kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Little Night Paddle

I headed east to Lake Arthur for a night paddle last night. It was a joint adventure between Lake Charles’ Pelican Paddlers and the Lafayette Paddle Club. We met at the put-in around 7:30. There was so much duck weed on the water; it looked like we could have walked on it. But once we rounded the bend into the bayou, the invasive green weed cleared somewhat.

Storms blew through the area earlier in the evening, so the sky was overcast and dusk settled in early.

The route took us out of the bayou and into Lake Arthur, around and up the peninsula, where our group of eleven enjoyed dinner (along with 10 gazillion mosquitoes who are apparently immune to bug spray) on the deck of the Regatta Restaurant.

But back to the lake. The sun set lovely in a wash of pink, coral, violet, and cornflower blue.

Because of the dim lighting, photos can’t begin to describe the beauty one sees on a paddle like this. We passed a rookery of great white heron that left us speechless. To see hundreds of these giant alabaster birds perched or flying through the trees . . . well, like I said, speechless.

Night paddling offers several advantages over the usual daytime excursions. The moon shimmers on the peaceful water. The wind has stilled and the speed boats gone home; it’s quiet, except for frogs croaking at a decibel one wouldn’t think possible. Fish leap near the bows of the boats, and I dread the day one flips itself into my cockpit. There’s always the chance of an alligator sighting, though I did not see any last night. While there is very little motor boat traffic after dark, as we paddled back through the charcoal blackness of the bayou, we did pass some folks in a jon boat trolling their jug lines.

This is the only photo I took after the sun set.

Indeed, life is good.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Flashback Friday -- Orange, Texas

A story I recently wrote for Jambalaya News about Lutcher Theater hit the newsstands yesterday. And that reminded me of a trip (read about it here) I once took to Orange, Texas, where the theater is located. Read my JAM News article here (page 22). And find Lutcher Theater on its website here.

Have you been to Lutcher Theater? I have not. Yet. It's still on my list of things to do.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


We put our cat, Domino, to rest today. He was sixteen years old, supposedly. We were told when we adopted him that he was two, and we had him fourteen years. The boys were three at the time. Domino was an integral part of our family from the day he came in the front door. It was Thanksgiving Day when our neighbor brought him over. The house smelled like turkey, and we think for that reason, Domino liked us immediately and felt right at home.

So he and the boys grew up together. We have so many memories. He loved to bring us “presents” – he was a master mole and chipmunk hunter. And no matter what we were doing, he always wanted to be right in the middle of it.

Never one to shy away from visitors or hide under the bed, Domino instead was always curious about company. And he loved his toys. Especially if they were laced with catnip. A highlight of every Christmas morning was to watch Domino wrestle his present out of his tiny stocking, claw off the gift wrap, then lick and gnaw at the “mouse” until it was a soggy mess.

He had several companions over the years.

Rusty, who we found a new home for after he became fond of peeing on the front porch instead of the litter box.

And Mabel. Sweet Mabel. Who died a mysterious death while still a young kitten.

And then Snowflake. Poor Snowy, who died an untimely early death after an unfortunate chance encounter with a fly who bore a hole into the flesh of her neck . . . it’s a long story.

This was as close as they ever got to each other.

Domino outlived them all.

But as elderly cats are wont to do, his kidneys failed. And then he stopped eating. For awhile, we hoped he would die a peaceful death in his sleep, sparing us the agonizing decision called euthanasia. But after a week and a half of watching him starve . . . but not quite to death, well, it seemed like the right thing to do.

It all makes sense. Until we actually get into the vet’s office. And we watch him pace the linoleum floor, making a bee-line for the door in hopes of escape.

While the vet gives us “time,” Andrew and I discuss why it’s the right thing to do. That we don’t want Domino to suffer. That we have no idea how long he might hang on, and it could be a long slow death. And that this is better, so he doesn’t have to go through that. Not to mention that seeing him die like that would be terribly difficult for us, as well. And then we talk about how, in that way, we are more “humane” to our pets than our human loved ones. But of course, we can’t do that for humans because it’s a slippery slope. The lines between mercy and murder would blur and we wouldn’t know where to draw them.

And so we agree, it’s time. Andrew leaves the room. But I stay. I don’t want Domino to feel like we’ve abandoned him. I pet his head and look into his eyes as the doctor injects those few ccs of pink fluid. And I wonder what Domino thinks about as the tension leaves his body, his legs buckle beneath him, his eyes dilate. And it’s done. Is he grateful for a burden lifted? Or does he feel betrayed? Does he blame me? How can we know?

Rest in peace, Domino. We loved you dearly.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Flashback Friday -- First Impressions

Today I went way back in the archives and found a post I wrote in 2008 about some of my family's first impressions of the Louisiana festival scene. I still enjoy the festivals. I might go to Lake Charles' Cajun Food and Music Fest this weekend. Who else is going?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team

This past Friday, I attended The Battle on the Bayou, a softball tournament between The Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team and the Bayou All-Stars, captained by Olympic champion and retired pro softball player Jennie Finch-Daigle.

The Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team is a group of 15 veterans, all injured in the recent wars, all with one or two prosthetic limbs, be it an arm, or leg, or both legs. They tour around the country, playing two weekends a month, against fire/police departments or other groups. They are athletic and competitive – they beat Jennie’s All-Stars both Friday and Saturday night – but their primary goal is to show the country and especially other veterans that, while they may be disabled, they are not sitting around. They are living their lives actively and productively. And if they can do it, anyone can. Check out their website here. It's inspiring.

I’m not particularly a big fan of softball. But my interest in this game came after I wrote a story for Jambalaya News about the Team and how Jennie brought them here to SWLA. And I felt it was a good cause to support. You can read my article here.

Jennie, a resident of nearby Sulphur, La., talked the Warriors into coming here after meeting them at a tournament in Florida last February. (Learn more about Jennie here.) The coach and teammates were reluctant to commit initially. Their schedule for the year was already booked. But with Jennie’s charm and prompting, they obliged.

To read the quotes of the teammates and coach in the American Press, our local newspaper, (one story here) for the past three days, I think they are glad they came. The support shown to these guys from the southwest Louisiana community was phenomenal. They played before a crowd of 5,700 spectators between the two nights. A total of $202,000 was donated to the Warriors’ cause, way more than they received in all their tournaments put together thus far, according to their coach David Van Sleet. (They’ve been playing together just over a year.)

As I watched the game and observed the fans, I felt a wave of patriotic pride. Here’s a photo of my view of the game from where I sat, high in the stands.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Flashback Friday -- Thoughts on "putting up."

A couple years ago, I wrote this post after I'd canned some peppers. I haven't done any canning this summer. I've never had good luck in Louisiana with tomatos. We have a few bell peppers, but not enough to preserve. I have some herbs -- basil, rosemary, mint. I guess I could dry them. We have a small fig tree that did well last year, but some kind of varmint has been helping himself lately, taking bites out of the biggest and juiciest figs on the tree. Our only crop worth noting this year has been cucumbers. We've grown and harvested so many cukes, I haven't been able to give them away fast enough. We like pickles, but we don't eat that many, so I havn't wanted to can them. Hmm, I wonder why we call it canning when we put the food in jars?

How does your garden grow?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hammond, Louisiana

We set off for points east this morning, traversing the state on I-10. Our drive started out like this.

But by the time we reached Lafayette, the skies cleared and soon the sun came out. We ended up in Hammond, Louisiana, a small quiet college town east a bit of Baton Rouge and the largest city in Tangipahoa Parish. Who can pronounce that!

As you can see from this historical marker . . .

. . . Hammond has a history of being known for strawberries, thanks to this man, Joe DeMarco.

Despite the sign, we didn’t see any shoe stores.

Hammond is a neat little town, with several dress shops, a children’s museum, an art center, a violin shop, an exotic pet store, and plenty of good restaurants. Sadly for us, most of the town seems to be closed on Mondays. But this sweet little corner book/gift store was open. Lots of fun things to look at there! Their book selection primarily focuses on Louisiana topics and authors.

The old train station is still in operation as a train station. Amtrak makes a stop here. It also houses the Chamber of Commerce and the Clerk of Court’s office.

We had a pleasant dinner at Bradys. I can vouch for the Rueben and sweet potato fries.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Flashback Friday -- Breaux Bridge

One of my favorite excursions so far in Louisiana has been to the town of Breaux Bridge two years ago. Revisit here with me.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Austin, Texas

Reflections on our recent trip to Austin:
The capitol building – ornate

Here’s the view looking up into the dome from the first floor of the rotunda.

Amy’s Ice Cream – decadent

The Hat Box – a dapper haberdashery (love that word)

Whole Foods – My favorite grocery store. Ever. Yes, there’s one in Pittsburgh. But this one was bigger and better. (Oh, yeah, that’s right, it’s in Texas. Also the chain originated in and is based in Austin, so that could explain why they have the best store.)

The famous eclectic music scene – we really didn’t have time to check this out, but a jazz band played in the parking lot of Whole Foods while we were there.

The campus – noisy

Pok-e-Jo’s BBQ – awesome brisket

The people – active, youthful, thin, healthy. I’m not kidding. There’s an obvious mindset in this town that stands out in contrast to the southern stereotype of being some of the unhealthiest people in the country. We went to Zilker Park Saturday morning, and the place was packed. We could barely find a parking spot. Runners, bike riders, dog walkers, parents pushing strollers, soccer players, hikers. The river dotted with colorful kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards.

It’s like the whole city scrambles outside to play. Sure, it was hot. But they don’t seem to care. There’s a different attitude there. They want to MOVE. And have fun. People ride bikes everywhere in this city. Truly like maniacs, weaving in and out of fast moving traffic and rarely wearing helmets, but that’s off topic. The point is, exercise isn’t just something these people do because they think they should. It’s a lifestyle. And it shows. I found that aspect of the culture there quite refreshing.

To back up my observations, Forbes listed Austin as the 16th healthiest US city in 2011. It ranked number 3 on Travel and Leisure magazine’s America’s Fittest Cities list in 2010.

Austin is a lovely exciting city and I wish I’d had more time to explore.

Have you been to Austin? What were your impressions?