Ann’s Oriental Adventure Continued . . . Tuesday, Jun 29 2010 

Ann (far left) poses with her LSU student buddies on the China trip.

We videoconferenced with Ann in China Sunday night.  She was hanging out with her American friends at a Chinese Starbucks (free wifi in China, too!).

All seems to be going well, but I think also that she’ll be happy on July 20 to board that jet in Tokyo bound west for the good ol’ USA.  I didn’t detect at all that she was homesick, but at the same time, I sensed that she’s ready for a homecoming when the time comes.

She has one more BIG adventure–the mountain hiking trip in Western China.  She leaves where she is Sunday (July 4) for a two hour flight, followed by a long train ride and a bus ride to boot, to be deposited in some remote mountainous spot with three other LSU students with a GPS device to fend for themselves for the next week on the wilderness backpacking adventure.  Maybe “wilderness” is too strong a word, but not for a parent whose daughter is half a world away!  Chinese Pepsi?

While we’re worried sick, I have to admit: Had I such a chance when I was one and twenty, I’d have been just as half a world away.  Maybe even more!

Happy Anniversary, Mama and Daddy: 67 years! Saturday, Jun 26 2010 

Mama and Daddy pose on the lakefront at Mandeville after we began the day with breakfast at Louie and the Red Headed Lady's restaurant..

We had a memorable gathering of family today to acknowledge Mama’s and Daddy’s 67 years of putting up with one another.  I remember their 50th celebration seemed so impressive, never imagining we’d return year after year for another 17 years.

There’s some sadness in the day, since Daddy’s lost the command of situations like he had, say for the 50th, when he orchestrated the celebration as the master of ceremonies.  Today he sat quietly by for the most part, handicapped by the after-effects of a stroke some years ago.  He  wasn’t “in charge” the way he used to be in similar situations.  Yet nonetheless, he had a good time, and so did Mama.  What Mama doesn’t enjoy all of her kids returning home?

So this post commemorates this day–a good day in the life of Nathan and Helen, the good folks who raised us and gave us the best that they had! (Which turned out to be pretty darned good!)

Boiled crabs and po' boys for lunch: A Traditional New Orleans-Style Menu

A highlight for 88 year old Daddy was visiting with his 90 year old sister.

For My Florida Gulf Coast Neighbors: God’s Word Along the Sea Wednesday, Jun 23 2010 

Paradise defiled: The Florida Gulf beaches at the mercy of BP as oil came ashore today.

I saw the sad reports this evening of extensive tar balls rolling ashore along Pensacola Beach, Florida.  The sugary-white sand along the Florida Panhandle Coast is one of my family’s special places where we’ve vacationed over the years.   My heart breaks seeing BP’s mess rolling ashore there.

Yet I recall what I wrote in 2o07 just down the road on vacation at Navarre Beach.

I Heard God’s Word Along the Sea
(Composed along the Gulf of Mexico at Navarre Beach, Florida, 2007)

Pity on narrow men
who canonize God’s Word,
confined in sacred books
composed by ancient hands.

For I heard God’s word lately
along the sea
in noisy surf:
Driven waves
pounding shoreward,
Thundered by strident breeze
from dusk
to dawn
high tide and low
and dusk again
and then
throughout the night.

Wave upon wave,
God declaring in the surf along the sea,
“I am.”

The pensive blogger at Navarre Beach in yester-year, before the BP debacle.

So I closed my eyes in the darkened evening,
listening carefully for more:

“Like the sea dancing on moonbeams before you
As far as the horizon beyond your imagination,
I am greater than your knowing.
Seek me anyway
and know that I am.”

So I rest with thoughts such as this:
Whether this sea raises on one hand
to delight my seafood platter,
or on the other
dreadful wind
to snatch the roof from my house,

I seek.
I long.
I praise.
I trust,
because I hear your Word,
drawing me to Your voice
in the noisy, wind-driven surf along the sea.

For all that I am not,
You are.

Yep, in times like these, I need a higher authority than BP or Governor Jindal or President Obama.

Ann’s Oriental Adventure: So there really is “No place like home?” Tuesday, Jun 22 2010 

Ann, the pilgrim in a foreign land.

Ann left on May 21, she returns on July 20: We’re right about mid-way through the trip to China.  Her mom and I (and her brother and sister-in-law) enjoy the occasional video conferences, Facebook updates, and emails.  Although she’s halfway around the world, we have meaningful contact through the marvels of technology, for which we are grateful.

While she continues to thrive on the work she and her LSU student fellows are doing, we sense from our conversations that coming home to the good ol’ USA in about a month will be a happy occasion.  Not that she’s not happy or fulfilled at present: She truly is.  But from the hole-in-the-ground public bathrooms to the sun-less polluted skies to the overcrowded masses of humanity, I get the sense that she will have a new sense of appreciation for her American homeland.

Still, a highlight of her trip seems to be the occasion for friendship with Chinese students.   Ann noted early on how “sweet” her Chinese friends are and how eager they are for association with the American students.  Based on the photos we’ve seen, at every turn, the young people who have their own “universal language” seem to be having fun.

Some kind of game--and apparently much fun.

Sweat: The “Fragrance” of Fitness? Sunday, Jun 20 2010 

When the temp outside registers 99 on the Camry’s onboard sensor and the Weather Channel iphone app shows the apparent temperature is 106, does

Even when Sarah's hot after a workout, she looks cool . . . or vice versa? I wish the same were true for me--I always look (and smell) disgusting.

the hardy jogger take the day off to avoid the heat?

Not hardly.

Serious runners/fitness freaks go for broke, the heat and humidity notwithstanding.  And they sweat . . . profusely.   At the end of their runs they peel off their wretched, sweat-soaked garments and throw them into the washer.  This time of year, in fact, the peak of the sweaty season, the volume that goes through the laundry room is three-fold compared to winter.

Tonight when Sarah complained after her jog that she must have sweat bucketfuls, I encouraged her:  “No ‘sweat’ (no pun intended)–Sweat is the fragrance of fitness!”

She was so captivated by the sensory alliteration that she posted my remark on Facebook.    On that basis, I figured “fragrance of fitness” is worth blogging!

Eye-Witness: Anderson Cooper Works for a Living! Thursday, Jun 17 2010 

Driving to New Orleans Tuesday for one of our occasional “date” trips out, I theorized to Sarah that Anderson Cooper’s nightly TV show lately emanating from the Crescent City was up to some trick photography.  “No way,” I reasoned, that the high-priced news celeb would brave the South Louisiana humidity night after night to produce a show in the open air along the river front with the Mississippi River in the background.  “AC,” I asserted, “is in some air conditioned studio where the technicians are superimposing his image against the River backdrop where the Algiers Ferry from time to time passes behind Anderson’s head on its way to or from the West Bank.”

We saw the production truck first.

The proof is in the pudding.

Tuesday night after supper, we clamored up the rise from the parking lot behind the old Jackson Brewery to look at the River.  Before I reached the Park, what did my eyes behold?  A CNN satellite truck parked at the edge of the lot.

“Ooh, interesting!” thought I.

So we crossed the lot and entered the grassy Riverfront Park beyond.  Smack in the middle of the pre-dusk sweltering park, lo and behold, there stood silver-haired Anderson Cooper  before TV cameras and lights alongside Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, both apparently listening to President Obama’s Oval Office address on the crisis.

On the steamy New Orleans riverfront, Anderson Cooper prepares to interview Billy Nungesser Tuesday night after the President's address.

Let me tell you, reader: It was nasty out there!  South Louisiana early summer heat and humidity had risen to its disgusting finest!  I marveled, in fact, how recent week after week, Anderson Cooper (and most of the time Billy Nungesser) must have sweated on that outdoor set to bring us the latest on the BP fiasco.

I have always enjoyed AC 360 on CNN, but tonight my respect soared to a new level.

Anderson and Billy went live on air from time to time for the duration of the evening, long after the President’s address and long after dark (AC’s show goes on until 10:00 CST).  I really enjoyed watching Anderson work.  Between shows, during commercials, during interviews, he spoke into his mike in exchange with the production crew in Atlanta about what graphics to show and what to do next, etc etc.  He was a busy show host, obviously well-prepared and professional.

As a Louisianian, I’ve been grateful for AC’s thorough coverage of this event from the beginning.  This week, after watching him in person work in the humid New Orleans elements, I’m more easily convinced that this guy’s in this story for real.  He believes in what he’s reporting.  The pathos that comes through in is work is now substantiated–to me, anyway–by the ethos of his person.

Thanks, AC, for what your reporting means to the Gulf Coast in times like these.

To President Obama: WW III is here–Listen to Gen Honore! Monday, Jun 14 2010 

Louisiana's Native Son, General Honore

USA Ret. General Russell Honore is a born leader.  Who can forget how this cigar chomping, low small talk/high credibility personality rolled into New Orleans with the National Guard after Katrina and imposed order on that incredibly tempestuous mess.  His authority and charisma were memorable.

Lately, the Louisiana native has been outspoken about the Gulf oil spill.  “World War III,” he declares.  And I like that approach.

We could use this man’s charisma.  He’s been appearing on TV interviews for the past weeks, his most recent get-aggressive, get-tough-on-BP remedies for the crisis airing on CNN.

I hope the President is watching–We could use some charismatic leadership along about now.

Death on Deepwater Horizon: Sadness and the Brotherhood of the Sea Friday, Jun 11 2010 

I watched Anderson Cooper 360 tonight 360 again tonight–the best national coverage of the BP fiasco.  Tonight, the show ended with a tribute to the 11 hands who died, along with riveting testimony from survivors who told the story of those fateful hours when the forces of hell overwhelmed that doomed drilling rig.  I was deeply moved.

Eunice native Blair Manuel was a mud engineer, like I used to be .

My oilfield stint as a mud engineer is about 25 years in my past, but that part of me was awakened this evening as survivors of the drill crew shared their stories.  The show also included a tribute to the 11 who passed away in that tragedy.  At least two of the deceased were mud engineers, including the  chief mud engineer Blair Manuel, a native of the Cajun community where I live.  I didn’t know Blair or his family personally, but that loss strikes close to home.

I was truly moved by the accounts of the survivors as they recalled the deceased.  Folks who have never worked on offshore rigs don’t truly understand the fraternity that goes on there.  The society offshore, especially among the drilling hands, is as fraternal as any brotherhood I’ve known.  I recall Melville’s “fraternity of the sea” from Moby Dick,  in fact, when I think of working offshore. The talent of those creative, resourceful guys is fascinating, and the bonds that unite them are fast.

I’ve worked in  offshore places and experienced the drama of a well coming in, so these guys’ testimonies awakened  terrorizing recollections for me. I’m blessed I found a safer career.  At the same time I thank God for the courageous lives lost,  and I wish peace and comfort for the families they leave behind.

The Oil Spill Man of the Hour: Billy Nungesser, State Cheerleader Wednesday, Jun 9 2010 

Last fall and winter when the Saints were chasing Super Bowl destiny, I declared Saints former QB-turned-radio-personality Bobby Hebert as the official State Cheerleader.  On the New Orleans WWL talk shows every afternoon and often on weekends, the Cajun ex-Saint from Bayou Lafourche waxed eloquent as the emotional prophet and encourager of our best hopes.

Billy Nungesser in the forefront (literally and symbolically)

This spring, a new state cheerleader has emerged.   The personality that’s zoomed to the forefront in the BP oil disaster is the President of Plaquemines Parish, Billy Nungesser.  Billy’s shown the fiery pathos that’s gone over well not only in South Louisiana where I live, but apparently nationwide.  The conservative Louisiana Republican has been a regular buddy-buddy with left-leaning Anderson Cooper, appearing almost nightly Anderson’s CNN  prime time show, as well as appearing  frequently on all the major networks.

That fire-in-the-belly, non-nonsense “call-BP-what-they-are” demeanor  is what a lot of us were looking for in our national politicians’ reactions early on.   What a shame that Billy doesn’t have the authority of the higher-ups: We’d be miles ahead of where we are in dealing with this mess.

All the pix I found of Billy online include Governor Jindal, but I think that’s mainly because Jindal knows Nungesser’s a popular dude to hang out with, politically (Jindal is a politician, no doubt!).

So here’s to Billy Nungesser–Thanks for standing up for all of us!

LSU Eunice Bengals: National Champs!! Saturday, Jun 5 2010 

No, I will not be “Harry Humble” after the LSU Eunice Bengals bowled over UConn-Avery Point this afternoon for the NJCAA Division II baseball national championship.  I predicted this date about a year ago.  Here’s an excerpt from my May 28, 2009 post, after the Bengals were sent home after elimination in the 2009 Series:

” . . . this team will be back next year.  (Remember: all of the position players are freshmen!).  I’ll predict right now that LSUE will return to the World Series next year, and they’ll be a year older and bigger and stronger, physically as well as mentally.  If they keep their heads screwed on straight, look out, NJCAA Division II!”

Aha, a prophet I am?  Not really.  I believe those guys were good enough to win last year.  The ball just didn’t bouncetheir way.  This year, they simply took care of business.  I was especially proud of the way they rebounded after losing that 11-1 aberration to Western Oklahoma.  It was really funny that they won five games by lopsided scores but had  one uncharacteristic loss by an equally lop-sided score.  I suppose that loss was in the cards just to add some drama.  🙂

Super job, Bengals.  We R proud of U!

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