn’t as sage as I am now.  If a roofer pulled that on me today, I’d have to blister him good.  What I should have told that indignant old coot 18 years ago is “Hey, buddy, I paid you over 2 thousand bucks to transfer water from my roof to the ground on the outside, not from my roof down the chimney to the inside.  Fix it, or I’ll see you in front of the judge.”

A house (not ours) with the weathered wood shingle pattern

I related that tale to the guy we hired this time, and he couldn’t believe how that old dude had behaved.  He assured me he’d take an active interest in the roof-around-the-chimney problems and that he was confident that his procedure would solve the chronic problems.

A house (not ours) with the weathered wood shingle pattern

This new roofer also counseled us on the shingle selection.  He recommended the weathered wood pattern, explained why, and took me on a drive around the neighborhood showing me several houses that had the design.

So apart from the depression over parting asunder with a significant chunk of our savings account, we’re excited.   We’ll get a roof that looks good, and hopefully, we’ll say “Goodbye” to the chimney leaks.

Daddy’s new toy and the circle of life Wednesday, Jul 22 2009 

This is a topic I’ve been meaning to  post  for several weeks.   My brother-in-law, noting the problems Daddy and his 87 years were having with the temperamental gas-powered mowers (made more temperamental by Daddy’s clouded memory of exactly how to operate them), seized brilliantly upon the idea of getting Daddy a reel mower.  No pull ropes, no chokes or throttles, no gas or oil to check–just the utter Papaw Plling's new toysimplicity of “push me and I work.”

Daddy’s had the machine for a few weeks now, so in a recent phone conversation I asked him how “his new toy” was doing.  I heard exultation in his tone as he reported in glowing terms his happiness and delight with the tool . . . or, toy.

About fifty years ago, I remember him having one of those reel-type mowers, but the only use it got was from us kids horsing around.  We’d push the rusty mower  in random circles around the yard and driveway.  The blade was so dull that it chewed more than cut the grass.  Half a century ago, that machine had become a relic, outdated and upstaged by the shiny red, big-wheeled, gas-powered Yazoo that gobbled up tall grass like a weed-monster.

The irony:  today, the area around Daddy’s storage shed is a veritable graveyard of spent, abandoned, and/or wrecked gas-powered lawn mowers, none of which run.  The shiny green reel mower rules the grass-cutting roost.

Didn’t some wise dude once observe that life is more circular than linear?

(Or was that wise dude me in my imagination?)

Generation to generation: Sopranos forever! Monday, Jul 20 2009 

Looking for something to update the blog, I found in iPhotos this pic of Sarah with Mrs. Nanette Marks a couple of weeks ago at the church softball game.

Two gifted sopranos of different generations.soprnos

Sarah won my heart when I first heard her sing over 30 years ago.   She’s awesome!

Mrs. Marks’ soprano style reminds me of Norma Zimmer of Lawrence Welk fame–she can belt it out still, the years notwithstanding.

From generation to generation, . . .

Po-boys at Fezzo’s: Can the Cajuns match Acme? Saturday, Jul 18 2009 

Sarah and I have seen Fezzo’s Restaurant ads and heard testimonies from our kids about how they enjoyed Fezzo’s.  Today on the way to Fezzo'sLafayette for a shopping date, we had our chance.  My eyes scanned the menu and fixated on my all-time most favorite sandwich in the whole world: oyster po’boy.

Mind you, I’m a little skeptical of po’boys away from New Orleans.  Cajun is Cajun and New Orleans is New Orleans (folks from out-of-state don’t understand what I mean), so I wondered if Fezzo’s could handle a Po’boy  as deftly as Acme Oyster House.  But I took the chance and placed my order.  After the meal, I resolved I would have to re-blog this oyster po’boy topic.

When I blogged Acme after my first visit there last year, I noted three criteria for the oyster po’boy.

1. Gotta have the right bread.

2. Gotta be big enough.

Poboy3. Gotta have enough oysters.

Let’s hold Fezzo’s to the same standard.  Here’s how Fezzo’s fared:

The bread was definitely softer than the old-time N.O. French bread with the hard crust, but it was bread.  Acme’s bread wasn’t as hard as the old-time stuff, either.  O.K., what can one say other than the bread wasn’t as crusty as the olden days?

As for big enough, the waitress looked kind of surprised when I told her I wanted a whole rather than a half, which gave me enough pause to ask if she believed I was fixing to bite off more than I could chew.   She reassured me somewhat, so I went ahead with the whole.  And believe me, it was plenty.  Equal in size to Acme, easily.

And as for enough oysters, extras and strays fell out as I manipulated the loaf to apply ketchup and Tabasco, and that’s the good sign we look for.  When the bun cannot contain the oysters, you’re getting your money’s worth!

In the final analysis, Fezzo’s stacks up!  I would get an oyster po’boy there again, and I heartily recommend the same to anyone who passes by the restaurant’s two locations along Interstate 10, one at the Scott exit and the other at the Crowley exit.  The motif and the background music are distinctly and authentically Cajun, so the ambience adds to the culinary delight.

“Feezo,” by the way, is the cajun name for a wooden sewing spool.  “Feezo” was the restaurant founder’s childhood nickname.

This Facebook generation . . . Are we them, or are they us? Friday, Jul 17 2009 

FB logoI wish I would have been mindful to take out my smartphone camera this morning as I sat in the top row of the Geology Auditorium lecture room at LSU in Baton Rouge, observing a young prof lecture in Biology 1201.  The sixty or so students in the lecture were arrayed before and below me in the auditorium, so from this elevated vantage, I could clearly see their laptop screens.

Each time the young professor put up a new slide on the projector, fingers clattered across keyboards throughout the auditorium as the students typed out the notes.   Apparently, they were typing fast to get the notes down so they could take advantage of the prof’s next pause: for as soon as he backed away from the lectern to allow time for the slackers to catch up, screens across the room flickered with photos and updates as the young folks maximized the Internet page loggged on to Facebook, their favorite website, while they had a short break.  As soon as Prof put up the next slide frame, they quickly minimized the Facebook pages and returned to their clattersome note-taking.  The process went back and forth for over an hour.

Walking back to the parking lot after class, my peers and I compared notes on what we observed.

“What will become of critical listening with this generation?”

“How can they transition back and forth? Surely, they’re missing out.”

“What would our professors have said “back in the day” if we had been so easily distracted?”

But before going off the deep end to condemn the entire generation, I caught myself–for several times during the lecture, you see, I had pulled out my Smartphone and checked my own Facebook page.  I had even posted a status update while the lecture was in progress and responded to a couple of my Facebook friends who reacted to my status update.

I fear we, not they, are the Facebook generation.

Papa’s Column: Silly is as silly does Wednesday, Jul 15 2009 

Would a grownp-up with chocolate cookie or cake crumbs smeared across his mouth grin unabashedly for the camera? 

Of course, add a bib emblazoned with “Silly” as part of the get-up.  Payton cookie crumbsNo takers, huh?

Thank God for a fifteen month-old, who could care less as long as she has something to smile at and someone to smile with.

Ah, to be so innocent!

That’s Papa’s girl!  (And Honey’s, too)

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