Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Rite of Passage

I took Andrew to take his driver’s test today. He’s been tooling around with his permit, playing chauffeur to his dad and me for about nine months now. As anyone who owns a vehicle knows, the DMV is often an exercise in patience.

We were advised to go to Sulphur; that the wait is shorter there. So we hopped on I-10 West, going out of our way, only to discover that their computers were down this morning and the waiting room overflowed with folks, all seats taken, even people sitting on the floor, awaiting licenses, license renewals, license plates, car registrations, and whatever else people go to the DMV for. The elderly woman next to me had been waiting for over two hours. Andrew and I decided to take our chances and try the Lake Charles DMV, though I knew we’d wait there, too.

We took a ticket, found seats, and opened our books. Three and a half hours and several trips to the vending machines later and we now have a third licensed driver in the house. Yep, he passed, first time!

As I sat waiting in the overly-chilled DMV, I recalled when I was 16 and got my own driver’s license (I failed the first time – we won’t talk about that) and reflected on what it means to a young person. A degree of freedom. More independence. To no longer be wholly reliant on Mom and Dad. And what it means to a parent. A letting go. A trust. A stark realization that they’re growing up. Quickly.


Advice for anyone planning a trip to the DMV: Take a big book, a bulky sweater, a whole lot of patience, and go on a day when you have absolutely nothing better to do.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Louisiana Lesson One -- Music

I signed myself up for a Leisure Learning course at McNeese University. The class will explore "topics covering Louisiana's unique culture." How could I resist! We began today with a lecture on Louisiana music, specifically jazz and its origins in New Orleans, presented by well-known professor and musician Rick Condit.

I had not realized that jazz is the only genre of music truly original to Louisiana. Other music forms which we may attribute to this state, such as Cajun or zydeco, actually originated in other places and migrated here.

Jazz evolved from an amalgamation of many sources. Nineteenth century New Orleans was an integrated mish mash of cultures and people from around the world. In the early 1800s, slaves sang, danced, and played music in Congo Square. There, African beats melded with Caribbean melodies. Choirs in Baptist churches, brass marching bands in parades, opera houses, and symphonies permeated the air with music. One northerner supposedly said, "New Orleans is one vast and gallivanting hall." Around the 1840s and for the next eighty years, minstrel shows, a blend of music and comedy, entertained the masses.

Out of this musically diverse heritage came Louis Armstrong (1901-1971). Louie made a profound contribution to jazz, essentially creating a new musical language, a new lyrical vocabulary. He was innovative, a master at improvisation.

Next up, a look at Louisiana folklore. In the meantime, enjoy these three videos. Interestingly, even when Louie didn’t play it, he still held his trumpet.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflections on 9-11

Ten years, hard to believe. Anyone who is old enough to remember will say they remember it like it was yesterday; time, place, events, circumstances, and emotions indelibly seared into our minds. We are all reliving our stories today. Here's mine.

I was working part-time then at Passavant Hospital. And I wasn't scheduled to work that day, but had to be there that morning for a mandatory inservice. During the meeting, someone came in and interrupted the speaker, whispering something to her. The speaker ended the meeting soon after. I went upstairs to the respiratory care department where I worked. Many people were congregated in our sleep lab, huddled and staring at a TV.

I said, "What's happening?"

"A plane flew into the World Trade Center," said Melissa.

"What?" I peered at the image on the screen. I expected it to be a little two-seater with the tail sticking out of the glass. "Well, where is it?"

"Inside the building."

I tried to fathom exactly what that meant. We all assumed it was an unbelievable tragic accident. But then the second plane sliced through the other tower. And we knew we were under attack.

The rest of the day was surreal. I went home and, like the rest of the country, was glued to the TV. I kept trying to call my mom but the phones were tied up. No one could get through and we didn't yet have computers or cell phones.

Then word of the Pentagon. And then Flight 93. We didn't know what was coming next. I recall the anxiety and uncertainess of it all. I went to see my neighbor and good friend Christine, so I wasn't alone. Many parents went to the school to pick up their kids, but I didn't think it wise. The boys were in first grade. I didn't want them to be worried or scared.

I recall the silence of the sky over the ensuing days. Being so accustomed to planes flying overhead that I didn't even hear them anymore, their absence screamed calamity. Two days later, at my Thursday morning women's bible study at church, we read Romans 12:9-21 through tear-veiled eyes. I encourage you to read it.

Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Please share your story in the comments.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pittsburgh's North Side Farmers' Market

You all know I miss a lot of things about Pittsburgh. One thing I really miss is the North Side Farmers' Market. I think of it every Friday afternoon, when, if I still lived in the 'burgh, I would be there. Early September is just about the peak of harvest time in the northeast and the place is hopping as I write, I'm sure. I loved the colors there; the bouquets of fresh cut flowers, produce sold from the back of farmers' trucks -- tomatoes, corn, green beans, squash of all kinds, onions, beets, bright shiny peppers, greens, cucumbers, you name it. And the smells . . . I miss the bread man -- does he still make the yummy loaves with chocolate chunks and dried cherries? Sandhill Berry Farm, with those incredible raspberry chocolate chip cookies, pies, and jams. The Polish stand, selling pierogies and halushka, the Greek vendor with his spinach pies, gyros, and baklava. The man with his little table of figs and the guy who hawks peaches and apples, always ready with a sample. The lemonade stand. I miss it all. And what a great place to people watch. People are so colorful, too. Pittsburgh's a very ethnic town -- Asians, African-Americans, Indians -- and everyone loves fresh produce. Young couples holding hands, deciding what to have for dinner. Elderly in motorized wheelchairs buying their weekly fruits and vegetables. Middle-aged singles with dogs on leashes. Kids running through the trees, with moms chasing after them. Cars and buses on surrounding streets and helicopters landing at Allegheny General.

I don't have any photos. it never occured to me to take pictures of the farmers' market when I lived there. But I did find a link.

Of course, we have farmers' markets here in Lake Charles. And I love frequenting them. It's just not quite the same hustle bustle. The colors, sounds, and smells are different. I miss it.

Do you have a favorite farmers' market? What do you love about it?