Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Louisiana Tech, Ruston, LA

This past Friday, Bob, Eric and I drove to Ruston, Louisiana for a tour of Louisiana Tech University. And so it begins. College tours. I didn’t mind the eight hour round trip. Too much. This was the farthest north we’d been in the Bayou State, and I enjoyed the opportunity to explore a new area. As we drove through the miles and miles of rural countryside, I was reminded just how easily one could become lost in Louisiana. We saw town after tiny town, dotted with small steepled churches, gas stations, and Dollar Generals. We left home early, knowing we’d want some time to explore Ruston. I’d say we gave ourselves a bit too much extra time. We knew it would be a small town, but even in small towns, I usually find something to interest me. There were some shops – ladies’ clothing boutiques, children’s stores, a jeweler. And banks.


And a couple interesting restaurants. We ate lunch at a cute Italian place called Monjuni’s. The food was good, but their bread pudding was amazing – tasted much like a cinnamon roll.


Sadly, I found none of the small-town places I usually enjoy – museums, art galleries, and antique shops.

Then on to the school. LA Tech is the quintessential small college campus. Lots of imposing brick and mortar,


crisscrossing sidewalks, a few fountains, statues. And students.



It might be a good fit for Eric. He likes the idea of a smaller school; they have an excellent engineering department, and wonderful scholarships. But he wasn’t impressed with Ruston. There will be many more school visits throughout this next year. And lots of exploring!

Hey, I know some of my readers went to LA Tech. What do you all think? Any suggestions of other schools we should visit?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fat Tuesday 2012

Mardi Gras season 2012 wrapped up and rolled down Ryan Street this evening. After five years here in southwest Louisiana, Mardi Gras has lost some of its novelty for me. It's no longer quite the curiosity it was when I first moved here. But I still enjoy a good King Cake now then and get a kick out of seeing photos of the revelers at their balls. There are still many aspects of Mardi Gras I have yet to experience. Remaining on my list are a trail ride and a chicken run. And I've yet to see the spectacle of the Gala, where Krewe courts parade their elaborate costumes.


After church on Sunday, the family and I went to Taste de la Louisiane, an annual Mardi Gras event at the Civic Center, essentially a nice reasonably-priced buffet of some of Louisiana's finest cuisine. Crawfish etoufee and rice. Dirty rice. Shrimp creole and rice. Sauce piquante and rice. Chicken and sausage gumbo. And rice. Yes, it's all about the rice down here. But it's good! Oddly, they don't make rice pudding here. Which I love.

A highlight of any Mardi Gras season is the oodles of parades, especially during the few days leading up to Fat Tuesday. A few parades had to be cancelled on Saturday due to the deluge of rain. Including one of my favorites; the Kewe of Barkus. What could be cuter than dozens of dogs dressed up in glittery gold, green, and purple costumes? I've seen a number of Mardi Gras parades over the past five years, but never the big daddy of them all, the Krewe of Krewes Parade. So I made a point this year of attending this Lake Charles tradition. We passed a good time. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

























Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Colors

I have always loved the musical production South Pacific. As a child, my grandparents had the album and I'd play that LP over and over again. I knew every word to every song and likely drove my grandparents crazy by singing along. Since then, I've seen the movie and several stage productions. The song You've Got To Be Carefully Taught implies that prejudice is a learned behavior. And certainly it can be. But is it solely? Or might it be partly innate?

For some reason, I recently thought of an experience I had in Pittsburgh. My sons were around two years old at the time. I grocery shopped at the popular Pittsburgh chain, Giant Eagle. Oh, how I miss those stores. In addition to being fabulous grocery stores, they have a true treasure for parents of young children. The Eagle's Nest! In-store child care. I would drop the boys off, be assigned a pager, and off I would go, blissfully shopping sans children. What a sanity saver! Anyway, one day I took the boys to the Eagle's Nest, and as I proceeded to sign them in and casually talked with the worker there, Andrew started to cry. Despite all those toys and video games, he didn't want to go in. I said, "Andrew, what's wrong?"

"She has a brown face," he sobbed.

Wow. Okay. I wondered where that came from. And then I proceeded to die from embarrassment.

I assure you, Andrew did not learn this at home. That isn't the way Bob and I live and we were careful not to expose our young sons to racial prejudice. But did we do enough to teach them acceptance and love of diversity? As I stood there, no doubt red-faced, I wondered if my children had ever encountered a person of another race in their short lives? Possibly not. Our neighborhood was caucasion. There were no black children in their preschool. We had no African-American friends with whom we regularly socialized.

Later on, I remembered a story from my own childhood. My parents were not racist, but like my own children, my exposure was extremely limited. As a very young child in the early-mid 60s, all I knew about African-Americans was what I saw on TV. It wasn't pretty. I saw protests, riots, and very angry people. I saw people getting hurt. I was scared. Of course, I know now, they were fighting for their rights, but no one explained that to me then. One day when I was around five years old, we drove on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to my grandparents' house. We stopped at a tollbooth, and the attendant was African-American. Upon seeing the man, I recall feeling fearful. But he was polite as he took my father's money. He didn't hurt us. He was kind. And I remember that day as a revelation. Not all black people were like what I saw on TV. Did my parents do enough . . .

Stunned by my son's proclamation, I apologized to the Giant Eagle employee. She could have been put off. She could have been insulted. On the contrary, she was gracious and kind. She and I conjoled Andrew and convinced him it would be alright. She took Andrew in, spent extra time, and played games with him. Shopping trip after shopping trip, she helped me teach my children that we are all human beings, equal, no matter the color of our skin. I don't remember that dear woman's name. But I will be forever grateful to her.

I had never lived in the South prior to moving to Louisiana. There's a notion, a reputation of sorts, that there's more racial tension and less ethnic tolerance in the South. As we prepared to move here, I wondered what the social environment might be like. I read statistics online that said Lake Charles is 50% African-American. Would I witness more racism and prejudice, I wondered?

Fortunately, this has not been my experience. I can't say I don't see any racism. But is there more here? Not necessarily. In general, for the most part, I have found everyone I've met here, no matter the race, to be very kind, friendly, and hospitable. Hopefully, I've taught my sons to treat other people, all people, the way they themselves want to be treated.

So, back to the original question. Does prejudice exist due to nature or nurture? Obviously it can be both, but I believe prejudice is primarily a fear of differences; a fear either learned or innate. Absolutely, children must be taught. We must teach them to overcome this fear, embrace diversity, and love all fellow human beings equally.

How did you learn love and racial acceptance, or how did you teach your children?