Many of the vehicles I saw on the road in Louisiana were trucks; some were 4X4s with oversized wheels so high you needed a ladder to climb up to get into that thing. Legally, people may carry a gun in public places, but fortunately, I never saw one. This area of Louisiana was definitely what I would call "redneck" country. In some ways I felt I was back in the '70s, when people still ate cheese whiz on Ritz crackers and drank soda pop called Mountain Dew. As a kid who didn't know better, I had some unfounded stereotypical opinions about Southerners. I now realize it was the way they talked. Yes, ma'am, and no, ma'am, sounded phony to me. If I couldn't understand what they were saying, I blamed it on their ignorance, not mine. For those southern belles I met in college, I thought they were putting on airs. Now that I know better, I accept Southerners for who they are. They may talk differently, but now I think of it as a charming accent.
|ANCIENT AS IT MAY BE, THIS CASH REGISTER STILL WORKS|
|HOW DO YOU GET UP IN THIS THING?|
Early one evening while walking on a path along the Cane River (which is actually a lake), Bruce and I met a man who, with his whole family in tow, was fishing for dinner right there in town. They had everything they needed for a nice time -- lawn chairs set up looking out at the view, a six-pack of ice-cold beer, their fishing tackle, and a plastic bucket for the freshly-caught fish. The man looked friendly enough, so we struck up a conversation, and he was interested to meet someone from our neck of the woods, since he had been to San Jose once. "What's in that bucket over there?" I asked. "Them are wauhms." the wife answered. "They are what?" I asked again. "Wauhms." After asking a third time, I peered into the bucket and saw creepy-crawly worms slithering around in all that dirt. I never thought I'd say it, but I guess I can call myself a city girl.
"How much does a one bedroom house cost ya out there anyway?" the fisherman asked. "Well, we don't have many one bedroom houses," I answered, "but we have one bedroom apartments for rent." "How much to rent?" "I'm afraid to tell you," I said. The man nearly fell over his fishing bucket when I told him $2500. "Did you hear that, mama?" he shouted to his hard-of-hearing wife. "$2500 a month. That's five times what I make," he told me. "That's why I didn't want to tell you, " I responded. "Hey, you've got a nice life here next to this beautiful river, " I told the man, but I'm sure he didn't live next to the river because all those houses were fancy ones, and $500 a month wouldn't buy him one of those. But yes, it looked like he had a nice life. Definitely.
|THE CANE RIVER, NATCHITOCHES, LOUISIANA|
|WHAT THE HECK IS A MR. CRAPPIE?|
I swear (pardon the pun) I didn't hear any bad language, except for the words that came out of the back seat driver's mouth when Barry made his third U-turn to find meat pies. Most locals are religious, and the Catholic Church is the center of Creole life. In this part of the country the Bible is number one on the best seller list. Somewhere on the trip I heard a person say our California drought was predicted in the Bible. I know there are plenty of religious people here at home, but not many are close friends. Most people I know either go to Farmers' Market on Sunday or go for a bicycle ride.
|THE PRUD'HOMME FAMILY LIVED HERE|
|THE SLAVES LIVED HERE|
As we were leaving one of the plantations, a tour guide asked, "Where ya going next?" When we told him, he said, "You won't find much to eat between here and there unless you stop at the gas station down the road a couple of miles. They have decent food and some tables out back where you can sit." So, after we got in the car and drove to the gas station, we saw that the guide wasn't kidding. There were four gas pumps and a bunch of 4X4s filling up. Inside you could buy guns and other gear for hunting and fishing. You could also buy lunch. In a glass case there was an array of fried foods that looked like they were cooked last week. The unappetizing offerings included sausage, deep fried ribs, deep fried shrimp, and fried chicken steak, but I didn't see any fried wauhms. And the vegetable du jour? French fries, of course. Bruce opted for the fried ribs, at the recommendation of the owner. Karen, Barry and I ate the sausage in a cold roll, but if you added enough mustard, they didn't taste too bad. Not much ambience, but it was lunch, and as I said in my last post, eating three meals a day was no longer an option. It was mandatory.
|DON'T SEE ANY FRIED WAUHMS|
|YOU CAN BUY GUNS AND FISHING GEAR, AS WELL AS DOG FOOD |
AND PEOPLE FOOD IN THE LOCAL GAS STATION
When we arrived at the Butler Greenwood Plantation in the pouring rain, we used our car's headlights to find the Chase Cottage for four. We were excited about spending the night at a real plantation, but if it hadn't been so dark and stormy, we might have been more enthusiastic about our lodging. At seven the next morning, Harold, the plantation peacock, perched himself on our porch railing and sang Here Comes the Sun in bluesy honkey-tonk way.
Sunday afternoon Whiskey River Landing, next to the levee in the Atchafalaya Basin, was jumpin', and we stood in line with all the Cajun and Zydeco fans to pay our five dollar cover. After stamping my hand, the woman who ran the cash box waved us through and pointing to the left said something like the beer's in there. While Barry and Bruce went to buy some beer, I used my unabashed tendencies to ask two couples if we could join them at their table, and not surprisingly, they offered us some space. "I'm Christine," an attractive blonde said, as she introduced herself, and "This is Siggy," a man she later referred to as her friend. "He's married," she told me, "but we've been just friends for a long time." Once the band started playing, Christine grabbed my hand and pulled me on to the dance floor, where you could tell zydeco music lived in her bones, but did not live in mine. Whiskey River Landing is a unique bar and dance hall -- the real deal, where sounds and pictures are better than words. If you want to see authentic talent, click here and turn your volume way up high. After you start the video, wait a few seconds and you'll see some fancy-ass zydeco dancers, who wouldn't give us their names as they were romancing under cover. And, if you click here, you'll hear some fantastic zydeco music from a band called Slippery Sneakers. You might even recognize the guy on the accordion. And isn't that washboard player something else?
|WHISKEY RIVER LANDING, BREAUX BRIDGE, LA|
|THAT'S CHRISTINE IN THE YELLOW JACKET|
In some people's minds, taking a Louisiana swamp tour is like going to Sea World -- way too touristy -- but, hey, that's what we were, so we bought the tickets, found ourselves on an air boat to explore the bayou and meet famous George. The moss-laden cypress trees in the swamp reminded me of the bathtub, a real honest-to-goodness place in the bayou where the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild was filmed. We didn't see any people, like the little girl Hush Puppy, living out there. Just murky swamp water and a lot of 'gators.
|THAT'S OUR AIR BOAT ON THE LEFT. IT WAS CHEAPER THAN THE ONE ON THE RIGHT|
|THIS IS GEORGE|
Every weekend in Louisiana, there is a festival somewhere, and we hit two in one day. We saw more crawfish at the Pontchatula Strawberry Festival than we did strawberries, and my bet is that more people prefer crawfish, although there was a long line at the deep fried strawberries stand. When I watched them coat the berries with batter and fry them in a huge vat of hot oil, I opted to eat fresh strawberry shortcake instead. While eating my shortcake, I noticed a booth nearby where two men were hawking Bibles.
|CHARBROILD OYSTERS, YUM. PORK RINDS, NOT SO YUM!|
|WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU SAW SEAMS?|
|JUST MAKING SURE THERE'S NO TROUBLE AT THE FESTIVAL|
|$300 WORTH OF STEAMED CRAWFISH|
|YOU JUST SUCK ALL THE MEAT AND JUICE OUT OF THOSE|
BABIES AND TOSS THE EMPTY SHELLS INTO THAT HOLE
I've been to a blues festival before but never in its birthplace, which is the city of Baton Rouge. The line up of musicians impressed us, but because of bad weather, the organizers moved the festival from its scheduled outdoor venue into the city's indoor arena. In our minds the indoor location diminished our experience, although we enjoyed listening to the great sounds of Larry Garner and his impressive group. It seemed to me that the people of Baton Rouge didn't care whether the music was played inside or out because blues is the music they were weaned on.
L'AISSEZ LES BONS TEMPS ROULEZ
(Let the good times roll)
Would I go back to Louisiana again? The answer is a definite YES. The Angola Prison Rodeo held at the Louisiana State Penitentiary is coming up in October, and that sure would be something to see.