LSU Eunice Bengals Baseball: Making it from “LOB” Squad to “JOB” Squad? Tuesday, May 28 2013 

Bengal bats started to get the JOB done in game 2.

Bengal bats started to get the JOB done in game 2.

Shakespeare’s King Richard III lost his mount in the peak of battle, prompting the desperate cry, “My kingdom for a horse!” On foot with the dangerous battle swirling on swift and powerful steeds all around him, King Rich knew that he, horseless, was a sitting duck for disaster and loss.

And likewise or at least by analogy, if Coach Willis were otherwise King Jeff III during game 1 and the opening at-bats of game 2 in the current NJCAA Division II world series, his plea of desperation would likely have been “My kingdom for a two-out hit!” I don’t have the stat sheet before me, but I believe the Bengals LOB (left on base) total for game 1 was 12; then for the first two at-bats in game 2, clutchless hitters left goose-eggs on the scoreboard after leaving 5 base runners standing on bags around the infield.

I was starting to wonder if a fitting nickname for this team was the “LOB Squad.” The propensity to fail delivery of timely hits with runners in scoring position, often contributing to missed opportunities for burying and putting away opponents, had been a smudge mark on this gang’s otherwise sparkling record of achievement during the season. And, like so many other contests during the season when clutch hits were scarce, the game 1 offensive performance made the team appear wobbly and uncertain, sitting ducks indeed, for similar disaster and loss to that King Richard faced in his helpless estate.

But salute the Bengals. They did what they had to do in game 1 to leave the field with a walk-off, one-run squeaky win in the bottom of the ninth. Better yet, more potent bats sprang to life after the wobbly start in game two as they put a few crooked numbers on the line score that added up to a more dominant-looking 9-1 tally (against the impressive #4 ranked team in the nation).

Early surprises in the first two games, to me, are the home runs. This team’s average for the season was less than .5 homers per game, but in the Series where the windy ball park and the better-than-average pitching opposition would seemlingly work against the demonstration of power, three batters (Powell, Thibodeaux, and Trosclair) have mashed ‘taters. Furthermore, all three homers came at critical times in the games–they were dramatic, “get the job done” hits, back-breaking, crushing blows that mightily demoralized the opposition.

So offensively, have we made it from LOB to JOB (as in “get the JOB done)? Hopefully, that’s the indication that will play out as we move on to game 3 tomorrow night. If the quality pitching in the first two games holds up, and this JOB squad starts to show up in the batter’s box, I’m convinced that this team will roll and that they WILL prevail.

Let’s not say we smell a national championship just yet. But the Bengals and their fans know exactly what national championship smells like, and no one will be surprised if we don’t start sensing the fragrance in the spring breeze before the week’s over.

But to make that happen, JOB squad, “Do your JOB!”

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Java-Script: Caffeine doth intoxicate the muse! Thursday, May 23 2013 

Ah, caffeine: Awake, my soul, and sing!

Ah, caffeine: Awake, my soul, and sing!

On the back of a flier promoting the Lafayette High School Russian Educ/Cultural Exchange, March/April 1993, I found the following sets of scribbles, no doubt the brainchildren of a pre-writing exercise I practiced with a writing class. Context, I recall not, but somehow, the subject was coffee. I share them as artifacts of imagination, not sure today as I was not sure then which (if any) are/were suitable for publication.

Scribble 1

Caffeine kick
Opens my eyes
Frees the senses
For an
English teacher’s
Every morning

Scribble 2

Inky
black
sepia
java juice
aromatic nuggets, ground and brewed
Hand-picked by Juan Valdez
Good to the last drop
Ca c’est du bon cafe, ouai!

Scribble 3

Inky black
sepiatic fluid
java juice
brewed
from ground aromatic
kernels
hand-picked by Juan Valdez
the best part of waking up
Good to the last drop
Ca c’est du bon cafe, ouai!

A NOLA Memoir: Cajun Rendezvous at the Roosevelt Hotel Blue Room Monday, May 20 2013 

I’ve known about the Blue Room at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans all my life. I grew up in the Greater NO area, of course. I recall, probably in the mid-60’s, often listening to WWL Radio on Friday nights when, at 8:00, the announcer introduced the weekly radio broadcast, exclaiming “Live, from the world famous Blue Room at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans!” The live entertainment featured big band music (the Leon Kelner orchestra was the standy-by) as well as weekly guest celebrities from the local and national scene.

I didn’t listen much to the music, and I always got the impression that the Blue Room was a fancy joint, not the kind of place my social cast would frequent. Indeed, the clientele my imagination conjured wore tuxedos and formal ball room gowns. I could almost smell blue sinews of tobacco smoke that I imagined drifting lazily among the low lights of chandeliers as the Friday night romantics sipped martinis at tables in dimly-lit corners or swayed gracefully across the dance floor of the crowded room.

Several years ago on a New Orleans date trip not long after the Roosevelt had been refurbished, I finally got to see the Blue Room for real. My wife and I were looking for a brief air-conditioned retreat from the sultry sidewalks, so we ducked into the exotic Roosevelt Hotel lobby to gulp at the high class opulence and cool off at the same time. I decided to look for the Blue Room, that place I had heard of so many years earlier. At the far end of the lobby, there it was: Not as big as I imagined, but just as elegant and just as “blue” in terms of the color scheme. As I stood in the door to see what was going on, a hotel staffer came up to shoo me away since some private party was going on inside, but I got to stand there long enough to satisfy my curiosity.

Fast forward to this past Saturday. The wedding reception for my coozan-in-law’s daughter just married in an uptown church on St. Charles Avenue was at the Roosevelt. That sounded pretty cool. When my family arrived at the hotel after the wedding, I looked for the concierge to ask where the Fontenot-Brown reception was taking place, but luckily I ran into Coo-zan father-of-the-bride in the middle of the lobby and asked him where we were headed. He told me, “The last room on the left” as he pointed down the hall.

'Gardes-y donc, all these home town Cajuns in the Blue Room of the Roosevelt Hotel!

‘Gardes-y donc, all these home town Cajuns in the Blue Room of the Roosevelt Hotel!

Whoa! Really?

I knew that the last room down the hall was the Blue Room! Stunned, I asked him, for clarity, “You mean the Blue Room?”

“Yep,” he replied.

So on we ambled to the end of the lobby to join the festivity in this celebrated meeting room, really unique because the wedding celebrants were country Prairie Cajun folks. These were South Louisiana family and neighbors we live and work among, ordinary people who hardly resemble the New Orleans Garden District aristocrats that my mind always imagined frequenting this establishment. We had a blast hanging out with so many familiar family and friends in this exotic venue 165 miles east of more familiar, homey places.

As memorable as New Orleans is to me and my family, holding a life time of treasured memories and experiences from my earliest childhood to the wedding reception, this weekend past adds another highlight to my rich gallery of Crescent City remembrance.

“Hey, yi-yaille, mes amis, allons au Blue Room!”

PooPoo Haiku on the joys of poopey-diaper-free grandparenting Wednesday, May 15 2013 

And that sweet little baby hands you a wad of what?

And that sweet little baby hands you a wad of what?

Years ago before I was an adult, much less a parent, I remember my late Uncle Jack’s discourse on the subject of poopey diapers. “You’re aggravated because the kid just handed you a wad of sh___,” he began, “but when look down into that crib to change the diaper and you see that little smiling face, what do you do? You pick her up and hug her!”

I appreciated fully the folk wisdom in Uncle Jack’s tale when I grew up and raised my own poopey-diaper-makers. Diaper change was a bonding experience!

But along comes grandparenthood. To quote the celebrated poet of latter year, “Nevermore, quoth [I]!” Meaning, nevermore would I change a poopey diaper if I could in any way avoid it. That seems to be a deserved fringe benefit of grandparenthood, in consideration of all the poopey diapers I joyfully changed in my day. And I have been ever true to that resolution as a grandparent: Not once did I change a poopey diaper! I even composed a haiku verse that expresses the spirit of this season of life:

When rank fragrance blooms
From di’per-swaddled bottom,
Hand her to her mom!

A sparkling assertion Monday, May 13 2013 

Here ye, here ye: A sparkling assertion!

Here ye, here ye: A sparkling assertion!

What follows is an experiment in pedantry.

If an assertion sparkles, it is true? Or does it evoke questions? And if questions the assertion does evoke, are the answers mightier than the questions? Let’s experiment with the following assertion, followed by a set of logical questions that could (or could not)ensue:

Assertion:
“I have lived so long that I will not die young.”

Questions
At what point does that assertion become a victorious proclamation?

Or rather does it sting like an angry wasp?
Or stink like an old lady’s moth balled cedar chest?
Or sink like an encumbered heart beset by life’s travail?
Or shrink like guilt before the chastening fire of justice?

Or simply slink quietly away once the one who proclaims this assertion realizes he proclaims his mortality?

The Final Daze of Final Days Friday, May 10 2013 

The daze of finals melts into days of liberation!

The daze of finals melts into days of liberation!

No matter that I work in a campus administrative office that serves the public 8-4:30 daily 12 months a year (excluding holidays), the ebb and flow of campus life conforms to the beginnings and endings of semesters. Today marks the last day of final exams for the Spring Semester 2013. The daze and stress of final exams evaporate, borne away by the fragrant, mellow mist of liberation that wafts across the building and grounds as the onerous season surrenders its lease.

As I walked outside the building earlier this morning and viewed the sidewalks, a week ago this time teeming with students and faculty scurrying to and fro during class exchange but today almost void of traffic, I sensed that mellow fragrance. Yes, the offices will open Monday morning, and sure, summer school will start up in a few weeks, but for now it’s time for ending.

Ending the semester. Ending the grind of grading papers and reporting grades. Ending the tedium of managing off-campus and after-hours courses. Ending the academic year.

True, these annual spring-time endings are not as final as the exams the students just took, because beginnings are right around the corner. After all, the cycle of the academy grinds like a great stone wheel on the axis of its sacred semestral traditions.

But at least for this brief, liberating season, our unbearable daze is transformed into bearable days. At least for this season of ending.

Run, rat, run! Tuesday, May 7 2013 

I never thought I’d cheer for a rat.  They’re despicable rodents.  I regret that they’re mammals the same as I!

But today I cheered for one, I confess.

A South Louisiana US 190 rat lives to tell the tale.

A South Louisiana US 190 rat lives to tell the tale.

East bound on Highway 190 just before Livonia, Louisiana, a fleet of tractor-drawn bush hogs were mowing the ditch on the right side of the highway.  Directly in front of me on the highway was an enormous touring bus.

Just as the east-bound touring bus approached the point passing the west-bound bush hog on the shoulder of the highway, an alarmed rat, no doubt believing himself too young to be bush-hogged to death, darted out almost in front of the tractor’s  tires.  I cringed as the bus bore down on the scampering rat, holding my breath literally in anticipation of “splat.”  Miraculously, the north-bound rat skittered under the bus, the bus coursing along at 65 mph mind you, and emerged on the other side, tumbling across two lanes in the  turbulence of the bus’s under-draft.

The last I saw of the rat, it was safe and secure, I assume continuing its passage across the west bound lanes where it likely found rat-refuge in the ditch along the west-bound side.

For the first time in my life, I was happy for a rat.