“I Meant to Do My Work Today” Friday, May 27 2011 

On May 20, 1992, I wrote a poem about playing bat 'n ball with this little girl; On May 20, 2011, she graduated from LSU!

On May 20, 1992,  nineteen years ago when my daughter was a mere 3 years old, I composed this ditty as an exercise writing with my English III class at Lafayette High to imitate poetic style and structure.  This piece imitates the structure and theme of a poem by the same title penned by Richard LeGallienne.  I post it here in recognition of that same little girl’s graduation from college on May 20, 2011,  19  years later to the day.  Cute coincidence?  Or cute subject for a poem, in more ways than one?

I meant to do my work today—

Bricks to stack and a shovel to wield.

But a teddy-bear girl dressed to play

Invited me out to the sunny field.

She brandished a bat and a plastic ball.

A blond ponytail danced on her shoulders.

She’s her Papa’s baby-bear doll—

How could I ever refuse her?

Inflatulation: Blank Verse on an Odious Topic Tuesday, May 24 2011 

Relief in a bottle for a grievous affliction

I found my portfolio from the early 1990’s–handwritten or typed hard copies that have never been committed to digital or electronic formats: Folders full of unpublished masterpieces, long forgotten but now discovered!  I’ll be posting some of this material in days to come!  This piece isn’t dated, but I guess it comes from around 1991 or 92.


Rendered in Blank Verse, cerca 1991

O, what vile, pestilent congregation

Of vapours descendeth upon this place!

Curling the hairs of my nostrils, clouding

My senses with the stench of decadent

Flatulence, suspended as noxious fumes

Drifting languidly in the atmosphere.

What oppressive, stifling element is

This I breath?  Surely, my heart waxeth faint,

And I gasp for untainted sustenance

Ere I perish, choking on this foul blight!

Graduation Day 6: Louisiana Floodwatch Saturday, May 21 2011 

Family members get ready to cross the River.

This is the last installment in this series.  Faithful readers may wonder why “Day 5” never showed up, but we were too busy traveling and graduating to post Friday.

I confess I felt a lot more anxiety a week ago about the flooding situation than I feel today.  The relief stems partly from the fact that nothing dreadful has happened (in spite of the earlier fears), the Basin flooding may not materialize to the degree earlier predcted, and I have now come in close and intimate contact with the floodwaters, having crossed in the past 48 hours both spillways twice, the Atchafalaya twice, and the Mississippi four times (twice the I-10 bridge at Baton Rouge, twice the Canal Street Ferry).

Hearing so much about the flood and the widespread fear these past weeks was stressful; but after seeing it, watching it, standing over it, even riding over it, I must have conquered the anxiety.  What marvels of courage are wrought by planting both feet on one’s adversary’s back!

The Canal Street Ferry crossing this afternoon provided that occasion to “stand” on the River and study it up close.  The robust current is truly dramatic as the water rides at a stunning level, but the fact that life on the River goes on as boat traffic plies the muddy tide up and down the harbor also helps one feel confident about relative safety.

After seeing so much of the flood, from west to east, my conclusion is that, yes, water levels are astonishing, but so is the engineering that’s keeping Baton Rouge and New Orleans dry.

Here’s to the marvels of technology! (So far, anyway.)

Graduation Day 4: Louisiana Flood Watch Thursday, May 19 2011 

WBRZ TV's web site icon for flood news.

Each day this week,  flood news and coverage take more and more of a back seat to other headlines.  The nation takes greater interest in the juicy escapades and promiscuous misadventures of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the French IMF dude, whose name eludes me for the moment.

Even locally, as the River holds its own and the advancing tide through the Morganza takes its sweet time moving southward, the radio talk buzzes about other issues with only brief update spots on the hourly news about the state of the flood.  So far, the flood has generated very little “news” in terms of anything dramatic, shocking, or exotic.  And that’s good: How adroitly and deftly we manage our natural disaster!

News today puts the leading edge of the Morganza water about 3 miles south of Highway 190 but not yet to Interstate 10, so when we travel east to Baton Rouge tomorrow, we should see water when we cross the 4-mile bridge (which usually crosses dry ground).  That crossing will be interesting–I’ve traversed that bridge coming and going since 1970, but this will be the first time I’ll see standing water below.

So there’s much anticipation, much excitement, but I catch myself when I get too carried away  posting about the flood: The real reason for excitement is a daughter’s achievement and the family celebration that begins tomorrow.  Sure, we’ll see the diverted floodwater rolling through the Spillway, we may see a deer or wild hog or other displaced critter seeking high ground along the roadway, and no doubt we’ll marvel to see for ourselves the breadth of the swollen Mississippi as we cross on Interstate 10 going into Baton Rouge, but we’re not going to see the flood: We’re going to graduation!

Geaux, LSU, and Geaux,  Ann Christian!

Graduation Day 3: Louisiana Floodwatch Wednesday, May 18 2011 

A St. Landry Parish deputy patrols the backwater around Krotz Springs. (Photo from KATC's website.)

The news again today, so far, is unsensational.  The situation seems to be unfolding about as uneventfully as a catastrophic flood event could unfold.  If such is the reward for sound engineering, wise planning, and ample warning, we are blessed to be so smart :=).

What struck me in today’s news and reports?

  • Contrast Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden’s grim warning “We’re not out of the woods yet” statement in a TV interview this morning to New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s bubbling assurance in his remarks recorded in yesterday’s post.  Are these mayors 70 miles apart talking about the same River?
  • We’ll have to leave a few minutes earlier to get to Baton Rouge Friday because the speed’s been reduced to 45 mph along a 10 or 15 mile stretch

    Slow down for bears, gators, ferral hogs, coyote, deer, etc! (Photo from KATC website)

    of the Basin Spillway to minimize the risk of collision with wild critters seeking refuge on the elevated roadway.

  • Mandatory evacuations were made official today for Butte La Rose and other St. Martin Parish Basin areas: more displaced home and camp owners facing ruin.
  • The State Insurance Commissioner estimates that only 15% of the people at risk of losing homes and property in the Basin have flood insurance. 

Today’s closing thought: Why would anyone live in the mother of all flood planes , much less without flood insurance?  Cajuns’ sturdy self-reliance is well-documented, but do we stretch the  trait too far?

On tomorrow Day 4, I’ll post some more . . .

Graduation Day 2: Louisiana Floodwatch Tuesday, May 17 2011 

Hesco baskets and levee works galore

Yesterday, the media roar was considerably louder than today. This morning’s WWL radio talk in New Orleans, for instance, abandoned the flood story in favor of the local police administrative controversy after Mayor Landrieu went on the air earlier, confidently proclaming “There’s no question about it, the city is safe from flooding.” 

 Of course, what else would the Mayor say?  His city’s economy floats (no pun intended at floodtime?) on tourism.  Standing before the camera wringing his hands and whimpering, “The levees could fail!” would be bad for business.

While his rosey confidence surpasses more reserved officionados holding press conferences and doing media interviews, the overall assessment today seemed reservedly hopeful, even cautiously optimistic, because the flood control engineering is working according to design. 

I noted a number of encouraging indications:

  • Partly because of the drought-parched Spillway bed, the Morganza Spillway water is advancing much more slowly, as a result delaying the Basin and backwater flooding.
  • Levees up and down are holding.
  • The delayed backwater arrival is giving workmen more time to shore up improvements that will keep water out of more places once the water does show up.
  • Best of all: no one’s been assaulted by an angry  mama bear fleeing the inundated Spillway with her cubs.

But no one, even Mayor Landrieu, is ready to break out the sparklers and champagne.  The River may not rise any higher downriver because of the

The work of sand boils and seepage

Spillways’ relief, but the record level will last for weeks, much longer than ordinary floods.  Also sand boils and seepage continue to raise nagging concerns and require high levels of vigilant maintenance since untended, such phenomenon can precurse catastrophic levee failure.  Sand boils and seepage are notable, in fact, near campus in Baton Rouge where we will attend the commencement ceremony Friday afternoon.

So, not a bad day = a good day in the floodwatch?  I suppose, but let me end noting that so far in “so far, so good” means more weeks of watching and waiting, hoping today’s relative uneventfulness will be the first in a series that will last until the flood subsides.  But the nigh-apocalyptic River levels are record-setting, the backwater flooding won’t really get going until later this week, and while the system is doing what it was designed to “so far,” it’s never been tried under conditions that will last as long as the current (again, no pun intended :=).   If I just have to have something to worry about, the 2011 Mississippi River Flood remains  worthy of a good fret.

More tomorrow . . .

Graduation Day 1: Louisiana Floodwatch Monday, May 16 2011 

The Basin/Spillway flood map shows the flooded passage in store for our travel later this week.

The whole family’s looked foward all year to the end of this week: Ann receives her bachelor’s degree at L.S.U.  Some months ago, we made plans to attend the ceremony in Baton Rouge Friday afternoon, spend the night there, and travel for a day trip to New Orleans early Saturday morning to celebrate with a jazz brunch in the French Quarter.

Now along comes the River in her muddiest, surliest, most swollen demeanor, enshrouding the itinerary in exasperating drama.  This trip extensively parallels the flood drama’s course, beginning 35 miles or so down Highway 190 with a crossing of the backwater flooding around Krotz Springs (where CNN had a news crew  all weekend and again this morning covering evacuations); then crossing the spooky Morganza Spillway bridge that usually crosses dry land but should cross over a  tawny 3-mile wide surge spilling 10-15 feet deep Gulfward through channel; and finally spending Friday and Saturday in the shadow of levees in Baton Rouge and New Orleans where the lusty current swells against the levee tops, also crossing on the I-10 aller et retour between Baton Rouge and New Orleans the Bonne Carre Spillway’s relief torrent streaming from the River into Lake Pontchartrain.  Should amount to some interesting, maybe even breathtaking, scenery?

We have to go, of course, but the scene is working hard on my nerves–I think I’d enjoy it much more without the excitement.  Anyway,  suspecting these are memorable days, I decided the event is not only blogworthy, but blogworthy from day to day as the crisis unfolds.  So this is day 1 installment of the saga.

Today’s news up until midday has been a little encouraging in that the crest for Baton Rouge and New Orleans has been achieved, and similarly, the projected water levels in the Basin and Spillway has been lowered 6 inches to a foot.  The levees continue to hold, also.  Modest good news, but good.  The news still doesn’t eliminate serious concern for the levees, because the crest is going to last for almost a week and then only slowly dissipate–in other words, lots of water yet to pass under the proverbial bridge, and every day adds 24 hours to this extended test of the groaning, straining levee works: The potential for levee failure and disaster may be a smidgen blunter, but the threat remains, and will remain, LARGE.

We’re also learning that an added concern for highway driving safety will be looking out for wild critters fleeing the floodwdaters on or near the high ground of roadways–ferral hogs, deer, alligators, bears (yes, Atchafalaya Basin Black Bears, the females of which species tend cubs this time of year). 

So the nail-biting build-up begins.  What drama will unfold the next 24 hours?  Or what drama will lessen?  I’d say we’ll find out “if the Lord’s willin’ and the creeks don’t rise,” but in this case, I fear the creek’s rise is inevitable.  So let’s  just leave it to the Lord’s willing.   More tomorrow . . .

Humble Rewards of the Teaching Profession:Post-partum 1002 Friday, May 13 2011 

ENGL1002.09 is done--Never more shall we gather.

A week ago, English 1002, Section 9, assembled in this room for our last class meeting of Spring 2011.  My band of freshman writers left with marching orders to complete and submit their final essays, and so they did.  I enjoyed reading their final reflections on their growth and development as writers as they recounted the agony of their trials which often led to joyous epiphanies of discovery. 

This week at MWF 11:00-11:50, the room has the lonesome look shown in the picture.

I’m sure the students don’t mind freedom from their class devoirs and the exigencies of final exam week, and now that I’ve got multiple sets of final papers and projects evaluated and graded, I feel emancipated, too.  Like all creatures, I look forward to reaching the end of something when respite is the reward, even if respite is brief. 

But still I’m lonesome for the students when I pass Manuel Hall Room 101 and see the empty seats and the darkened podium:  the memory of another set of learners struggling at times to “get it,” another batch of successful pieces of writing to provide examples for future classes, another set of tales added to the collected personal experience lore chronicling humble rewards of the profession.

I can’t spend such memories at the grocery store or invest them to earn interest at Edward D. Jones, but I can treasure them as the fulfillment of  life worth living and God-given work worth doing.

The Flood of 2011: “They tryin’ to wash us away” Tuesday, May 10 2011 

The 1927 Mississippi River flood is the defining flood event in the lower Mississippi River’s history.  My Aunt Pearl told tales of how the flood impacted my Dad’s family in St. Bernard in that era.

84 years of levee improvements later, what have we wrought?

We soon shall know “in the streets of Evangeline.”   The old crest records appear to be heading into swollen oblivion.

Toilet Paper I Can Trust? How ’bout the Sears-Roebuck Catalog? Wednesday, May 4 2011 

Northern Tissue advertising makes interesting claims about the role and function of toilet paper.

I’ve gotten a kick lately out of Northern toilet tissue ads on TV: “It’s time to get honest about what goes on in the bathroom” and “I need toilet paper I can trust.”

Forget it, Northern.  Your commercial tricks are wasted on me!

First of all, I remember Uncle Jack’s discourse on the subject of toilet paper, somewhat like this: “They print pretty little flowers on it, and they even scent the paper.  But what do you do with it?”  The answer to the rhetorical question, of course, begs no answer.

Anyway, I remember the original “toilet paper you can trust.”  I found it in Mr. Ernest’s and Mrs. Annie’s outhouse: remnants of the 1960 Sears-Roebuck catalog, resting on the bench of the one-holer in the homestead’s backyard.  The catalog provided more versatile “sanitary service” because not only could you perform the essential function with the paper, but you could read the leaf you tore out for use before its dedication to service.

My favorite section of the Sears-Roebuck toilet roll in that era?  The ladies’ underwear section, of course.  As a 7 year old, how fascinating the images of ladies clad in bras and panties!