Counting down the 26th: 17 to go Wednesday, Feb 26 2014 

After today, 17 to go.

After today, 17 to go.

My career’s red letter day stands as July 26th, 2015. If the plan unfolds as conceived, that’s R day: Retirement.

(At least from the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana; not sure what I may find to get into for a second career if the right offer and opportunity comes along).

I’ve been wanting to start a countdown, like a construction paper chain we made in grade school to count down days-till-Christmas, cutting a link each day and watching the chain grow shorter. But the number of days are too numerous for a day-by-day check-off. However, the number of months was starting to look appealing after the new year started, so I resolved on the 26th of January to begin marking off the 26th’s of each month as a celebration day. In January, eighteen 26th’s stood between me and R day; today, the magic number falls a notch to seventeen.

Onward to March 26th (and beyond!)

Daddy Tales: Life on the Mississippi, Part I Tuesday, Feb 18 2014 

The River likely near the point where Daddy and his cronies swam: This view looks from the Algiers side across to the Arabi shore where the Domino sugar refinery is a prominent Arabi landmark.

The River likely near the point where Daddy and his cronies swam: This view looks from the Algiers side across to the Arabi shore where the Domino sugar refinery is a prominent Arabi landmark.

I found myself lately relating some of my Daddy’s childhood memoirs to friends and family. As I consider the purpose and usefulness of this site as a respository of family lore, I decided to transcribe the oral versions of some of these tales while some of us still remember them. I as well as future generations would lose the richness of these ancestral accounts of feats and adventures unless we otherwise capture them by writing them down.

Today’s post visits the banks of the Mississippi River just downriver from New Orleans in the blue-collar suburb of Arabi, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. That’s Daddy’s home town, the place where he worked and played and got into mischief (by his own accounts) as a child. And the Arabi Riverfront provides a fascinating and adventurous setting for many of those accounts.

To me, one of the most fascinating activities he and his boyhood buddies engaged in was swimming in the River. And not just swimming along the levee’s edge, but crossing the River in its entirety, from the Arabi shore to climb on a barge on the opposite shore, dive in, and make the return trip to the Arabi side. Of course, they didn’t swim non-stop. He and his mates were accompanied by one or more who rowed a wooden skiff alongside the swimmers, so the trip was more than likely a combination of swimming and paddling. Still, I can’t imagine what an adventure that aller et retour across the immense breadth of Old Man River must have provided, including close-up encounters with massive ships and barge tows plying the current in this high-traffic stretch of River just downriver from the busy Port of New Orleans. I also remember Daddy explaining how they would have to account for the current of the River in their strategy to reach the destination on the opposite shore: You couldn’t row straight across because of the drift, in other words, so they had to estimate the correct angle of attack so they would land on target on the other side.

Daddy always confessed that he engaged in that activity without the blessing of his mother, who sternly forbade swimming in the River. This was a diversion that he had to pursue on the sneak, so to speak. He never specified whether he got caught or not, but by Daddy’s accounts of his childhood in general, I can imagine my grandfather administered a disciplinary action or two as a result of Daddy’s River shenanigans.

I’m pretty sure too that Daddy was a braver boy than I, because when I would stand on the levee as a child and hear him recount those stories of swimming across the River, I would have been too much of a chicken to as much as dip my toe in the intimidating water’s edge. But Daddy, he was one of that generation. I guess they don’t make ’em any more like that World War II gang. Maybe their adventurous-bordering-on-foolhardy character was among the traits that enabled the nation to triumph over Germany and Japan.

I labeled this “Life on the Mississippi” post as Part I because I have some other River tales worth recording. I’ll save those for another post, which could be Parts II and maybe III of this River thread. Return often, reader, if you find this piece endearing, humorous,entertaining, nostalgic, or otherwise ispirational. 🙂

23rd Psalm in Cajun Saturday, Feb 15 2014 

A former student–one of my favorites of all time–recently lost her elderly grandmother. She asked me if I could translate the 23rd Psalm into Cajun French as a memorial to her native-Cajun speaking loved one. So I took a stab at it. Cajun is a spoken rather than written language to most of its practitioners, so I’m not sure how the translation comes out, but I rather like it. I think the Cajun speakers that I know would understand and appreciate the classic Psalm as I believe it would be rendered thus:

Un Psaum de David

Un Psaum de David

Psaume de David. L’Éternel est mon berger; je manque a rien. 2 Il me fait reposer dans des pâturages vert; il m’amene par des eaux tranquilles. 3 Il restaure mon âme, il me conduit dans les sentiers de la justice, Ă  cause de son nom. 4 MĂŞme quand je va marcher dans la vallĂ©e de l’ombre de la mort, j’ai pas peur; parce que toi, t’es avec moi; c’est ton bâton et ta houlette qui me consolent 5 Tu mets la table devant moi, Ă  la vue de ceux qui me persĂ©cutent; tu oins ma tĂŞte d’huile; ma coupe dĂ©borde. 6 Oui, les biens et la misĂ©ricorde va m’accompagner tous les jours de ma vie, et je va rester dans la maison de l’Éternel pour l’Ă©ternitĂ©.

Reflections on Sushi and Chopsticks Saturday, Feb 8 2014 

Daughter’s 25th family birthday celebration ended up in a Sushi joint a couple of miles from campus in Baton Rouge. I’m old enough to remember when pizza was the nouveau cuisine in university towns, but it seems the latest craze has gone Oriental: sushi.

I’ve tried sushi a number of times in the last few years in response to the younger folks’ raves. I’m still not sure. Whether it’s the idea of raw fish or the awkward manipulation of chop sticks, I can’t quite seem to get it. Watching the youngsters excel at the skill makes me feel like I may be getting old.

Fortunately, today, future son-in-law Brandon recommended the fried oyster roll (he knowing my affinity for oysters), so I did, and the outcome was gratifying. Still not a New Orleans style oyster po’ boy like I’ve eaten for years living on the Louisiana Gulf coast, but definitely sushi more palatable

Chop stick, or spear stick?

Chop stick, or spear stick?

for these 60+ year old taste buds.

As for the chop sticks, I don’t think so. They seem best when used one at a time for spearing food. I’ll cling to my European orientation to forks and spoons, thank you kindly.

Remembering Uncle Jack: Cute Dogs Make Cute Puppies Tuesday, Feb 4 2014 

My late Uncle Jack was a folk philosopher, a spinner of homey aphorisms. He was the author, indeed, of such immortal lines as, “Love makes the world go ’round, but money’s the grease that turns the axle.” (Being from down in the Parish, of course, Uncle Jack’s turns came out toins).

Daughter Ann and her beau, Brandon: What cute puppies!

Daughter Ann and her beau, Brandon: What cute puppies!

"Bad puppy dawg" Zach and his sweetheart, Trisha

“Bad puppy dawg” Zach and his sweetheart, Trisha

But another fond recollection that rests with me was his observation on family and progeny. He was proud of his own kids, of course, as he was proud of his nieces and nephews. He articulated a doggy analogy to explain the genetic phenomenon: “Cute dogs make cute puppies.” In other words, attractive parents produce attractive offspring.

I thought of Uncle Jack this evening as I regarded my own kids and their companions. I know that looks really don’t matter in eternity, but as humans let’s admit we’re programmed that way… and as parents, we’re proud of the byproducts of our loins, those “cute puppies” descended from our collective gene pools.