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 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.