Search the blog


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Baton Rouge, Louisiana: A Second-Line Wedding Parade

Second-line band, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

For your entertainment, some vignettes of a second-line brass band wedding parade in Baton Rouge:

Part 1: The build-up:

Part 2: The climax:

Part 3: The Denouement, with trailing majorette:

The End

Monday, May 4, 2015

Louisiana: Baton Rouge Blues Fest 2015

Baton Rouge Blues Fest 2015, Louisiana

My report on the 2014 Baton Rouge Blues Fest here and here.

The 2015 Baton Rouge Blues Fest was kicked indoors due to thunderstormy weather. Sadly, this affected the turnout, and the venue's indoor vibe was that of a dull professional conference, which makes sense because it was a convention center. Neither affected the quality of music, however.

Baton Rouge Blues Fest 2015, Louisiana. Arrested Development.

Arrested Development is a high-energy band, I tellya! The muscled woman on the right in the pic above must burn bajillions of calories with her joyous jumps. The woman in the yellow dress - lovely voice. Here's a 2009 video from the band, performing its 1993 hit Tennessee:

You can listen to a version of the song with much better sound quality here.

Then there was Lazy Lester.

Baton Rouge Blues Fest 2015, Louisiana. Lazy Lester.

During his performance, I saw the most remarkable thing. He pulled out a harmonica and the moment he got down on that, women got up and started dancing. It was like magic. Doesn't matter how old the dude is playing the instrument. Lazy Lester was born in 1933.  Here's my video of same below:

Reminded me of this excerpt from the movie, Michael:

Henry Gray, a blues patriarch, performed on his keyboard.

Baton Rouge Blues Fest 2015, Louisiana. Henry Gray.

I've seen him perform twice now. Both times,women felt compelled to shake their butts in his direction. Given his advanced years, I wonder how many women's behinds he's looked at over his keyboard.

Baton Rouge Blues Fest 2015, Louisiana. Henry Gray.

Mr. Gray's not much of a stage talker, but I'd sure like to know his thoughts after decades (he's in his late 80s now) of watching his audiences. A video below:

I guess it's no wonder that some ultra-conservative groups like to ban dancing. A sure road to sin and perdition.

Hellfire and brimstone tract from an Arkansas c-store.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fear and Adventure: A Skydive Story

Starting with an Important Birthday Milestone years ago, I decided to create an adventure for each of my future birthdays. The criterion for choosing the adventure was that it had to challenge me emotionally, mentally or physically.

One year, I was pondering on what my birthday adventure should be. In this particular year, three choices came to mind, all of them very challenging. One was to go out dancing. Another was to participate in a gestalt therapy exercise, which entailed the exploration and release of great emotion, culminating perhaps in that proverbial primal scream of pent-up feelings. The third option was to jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet. After considering these options over a number of weeks, I decided that of all three choices, jumping out of a plane was the least frightening.

I didn’t really want to do this by myself, so I invited family members and friends to join me. Many said, yeah, that sounds cool! Maybe I'll do it! As the time for the jump loomed closer, however, those who’d expressed interest dropped out, until at the end, no one intended to go with me - not even to watch.

One of the things I've learned about life is that if I really want to do something, I’ve got to be willing to do it alone. Otherwise, I may never get to do it.

I decided to do a tandem jump, where I’d jump while connected to an experienced skydiver.

I drove alone to the airport and upon my arrival, started a series of bathroom trips every five minutes. I also watched a short video that provided a bare-bones review of what it would be like to jump and that I’d need to pull up my knees upon landing so the instructor with whom I’d be connected by a strap could hit the ground first, as he’d be immediately behind me. The video also noted how dangerous the sport was, that I could die or become paralyzed or suffer any myriad number of other bad things. After watching the video, it was time for me to read and sign the consent form,which again told me in HUGE PRINT that I could die or suffer serious injury and I waived all liability from the jump school, the airport, the instructor, the airplane, the fuel supplier, the road construction crew, and the guy who mowed the lawn. If I were going to die through this exercise, it was going to be by my own free will. I signed the papers.

The next step was a five-minute “training” in which someone had a small group of us show him that we could jump off a picnic table bench while bending our knees and holding on to them. I passed this with flying colors.

The next step was to get into a jump suit. Now, at this point I was feeling no fear. Some nervousness, certainly, as evidenced by my frequent bathroom trips. But I was feeling no fear because my brain had checked out. It was waiting in the parking lot in my car, refusing to have anything to do with this ridiculous enterprise.

So anyway, it was now time for the jumpsuit. Let me tell you about this suit. It was bright pink and it was Spandex. You know how Spandex is, right? It fits you like a second skin. It shows everything. It reveals every flaw. I was not a svelte woman.

I put the suit on. I was so relieved that it fit! I was feeling OK. I walked around a bit, getting the feel of it.

I walked in front of a full-length mirror.

I gasped. The sight of myself in this Spandex suit was so preposterously preposterous I had no other words to describe it. I JUMPED out of the view of the mirror.

From then on, I stayed out of range of any mirrors, and convinced myself that if I could not see myself then no one else could either, like a toddler who believes that she's invisible when she covers her head with a cloth.

The next step was to get me into a harness. This was a leather contraption with wide straps that went between my legs and around my thighs, with a brace up my back, and then straps that went around my shoulders and upper arms. It was pulled VERY tight. The result was that it affected my ability to walk with my legs together or lift my legs, and my back was pulled so straight with the brace, I could hardly bend over. Therefore, that entire five-minute exercise of jumping off the picnic bench in a tuck was utterly pointless. I could barely walk.

Ah, but too late. It was time to board the plane. I walked to the plane just like one of those science-fiction robots from cheesy sci-fi movies in the 1950s.

And then I saw I’d have to climb two or three steps to get into the plane. Oh my God. Carefully and awkwardly I somehow managed to do this. The next challenge was to bend over as I moved to the front end of the plane because the ceiling, of course, was low. The plane was outfitted with two benches along each side of the plane, and everyone straddled a bench, one person tucked in front of the other, like a roll of Lifesavers. My instructor went in before me, straddled the bench, and I straddled the bench in front of him. It was REALLY hard to be bent into a sitting position with the harness on. I was like a stuffed animal with legs that are permanently outstretched, and when you try to sit it on its butt, it keeps tipping over onto its back. My body kept wanting to fall backward, into the instructor, and I grasped for something to hold to keep my balance. I found the tiniest ridge above the window to clutch, but the instructor yelped a little bit and said not to hold onto that, as it could pop the window out.

Somehow I negotiated an uneasy balance until it was time for me and the instructor to get up in preparation for the jump. We would be the last ones to go. As I walked toward the plane door, I concentrated on bending over sufficiently so the instructor - much taller than I – could use some of the space over my head to bend over himself so he wouldn’t hit his head on the ceiling. I focused completely on taking one robot step after another while trying to bend down.

I arrived at the open door and I could see down into the depths of sky and land so many feet below me, and I was suddenly appalled. Not because I was about to hurl myself from this tiny plane into the empty sky. (Remember, my brain had washed its hands of the whole affair.)

No, I was appalled because between the airplane floor and the open doorway was the tiniest little lip of a ridge. Maybe a half an inch tall. And I knew that somehow I would have to lift my foot that infinitesimal height, while bent over in this harness, and stand on the lip before I could jump. I didn’t know if I could do it.

Somehow I did and thus FELL out of the plane.

They don’t really tell you how to land until you’re in the air and falling. Therefore, as we plummeted to the earth, the instructor told me, “OK, now we’re going to practice how to land. What you’ll need to do is practice pulling your knees up and grasping them so my feet can hit the ground first.” Now remember, I had lost most of my flexibility due to the harness. So here was the instructor asking me not only to pull my knees up, but to bend over to grasp my knees – and to do this all the while I’m plunging to the earth.

But it seemed pretty important, so I tried it. I pulled my knees up, or thought I did, but there was barely any discernible movement. The instructor observed this, and said, “Well, we’ve still got plenty of time to practice this, so let’s try it again.”

I did, and again there was only the tiniest of movements. And the instructor said, “Well, we’ve got some time still, but that’s not quite going to do it. Let’s try another way. Why don’t you do this: Stretch your legs straight out in front of you and hold them up straight.”

So I tried it, and asked, “Is that enough?”

“Well, no, but let’s just try it again. Next time, hold your legs out straight and hold onto the seams of your jumpsuit to help keep them up. ” I tried it, and asked, “Is this enough?”

“Uh, no .......... but we’ll figure something out by the time we get to the ground. Just try to do the best you can.”

And I said, “OK!”

In the end, I basically landed on my stomach. It didn’t hurt. It worked out OK. As a matter of fact, I laughed. Relief. Embarrassment. The absurdity of it all.  Or all of the above, I don't know.

Here's what I do know: In order to jump out of that plane, I had to give up control and trust that it was going to be alright. If I was going to practice living my life to the fullest, I had to be willing to do something I wanted to do by myself, without waiting for someone to do it with me. I had to be willing to look really stupid. I had to risk embarrassment.

Something I'll always remember is that the instructor never treated me with anything other than the greatest respect and kindness. He was professional and calm at all times, and he played a big part in the positiveness of my experience.

It took weeks before I fully appreciated what I did – before my brain was willing to talk to me about it, so to speak. One night in bed, just as I was about to fall asleep, I relived my experience of falling out of the plane – no! - VOLUNTARILY jumping out of this plane 10,000 feet in the air – and it was only THEN that I felt fear. WHAT HAD I BEEN THINKING!?!?!?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Delcambre, Louisiana: The Shrimp Festival 2014

Delcambre, Louisiana. Delcambre Shrimp Festival 2014.

It was hot, I tellya. Hot and overcast and humid.

Delcambre Shrimp Festival 2014.

It was the Delcambre Shrimp Festival. I arrived the final day of the festival - Sunday - toward the end of the special Mass, with Knights of Columbus emissaries and princesses and a king.

Delcambre Shrimp Festival 2014.

Specially decorated rubber boots. Artwork on the walls that honored past princesses.  

Delcambre Shrimp Festival 2014.

Delcambre Shrimp Festival 2014.

There was a blessing of the fleet. 

Delcambre Shrimp Festival 2014.

Delcambre Shrimp Festival 2014.

And a darn good reunion by regionally famous musicians of old: G G Shinn, T K Hulin, Warren Storm and others. I saw quite a few people approaching the man I later identified as Mr. Shinn, getting their  photos taken with him.

Delcambre Shrimp Festival 2014.

G G Shinn. Delcambre Shrimp Festival 2014.

Delcambre Shrimp Festival 2014.

Here's a video of festival-goers getting down with a Saints' Who Dat song:

I'd like to return to Delcambre - lots of interesting architecture there, along with picturesque boats and shrimp-business stuff.

Delcambre, Louisiana. August 2014.

Delcambre, Louisiana.

Even after almost a year of seeing the above photo, I am still bemused by the imagery of a naked woman astride a shrimp. Is it a giant shrimp and a normal-sized woman? A miniature-sized woman atop a normal-sized shrimp? What does it mean?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Opelousas: An Evening in Opelousas

Palace Cafe, Opelousas, Louisiana. May 1, 2015.

Opelousas, Louisiana. May 1, 2015.

And a slide show here:

I'll add more pics to the slide show over time.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Finishing a Story: Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico : The Cry

Bosque Redondo Memorial, New Mexico

Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

The cry

When I heard the woman's cry, it was terrible in its grief.  Even today, more than a year after I saw the video of her cry, it still grips me to remember it.

The video showed the 2005 dedication ceremony of the Bosque Redondo Memorial, screened for us by Dr. Thomas Vincent Allena, as part of a presentation he gave on places of trauma and memories.

The woman's cry, more than all of the hundreds of words spoken by the dignitaries at the Bosque Redondo Memorial's 2005 dedication ceremony, said everything. From an article in El Palacio, Hwééldi, by Ben Moffat: 
Nowhere was the sentiment ... more powerfully evident than during an ... indelible moment that took place during the remarks of New Mexico's senior senator, Pete Domenici. 

Nicole Walker, a Window Rock grandmother, arrived at the ceremony late, concluding her personal re-enactment of the last leg of the historic Long Walk, a journey that she began at 3:00 a.m.

Wrapped in a traditional blanket and followed by a small procession, including a youngster carrying a Navajo Nation flag, she entered the courtyard, uttering soul-wrenching cries of anguish. 

In the video, I saw Senator Domenici emit banal verbiage about remembering the past, but using lessons learned to move forward in unity to blah, blah, blah. All of a sudden, you could hear Ms. Walker as she entered and then approached the speakers' area. I can't find the video, but you can listen to an NPR report here, which has a recording of Ms. Walker's entrance.

All of those words, spoken from a point of detachment, of rationality about an unfortunate tragedy in the distant past - these were drowned in Ms. Walker's cascade of mourning in the here and now.

Bosque Redondo Memorial, New Mexico
Sites of conscience

Bosque Redondo Memorial is a "site of conscience."  I hadn't heard of sites of conscience until I visited the memorial. Some concepts of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience organization are: 
  • To "transform sites of oppression into sites for learning."
  • "Heal: Public memorials provide spaces for rebuilding after tragedy." 
  • "The need to remember often conflicts with the equally strong pressure to forget."

Historical trauma

Many years ago, I attended a professional conference related to mediation. A presenter observed that as children, our parents likely exhibited behaviors and world views that reverberated from events our forebears experienced centuries ago, and which we, in turn, pass unknowingly to our descendants.  

Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart, PhD, put forward the concept of "historical trauma" in the 1980s.  Historical trauma is "cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma."

In other words, trauma continues to occur, albeit perhaps in different form and intensity. In the case of the Navajo and Mescalero Apache, for example, trauma didn't end when they got to return home. Even today, there are microaggressions that prolong the historical trauma - those daily, indirect or direct, small assaults on a person based on his ethnicity.

Historical trauma helps explain why some groups continue to have such a hard road to travel in our society, all the while the majority population is wont to say, "Get over it already!" without even having fully acknowledged and honored the trauma to begin with.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Finishing a Story: Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico, Part 2

The Bosque Redondo Memorial in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, had a powerful impact on me. I wrote Parts 1 and 2 to that story, but hadn't yet written Part 3, which is about an experience there I will never forget. 

To lead up to the final chapter, I reposted Part 1 yesterday and am reposting Part 2 today:

New Mexico: Bosque Redondo Memorial, Part 2: Luck

Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico

What is luck? 

Yes, I know there are those who espouse the "everything happens for a reason" model. I'm not among them. Rather, I believe it is we who place meaning on what happens to us and the world around us. 

Does luck exist because we have created this idea of luck? Or is an event a function of a random throw of existential dice, and thus neutral, and therefore unremarkable? Might not one lucky event, if we pull back for a space-station view of a life over the course of its many years, result in not-luck down the road?

Well, anyway.

I was lucky. 

I was already feeling good when I walked into the Bosque Redondo Memorial building because of the enchanting experience here (with a respectful nod to the yang side of said enchantment as noted by a reader here).

The first good vibe came when, immediately upon walking into the memorial foyer, a smiling woman greeted me with a friendly welcome.

Then she informed me that a tour of the site had just begun and if I'd like to join it, I could tag along. And I did.

That friendly smile and invitation - and, I suppose, my acceptance of said invitation - bloomed into a sequence of lucky moments: 
  • a tour given by a woman who clearly loves the place and what it represents, 
  • a delicious lunch (!) catered by Fort Sumner community members
  • tasty conversation tidbits with the bona fide members of the tour group, 
  • an astounding video that I'll talk about later, and 
  • the gift of a puzzle piece I'd been seeking while trying to process Edwin R. Sweeney's book, Mangas Coloradas, Chief of the Chiricahua Apaches

The group of people on tour this day at the memorial were members of the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe.

Not really luck

My good luck wouldn't have happened if the folks at the memorial, which included staff, volunteers, and members of the local Chamber of Commerce, didn't have a generosity of spirit and an understanding of the bigger picture - to promote the memorial and their town.

They could have easily kept things exclusive, but instead they embraced the stranger walking through their door. Kudos.

And in case you're wondering .... yes, I'm sneaking up on the tangible and intangible of this place and what it commemorates. It's not an easy story.