It’s Juneteenth and All is Well

I never knew about the day called Juneteenth when I was growing up. As far as I knew it was June 19. It happens to be my sister’s birthday, but that’s not of national import. I am happy for African Americans who may be celebrating their day of independence today.

For me, this year, Juneteenth means it’s the end of May. Confused? Let me explain. Until this weekend, we have had a most unusual month in Louisiana. The weather has been mild, not oppressively hot and muggy like it usually is in June. It’s been like May, warm in the day, not humid, and cool each evening

Everything in nature has responded in turn to this remarkable stretch of nice weather. In my yard, the rose bushes are full of happy buds, not drooping in indolence and shame due to heat exhaustion. The hydrangeas are blooming merrily, full of white blossoms reaching Amazonian heights. My blueberry tree was overloaded with fruit this year, much to the delight of the birds who consumed much of the harvest. I hear the din of frogs and insects in the twilight of midsummer eve as they rejoice in May days. It’s grand.

I don’t have a vegetable garden, but folks with gardens are enjoying a great harvest. In Louisiana, we don’t have a harvest in late June. Plants (and some people) usually just give up and die about this time of year in the sweltering heat. Not okra. Okra thrives in the summer heat. But, no, it’s not just okra growing in home gardens in late June. There’s still tomatoes and peppers and zucchini and corn being harvested in back yards in Louisiana.

According to the weather guy on TV, this glorious balmy month of May will end sometime on June 20 or 21. That’s this weekend. So Juneteenth is being celebrated in my house as the last day before the awful blast of Louisiana summer begins. I’m happy to celebrate the day because the days and nights of lingering May has been appreciated.

I popped a huge bowl of popcorn. I plan on watching Madam Secretary on Netflix. Why not have a Netflix binge with popcorn? That’s how I plan on commemorating the end of May. Happy Juneteenth, y’all.

News From Abita Springs

I am tired of bad news broadcasting daily into my home. What about something different? In my little town, there’s news of armadillos, coyotes, pot-bellied pigs and more.

Animals have been out and about. In the daytime, coyotes have been spotted in town, creeping out of the woods. Hide your cats, dogs, and chickens! It’s not safe. Baby armadillos about the size of pickle jars were seen scuttling across the St. Tammany Trace this past week.

A local resident reports the presence of pot-belled pigs in her yard. Who do they belong to? When will the owners retrieve the errant pigs? Will an interloper snatch them up for a Friday night barbecue? If there are updates to this developing story, I will let you know.

The children’s park and the splash pad remain closed as they have for the stay at home orders in the spring. The park will remain closed because of needed repairs. The splash pad is going to re-open most likely in July.

The Abita Springs Trailhead Museum and the Abita Springs Farmer’s Market have re-opened for Sunday visitors. One can buy fruit, veggies, farm-raised eggs and prepared foods from 11-3 each Sunday. Next door to the Museum and Farmer’s Market, the Abita Brew Pub is open with fifty percent capacity per state guidelines. The outdoor seating is quite nice under the large shady oak trees. On Sundays, there’s also live music in the pub’s outdoor space.

undefinedThe Abita Mystery House and UCM (You See ‘Um) Museum remains closed. It’s time to write another post about this eccentric site full of treasures and charms that continues to grow its displays of odd collectibles. I’ll wait until it’s open for new pictures. Until then, content yourself with the photo of the lady alligator who greets guests in the main room of the UCM house. If you can’t wait for my post, and you have access to local public television, WYES of New Orleans, will air a segment on the Abita Mystery house tonight at 7:30 and 11:30.

That’s all the news of the week in Abita Springs. Coyotes and armadillos, markets and museums, all are part and parcel of the news. I hope you enjoyed a small town news respite from the national news of the day.

The Green Bus

 

green bus
Picture stolen from Phys.org.

When I was a girl, a grocery bus passed in front of our house every Saturday. My memories are somewhat hazy, since the bus stopped its route in the early 70s or late 60s. I would have been maybe five or six when the bus quit coming down Bayou Blue. On Saturday, I remember waiting on the side of the road with my sisters, looking for the green school bus.

My childhood memory was that the bus was outfitted with wooden shelves filled with rows of candy from top to bottom. I remember Sugar Babies, Sweet Tarts, Now and Laters, Lemon Heads, and Hot Tamales. Making a choice of only one candy was a perplexing choice each week.

When I talked to my older sister about the green bus, she gently remonstrated me about the bus’ contents. According to her, and later confirmed by my mother, it was a bus filled with groceries and hardware items, too. Need a potato? Check the produce bins in the front of the bus. Want a step ladder? They were hung on the ceiling, parallel to the floor. Scrub brush? Near the back. Can of soup or bag of sugar? Middle aisles.

Every Saturday, Mr. Boudreaux drove from Thibodaux, Louisiana, down a rural route along Bayou Blue. He sold his wares to housewives and children who waited by the road. I suppose he had other routes on different days. I remember that our day was Saturday. In my mind, Saturday had to be the best day for a green bus full of candy to stop in front of my house.

In those days, home delivery wasn’t a novel concept. The milk came in bottles from a milkman in his truck. Fresh fruit came from Mr. Ledet’s customized pick-up truck. Of course, frozen confections were available from the ice cream truck, sounding its way down the road.

Today, Walmart allows for orders to be made at home, online, and then picked up in the parking lot. Instacart goes a step further, and online orders are delivered to your door. These ideas are not quite new. They are just new twists on an old theme. The green bus of my childhood lives on in new ways all over the place.

Yard Art

EgretThe month of May continues with cooler weather than normal. We’ve had continued bouts of mild weather. This week is no exception. It’s warm, but not hot. The humidity is low. The good weather as well as continued caution in getting out very often due to the Quarantine has led me to enjoy working in my yard more than usual.

Today, I spent a few minutes looking for my yard art. I think yard art is a Southern thing. We like to display flags, signs, or metal fashioned into all sorts of creatures to grace our yards. For some reason, I haven’t been particularly generous with displaying my yard art. The only thing that’s planted in my yard that’s not a plant is my blue heron made of metal.

The heron falls a lot. He’s developing bent feathers from falling over. He’s starting to rust. But I like my blue bird. After every thunderstorm or bout of windy weather, I find the rusty bird and stake him out again in the flower bed.

SUNI have a few other items that need to be attached to the fence outside. I need to grab my hammer and some nails, maybe later today, and attach them outside. There is a metal sun to nail to the fence. Somewhere in the shed there is a an old license plate, as well as a sign that spells LOVE in swirly green and blue letters. Then, there’s the old piece of wood with a Bible verse on it. This is, after all, the Bible belt.

Any yard in the South without yard art is just a lawn. A true Southern yard has a collection of  eccentric, whimsical pieces scattered about. Heart signMaybe it’s a wooden, painted sunflower that was a gift from Aunt Edna. Or. maybe, it’s an American flag. There’s a house nearby that has a bathtub in the front yard. It’s not for bathing. It’s for decoration, for planting a few flowers. Those old tubs in yards are not uncommon in these parts. I’ll let you know what things look like after I dig around the shed looking for my yard art, although I’m fairly sure I don’t have anything that needs plumbing to add to my yard.

Quiet, too quiet, getaway

Inspired by an article in the Washington Post rating quarantine experiences, I wrote a review of my home as if I were staying at a vacation rental. 

2 stars

Quiet getaway

Abita Springs, Louisiana

When I arrived at Casa Gumbo, I noted the quiet, tranquil atmosphere. No other guests were there during my stay. I thought the rooms were clean but wouldn’t pass the white glove test. After my first night, I left the sign on the door requesting housekeeping, but no one showed.

The kitchen had ample supplies, but there was a noticeable lack of snacks and sodas. It’s as if the owner had eaten all of the fun foods before my arrival. Where were the chips? Sodas? Wine? Ice cream? All I had was boring staples for food. It was as if the owner had consumed all of the good food and drinks before I arrived. Speaking of food, I seemed to be expected to fix all of my own meals and clean up afterwards as well.

living roomThe picture of the outside of Casa Gumbo was misleading. Yes, this picture is exactly what one sees from the front living room, but the truth is the home is otherwise surrounded by other homes, and the absence of a fenced yard meant there was little privacy.

Casa Gumbo’s bedroom was comfortable. The bed’s memory foam made for a good sleep experience. I will say though that the owner should invest in curtains. All of the rooms had blinds, but no curtains. Therefore, sleeping in late is all but impossible as the bedroom fills with light at 6 a.m.

There was little in the way of entertainment for the solitary traveler. No puzzles. No games. The television had three remotes, far too many for one screen. I figured out the way to watch the television after considerable effort. No HBO or other premium channels, but at least the owner provided the cheaper, popular streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.

There was a bicycle, but the route in the neighborhood was rather limited to circling the three subdivision streets. In order to get a workout, one must endlessly circle the same three avenues or, otherwise risk traffic mayhem by crossing the busy state highway nearby to reach the Tammany Trace for walking and biking.

All in all, I rate it 2 out of 5 stars.

Lead Us Not

One of the hallmarks of the age of the coronavirus is the absence of hair stylists. In Louisiana, hair salons are considered a non-essential business, Non-essential businesses are closed.

I visit my hair salon often for a cut and color. On my own, I can handle coloring my roots. What I can’t do is cut my own hair. I keep my hair short so I get my hair cut often. Things are going to get real around here soon.

Laurie with bad haircut
What’s up with the zigzag on my shirt? One of my mom’s sewing creations perhaps?

 

I remember when my mother used to trim our hair. Most of the time, we went to a local hair dresser for a cut, but occasionally my mom trimmed the bangs of her three girls. I hope I don’t yield to temptation to cut my own locks anytime soon.

I suspect that my mom cut my bangs for this picture for school photos. I was in the third grade. I think this was in 1972.

O Lord, I beseech thee, lead us not into temptation!

 

 

Signs of the Times

For your reading pleasure, I present the Signs of the Times of Abita Springs. As I have stated in other posts, I live in Abita Springs, Louisiana. We, the residents, are in the midst of a brouhaha.

Mayor Dan Curtis SignSign #1. It was posted at the entrance to a new housing development in Abita Springs. This sign is better known as The Original Sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sign #2. Bad Ass for Abita Signage modified by unknown townsman (or woman). It’s better known as The Bad A** Sign. 

 

 

 

Scumbag developers

Sign #3.  The sign that expressed what Abita residents really thought the new housing development. It’s better known as The Scumbag Sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abita Mudhole

Sign #4. This sign may or may not have been posted by the developers. Kenner is a working class suburb of New Orleans. This sign is also known as The Final Sign. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What prompted these signs? Let’s review the town’s history first. In the not so distant past, the town had a good sense of boundaries. It was bounded on three sides by piney woods and a fourth side was marked by the Abita Bayou.

The town came into its own near the beginning of the 20th century as a Gilded Age resort town for New Orleanians looking for a holiday or a health spa, seeking cures through the clean air and water. Then, the automobile made the boat and train ride from New Orleans less popular. A group of hippies found the dying town in the early 1970s, giving it a bohemian renaissance. Then, the citizens of New Orleans and the surrounding suburbs decided that the 30-mile or so commute to and from Abita was not a hindrance. They descended upon Abita as well as all the other small towns on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

Today, the town is stretching beyond its original boundaries. The outskirts and border areas near town are full of new housing and business developments. It’s harder and harder to judge where the town ends and begins even though the official population is about 2,500. With more people and buildings, there are more tensions.

In January 2019, a new mayor, Dan Curtis, took over Abita Springs City Hall. He inherited a boondoggle of a problem. The former mayor and council had approved a new housing development covering 162 acres that was zoned for 390 lots. Curtis ran and won as mayor on the platform of stopping the development, as the general consensus of the town was that the size of the new development would overwhelm the small town. The development is on hold as the two sides are waiting to go to court over the plan.

I don’t know what will happen now that The Final Sign has been posted.  Will the project begin with approval from the courts as the above cited project is now under court review? Will that mean The Apocalypse follows as hundreds of new residents descend upon our quaint town? Or, will the courts rule in favor of the town and the mayor. Will that make the town remain Paradise?

Only God knows.

 

 

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.

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.

Random White People

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I lived for several years in Tegucigalpa, Honduras operating a small non-profit for children. A friend, Kathy, and I often met for a cafecito* at one of the coffee shops in the capitol. We were two Americans who happily shared conversations about our lives in Honduras.

One aspect of our coffee klatches was speculating on the occasional sighting of white people. The presence of white people in the sea of brown faces that passed in front of us was not an everyday occurrence. We would speculate if the rare pale-faced newcomers were missionaries, embassy workers, or even rarer, hapless tourists. After all, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was more known for murders and violence than photo-ops and cultural landmarks. It was not, and is not today, a tourist town.

In order to not embarrass ourselves or startle the unfortunate white souls we spotted,  we had a code.

“Do you see those RWPs ordering coffee?” I would say to Kathy.

Or, she would say to me, “Do you see that RWP trying to hail a taxi?”

It just seemed nicer to be overheard saying “RWP” rather than the non-political correct moniker, “white people” or “white person.”  Also, it was entirely possible we would see the RWP again, and perhaps, be introduced formally at a church gathering,  missionary meeting, or at an embassy social event for other Americans in the capital. I didn’t want to be remembered as the idle coffee shop wag who singled out unsuspecting white people as objects of speculation.

Now, I live near New Orleans, Louisiana. I still see RWPs. But this time, the tag doesn’t stand for Random White People. No, I live among Rich White People. My home is in an affluent pocket of citizenry near Lake Pontchartrain which sits on the opposite side of the lake from New Orleans.

There is a veritable sea of white people in this community. The population here is overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and have a taste for luxury brand of automobiles. When I am out and about town, I speculate on the person or persons who steps of the Lexus SUV or Cadillac Escalade. Are they stepping out to attend hot yoga sessions or pick up sushi for dinner? Remarkably, even their luxury vehicles are usually white.

No matter where I live, I am bound to see RWPs.

*Cafe = Coffee. Central Americans have a tendency to add -cito or -ito to the end of nouns, signifying small.