Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good Eatin'

Eating is Louisiana is a culinary adventure. The food here is like none I've had before. Gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, dirty rice (yeah, that sounds appetizing) muffaletta, po' boys. It's all wonderfully spicy. I've actually started putting Tabasco sauce on scrambled eggs. Rice abounds, as well as gravy. I've learned how to open and efficiently eat crawfish. (messy) What the heck are cracklins and boudin (boo-dan) anyway? (You don't want to know.) And more importantly, why would I want to eat them? How about a turducken for Thanksgiving? We had one for our first holiday last November. Once was enough. A King Cake for Mardi Gras? By February, you could care less who finds the baby. What's a satsuma? (a Louisiana tangerine) A mayhaw? Something they make jelly out of, that's all I know. How do they eat grits without milk and sugar? It looks like cream of wheat to me. Hunters around here will shoot, cook and eat anything and everything. And they waste nothing. Every part is used for something. It would seem there's a mom and pop donut shop on every corner. So what's a kolache? I've had to learn a whole new vocabulary of cuisine. It's been a lot of fun. It's all good. And I've enjoyed introducing these Louisianians to pierogies.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkins

From the time our boys were babies, each fall we'd take them to Reilly's Summer Seat Farm, let them pick out pumpkins, and snap their photo. Last fall, we were delighted to see that Moss Bluff United Methodist Church hosts an annual pumpkin patch to raise funds for local charities. Here are the boys then, at age one, and now, age fourteen. In the top photo, Eric is on the left, Andrew on the right. In the bottom photo, they are reversed.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Autumn

I heard on The Today Show last week that Pennsylvania is at it's peak for the colored leaves of autumn. I miss the fall colors of the northeast. Red, yellow and orange leaves against a backdrop of deep blue sky, accompanied by the crisp bitey scent of decay and woodsmoke. I miss hearing the leaves crunch under my sneakers as I hike through the woods. Here's a shot Mom and Tom just sent, taken near our cottage in Friendsville, Md.


I've discovered Louisiana has her own brand of beautiful autumn colors. Here's a photo of my favorite fall wildflowers.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Indian Bayou


In exchange for a writing critique and a few peanut butter cookies, my good friend Rodney Hennigan offered to take Bob and I on a little cruise. We met at the Parkside Marina just a few miles from our home. Then boarded Captain Rodney's 20-foot homemade canoe. She's a beauty of a boat. We motored up Indian Bayou on a cool overcast evening. Earlier showers had chased all the mosquitoes away. Lush palmettos lined the bayou banks. Invasive salvia and water hyacinth floated innocently atop the brown black water. Cascades of spanish moss dripped from tupelo gum and bald cypress. Blue heron and osprey guided us along, leading the way. Rodney swears there are 'gators in these waters, but we didn't see any. From Indian Bayou we entered the West Fork of the Calcasieu River, cruising northwest toward Sam Houston Jones State Park. We turned around by the park pavillion, a memorable site. Thanks, Rodney, for an enjoyable evening.




Monday, October 13, 2008

Free Parking

I've heard there's no such thing as a free lunch. But I have discovered, here in Lake Charles, that there is such a thing as free parking. Which, coming from Pittsburgh, was quite a revelation. I thought it pretty nifty that one can simply park along the streets in downtown LC without needless wandering, in search of a space with an open parking meter. And in retail shopping areas, such as the mall (yes, that's singular) and grocery stores, it's relatively easy to find a parking spot near the store entrance without walking half a mile. But when it stuck me the most was the first time I parked in a hospital parking garage. (For my Pgh readers, imagine any parking garage in Oakland. I can hear you moaning already.) I thought it rather odd that no ticket machine stood guard at the entrance. I nervously entered, thinking that perhaps I'd missed something, or maybe entered at the wrong place. In any case, I pulled into a spot and went to my appointment. When I left the garage, and there was no parking attendant booth, no person to collect my money, no gate across the exit, WOW, it was a freedom like I'd never experienced before. Just one of the perks of living in a small town, I guess.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Friends

Certainly for me, one of the most difficult aspects of moving to a new town has been leaving behind friendships forged over a quarter century and trying to make new friends. I miss my friends from Pittsburgh. I miss the comfort of familiarity, the easiness of unconditional acceptance, and the sheer number of folks who I shared this with. I didn't just have a group of friends. I had groups of friends; church friends, writer friends, work friends, gym friends, neighbor friends, miscellaneous friends and one college friend. It was sad, moving, leaving them all behind, starting over with a blank slate of friendships.

It's not my nature to be outgoing. I don't make friends easily. My need to meet people and make friends has been in constant battle with my desire to hole up and hide at home, happy to be my own best friend. But I'm working at making friends. My first priorities upon moving, after settling in, were to find a church and a writers' group. (More on these in upcoming blogs.) After the kids started school, I joined a gym. I'm freelancing from home, so that eliminates "work friends." Unless you count our two cats, Domino and Snowflake. And our ball python Slither.
Here's a shot of a few of my new friends, the Bayou Writer's Group conference committee, minus Bev, who took the photo. They are (l to r) Nona Cross, me, Walt Dutton, and Jess Ferguson.



For the most part, people here, as in Pittsburgh, are quite friendly. But I struggle to move past the "acquaintance" phase. What makes establishing friendships difficult here is that Lake Charles is somewhat like Pittsburgh in that, often, people are born here, live here, and die here. Relatives reside around the corner and childhood friends live down the street or across the river. (Or the bayou, as the case may be.). So most people here simply don't need anyone else. They don't need any new friends. It's tough to break into that. I've found the majority of friends I have made so far are transplants like myself, with a few exceptions.

I do my best to keep in touch with friends back home, and I'm also enjoying getting to know new friends. It's part of the adventure.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bugs

Before we moved, I'd heard legends about insects in southwest Louisiana. That they're a different species, bigger, aggressive, ruthless. And it's all true. Unlike the polite mosquitos in the northeast, who apologize before sucking your blood, (Sorry, I need this to live. Hope I don't hurt you too much) the 'skeeters down here hunt you down like hit men, zero in on your most sensitive spots, and while guzzling your RBCs, they surely inject some type of poison that guarantees you'll be furiously scratching a dime-sized welt for at least two weeks.

Last summer, we caught three black widow spiders on our back porch in three months. One had a sac full of baby black widows high in the corner of the porch ceiling. This summer, they must have gotten the message that they aren't welcome here. We didn't see any. But we do frequently find wolf spiders in the house. Due to their somewhat large size, we escort them out. I simply ignore the tiny nuisance spiders who create dust catchers under the furniture.

And then there's something we'd never seen in the north--love bugs. Twice a year, spring and late summer, the love bugs come out of, seemingly, nowhere, and fill the air, everywhere. They're completely harmless, but totally annoying. Cars really despise them. But the love bugs seems to love cars more than anything else in the world.

And don't even get me started on fire ants, another uniquely southern tradition. As much fun as it might be to disturb a fire ant mound, I don't recommend it. They're an angry lot, full of spite and vengeance. And fire ant bites, well, burn.

Now there is one insect, common in the northeast but even more prevalent in the deep south, that I truly love. The dragonfly. Or as we've oddly heard it called down here, "mosquito hawk." Dragonflies . . .their name alone invokes fantasy, knights and damsels, other-worldly times. Their irridescent wings catch the sunlight and sparkle, as they hum through the air. Dragonflies ignore us admiring humans, except for rare occasions. If you are very lucky, and are gifted by one landing on your shoulder, stopping by to say Hi, if only for a brief visit, then you are truly blessed.