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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Louisiana: New Iberia: Dave Robicheaux' Fave Diner

Victor's Cafeteria, New Iberia, Louisiana. July 2014.

As a Dave Robicheaux follower, of course I visited his favorite local restaurant, Victor's Cafeteria. It's "where Dave eats."

Victor's Cafeteria, New Iberia, Louisiana. July 2014.

In fact, I ate there twice. Once was when my mom - who turned me on to Dave some years ago - visited me, and who was delighted to check out Dave's haunts in and around New Iberia. Another time was with a buddy who also got into Dave.

Victor's Cafeteria, New Iberia, Louisiana. July 2014.

Victor's Cafeteria, New Iberia, Louisiana. July 2014.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Louisiana: My EDC

South Louisiana EDC

EDC = everyday carry = an item or set of items you carry with you most days.

No idea why, but one of my news apps includes an EDC-of-the-day. It should be no surprise that, for your convenience, each item has a link to Amazon, should you be moved to buy another person's EDC. 

This made me think about my South Louisiana EDC:
  1. Terrycloth wristband to hold a credit card, a little cash, a key
  2. Ear plugs (good for any traveler + especially good for someone who frequents live music venues)
  3. Small metal tin for gum and mints
  4. Lipstick
  5. Compact mirror
  6. Band-aid
  7. Pen
  8. Cheap-ass, ugly, annoying wallet that I can't replace soon enough
  9. One check
  10. A small bit of cash
  11. A credit card or two
  12. Driver's license, library card, health insurance card
  13. Mini notebook 
  14. Comb
  15. Sunglasses 
  16. Keys
  17. Phone


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Louisiana: Lake Martin: Cypress Twists

Cypress in water, Cypress Island, near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. January 2016.

In January 2016, not long before I moved from Louisiana, I visited the Cypress Island boardwalk over by Lake Martin.

Cypress in water, Cypress Island, near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. January 2016.

Played with some photos of a cypress standing in the algae'd water.

Cypress in water, Cypress Island, near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. January 2016.

What is it about these and live oaks that is so entrancing?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Opelousas, Louisiana: A Country View in the City

Cherry Street, Opelousas, Louisiana. July 2016.

During my July 2016 revisit to South Louisiana, Avery and I based ourselves in Opelousas. We often drove down Cherry Street. 

This is the view of a line of traditional bungalows on Cherry Street in Opelousas. A dream of a location. In town, but on its very edge, so you can sit on the front porch and look upon the country just across the street.

If I were going to buy a place in Opelousas, this would be a fine place to live.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Louisiana: A July Visit Preview

Painting of Canray Fontenot at El Sido's, artist as yet unidentified. Lafayette, Louisiana. November 2015.

I moved from Louisiana in February 2016, then set out on some adventures to Guatemala, Colorado, Washington, DC, and Toronto.

In July, I took one of my descendants with me on a revisit to South Louisiana. Let's call her Avery. She's nine. Avery is actually the name of one of her dolls, who she adopted while we were in Louisiana.

Holy Ghost Creole Festival Parade, Opelousas, Louisiana. November 2015.

I'll take the opportunity of my Louisiana revisit to tell some stories that didn't get told when I lived there.

Some of them are happy and some of them are not.

A preview:
  • What's in a name? 
  • Peculiar blindness, continued
  • Festivals, of course
  • Music, of course
  • Little girls: A tragedy 
  • Poetry
  • Beau Jocque 
  • Land and water

An establishment on Highway 190, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Harrison, Arkansas: We are Racist and We Feel Good

Brought to you by the racist folks in and around Harrison, Arkansas. August 2016.

I visited Toronto in June 2016. Then revisited South Louisiana in July 2016. Today's post arose from my return drive to Missouri from the South Louisiana visit. I'll start the July Louisiana posts next, but this one is burning a hole in my pocket and can't wait any longer. 

South of Harrison, Arkansas, is the billboard:

"'DIVERSITY' is a code word for #whitegenocide.

Go here for the usual drivel that accompanies such stupidity.

Strangely, above this billboard is one that extols the virtues of Harrison, Arkansas. It is in dilapidated shape, which belies the cheery soap-bubbly copy:

Welcome to Harrison
Beautiful Town Beautiful People
No wrong exits
No bad neighborhoods
...paid for, evidently by Harrison "business owners"

The link to this perky billboard is harrisonarkansas.info. Interestingly, the message in the upper sign  and the content in its accompanying website is more dangerous, in a way, than the hammer-head drek of the "whitegenocide" guy.

The tone and language of the "business owners" site are so congenial, so reasonable, so seemingly disarming in the acknowledgements of Harrison's flaws along with its charms - so well-written, in fact - that you might almost nod your head at this: 
[Gerald L.K.] Smith was in association with Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Elizabeth Dilling, Father Coughlin, and others known for their pro-American activities.  Smith was an early supporter of local Boone county preacher Thom Robb and all have been labeled by some as racist. Though Lindbergh, Ford, Dilling, and Coughlin are all deceased, they maintained at the time as well as Thom Robb [national director of the KKK] does today, (He also serves as the national director of The Knights Party) to be pro-white only.

Harrison is most often mentioned in the news due to the location of the organization’s headquarters 2 miles from Zinc and 17 miles from Harrison.  [Thom] Robb had his office on Stephenson street just off the square in Harrison for many years as well as overlooking Harrison on Harrison Hill but moved it outside of the city to have room to build a church and family retreat to host conferences.  Some in the city resent the attention he brings while most are either ambivalent or quiet supporters.

Look how the author borrows authority from American icons such as Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford. How he frames their activities as "pro-American." The suggestion that "pro-white" doesn't necessarily mean anti-someone else.

[Note: Being "pro-white" is NOT on the same playing field as being "for" groups who have experienced long-standing, systemic discrimination.]

Then the author proposes that "most" people in Harrison are either ambivalent or quiet supporters. ... So why should you, the reader, trouble your mind?

Very skillful propaganda that masks the malevolence beneath.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Toronto: Airport: Livestock Management

Cattle crossing near Spaceport America, New Mexico. March 2010.

I took the last UP train of the night from Toronto's Union Station to the airport, which was 1:00 a.m. So that put me into the airport about 1:30 a.m.

My envisioned itinerary
  1. Arrive airport.
  2. Move through airport security.
  3. Move through US Customs
  4. Find departure gate.
  5. Plop down til departure time circa 7:00 a.m.
Easy peasy. 



The three tests

In the age-old tradition of having to pass three tests of one's character, fortitude, or wit to reach one's destination, so it was at the airport. In this case, fortitude was the necessary quality.

Test 1

Feeling pretty good upon arrival at the airport - stage one complete: uneventful trip to airport, timely arrival.

Stepped smartly down to the security area.


Not open. Wouldn't be open for several hours.

Virtually no seating options in the vicinity, other than a handful of chairs or the shiny floor.

I joined a tiny family of earlier-than-I stalwarts at the short bank of chairs. Blessedly, the chairs were just outside a restroom.

So, here's one of the downsides of traveling solo. You can't just stake out your spot in the as-yet-to-be-formed queue and then wander off to sightsee in the airport or go get a cup of coffee or even go to the restroom. You've either got to make friends fast with your waiting neighbors, asking them to watch your stuff or your little turf, or you've got to tough it out with boredom.

When you've got a travel partner, you can tag team each other, which is quite nice.

Fortunately, the restroom in this staging area was right next to the little bank of chairs, and my neighbors were congenial. So I could leave my carry-on bag on my seat under their watchful eyes, and slip into the restroom as needed.

We were the earliest arrivals of the day, and at a certain point, airport employees raised a barrier strip that kept passengers from entering the area where my neighbors and I sat.

This resulted in some frustration to new arrivals, as they were stopped by the barrier strip, almost within touching distance, but on just the other side of the boarding-pass machines. Plus no seating. And no one available to answer questions. And no discernible precise spot to begin a queue.

Fortunately, my neighbors and I were not evicted.

Some scofflaws on the other side of the barrier crossed the border in search of answers to their questions. Power to the people, I say. As long as they don't get in front of me in the line that would eventually be born.

But why put travelers under unnecessary stress?

I can accept that an airport (even a large international airport in the largest city of Canada) doesn't  operate its security process 24 hours a day. But given that the downtime is the norm, and given that travelers act in predictable ways when they expect one experience and receive a different one, there is no excuse for the lack of:
  • Useful signage about hours, when a door will open, where a line begins
  • Seating for travelers, especially for those who have physical impairments, or who tire easily from standing, or who feel ill, or who are traveling with children
  • Access to the nearest restrooms (which were on the wrong side of the barrier line)
  • One employee in the vicinity who is ready to answer questions

Yes, I know that one employee costs money. But if that one employee can soothe anxious flyers, this will pay off down the assembly line when the queue does open, with more pleasant - and therefore more efficient - processing through airport security and customs.

Goats at market in Gonder, Ethiopia. April 2011.

Test 2

Eventually, the magic hour rolled around and we could line up outside the transportation security door.

There was a slight glitch for me when coming through, but it was quickly taken care of and because I was toward the beginning of the line, I popped through on the other side fairly soon.

Only to be poured into a blank corridor that ended in a locked door with no instruction about what to do or where to go next.

Hahahaha, you'd think that the Canadian airport transportation security and the US Customs folks would coordinate their opening hours, right?

Fuck, no.

Consequently, our herd found itself in a bottleneck paddock waiting for some cowboy to open the gate into the next pasture.

Test 3

Time passed slowly, as it always does in the land of uncertainty. When will this end? What if I need to use the restroom?

Furthermore, when trapped between airline security and border customs, we've got to mind our attitudes, body language, words, so as not to attract unwanted attention by The Man.

In due course, an official unlocked the door, opened it, and allowed us to clip-clop through.

To another corral, albeit with seats, a restroom, and a drinking fountain.

There was another locked door between us and US Customs, with no guidance about timing or process.

For awhile, we milled about curiously, while generally maintaining a cluster near the door that would lead us (hopefully) to US Customs at some unknown moment. You can be sure, no one of us wanted to lose our place in the line, when a line could, at some point, be permitted to form.

We emitted discreet baa's and moo's among ourselves about the whens, whats, and wherefores to come. We chewed our cuds quietly in a display of non-threatening compliance.

Presently an official arrived, who told us to find a seat while we waited. Some of us did so; others of us did not wish to give up our places in the as-yet-unborn queue, thus remained standing.

Shortly another official arrived who was kind of an asshole in her abruptness and lack of useful information.

Overall, the impression I had was that the officials acted as if this was a new and unusual scene for them, not one that happened every flipping morning.

In other words, no good signage, no good process, no respect for the human needs of the people passing through. All of whom have the basic need to urinate at various points in a day, some of whom have mobility challenges, some of whom have young children, some of whom have disabilities that affect interactions or movement or understanding.

No excuse for this.

Oh, so, finally that last door got unlocked and we could pass through to US Customs.

Tests survived.

Toronto complete. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Toronto: To-the-Airport Travails

Flying geese, Bosque del Apache, New Mexico. November 2011.

After a splendid two weeks visiting friend Sandy in Toronto, it was time to return to the US.

Much to my friend's and my surprise, getting to the airport from downtown Toronto for an international 7:15 a.m flight requires creativity for budget travelers.

The UP train doesn't begin its daily operation until 5:30 a.m., arriving at the airport at 6:00 a.m. - far too short a time to negotiate both the transportation security maze and U.S. Customs (which occurs Canada-side for flights into the U.S.)

There used to be a downtown-airport bus which ran much earlier in the morning, but this ceased operation back in 2014.

Taxis cost about $60.

There were two options like this on craigslist's rideshare page:

Driving home from the cottage today. If you would like a FREE ride anywhere in the city, get back to me. This can be for anywhere from Barrie south to the Toronto Waterfront, even to the airport.
I will not charge for a ride, but hopefully open minded females can come up with another form of payment. Let me know if you're interested!

I chose to take the last UP train of the night preceding my departure, and just hang out at the airport til boarding time.

This would have worked out just fine if it weren't for the surprise I encountered at security. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Toronto: The Little Thermos

Little Thermos. Source: Amazon.

Sandy's everyday carry for her Toronto oots-and-aboot includes a small backpack with a side pocket, in which she inserts a small Thermos.

She has a special ice cube tray that forms slender frozen rectangles. These fit elegantly into the Thermos.

The Thermos holds 12 ounces of cold liquid (including ice), and with the ice, the liquid remains cold for many hours.

Another feature I like is that it has a push-button lid opener to reveal the sturdy silicone straw. So with one hand, Sandy can retrieve the Thermos from the backpack pocket, pop open the lid, take a sip, snap the lid closed, and return the Thermos to its pocket.

Little Thermos. Source: Amazon.

Because the Thermos is short, it's a tad squat, which gives it stability on most surfaces. Also, because it's short, it's less likely to tilt out of the backpack's side pocket and fall onto the ground.

I had to have one.

Sandy and I searched several places for the same size and features, to no avail. Well to some avail, but for twice the price (albeit for twice the cold duration). However, Sandy's sister knew exactly where to find Sandy's Thermos and she hunted and gathered one for me.

Generally, I'm not into cute, and Olaf's relentlessly cheery self is a bit of an eye-roller. On the other hand, because it's a lowly little kid's Thermos, it doesn't attract covetous eyes. Nor does the cheap-ish, powder-blue backpack I use for my own EDC, in which I place Olaf.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Toronto: Three Bs

A little contrived perhaps, but below are pics that didn't reach the level of a separate post. Their common tie is the letter B.

Toronto baseball fans, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Bagpipes, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Bar and boutique hotel, The Rex, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Toronto: "Henry Moore’s Big Bronze Whatchamacallit"

"Henry Moore’s Big Bronze Whatchamacallit", Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

My hostess, Sandy, and I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) during one of its free-admission evenings. While on a docent-led tour, we entered a gallery with work by Henry Moore.

I liked Mr. Moore's smooth, touchable, curvy lines.

Arguably, it's Henry Moore's work that pushed Toronto out of its allegedly-staid comfort zone in 1966. Fifty years ago.

His piece was a modern "whatchamacallit" which was to anchor the new City Hall plaza.

So much controversy surrounded the sculpture that the city posted a 24-hour police guard during its installation.

From the Torontoist, July 2010, which revisited a 1966 story about the new public art work in front of the new Toronto City Hall: Henry Moore's Big Bronze Whatchamacallit:

Shown a depiction of the sculpture, Controller Herbert Orliffe asked in puzzlement: "What meaning has the sculpture? What does it represent?"

"It is not representative of anything at all," Professor Arthur answer. "You don't look for meaning in a modern piece of sculpture - it's not like the Peter Pan on Avenue Road - you look for the beauty of form and mass. It is not supposed to have meaning [in that fashion]." 

The above is precisely what causes my friend, Sandy, consternation when she looks at some modern art. Lack of discernible meaning irritates her. Indeed, she, I, and her friend, Heloise, had an energetic trialogue about same as we walked past The Archer one day.

I subscribe to the belief that we humans are hard-wired to place meaning on everything we see. So even if Professor Arthur's analysis of modern sculpture is true - in theory - it fails in practice. We will always place meaning on what we see. When we can't fit any meaning to something we see, we become disgruntled.

As for me, its obvious that Henry Moore's The Archer is entirely phallic.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Flashback: Voluntary Simplicity

In October 2010, I wrote this:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Voluntary simplicity

I began this post thinking to share an interesting archive article from O magazine, sent to me by friend Terry,  called  Back to Basics: Living With Voluntary Simplicity. There was fodder in there for a discussion about the "business" of simplicity. I imagine I'll get to that another day. 

This is because, in thinking of voluntary simplicity, I remembered Jessica Terrell.

When she served as the trails coordinator for the state of Missouri, Jessica and I worked together on a couple of projects. She modeled voluntary simplicity.

Jessica Terrell. Photo from www.MoBikeFed.org.

You only meet a handful of people like Jessica in your lifetime. She had a positive impact on others simply by walking her talk of living lightly on the earth while embracing its beauty. Good sense of humor. Beautiful smile. Gentle air. Excellent writer. Adventurous. Hard worker. She liked to take at least one trip a year with her mother, who lives in Ohio. She farmed a plot in our town's community garden across the river.
Jessica wanted to live small materially, but big in other ways. (She won a grueling multiple-week, motorcycling competition shortly after moving west.) It was Jessica who introduced me to the world of Tiny Houses. Living in a tiny house was one of her goals.

Once, I met Jessica at another colleague's house for a meeting. Jessica was emptying some items out of her car to give to our colleague. I asked about it, and Jessica replied that she'd been in the process of giving away many of her things. To live smaller. She offered me her one-person tent, which I took (and only recently passed along to Brother4.)

One of Jessica's professional goals was to move from Missouri to New Mexico or Arizona, and work in trails there. When she shared this with me, she calculated it would be five or more years before an opening and her professional "cred" would align to make this happen. It turns out that both occurred soon after, and Jessica moved from Missouri to Santa Fe in 2006.

You'll have noticed that I refer to Jessica in the past tense. This is because she died in a collision with a tractor-trailer on a wintry day in 2008. She was only 30.

Jessica was on her way to another town where she would give a workshop related to trails. Earlier that day, in her office, she talked enthusiastically with a co-worker about a book of essays she was reading, written by Barbara Kingsolver.

Another person who knew Jessica told me she called herself a "vagabond for beauty."

In 2002, Jessica participated in the Public Lands Journey. I'd read Jessica's fine journal entries before, but after she died, I revisited them, and this one stuck out for me. It embodies simplicity.

My Favorite Day  

… I know that when I return home, friends, and family will be asking “So what was your absolute favorite place on the whole trek?”

What will I tell them? I will start out by saying that every day inevitably seemed better than the last. “Seemed” is the key word, you must realize.

If I were to mix up all the days of the trek and do it all over again, each new day would never cease to “seem” better than the one before it!

So I have come to the conclusion that TODAY will always be my favorite.

The dawn of each new day has and will continue to reveal to me things that have never before occurred, and never will occur again, whether it be a beautiful cloud formation over a particular mountain, the call of elk on a cool morning in a national forest, or even the way rocks glitter in the brightness of the afternoon sun.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Toronto: Subway, Part 2

Subway, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

My hostess, Sandy, and I went out to her friend's house for lunch. We took the subway.

As we've now learned, Toronto is a little whack. The evidence to support this conclusion is here, here, and here.

It was on the subway that I learned Toronto is a gateway into another dimension. Yeah, I know, why don't we all know about this, right? I don't have the answer to that, but I could see with my own eyes that the Toronto subway system defies the laws of directionalism. My personal theory is that this is so upsetting to Torontonians and their visitors that they all live in denial.

There is precedence for this phenomenon. Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy s series, called it SEP - Someone Else's Problem: 
An SEP is something we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem. The brain just edits it out, it's like a blind spot.

But look for yourself. I caught it in this video:

And isn't the woman's voice delicious? It's like every sci-fi remote voice.

Gosh darn, I love the incongruity of sitting in one direction while watching how my subway-future makes [will make][will have made] such deep turns and I don't feel [won't feel][won't have felt] a thing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Toronto: Second City Comedy Club

Second City, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Sandy and I went to Second City Comedy Club one Sunday night.

I came of age in the Golden Age of Saturday Night Live - that era of Laraine Newman, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray.

Second City had cachet for me because it was the comedy cradle for several SNL regulars.

"Jane, you ignorant slut."

So there was sentimental value in going to a Second City performance with Sandy.

There were high points, mediocre points, shoulder-shrug points in the performance.

The most important take-away for me was the reinforcement that, to achieve our goals, we've got to:
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • In practicing, accept that we may not do things well in the beginning
  • Be willing to fail in public
  • Be willing to experience discomfort while learning
  • Be confident that we will, eventually, succeed

I am mindful of lessons learned from the Food Network Channel.

And in learning to dance.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Toronto: Seeing the Homeless

Toronto Homeless Memorial, The Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

I don't recall that I've ever been to a city that publicly "saw" its homeless residents by saying their names and acknowledging their deaths as individuals with names. When names are known.

The Church of the Holy Trinity sees the homeless. The church has a clear, succinct, easy-to-remember, actionable mission statement: "loving justice in the heart of the city."

Toronto Homeless Memorial, The Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Toronto Homeless Memorial, The Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Sandy, her friend Heloise, and I stopped by the church for a few contemplative moments. We sat in the shade. We also took a turn in the labyrinth walk in the pocket park by the church.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Toronto: Architecture

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Source: Yoldasin.

Toronto comes in for some ribbing about its architecture.

The Royal Ontario Museum, for example. It's as if the historic mother building were harboring a neonatal alien in its belly, and suddenly said alien yowwen burst forth, ravenous, ripping open its host.

Then there's the preposterous pencil and eraser construct for the Sharp Centre for Design. Literal art.

Sharp Centre for Design, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Credit: CNN.

When I think of the buildings in downtown Toronto, troops of tall, blue, glassine structures come to mind, interspersed with sandy-colored block buildings.

I also think about new buildings that have sprung up, which interrupt the light that their older neighbors used to enjoy. "Shadowing" is not a new problem for Toronto. On one day, Sandy left her Toronto apartment for a far-away island; upon her return a couple of years later, a brand-new neighbor had shouldered itself in - a tall condo building that darkened her balcony.

Overall, however, I don't know that Toronto is any less lackluster than most other cities. And to tell you the truth, I'm still kind of impressed there is a statue of a businessman, dressed in a business suit, in one of Toronto's pocket parks. It's a real departure from the usual public statue fodder, such as warriors, whether modern or historic.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Toronto: Canada Day and Humanity Massive

Canada Day, Harbourfront, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. July 2016.

Canada Day is July 1.  Canada Day commemorates the enactment of the 1867 Constitution Act, which united Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single political entity.

Canada Day isn't the same as the American 4th of July, as Canada was still a "dominion" of the British Empire under the Constitution Act. Canada didn't become fully independent as a nation until 1982.

But I guess Canada Day is kinda like the USA's Independence Day in that it is a national holiday, there are millions of barbecues-and-beer, and fireworks.

Anyhoo, Sandy and I sauntered down to the Harbourfront on Canada Day to see the fireworks, et al.

I savored a brief connection between Toronto and Lafayette, Louisiana, upon seeing Nomadic Massive perform. This band had appeared at International Festival when I was in Louisiana.

Canada Day, Harbourfront, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. July 2016.

The most impressive experience of the night was when everyone left the Harbourfront. The energy, the voice-song, the movement, the alive-ness of so many persons washing over the city floor like a tide from the great lake, singular souls that, together, flowed like a wave.

A video below:

Sandy and I had delayed too long to get a comfortable, good viewing spot for the Canada Day fireworks. In the area between the water and the start of the Harbourfront shops, virtually every single square inch of space was occupied. We finally settled on a not-very-good-but-acceptable spot next to a fountain pool and behind an inconvenient tree.

I don't anticipate ever needing this brilliant tip in the future, but in case it is of use to you: A magnificent view of the fireworks is to be had - albeit standing - adjacent-ish to the Harbourfront Centre, steps from Queens Quay. This has the added advantage of being close to the public restrooms inside the building. Not to mention speedy egress at the end of the display.

I only discovered this vantage point because I had to use the restroom, and when I exited the building to return to Sandy and our ho-hum spot up toward the front (near the shore line), I saw the glorious views of the fireworks from the Harbourfront Centre.

A good lesson: Being up close isn't always the best seat in the house.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Toronto: Standing

Man Standing. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Toronto, standing.

The Jury, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Toronto: Uneven Flooring

Uneven flooring sign, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 2016.

Toronto was so solicitous to offer the above sign in a corridor somewhere, in which construction was occurring.

Some countries should have this sign at all of their border points.


Caucasus Georgia.


And why not? The United States has this sign at one of its border crossings:

Beware poisonous snakes sign at US border, Antelope Wells, New Mexico. March 2013.