Monday, September 10, 2018

Missouri: Of Wooly Worms, Vultures, and Trance Music


Wooly caterpillar crossing Highway 94, Missouri. September 2018.



Highway 94 is one of Missouri's gems, unbeknownst to most cross-country drivers who zoom through Missouri along Interstate 70, dismissing the state as a boring four-and-some hours they must endure before entering another snoreful passage in Kansas or Illinois, depending on which way they're headed.

But for much of its length, Highway 94 is the Missouri River's playful younger sister. The roadway zips through flood plains, corn and soybean fields. She sidles alongside river bluffs. She chuckles up and down and around hilly woodlands and bosomy pastures.

Wineries dot Highway 94, as do riverine villages. The Katy Trail is a fellow traveler; it is the longest developed rails-to-trails pathway in the country.

I took a Sunday drive the other day, following Highway 94 from Jefferson City to up north of St. Charles. Come join me for a bit of this drive. Put your seat belt on, sha, and listen to Tinariwen's trance-inducing music while you look out the window.




In September, before the leaves begin to turn, the wooly worms dart and scuttle across the road.


Wooly caterpillar crossing Highway 94, Missouri. September 2018.


They move faster than you might imagine, sniffing to the right and left like puppies.




There were so many wooly caterpillars crossing Highway 94, it reminded me of several experiences in New Mexico, also about this time of year:


Wooly caterpillar crossing Highway 94, Missouri. September 2018.


But what were these wooly caterpillars so busy about on this Sunday in September on Highway 94? I'm not always the sharpest crayon in the box, but I was pretty sure caterpillars didn't engage in sex, so I didn't think they were looking for love. So what was the deal?

  • Here is an annoying non-answer. 
  • Still no answer here, but the writer may be a kindred spirit of mine. 
  • This offers an explanation I've read other places, but September seems awfully early for house-hunting in Missouri, so I don't know. 

But there is consensus about how fast these critters move!

On my drive, I also saw a vulture who had to get out of my way during its snack. Normally, I don't think I would have taken this video of a vulture, but earlier in the day, I interrupted a hawk or other bird of prey while it dined, and I regretted not having filmed that. So the vulture shot was likely a compensatory thing. Here it is, accompanied by Tinariwen:





















Sunday, August 12, 2018

St. Louis: For the Senses: Seafood City



Seafood City, University City, Missouri. 2018.


Am I so far off from a dog? I'm beginning to think not.

Seafood City, University City, Missouri. 2018.


A dog of my childhood joyfully rolled in putrefying fish on a stony beach, the rot taking color in yellow and orange, to sing with the squishy stench.

Crawfish, Seafood City, University City, Missouri. 2018.


One of the joys of entering Rouse's Market in Lafayette was the smell of fish, both raw and cooked.

There was that not-quite-right blend of boiled, spiced crawfish with sticky sweet buns and a bottom note of crawfish etoufee at the Crawfish Etoufee Cookoff in Eunice. Here's what I wrote about that then:
It's extraordinary to smell the fragrances of  muddy bayou, spicy crawfish boil, and cinnamon buns all at once. I couldn't decide if I loved it or felt repelled by it. Attempts to come to a conclusion required many careful inhalations, to no avail.

So when I entered Seafood City on Olive Street in University City this summer, the intake of breath brought a sensory rush from the mixture of fresh and fishy, raw and cooked, the living and the dead, beauty and gore.

Seafood City, University City, Missouri. 2018.



There is pleasure in this as there is in approaching a terrifically pungent, soft cheese. The aroma is preposterous, but the flavor and texture are so fully sensual, and the combination of all is splendid. Which reminds me of this one anchovy I consumed recently. This small, floppy grayish-silvery thing, homely; but its oily, fishy, salty dimensions of flavor required deliberation of thought and closed eyes to extend the life of their chorus.

On my first visit to Seafood City, I saw my very first jackfruit. Until then, I'd only read about them. They are huge!

Jackfruit, Seafood City, University City, Missouri. 2018.


The idea of a Buddhist style chicken puzzled me as I guess I thought Buddhists were vegetarian.


Buddhist chicken, Seafood City, University City, Missouri. 2018.


I wonder how "fresh" is defined. Minutes? Hours? Days?


Fresh pork blood, Seafood City, University City, Missouri. 2018.


A slide show of my visits to Seafood City below:

Seafood City, St. Louis, MO




This isn't the first time I've been a "scentsual" tourist. There was a satisfying trip through the Celestial Seasonings plant outside Boulder, Colorado in 2016.

I will likely need another hit of Seafood City before I leave Missouri this year.





Friday, August 10, 2018

Ferguson: "Michael Brown Died Today."


Michael Brown
Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri. Photo: Found at St. Louis Post Dispatch, attributed to a friend of Michael Brown's.


A few days before August 9, 2018, I created a reminder on my calendar for that date, which synced to my cell phone.

The reminder said: "Michael Brown died today."

On August 9, each time I accessed my phone, there it was:

Michael Brown died today.
Michael Brown died today.
Michael Brown died today.
Michael Brown died today.
Michael Brown died today.
Michael Brown died today.
Michael Brown died today.
Michael Brown died today.
Michael Brown died today.


When I think of Michael Brown, I think of:

.... an image burned into my brain, put there by a racist, hate-mongering individual in South Louisiana who is a minor celebrity. On his social media page, which he proudly affiliates with his employer, was a disgusting image of a "memorial" to Michael Brown, comprised of human excrement.

... the draconian military response to Ferguson protests by then-Governor Jay Nixon.

... people who are dear to me, who must always be ready for that surprise slap in the face, at any given moment, in any given place, by any unexpected person, that reminds them they can't move through their days with the same thoughtless presumption of emotional and physical safety as others can.




Tuesday, August 7, 2018

St. Louis: St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church

St. Alphonsus Liguori "the Rock" Catholic Church, St. Louis, Missouri. November 2017.


When I visited Toronto a couple of years ago, it refreshed me to hear a common theme on various public platforms: "We cherish our interculturalism, our varied complexions, our diverse languages."

Is it Kumbaya Land in Toronto? Of course not. But at least there is the public embrace of interculturalism as a national value.

Would that it were so in the United States. Instead, we apply the phrase "political correctness" as a sneer, a smirk. As if being inclusive is a bad thing.  

This thought is my lead-in to a Sunday in July at St. Alphonsus Liguori "Rock" Catholic Church.

My nonagenarian aunt attended St. Alphonsus Liguori High School way back in the day. Then, the church was predominantly white. In 1945, the Archbishop Cardinal Ritter directed the integration of all Catholic churches in the St. Louis Diocese. Today "the Rock" is predominantly African-American. (A brief history of the church here.)

When I think of African-American Catholics, I think of:

Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Opelousas, Louisiana;

Knights of Peter Claver (established in 1909) - and wonder why I never knew about this organization until I moved to Louisiana, despite my having been raised Catholic; and

This bit of Louisiana history, which James Lee Burke described in his book, Creole Belle (2012): 
We crossed Lafourche and Jefferson Parishes and flew over Barataria Bay and then crossed the long umbilical cord of land extending into the Gulf known as Plaquemines Parish, the old fiefdom of Leander Perez, a racist and dictatorial politician who ordered a Catholic church padlocked when the archbishop installed a black man as pastor.
Note: Unable to find this precise historical datum, but here is a similar situation that involved Mr. Perez and an African-American priest in Placquemines Parish. 



Anyway, on this particular Sunday in July, I attended Mass at St. Alphonsus Liguori "Rock" Catholic Church, and:

The entrance processional walked to the altar to the accompaniment of the church choir, which sang a version of the Truthettes' Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus:



The entrance processional was a fusion of our Americanness. It included the ceremonial fragrance of smoking frankincense from East and North Africa and the Middle East, held in a round, wooden, tasseled bowl of African influence, carried by an African-American woman, barefoot, dressed in a caftan that bespoke traditional African dress.


The choir covered New Direction's song, When All God's Children (aka What a Time) during the preparation of the gifts:




During communion, the choir sang Dorothy Norwood's and Alvin Darling's Somebody Prayed For Me:





The choir sent us on our way with This Little Light of Mine:




I didn't think overmuch about the song, This Little Light of Mine, outside of its pleasing sound and lyrics ... until this came across my newsfeed from NPR: 'This Little Light of Mine' Shines On, A Timeless Tool of Resistance.

The introduction to this article:
Ask Freedom Singer Rutha Mae Harris, and she'll tell you plainly: You can't just sing "This Little Light of Mine." You gotta shout it: 

"Everywhere I go, Lord, I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!"

On a Monday morning, Harris' powerful voice fills the small church right next to the Albany Civil Rights Institute in Georgia. She's showing them how she and her fellow Freedom Singers — a renowned quartet that raised money for student activists during the civil rights movement — belted out songs to get through dangerous protests.

..... a unifying affirmation that gives the crowd a taste of that feeling from the 1960s. She says the song helped steady protestors' nerves as abusive police officers threatened to beat them or worse.

And later in the article: "Last year, Reverend Osagyefo Sekou used 'This Little Light of Mine' to curb passions during a counter-protest, before a crowd of white supremacists and alt-right supporters gathered for the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va."

A video of that singing here:



This is yet another example for me of how we are surrounded by history in our everyday lives. A song. A mural. The style of earrings a woman wears; the width and arch of her eyebrows. The waistband on a pair of jeans. How we do our hair. A flag. The name of a street. The route of a road. The cluster of volunteer irises on the side of an empty stretch of road. Why Monday was wash day and red-beans-and-rice day.










Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Ferguson: Backyard Fox



Fox, Ferguson, Missouri. July 2018.



There was a fox in my backyard early in the morning.


Fox, Ferguson, Missouri. July 2018.


A lanky one.


Fox, Ferguson, Missouri. July 2018.


And entirely unexpected.

Fox, Ferguson, Missouri. July 2018.



I am regularly surprised at the pleasing rural-urban mix that is Ferguson. Having a fox in one's backyard is only one gift of the community.

A shaky video below:




When I think of foxes in a suburban environment, I think of my house in Jefferson City. My immense backyard ended at a creek that you could follow all the way to the Missouri River.

Through the years I lived there, sometimes at night, I would hear an unsettling cry. Like a woman crying out in pain. Or maybe even a child.

Finally I tracked it down to a fox call. A "vixen's scream" to be precise, although it's not only female foxes that make this call.

A sample of this call below, which actually tells an entertaining story:









Friday, June 29, 2018

Ferguson: History I Don't See

History mural, Ferguson, Missouri. June 2018.



On the corner of North Florissant and Airport/Hereford, there is a US Bank. The bank has a mural on its side depicting Ferguson history.


History mural, Ferguson, Missouri. June 2018.


Who's not there?


History mural, Ferguson, Missouri. June 2018.


We've got to stop being so blind.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

St. Louis: Luchadora!


Luchadora play, Theatre Nuevo, Mustard Seed Theater, St. Louis, Missouri. June 2018.


June 2018


When I saw the promo for the play, Luchadora, it was a must-go-see for me.  A connection between my current home in Ferguson and my most recent home in El Paso, by way of my new guilty pleasure, lucha libre.

Luchadora play, Theatre Nuevo, Mustard Seed Theater, St. Louis, Missouri. June 2018.




It is high praise, indeed, for me to tell you that the play kept my attention for both of the 45-minute acts.

The main theme is the self-empowerment of girls and women both today and in the Vietnam War era. Where girls and women literally fight, albeit incognito, for their places at the grown-up table of the world.

It's a personal story that a grandmother tells her granddaughter, the former a secret luchadora and the latter, a hopes-to-be boxer.

It's about keeping secrets from family members who keep you back and from the larger society that would keep you boxed in.

The Spartan set design was clever and effective. Granddaughter and grandmother, in today's time, sat in an upstairs alcove. Grandmother's story played out on center stage. A bridge between the modern-day alcove and a large staircase was a platform for real-time play action and as a mechanism for "unseen" characters to reveal their thoughts or the contents of their letters.


Luchadora play, Theatre Nuevo, Mustard Seed Theater, St. Louis, Missouri. June 2018.


The Mustard Seed Theater, within Fontbonne University, is petite. Very comfortable seats! And they are roomy. Plus each row is sufficiently higher than the one below it to assure all attendees a fine line of sight onto the stage.

Ticket prices are not inexpensive. Fortunately, it appears that plays are accessible to most for at least one performance of each play, when attendees can pay what they can afford if they also bring a canned good for donation to a food pantry.







Thursday, May 10, 2018

Missouri: Arrow Rock Camping, Part 3: A Fuller History



Never Been Beat by Artist Joe Don Brave, Arrow Rock Historic Site Visitor Center, Missouri. May 2018.


The Arrow Rock State Historic Site's Visitor Center is very, very attractive. It is a space easy to miss, abutting the village, but tucked behind trees and a boardwalk. There's an expansive parking lot accessible from the rural highway that serves both the village and the state park.


Joe Don Brave exhibit, Arrow Rock Historic Site Visitor Center, Missouri. May 2018.


Given the diminutive size of Arrow Rock and its rural setting, it surprised and pleased me to see the permanent exhibit called Slavery, Racism, Violence: Justice and the Constitution -- the African-American experience in the Boone's Lick from Emancipation (1865) to the beginning of the Civil Rights Era.



History exhibit, Arrow Rock Historic Site Visitor Center, Missouri. May 2018.


For healing to occur in our society, it is imperative for us to look at our shared history, to gaze on it, to see it and to see the women, men, and children - our ancestors - who lived it.


History exhibit, Arrow Rock Historic Site Visitor Center, Missouri. May 2018.

The exhibit impressed me with its straightforwardness in presenting facts and the effect of slavery and post-slavery times on residents, both black and white.


History exhibit, Arrow Rock Historic Site Visitor Center, Missouri. May 2018.


History exhibit, Arrow Rock Historic Site Visitor Center, Missouri. May 2018.


History exhibit, Arrow Rock Historic Site Visitor Center, Missouri. May 2018.



History exhibit, Arrow Rock Historic Site Visitor Center, Missouri. May 2018.

The visitor center featured a beautifully-lit room of art work by Joe Don Brave, an artist of Osage and Cherokee heritage.







Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Missouri: Spring Love

My sister and I sat outside on a sunny, warm afternoon.

Suddenly, a dark lumpy shape buzzed past me. Whoa, big fella! Let me get out of the way for you! Another body zoomed past.

I jumped.

However, neither had any interest in me or my sister.

These rotund carpenter bees had other fish to fry today.

Carpenter bees, Missouri. May 2018.

Carpenter bees, Missouri. May 2018.

Carpenter bees, Missouri. May 2018.

In the first photo above, the male did connect briefly with the female. Then they parted and the male began to hover near the female, waiting for her to take flight again, which is what he particularly enjoys seeing happen.  My video of same below:




From wikipedia, re: mating behavior:
Males require female activity, specifically flight, in mating. Occasionally before mating, the couple will face each other and hover for a few minutes. When the male contacts the female, he mounts her back and attempts to push his abdomen under hers. Copulation occurs at this instant, and it is almost always followed by more mating attempts. If, during copulation, the female lands, the couple will disengage and the male will hover waiting for the female to take flight again;however, although the males almost always disengage and pause copulation when the female lands, there have been instances recorded in which the males will hold on to the female with all six legs and flap his wings in an attempt to lift her back into the air.


Someone else got a video of a liaison in another state:



In this video, the male seems to be OK with hanging on while the female walks along the surface.


Spring love. Reminds me of that time in New Mexico. February, it was. Sex Amidst the Gravel.





Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Missouri: Arrow Rock Camping, Part 2: Additions to the Carcass Gallery


I experienced a moral dilemma about my photo of this racoon, freshly killed on the road. The original photo was very, very graphic, and it prompted me to think what I wanted to achieve by sharing it or even keeping it at all.

Because I'm not entirely sure why I collect this gallery of animal carcasses to begin with, I didn't have a clear answer to the question of why I would censor one of the photos.

I do know that one reason I capture these pictures is because it is an act of seeing an individual that used to be alive, but which is now dead. So the way I edited the racoon picture is in that spirit.  I can look at that small hand, for instance, and touch the leathery palm, in a way. I can see the animal as a whole and not get lost in its entrails. 

Dead racoon, Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.


There is something odd about a carrion eater like this vulture being dead. Do vultures eat dead vultures?

Dead vulture, Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.

Dead vulture, Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.


My cumulative carcass collection below:

We Stop For Carcasses




Monday, May 7, 2018

Missouri: Arrow Rock Camping, Part 1: Cold Coffee and Some Walks


Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.


I'm a bit of a camping Goldilocks, perhaps, in that I don't want to camp when it's too cold and I don't want to camp when it's too hot.

The first weekend in May was a splendiferous time for my first Missouri camping foray this year.

I chose Arrow Rock State Park.  I've been there before. I like that the state park is tucked up against the village of Arrow Rock, and it's pleasant to poke around town.

Cold coffee fixings, Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.


To keep things super easy for me, I decided not to cook a damn thing. Not even coffee. Whoa, wait a minute! Not that I'd do without coffee, for God's sake! Nope, I'd bring my favorite instant coffee, some sweetener, a flavored creamer, and shake it all up in cold water each morning. Damn good stuff.

Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.


When I arrived at the campground, I nabbed the second to the last available campsite. Hoo-wee, that was lucky! The Audubon Society was hosting a weekend birding event, so I got there in the nick of time. I saw a lot of big-rig camera gear. Impressive.

I took several walks over the weekend.

Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.


One of the coolest things I saw was this tree being consumed by beaver bites.

Beaver teeth markings, Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.

Beaver teeth markings, Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.

Beaver teeth markings, Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.

Beaver teeth markings, Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri. May 2018.


I had the thought to record morning birdsong at my campsite and see about adding that to a slide show for my youtube channel. Below is my result:





Saturday, May 5, 2018

Ferguson: Northern Lights Christmas


Northern Lights Christmas Market, Ferguson, Missouri. November 2017.



On the Sunday following Thanksgiving, Ferguson holds its Northern Lights Christmas Market and Parade. This is also when one can buy tickets to the Ferguson Christmas Home Tour.

Northern Lights Christmas Parade, Ferguson, Missouri. November 2017.


After a nature-infused weekend with family members in the Ozarks Scenic Riverways here and here, I hied home early Sunday so I could grab tickets for me and my mom for the Christmas Home Tour and also to see the parade that night!


Northern Lights Christmas Parade, Ferguson, Missouri. November 2017.


Northern Lights Christmas Parade, Ferguson, Missouri. November 2017.

Northern Lights Christmas Parade, Ferguson, Missouri. November 2017.


One of several videos here, a children's dance troupe:



And, as always, I swoon over drums:




But I was besotted with this crazy-creative moving train table, operated at the Christmas Market by one of Santa's helpers!