Marley and the Wisteria: A Bird in Paw is Worth Two in the Bush? Friday, Aug 30 2013 

Late this summer we found an empty bird’s nest in the Wisteria vines on the north side of the Happy Place. Marley the Dog obviously remembered that mama bird going in and out of the shrubbery in spring to the degree that every twitch and flutter of leaf in the bush continues to seize his attention, no matter that the nest and its contents are long gone. Bless his little puppy heart, every time the wind blows, he is convinced that the bird comes and goes in that clutch of vines!

So, to aid and abet his curiosity, he takes full advantage of any promontory that provides a closer look. Ergo, this perch from the Happy Place swing on his Mommy’s shoulder: What a focused dog!

Marley the dog uses every advantage of elevation to get closer to the bird's nest in the bush.

Marley the dog uses every advantage of elevation to get closer to the bird’s nest in the bush.

The Pitter Patter of Students’ Feet: Campus, alive! Monday, Aug 26 2013 

The pitter-patter of students feet returned to the halls of the Community Education Classroom Building at the start of a new school year.

The pitter-patter of students feet returned to the halls of the Community Education Classroom Building at the start of a new school year.

The ebb and flow of the academy’s calendar has two high-water marks: August when the school year begins, and May when it winds down. Today marks the beginning as the hallways outside the office, dark and quiet since the middle of May last spring, once again bustled with excited students and faculty scurrying from class to class on this perennial day of fresh starts and blooming optimism.

The campus air bristled with excitement, anxiety, and chatter. Passing by lecture rooms up and down the hallway, one after the other, lofty pontifications arose from lecterns where faculty strove to inspire, motivate, and perhaps scare fresh crops of learners arrayed in rows of desks before their mentors. And what keen observer would ever miss the heavy, palpable sense of late-adolescent hormonal rush as handsome, eligible youth strutted the halls and sidewalks in the timeless gamesmanship of coy flirtation?

So here we are, awash in hope and fear, glossy texts and notebooks stowed in shiny booksacks, ready to assault the base camps of this mountain known as Academic Year 2013-14. Come December, if the muse be kind and inspires us well, we’ll attain the peak, from which we’ll descend in the spring semester to the green valley of May nine months hence. Another academic year lies ahead: Hie we hence thereto!

Another cup of Saturday Saturday, Aug 24 2013 

This Saturday morning’s Facebook status:

933980_10201725426278799_66487624_nMorning fresh,
lazy air
before the sun
does its yukky late-August work–
Calls for another cup of Saturday.

The Summer of an Old Instrumental Friend Thursday, Aug 22 2013 

Hand made in Louisiana

Hand made in Louisiana

This old Cajun accordion got some good workouts this summer. Since early spring, the neighborhood got serenaded from the Happy Place late in the day most evenings, and we had some rousing jam sessions on first Fridays at Le Cafe Cajun on campus.

This instrument was hand-built by the late accordion maker Lawrence “Shine” Mouton in Crowley, Louisiana. I paid Shine $525 for that box in 1978 or 79. Today, I could sell it for almost twice that amount. A brand new one would cost over $2000. Turned out to be not so bad an investment, as much as I remember how much of a sacrifice that seemed withdrawing those five 100 dollar bills that I handed over to Shine the day I bought this gem.

For the first time in all these years, I had to take it in for a repair last month to Shine’s nephew who has perpetuated the family accordion-making craft and business. I thought that was pretty awesome for an instrument with so many working parts to hold up for so long without need for “fixing.” Shine evidently knew what he was doing when he put that instrument together.

It’s really not a Cajun instrument–the original diatonic accordions that this one is patterned after were German-made, the pre-World War II brand names Sterling and Monarch. German immigrants introduced them to South Louisiana sometime in the early 1900’s, but the Cajuns adapted these musical boxes creatively to their own brand of folk music.

After the Allies bombed the German factories out of existence in World War II, the German brands went out of production. As the original Sterlings and Monarchs aged and broke down, Cajun craftsmen started taking the instruments apart to see how they could replicate them. And so they did, and so we have these antique-looking, charming reed instruments with really potent sound.

Summer 2013: Summer’s lease hath all too short a date Sunday, Aug 18 2013 

The Happy Place is shrouded in green shade, surrounded by blooming flowers and shrubs.

The Happy Place is shrouded in green shade, surrounded by blooming flowers and shrubs.

Quoting Shakespeare in the title, of course. But so was the season. For the third year in a row, on the eve of the annual “back to school” fall semester faculty/staff in-service, unofficially signaling the end of the summer and the beginning of another academic year, I pause to reflect on the highlights of a summer in review, Summer 2013. Going back to May, what will we remember?

* Ann’s graduation, M.S. in Kinesiology from L.S.U. (We messaged her from the audience to sneak out early while the undergrad’s were going across the stage!

* Trismus! Lockjaw, by any other name. Yes, the endodontic ordeal that nearly ruined Ann’s graduation celebration and, a week later, the wedding celebration in New Orleans. At Chartres House Restaurant the weekend of the wedding, I ordered red beans and rice in favor of a dish that was soft and easy to chew in small bites due to considerable pain of eating.

* The Blue Room at the Roosevelt Hotel! Cousin Winston’s daughter Sarah’s wedding on St. Charles Avenue followed by the reception downtown. Utterly unforgettable.

* Crowley High School Ladies softball summer league. Sarah and I made fast friends among the parents and grandparents of Zach’s softball team during the team’s June summer ball season. We look forward to following this team and hanging out with those good folks next spring.

*The Happy Place, so named by Sarah, as we reclaimed the corner of the yard once served as dog pen and later as a storage area for cutting and stacking firewood. We watched almost every day of the summer end from that Wisteria-enshrouded retreat, rendered lush and liveable by our early-season labor.

* Not all was happy. We bid farewell to friend Carolyn Ward, taken so suddenly and cruelly from us in an auto accident in Lafayette.

*Weekend visits and playtime with granddaughter Payton–We set up the wading pool in the back yard and went on special outings, like the Acadiana Zoo visit in late July.

Summer is kids and popsicles after playing outdoors.  Granddaughter Payton and her buddy Gavin from across the street know how to jazz July.

Summer is kids and popsicles after playing outdoors. Granddaughter Payton and her buddy Gavin from across the street know how to jazz July.

*Getting to know Ann’s boyfriend Brandon in several encounters. The Mojito Lime grilled chicken for our Father’s Day weekend patio party was particularly memorable. How nice that someone else would tend the grill!

*Fried oysters for birthday 61: This year D. C’s Sports Bar and Restaurant right here in Eunice. C’etait bon!

* The Eunice Waltz–I mastered it! Thanks to my former high school English student and now famous Cajun musician Christy Guillory, whose YouTube version of the tune served as my tutor. (The teacher becomes taught?)

* The Nike Running App for the iPhone. I rebounded as a runner. The debilitating Achilles injury that plagued me last year got better and I found my stamina and endurance greatly improved. The App’s statistics were challenging from one day to the next to run faster or farther. Definitely a revival season for workouts.

* One year anniversary in DROP. I keep reminding myself: Technically, I’ve reached retirement! I’m working now because I choose to, not because I have to. My birthday on July 26 signaled one year of DROP complete, two to go.

*Galveston getaway in late July/early August. A Gulf beach.

*The climax of the entire summer was Cousin Kenyon’s boat tour of Galveston Bay, Harbor, Pelican Island, and Bolivar Point. A memory of memories! We saw Galveston Bay and Harbor from vantages that most tourists could never afford to see. Enchanting. Utterly.

As the sun sets on Galveston Harbor, so sets the sun on a memorable summer 2013

As the sun sets on Galveston Harbor, so sets the sun on a memorable summer 2013

Sunday Night’s Lament: Wretched Monday! Wednesday, Aug 14 2013 

Sunday night just before sunset as the late summer Gulf Coast sunset turned pink in the western sky, I revisited a theme that’s become common these recent years: Monday, blue Monday. How I hate to see it come!

The thought of Monday morning spoils the hues of Sunday night's sunset.

The thought of Monday morning spoils the hues of Sunday night’s sunset.

Monday, oh wretched Monday!
How untimely thy hideous head reareth
as weekend’s pinkened light
doth fade
in the western sky,
foreboding sorrow
on the morrow!

The Last Fire Saturday, Aug 10 2013 

This photo from last April commemorated the latest-in-the-spring fire I ever made since we moved into this house in 1982. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was past mid-April.

Maybe the hand of Providence directed me to take this photo, because that was not only the latest spring fire we ever had, but it’s likely the last fire we’ll make in that fire place. The iron insert fire box is as old as the nearly forty-year old house, and with rust showing up here and there in the places I can see, I cringe to wonder what the places I can’t see look like. In the interest of safety, then, we decided to give up on wood fires. (Hence, the conversion of the former wood yard into the back yard “happy place” that’s shown up so often in posts since late spring).

As much as I loved that fire place for these thirty-plus years we’ve lived here, I feel a sense of liberation: no more firewood to cut or split or stack, no more fussing with kindling on cold winter mornings, no more ashes to shovel out, no more worry about chimney fires or worse (like burning the house down!).

Another chapter of pre-retirement life dawns. Of course, I’ll see if I still feel as liberated once the temperature dips for the first time this November or December. We may re-visit this topic along about then. 🙂

Farewell, cheery hearth!

Farewell, cheery hearth!

The Ladies’ Most Memorable Sunday School Class Friday, Aug 9 2013 

A true story from my August 2005 journal follows. Yes, truth is stranger than fiction!

Sarah and the ladies in her Sunday School class witnessed a memorable phenomenon this morning. They meet in a ground level classroom in the education building with a full-window view of the alley and the backs of some houses across the alley. As they sat in class, as Sarah relates it, they watched a fellow, 30ish, come out the back door of a back yard apartment behind one of the houses. He was an unattractive bloke to begin with, but topless and sporting a fleshy rice-n-gravy gut, he looked particularly disgusting, according to Sarah and the other ladies. But that wasn’t all–As he talked distractedly on a cell phone he held to his ear with one hand, he walked to the end of his driveway, casually hooked the thumb of his other hand in the elastic waist band of his pajama pants, yanked the pants down around his hips so as to expose . . . er, well, you can imagine what—threw back his shoulders, and relieved himself on the ground in full frontal view of the ladies Sunday School glass less than 20 feet away.

Apparently, he never noticed or considered that he may have an audience. Or did he? The ladies couldn”t believe it–absolutely flabbergasting.

Just goes to show you never know what you’ll see at church. If such happened more often, perhaps more people would attend Sunday School?

The next phrase of pre-retirement: “One more” Monday, Aug 5 2013 

Two years ago seems like yesterday. I read back through this blog and recall highlights of summer 2011, seeming just months rather than years ago.

But anticipating the end of active employment two years forward, the same span of time seems like a short eternity away. The proverbial watch pot boileth not?

I could fashion a construction paper chain of 730 days and break a link each day, like we did as school kids anticipating a holiday. That strategy is childish.

So, I let me resolve the following approach: With the arrival and passing of each annual calendar landmark in 2013-14, I’ll pronounce, “One more and done.”

For example, the annual Fall Semester back-to-school workshop is coming up on August 19. When that workshop is over, I’ll gather my friends and declare, “One more (fall workshop) and done!” Next year’s 2014 workshop will be my last ever as an active employee.

And so on and so forth, noting holidays and other annual landmarks: “One more, and done!” We will see if that strategy helps to move the calendar along for year 2 of pre-retirement.

Vacation: The Natural State of Man Saturday, Aug 3 2013 

Before Adam’s and Eve’s historical bloop, life was a breeze. Work was play. So, vacation must be the natural state of man. If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are several thousand words (without the words).

"Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea waves crashing!"

“Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea waves crashing!”

Grandkids and vacation: Peas in a pod, birds of a feather--the fountain of youth!

Grandkids and vacation: Peas in a pod, birds of a feather–the fountain of youth!

Ann and Payton strike a pose as we cross under the I-45 Causeway between the mainland and Galveston Island.

Ann and Payton strike a pose as we cross under the I-45 Causeway between the mainland and Galveston Island.

As the sun sets on Galveston Harbor Friday evening, so sets the sun on a memorable Gulf Coast getaway.

As the sun sets on Galveston Harbor Friday evening, so sets the sun on a memorable Gulf Coast getaway.