Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Louisiana: The Sweet Cottage

Cottage by ULL, Lafayette, Louisiana. August 2014.

Gosh, the picture of this cottage is from way back in 2014, my year in Lafayette.

You'd never guess this little sugar dumpling of a place was right by the University of Louisiana-Lafayette campus. So tucked into the trees, so snug, like a young rabbit on a new-grass lawn.

Cottage by ULL, Lafayette, Louisiana. August 2014.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Disappearing of Louisiana, Part 5: The Control of Nature: Atchafalaya

The Atchaflaya River wants to capture the Mississippi River, and the Mississippi River wants to get caught.

But we are doing all we can to stop that union.

Old River Control Structures. Source: Urban Decay. Credit: US Army Corps of Engineers.

Not long after I moved to Louisiana in late 2013, one of my cultural informants, Michel, turned me on to a 1987 article: The Control of Nature: Atchafalaya.

It was written by John McPhee, published in The New Yorker.

The Control of Nature: Atchafalaya is long, but engrossing. It is WELL worth an investment of reading time.

But if you're in a super hurry, here's a fast-food, go-down-so-easy tasty video on the relentless struggle for control between us humans and the alliance of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers  below: Go ahead, watch it. It's only a couple of minutes long.

Why does this all remind me of an old 1960s song:


There's the:
  1. Atchafalaya River
  2. Atchafalaya Basin, aka Atchafalaya Swamp, and 
  3. Atchafalaya Bay, aka Delta

The word "Atchafalaya" comes from the Choctaws, meaning "long river." The river is the 5th largest in North America by "discharge."

If the Mississippi were allowed to flow freely, the Atchafalaya would capture the main flow of the Mississippi, permitting the Mississippi to bypass its current path through Baton Rouge and New Orleans. (Credit: wikipedia)

Below is an archival movie, not about the Atchafalaya, but its favored sister, the Mississippi

The River (1937), still shown in academic venues today, for its historic, environmental, anthropological, economic, and artistic values:
"Shows the importance of the Mississippi River to the United States, and how farming and timber practices had cause topsoil to be swept down the river and into the Gulf of Mexico in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."

The narrative is an epic poem. Of beauty, of construction and destruction, of movement, transition, of change.

There is an image sequence of an axe chopping into the side of a living tree; it has the appearance of an assault on flesh. The suspenseful photography, narration, and sound to describe the birth and maturation of a flood builds a thrilling fear into the viewer.

Ah, the ending --> An eloquent manifesto of how we've damaged the Mississippi River Valley. But then, in the tradition of "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," the narrator concludes with this foreshadowing of unintended consequences:
"Flood control of the Mississippi means control in the Great Delta ... and the Old River can be controlled .. We had the power to take the Valley apart, we have the power to put it together again. In 1933, we started .... " 

Related posts

Disappearing Louisiana, Part 1: Stumbling on History
Disappearing Louisiana, Part 2: Water Words
Disappearing Louisiana, Part 3: Paradise Faded: The Fight for Louisiana
Disappearing Louisiana, Part 4: Revetments, Rip-rap, and Other Exotica
Disappearing Louisiana, Part 5: The Control of Nature: Atchafalaya

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Louisiana: New Iberia: Pretty Pretty

New Iberia, Louisiana. July 2014.

My second year in Louisiana (in Opelousas), I think I may have visited New Iberia once. My first year (in Lafayette), I went several times. This included visits with my mother, who had turned me on to New Iberia's most famous fictional resident, Dave Robicheaux. It included several visits with a buddy who was also a Dave fan.

I collected a number of New Iberia photos that I haven't shared previously, so I share them today.

New Iberia is such a pretty town. I had even considered making it my home for my second year in Louisiana instead of Opelousas.

Here are past posts that reference New Iberia in some way.

Despite the town's loveliness, and the complicated seduction of its Dave Robicheaux connection,  my first thought when I think of New Iberia is one of emotional turmoil. This arises from a deep, deep ugliness within a system there, which erupted most publicly when Victor White died in police custody, and when a jail video got out, showing appalling abuse of a prisoner.

So it is with great appreciation for New Iberia's beauty, but tempered by the gravitas of its defects, that I share these photos today.

A slideshow of New Iberia below:

New Iberia
New Iberia, Louisiana.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Louisiana: Did You Hear About Boudreaux and Thibodeaux?

Gumbo, Pierre Part, Louisiana. December 2013.

Mon Dieu! Southern Louisiana has a Mikho and Maro!

In Southern Louisiana, it's about Boudreaux and Marie, a Cajun couple, and about Boudreaux and friend Thibodeaux jokes. (Thibodeaux' wife is Charmaine.)

I fell into this jokester universe when I went to the Spring 2014 season's first Mercredi concert in Carencro, where I met two gents who, I suspect, have many colorful stories to tell about their youth. (One is a story I'm trying to track down about the mammoth crawfish of 1953.)      

The Boudreaux boys

Two men were sitting at the end of the bar, drinking.
One of the men says to the other, "What's your name?"
The other man says, "Boudreaux."
The first man exclaims, "Mine too!"
He asks the second man, "Where'd you grow up?"
The second man says, "Carencro."
The first man exclaims, "Me too!"
He asks the second man, "What street you grew up in?"
The second man says, "Church Street."
The first man cries, "Me too!"

A third man sitting at the other end of the bar takes all this in and asks the bartender, "Who are those guys"?
The bartender says, "They're twins. They always forget after they've been drinking."

Other Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes


From Sister Lester, with her rich-as-cake Cajun accent and syntax, in the video below:

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Disappearing of Louisiana, Part 4: Revetments, Rip-Rap, and Other Exotica

Mississippi River, Alton, Illinois. May 2011.

My intermittent series on "the disappearing of Louisiana" is about the effects of nature and man on Louisiana's land and waters. Restore or Retreat says that Louisiana loses 25 to 35 square miles of land a year, nearly a football field every hour.

Mississippi River, Alton, Illinois. May 2011.

Where does the land go? ...... It is sinking under water. It is drowning.

To get a handle on all this, I need to learn new words such as those to describe ways to protect coastlines or defend against high water:

Breakwaters: A breakwater is an "offshore structure which is aligned parallel to the shoreline. A fixed breakwater refers to one generally constructed of stone ... . Floating breakwaters [are] firmly anchored and may be constructed of tires, logs, ...  or other floating materials."

There doesn't seem to be consensus on the efficacy of breakwaters, as they can cause collateral problems.

Freeboard: "The height above the recorded high-water mark of a structure (such as a dam) associated with the water." In construction on land, "freeboard is elevating a building's lowest floor above predicted flood elevations by a small additional height, [such as] 1-3 feet above National Flood Insurance Program minimum height requirements."

Revetments: "Structures placed on banks or bluffs in such a way as to absorb the energy of incoming waves. They are usually built to preserve the existing uses of the shoreline and to protect the slope. Like seawalls, revetments armor and protect the land behind them." 

Revetment design. Credit: Pile Buck Magazine

There are different kinds of revetments. For example, in the New Orleans area, the Corps of Engineers use concrete mat revetments and trenchfill revetments

Riprap. Here is a rather grand definition of riprap from Arundel Marine: a protective mound of stones, randomly placed to prevent erosion at a structure or embankment. ... And here is a more prosaic description, which I adapted from wikipedia: rubble used to armor a shoreline.  It feels good to say rubble and riprap in one sentence and have it actually mean something. 

Shoreline protection Cypremort Point State Park, Louisiana

The difference between breakwaters and revetments: "In coastal engineering, a revetment is a land backed structure whilst a breakwater is a sea backed structure (i.e., water on both sides)." Source: wikipedia.

Sills: A sill is a "perched beach," where a beach is built up to be at a higher level then the water.

Sills. Credit: NH Coastal Adaptation Workgroup

Related posts

Disappearing Louisiana, Part 1: Stumbling on History
Disappearing Louisiana, Part 2: Water Words
Disappearing Louisiana, Part 3: Paradise Faded: The Fight for Louisiana
Disappearing Louisiana, Part 4: Revetments, Rip-rap, and Other Exotica
Disappearing Louisiana, Part 5: The Control of Nature: Atchafalaya

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Louisiana: Where I Found My True Love

You know what they say. You'll find the love of your life when you're not looking.

So it was with me.

When did I first meet my love?

As I wandered through the super-lit aisles of a Walmart in Lafayette? 

Or was it at my neighborhood grocery store in Opelousas? The one that used to be the Piggly-Wiggly before it became the Cost Saver? 

And was it the handsome, midnight-blue uniform that first caught my eye? Or was it the price? 

None of these questions matter. Because when I got it home and tasted its loamy, forest-floor, dark richness, I knew we were fated for long-time love.

French Market, Restaurant Blend coffee.

At first, when I left Louisiana, I thought our affair would have to end, and I grieved.

But then I discovered, no, I can order my French Market, Restaurant Blend, online. As many as I want, whenever I want. The perfect relationship.

French Market, Restaurant Blend coffee.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Flashback: Laying the Groundwork for a New Career

Seven years ago, I marked this important event: Laying the Groundwork for a New Career.

Here's what I wrote on November 7, 2010: 

Laying the groundwork for a new career 


Today I am in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I've rented a condo for a month. And for that month, my worldly possessions fit into a small wheeled carry-on and a backpack.

Tomorrow I start a CELTA course in teaching English as a foreign language.

When I finish, I should have a certificate that, in theory, will let me work just about anywhere in the world. Which is really what I've wanted to do from the time I was an adolescent - travel the globe.

During the month, friends Pam and Jackie will join me for a week; later, my mother and Brother3 will join me for a week over Thanksgiving.

As I write this, I hear nearby church bells sounding the hour.
Palm fruit, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. November 2010.