A Mayor Named Omelette

mayor omeletteThis past Sunday, the mayor of Abita Springs, Dan Curtis, made an announcement at the weekly farmer’s market. At 11 a.m., as the market opened, Mayor Curtis introduced Omelette the hen as the honorary mayor for the day from the stage of the museum overlooking the market. Omelette is the local mascot for the Abita Cafe.

museumNormally, Omelette is a free range bird, who pecks for worms and scraps in the yard and near the outside tables of the cafe. However, for her honorary day as mayor, she appeared in a cage and was wheeled around the town’s center in a wagon. In addition to touring the market stalls of vegetables, prepared food and crafts, she viewed Rosie’s Tavern, Artigue’s Grocery and Deli, and the Abita Brew Pub.

I have never been inside Rosie’s Tavern, but I am a regular customer at Artigue’s Grocery and Deli, as well as the Abita Brew Pub. If you come by Abita, I recommend the plate lunches at Artigue’s Grocery. The Abita Brew Pub has great burgers.

Omelette’s political views are unknown. I have no idea where she stands on the local issues such as zoning or sewerage improvements. Heaven knows what she thinks about impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. For one blessed Sunday, Omelette blessed us with her apolitical tenure as mayor. It was refreshing. brew pub

In the evening, after the market closed. the chicken returned to her home at the cafe. Dan Curtis resumed his mayoral duties. Such is the news of a small town on Sunday in Louisiana.

How Cool is Abita Springs, Louisiana?

How cool is Abita Springs, Louisiana? Well, let me tell you. Abita Springs, a town of about 2500 residents, made the list of 25 Top Coolest Towns in the US.* You can read the article yourself if you want their opinion. I won’t repeat the article here in this space.

However, I think this is a cool town. I live here, so I might be a bit biased. Let me give you my list on what makes Abita Springs a great place.

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The town bakery not only has great baked goods, but a great wrap-around porch and its own ghost.
  1. Abita Springs has quaint architecture. The town came into its own in the Gilded Age as a place to escape the Yellow Fever epidemics of nearby New Orleans.
  2. Abita Springs has the St Tammany Trace running through the center of town.  The Trace is a bike and pedestrian trail that replaced the train tracks in St. Tammany Parish.
  3. Abita Springs has two museums. One museum is devoted to the history of the town, and the other is a museum of oddities with things like a stuffed alligator and collections of glass shards.

    abita mystery house
    Entrance to UCM (You See ‘Um) Museum and Mystery House
  4. Abita Springs has the Push Mow Parade every Mardi Gras. I can’t add anything else to that – it’s just cool.
  5. Abita Springs has its own Opry. The Abita Springs Opry has six concerts a year in the town hall, dedicated to preserving bluegrass and country music.
  6. Abita Springs hosts an annual city-wide garage sale every spring. What can beat that? I don’t know, but maybe the beer. . . ?
  7. Abita Springs is home to Louisiana’s best craft beer.  The Abita Brewery sells thousands of barrels of beer and ale across the state and the nation.

    Abita Christmas Ale
    Christmas Ale from Abita Brewery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The Matador Network, a digital travel magazine. 

Thoughts about Easter at Thanksgiving

Text_thanksgiving_clip_artThis week, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving. I will spend the day with relatives at our family’s hunting lodge in Clinton, Louisiana. I  enjoy spending Thanksgiving Day at the family compound in the woods. The guys usually hunt, and the ladies do the cooking. We always pause and give thanks to God before we eat. It’s a good tradition. To stop and put into words that we are, indeed, thankful.

This week I am thinking about a lady named Easter. Until a few days ago, I didn’t know the story of Easter. I was eating tacos with my sister this weekend, and she told me the story. Over forty years ago, my sister, Jan, then twenty years old, was badly burned in a car accident. Jan spent many months recuperating in a burn unit in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Jan told me that Mrs. Easter was a burn patient, too. My sister kept hearing about Mrs. Easter from the staff. They would tell her nearly everyday, “Mrs. Easter wants you to know she’s praying for you.” Mrs. Easter was named for the holiday by her parents as she was born on Easter Sunday. My sister was young, a college student, and wasn’t all that interested in the woman with the strange first name and her reminders of daily prayers.

Then, one day, staff members wheeled Mrs. Easter’s bed into my sister’s room for a few hours while her room was being cleaned. For the first time, they met. Face to face, eye to eye. Jan saw that her fellow hospital patient was in far worse shape than she was. Her face was virtually gone. Yet, Jan told me, Mrs. Easter was quite interested in my sister’s well-being despite her own disfigured face and body.

Mrs. Easter didn’t leave the hospital alive. The story of the Christian holiday of Easter became a present reality for Mrs. Easter. She met her Jesus in whom she believed in with all her heart. She left a legacy of hope in my sister’s heart, who despite her outward protestations at Mrs. Easter’s prayers, had begun a journey of faith herself in that Baton Rouge burn unit.

Hope would carry my sister through surgeries, skin grafts, and countless hours of physical therapy. Eventually my sister returned to college, graduated, and became a pharmacist. She got married and had a family. Now retired from pharmacy, she owns and operates a small restaurant with her husband in Covington, Louisiana.

As I join with my family for Thanksgiving this week, undoubtedly I will have thoughts about mundane things like sweet potatoes, green beans. or fried turkey. I will think about the New Orleans Saints who are playing the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night. I know I will think of Easter on Thanksgiving, too.

 

Thoughts on Being Home

I’ve recently returned home from a trip to Disney World. After a week away, I had a list of tasks that are common when returning home, such as collecting the mail, watering houseplants, and answering email. All are part of being home again. There’s the rhythm of normalcy that comes from being home again. I like simple pleasures such as sleeping in my own bed and fixing my own coffee first thing in the morning.

While I was away cavorting with Mickey and his pals, Louisiana State University’s football team beat Alabama. That’s big news in Louisiana. The two football teams duked it out in Tuscaloosa, Alabama last weekend. We were the underdogs. LSU wasn’t expected to win, but we beat ‘Bama. Now, LSU is rated number one in the country. It was a good feeling when I came home knowing that my home state was first in college football rankings.

I want to hold on to some happy feelings about Louisiana because otherwise, the news about the state is alarming. This week an article from US News & World Report ranked Louisiana as the worst state in the nation. The magazine editors considered things like education, job growth, health care, opportunity and crime. There’s a US map on the magazine’s website with a big 50 emblazoned on my home state. We even beat Alabama for last place. Alabama is 49. Number one is Washington

A final note on being home: my dear friend, Sandra, passed away this week. She had battled breast cancer for over fifteen years. The cancer spread to her liver a few years ago, yet she had good health almost to the very end. She had been aware, as she told me a few months sago, “that the pages are turning faster.” She knew that even though her oncologist kept using different tools from his toolbox, as he phrased it, that her time was limited. She’s home now. In heaven.

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The Hardy Plank house that is my home, at least for now.

I believe in heaven. I don’t know a lot about it, as the Bible isn’t as specific as I’d like it to be on that subject. It’s just a gut feeling I have that heaven exists. Even when I am feeling most at home in my own house, comfortably settled in my daily routines, something seems not quite right. Something’s askew. That’s because there’s more.  There’s another dimension. There’s another reality beyond this one. There’s a place that God calls to me to my permanent home. When my thoughts turn homeward, I know it’s not just to a house made of Hardy Plank siding in Abita Springs, Louisiana, but to another home that is just beyond my grasp, where God dwells.

If you’re unsure how you feel about heaven, that old-fashioned solace of the ancients, I invite you to listen to this song with the refrain, You’re calling me, I’m coming home. It’s not too other-worldly, because as far as I know, heaven may be all around now, just in another dimension.

 

 

Dizzying, Dazzling Disney World

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My great niece with Cinderella in her castle. This was one of the happier moments of the trip.

I’ve just returned from nearly a week at Disney World. Four generations of our family converged in central Florida from Louisiana, Texas and Georgia. Our gang ranged in age from 86 to 5 years old.

From the moment I landed at the Orlando Airport, I was greeted by smiling, cheerful people eager to make my stay memorable. We were whisked off to our lodgings in buses with cheerful Christmas tunes over the loudspeakers driven by an incredibly effervescent driver. The place we stayed in was supposed to resemble Key West. I’ve never been to Key West, Florida, but the plantation style shutters on faux clapboard units were in place to evoke the southernmost Floridian vibe.

I have visited the Magic Kingdom before, once as a child, and twice as a young adult. The constellation of different resorts entertains on all levels. There are shows, rides, parades, concerts, gondola rides, boat rides, a monorail and a plethora of eating establishments.

I tried to participate as much as possible in the vast array of attractions and distractions. I rode rides. I watched street exhibits of acrobats, dancers and Disney characters. I ate and drank too well and too often.

I enjoyed the Magic Kingdom for sentimental reasons, seeing quintessential sights I remembered from my childhood visit in the early 70s. I recalled with fondness the Hall of Presidents and the Haunted Mansion. The youngest in our group enjoyed the princess and fairy tale venues.

Epcot was more enjoyable for the older members in our group. During our stay, the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival was underway. Country upon country were represented by cultural exhibits, as well as food and beverages from each nation. I enjoyed the French architecture and food. Mexico had a good gig, too, even if the Mayan ruins were a bit too fake and shiny.

The essence of Disney seems to be to make one excitably happy. For me, Disney was an exercise in flights of fantasy, surreal and strange scenes, bemusing and bewildering at times. There was almost a manic pace to the crowds searching for the next exciting moment.

Disney is an American spectacle to be sure. Thomas Jefferson famously wrote about the American right to the pursuit happiness, but happiness is an elusive goal. For me, all that work to be happy was a tad exhausting.

Things I Love about America

flagI live in America. I always have. I was born in North America. I lived here most of my life. For a very short period, almost a year, I lived in Mexico. I was in my late 20s at the time. I worked with a family of missionaries in Guadalajara. For nearly a decade, I lived in Central America, where once again, I did missionary work.

When I say America, though, I speak of the United States. We take ownership of the word, America, as our own. We’re a narcissistic bunch. Just look at our history. We believed in the Pilgrim’s dream of the ideal Godly Nation. We believed in Manifest Destiny, that somehow the United States should stretch coast to coast. We had no problem whatsoever in pushing out Native Americans from the land, resettling the remnants of great nations into reservations.

Back to my title. I love America, most specifically the United States of America. Having lived abroad, there are things that I truly appreciate. Here’s a partial list.

  1. Ice Cream. In Honduras, I had a hard time finding decent ice cream. The stuff manufactured in Honduras was a gelatinous, gooey gob of sugary nastiness. I finally lost faith in finding anything decent in the frozen dairy aisle there aside from Dos Pinos, manufactured in Costa Rica. However, due to the vagaries of shipping and electrical outages in Honduras, Dos Pinos often suffered from poor texture. Now, I can eat Ben and Jerry’s delicious pints, or when feeling the need to pinch pennies, I buy Blue Bell, which is a perfectly serviceable ice cream from neighboring Texas.
  2. Walmart Pick-up Service. I love using the Walmart phone app to select groceries, place an order, and voila, pick up all my weekly provisions in the parking lot. I don’t have to leave my car, as the Walmart worker does it all from selecting my edibles to putting them neatly in the back of my SUV, then presenting my electronic receipt to my car door. I believe only Americans could think up such an indolent way to get groceries.
  3. Streaming TV service. I used to have Netflix in Honduras, but what about Roku, Hulu, Amazon, and Apple TV?  Let’s not forget the the services that stream live TV. I use YouTube TV. I love it. I never need to leave my La-Z-Boy recliner to access thousands of TV shows, movies, and TV channels. Yes, I actually have 2 La-Z-Boy recliners.
  4. Mega-Everything. Costco, Sam’s, Lowe’s, Home Depot, SuperWalmart are all  examples of the American need for all-things-large. I now attend a megachurch complete with Jumbotron screens and stadium seating. Thousands attend every weekend, and thousands more watch the service at satellite churches across the region. Sometimes, when I leave, I can’t find my car in the massive parking lot.
  5. Libraries. I live less than 1/2 a mile from a public library, which I use regularly. There’s so much there: books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, computers. I can download books to my e-reader from the library, too. Fantastic! There are meeting rooms for classes, conferences, and club meetings. How can a country not have libraries? Some don’t. Honduras didn’t have a government that supported public, lending libraries.

I love America. I don’t love everything about America, but, I do love a lot about this land of excess, indolence, consumerism and of course, libraries. We can’t forget libraries.

Postcards from the Edge of the 20th Century

It’s a beautiful, crisp fall morning in south Louisiana. Eggs are on the stove, simmering to a hard boil. I will be on my way to church soon. Passing the time before service, I am looking at social media, reading a few blogs, and sipping Community coffee.

Somehow, I chanced upon some rather old photographs that I uploaded to Google photos a few years ago. I remember when I found these pictures. I was poking around a box of old mementos at my mom’s house while sorting out items in a cupboard. When I opened the brown and pink shoebox, the musty smell was almost overpowering. My mama thought the whole box should be ditched.

I’m glad I didn’t do that. In the cardboard box were forgotten treasures from my grandmother’s past. I found a medal from World War 2, probably from one of my uncles all of whom are dead now. I uncovered my mother’s ration cards from World War 2. There was an old journal from my grandmother, where she marked important dates with small notes. (More on that in another post.) In the jumbled pile of things, I saw some postcard pictures of young men and women in period clothes of the early 20th century.

A cursory search of the internet revealed these postcards were calling cards in the early days of the 20th century. Collecting postcards was a popular hobby it seems from this period. Fortunately, the cards were in good shape. One side had directions for mailing and space for messages, and the other, beautiful, staged young people from a century ago.

The first picture had a name on the back. The signature read Augustina Dufrene. My mama didn’t recall a relative or neighbor by that name. I looked for her name online but no local name matched to someone her age, which I assume was a young adult around 1910-1920.

It’s possible her name at birth was Augustine Dufrene from Lockport, Louisiana. I found that match. However no information beside a birthdate in the late 1890s was found. No wedding date. No death notice. Perhaps, Augustina moved away from south Louisiana, or maybe she died in the influenza epidemic that swept the nation and the world in 1918.

Another card featuring a female had a message on the back professing love and friendship but no name. I suppose she assumed a name wasn’t necessary since the bearer was more than likely a beloved friend.

My grandparents was married in 1917, so I think these were friends in the days before  or during World War 1. After the war, my grandparents had little time for collecting postcards. They were busy working a farm and having babies.

The names and stories of these cards are lost to time, but the beautiful images still remain as a marvelous mystery. I hope you enjoy viewing these century-old selfies of people in their Sunday best as much as I have.

Scan 7

Augustina Dufrene

post card friend (1)Unknown friend