Cajun Mermaid Ballad Friday, Sep 9 2011 


I live in a state that ranks first in a lot of areas, mainly the undesirable ones. We have high poverty, illiteracy and obesity yet our culture is one that embraces the traditions of fun, family, food and revelry so everyone knows how to pass a good time. There are still areas where Cajun French is spoken  and not just back in the swamps. I’ve often heard old timers in public using it as a sort of secret language that allows them to express their heritage and keep outsiders from eavesdropping. The language and dialect are like music to my ears and in my mind I can almost hear those old accordions and fiddles playing the ballads of a time long ago.

I grew up fishing and crabbing the waters around here on the weekends with my family so this past weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the kids out and make our own memories. Tropical Storm Lee had just passed through and left sunshine and cooler temperatures so Mother Nature seemed to be calling us to the Cajun Riviera. I guess my upcoming birthday was also on my mind and the idea of reliving my youth and the nostalgia such a trip would provide sounded enticing. On a whim, we grabbed our towels, binoculars and bucket for collecting shells and headed for the coast. Against my better judgement, I also phoned my mom just to let her know where we would be heading for the day and received a barrage of nervous chatter about my clunker of a car, bridges and AAA Emergency Road Services. I assured her that we would be fine and would indeed call if something happened. I also promised to stay in the car if we broke down and not sit on the side of the road like alligator bait.

Louisiana is known as The Sportman’s Paradise and the Creole Nature Trail is refered to as Louisiana’s Outback. I remembered visiting the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge as a kid and thought my own little ones would enjoy walking out to the wooden lookouts and spotting all of the beautiful flora and fauna native to our area. A day spent exploring and appreciating in the great outdoors was set to provide the refuge I needed from the TV, internet, and irritating video games the kids are obsessed with. In the spirit of full disclosure, we do not all live off the land like what you see on The History Channel’s Swamp People though the folks around here do not need subtitles to understand what’s being said like the rest of the country does. I’ve been to bars around here that are indeed only accessible by boat like The Prop Stop – home of The Worm Bucket – but that’s the exception to the rule and girls like me typically like to go out without the windblown hair and eau de swampwater smell.

As we cruised south with our windows cracked, I tried to spot gators sunning themselves near the road, but I had no help from the backseat. I could hear the reason why; that damn Mario and his friends, Luigi, Peach and Toad has joined us for this journey. I resisted the urge to throw the shiny little hand-held devices through the open windows and into the marsh and simply drove a little faster to our destination. The kids were excited and ready to see the alligators… UNTIL the youngest realized that we were indeed in the wild and that any alligators present would not be contained in cages.

It appears HE was the one disturbed and determined NOT to be food for the gators

We spotted several tourists but not a single alligator much to our disappointment, so we headed for the refuge our car, picked up steam and headed towards The Gulf of Mexico. A few minutes later we arrived and drove straight out onto the sand. We kicked off our shoes and grabbed the bucket  for the shells and bread for the birds and THANKFULLY the Nintendo DSs stayed behind as well. The water isn’t blue here and the sand isn’t white, but my kids love it and I reminded them of how lucky we are to live so close to the coast; Not just ANYBODY can go look for alligators and wade in the waves on merely a whim! I watched as the kids enthusiastically gathered shells of every size and color though what we took was merely a drop in the bucket. They soon realized that they couldn’t take EVERY cool shell and became more selective with their treasures. I promised them that we would keep some of the shells in a bowl at the apartment just like the one I left back at the house for them to enjoy with their dad. Hot damn! I even think I’ll let the little artists use HOT GLUE and create picture frames to display memories from this impromptu coastal excursion. There are plenty of smiling shots to choose from, but perhaps the biggest grin was from Sis when she explained to Bubba about all the sea life that had probably peed in the exact same where he had chosen to soak.

We tossed bread to the seagulls and named one of them Scuttle after the bird in The Little Mermaid. I watched lovingly as my daughter sculpted a mermaid in the sand and shells as she sang songs. She seemed to be channeling some inspiration. She had a milestone of her own approaching; auditions for the musical, The Little Mermaid, were just days away and MY little mermaid had gathered the courage and confidence to audition with all of the older girls for a singing speaking part. Though she’s the youngest of the cast, she chose to audition for the two lead parts because as she has explained to people who’ve inquired, “How would I EVER get my dream role if I don’t even TRY?!” The pride I feel when I see and hear her make such simple yet profound statements makes my heart jump out of my chest and flip and roll like the waves that tumble ashore. That’s MY girl, and I’ll be the lunatic fan in the audience that claps and cheers for her with whatever lines she utters.

The Little Mermaid

As the sun set, we set back out for home and a bite to eat. Much to my son’s dismay, I bypassed the fast food for some sit-down seafood, and he declared that he would SEE the food but not EAT it. Someday he’ll appreciate it though, and the smell will bring him back to a time when we went scavenging for shells on sand. He claims to appreciate what we have here but that doesn’t mean he wants to eat alligator OR be eaten BY an alligator so I let him get his “cajun” chicken strips and promised to cross the street and let him see the alligators that were fenced into a special CONFINED habitat. After all of the lecturing I had done throughout the day on appreciating our natural resources and native species of animals, plants and birds, a stranger came to us and helped put it all into perspective. While searching for the alligators behind the safety of the chain link fence, a nice tourist from out-of-state kindly pointed out the baby gator floating amid the algae. He quipped about how odd it must be for the alligator to smell the fried seafood wafting across the road yet it smelled so delicious that he and his family may just wander into Steamboat Bill’s for a bite. He explained that they had just driven past the beautiful old homes along the lakefront and how fortunate those people were to live there. His family had stopped here and checked out the area on their way back onto the interstate. I don’t think he just HAPPENED to stop there though after driving around the lake and the home where I was raised. Something brought that man to exactly where we were at exactly the right time so that my children could hear from someone who had just discovered the treasures of our area.

In other areas of the world, they don’t have the same sounds and smells and sights that we have here. I want to see these places and experience their cultures and appreciate their differences, but this is where I want to ultimately be. New people, places & things are exciting and valuable, but they don’t whisk me back to simpler times when my Sunday nights were spent sunburned and smelling of saltwater while complaining about Monday morning school. This place and this land makes me proud just as my children do even if we aren’t always on the “right” lists. It’s a place to be cherished and preserved, and visiting here should be on everyone’s Bucket List but I don’t have to tell that to anyone around here. I’d just be singing another old Cajun ballad to the choir.

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Sisters Hangin’ Tough Sunday, Jun 26 2011 


This weekend was a fun one and a big one for my sisters and me. I am the oldest of three girls, and about seven months ago my middle sister sent me an URGENT email. She was living in California at the time and hoping for a transfer back home. She must receive Ticketmaster updates to her phone or something and when one caught her eye, she took it as a sign. The New Kids On The Block were joining the Backstreet Boys on a new tour and it was hitting this area. She insisted on buying tickets and that the three of us would go together. She was living clear across the country at the time, but this MONUMENTAL tour was a sign, I guess. She went on faith and purchased the tickets somehow KNOWING she’d make it here in time. Step By Step, things fell into place. Summertime came, she got the transfer, and moved less than a month before the concert date. I’ll bet the girl thinks Jordan is her KNIGHT in shining armor and got this ball rolling for her. Whatever.

So Friday afternoon, I hit the road in my dad’s old pick up truck to stay with my sisters for the night and have some much needed girl time. Here I was rolling down the road in Daddy’s truck which neither suits my style nor my driving capabilities. It’s BIG. Bigger than what I’m used to for sure, but driving his truck is kind of like trying to walk in his shoes. Both are a little big to fill but will get me to where I’m going until I can find my own perfect fit. The rearview mirror was there and talk about time to reflect! It’s been thirteen years and it’s still humming, but on this trip down memory lane it was humming a New Kids song. There are dents in that truck that I put there myself. It was new when he died, but we kept it and used it to move all his girls into new apartments over the years. When the New Kids were indeed ACTUAL new kids on the music scene, Daddy’s girls were screaming, neon wearing, side-ponytail-sporting little girls and pre-teens. Here we are now, all grown up and still screaming decades later. The screaming just comes from OUR kids now and not as often from us. The grandkids are just like Daddy’s kids, really. How could they NOT be. They are loud and fun and smart and maybe a little dramatic, but it’s all entertaining.

As I pull into town, my phone starts exploding with texts and calls. I’m not about to wreck this big ol truck to check my phone, so I leave them be and try to send them my mind vibes: “I’ll be there shortly. Hold your horses.” I think it worked too. My phone quit blowing up, and I was able to quit thinking that I was perhaps missing out on something BIG – like nutty friends and sisters sneaking onto the tour bus BIG. “Keep on truckin’,” I think to myself as I roll off the interstate and check my messages at a stop light. Huh, Whaddayaknow. One of those messages is from my apartment manager and it seems there is a complex issue at hand. The apartment below me has discovered some sort of leak. The ceiling is dripping and buckling and it seems to be coming from MY apartment. Great. Last thing I remember before we scooted out the door to drop off the kids was hearing, “Hey, Sis! Come see what I made!” The call came from the bathroom, so I assumed something gross and never bothered to listen for a flush. I hadn’t bothered to check and see if last night’s waterfall creation had been resurrected or anything. CRAP! Buckle up, get your BUTT in gear, and hit the GAS, Baby! Maybe it’s just a leaky pipe or something. They’ll discover the source and fix the problem without me. One can only hope.

I arrived at my youngest sister, Little’s house and barely made it in the Nick of time. Backstreet’s Back, alright! We had our tickets in hand – actually Middle wanted to print them herself from my Ticketmaster account. She was so nervous I would forget or suffer a last-minute printer malfunction that she didn’t trust me. We headed to dinner and began our photo diary of the evening. The restaurant was packed! It was the ultimate cougar den. Chicks were dressed in 80’s garb and homemade t-shirts. Now I was HACKED. Little should have made us some like I asked. “Look how freakin’ boring we look,” I thought. Oh, well. We’ll make up for it.

My brother-in-law and niece had to drop us off at the concert. We were responsible grown ups and knew that we’d be drinking therefore needed a chauffeur. My poor little Baby Boo wanted to go with us but serenaded us with Gaga songs the entire ride to compensate. We start them young here musically speaking, so her chance will come soon enough. We arrived at the venue and pulled into the drop-off lane. HA! Never in my life have I seen so many husbands driving min-vans filled with kids in car seats and moms decked out in their finest. I think the best were the Pregos though, and there were lots of ’em. Cute little bellies were decorated with all sorts of NKOTBSB sayings and lyrics. It was totally cute, but I was also TOTALLY glad I was not one of them. I’m irritable pregnant, and my view of the scene would’ve described annoying squealy voiced thirty-something fatties all gathered to relive their teenage dream crushes while singing at the top of their lungs completely off-key to a group of guys they’ll never have a chance with. See? I’m much more pleasant without a bump and raging hormones. (more…)