Class-action Cajun

I didn’t claim to be Cajun until I went to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I didn’t realize the fascinating tale of my heritage. I also didn’t gather there was a distinction between Cajun or Creole or that there was actually a vast difference between all parts of my state: New Orleans is completely different from Baton Rouge; Lafayette/Acadiana is distinguished from the current and former state capitals; there are actually Prairie Cajuns and Bayou Cajuns; and north Louisiana is almost a different state completely.

Once I had this cultural epiphany, I realized  the equation that perpetuates the problem: media + advertising + corrupt politics = misinformed perception.

Louisiana has always had a colorful history with a flare for fun. After all, we are the toe-tapping boot and the mouth of the Mississippi. We literally are the shit – the excess of the entire right half of the country flows from tributaries through us to the Gulf of Mexico.

With the surge of technology over the past 10 years, the Cajun image has been contorted to a nearly unrecognizable spin-off of a New Orleans step-brother. People from across the nation assume we are one in the same, but that could not be farther from the truth. But how would they know? They see commercials for multiple chain restaurants that say, “Try our Cajun style ________, straight from New Orleans.” Or they watch new popular shows like “Swamp People” and think that we all say, “Choot ’em.”

Should we embrace the fact that people know who we are even though they don’t understand that we do not cook like New Orleans or possess the same colloquial vernacular?

In the past two weeks I have joked that we should create a class action lawsuit as Cajuns against restaurants who misuse our name for their recipes. Shouldn’t it be Cajun approved before it goes national? Anyone who has eaten food in both New Orleans and Lafayette knows that the food is vastly different. Not even all Louisianians understand this concept, so how can anyone who has never visited our homestead?

I’m sure that many denizens from other states have similar issues with how their lives are portrayed on television. For example, the first time I flew to New York City to visit a friend, I was terribly nervous to hale a taxi cab and travel solo at night. My friend commented that life in NYC is not like NYPD Blue and he assured me that I would be fine – and he was right.

This morning I saw a status on Facebook that announced a casting call for a new show, “Party Down South.” The concept is similar to that of Jersey Shore. My qualm with the announcement was this line: “The search is on for the next big television personalities who are ragin’ Cajuns and appreciate all that the Southern Gulf cities have to offer.” This may not seem like a big deal, but a sentence later it listed that casting calls will be in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama (NOT JUST REAL CAJUNS).

I feel like yelling, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”. All Americans should be outraged. We are allowing pop-culture society to ruin our roots. It doesn’t matter if you are Cajun or not. We should not sit by and let D-listed entertainment further cripple the minds of today’s ignorance and tomorrow’s youth. How long will we let rich culture deteriorate – everywhere?

A lawsuit may seem extreme. But sometimes an extreme measure is the only thing that makes it into the sensational mainstream media.

Here’s the full Casting Call invitation. Think for yourself:

Media Alert: Party Down South Casting

Submitted by doron on June 27, 2011 – 3:09pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Doron Ofir Casting June 27, 2011

DORON OFIR CASTING & 495 PRODUCTIONS ARE CURRENTLY CASTING LOUD & PROUD GULF SOUTHERNERS AND CAJUNS

LOS ANGELES, CA (June 27, 2011) – Doron Ofir Casting in conjunction with 495 Productions is proud to announce the summer 2011 casting tour in search of the hottest, proudest Gulf Southerners, Bayou residents and Cajuns to star in PARTY DOWN SOUTH (working title) by the legendary Casting Company and Production Company of MTV’s smash hit series, JERSEY SHORE . . . the search is on for the next big television personalities who are ragin’ Cajuns and appreciate all that the Southern Gulf cities have to offer.

“American is the greatest melting pot of cultures, dialects, lifestyles and hometown pride! I am excited at the prospect of presenting a cast that’s rich with personalities, that capture the world’s attention by showcasing the unique flavor of this slice of the South” – Doron Ofir Executive Casting Director.

In an effort to find the most outrageous and best characters in the South, casting events and interviews will be held throughout the month of July in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Doron Ofir Casting is seeking Gulf-Coast Southerners who are at least 21 years old and looking to prove that the party down South will rise again. If you call ‘gators your neighbors, reckon Mardi Gras should be a national holiday, your daisy dukes fit just right and are ready to make your Maw Maw and Paw Paw proud, we are looking for you!

The official casting and digital application to be considered and invited to audition can be found atwww.partydownsouth.com

Advertisements

Introducing the Blogroll

There are several things that inspire me: conversations, articles, art, books, observations, music, dreams, happenstance…

What I would like to start sharing with my readers are more localized inspirations. If you look to the right of this entry, you will see “BLOGROLL”. These are sites from people I find interesting. I encourage you to check them out when you get a chance. I am honored to connect you to their worlds. I will now take this opportunity to give you the 411 on each site.

“All Things Kedinger”: Daniel is such a computer whiz, I cannot find words to describe his genius. His blog is quite humorous and informational as well. He and his wife are exploring their new role as parents, so there is a a baby blog chronicling their path. Needless to say, there is something for everyone.

“Corndancer”: I met Eb and Freddie while I was in Santa Fe last summer. They live in the mountains of Arkansas. Their site will keep you intellectually stimulated, as well as updated on educational matters (Freddie is a professor at the University of Arkansas). Plus, Eb will connect you to other intelligent blogs on his blogroll.

“Dragonflies and Goosebumps”: I recently met Mel online through WordPress. She is a thirty-something writer from Puerto Rico. She is an example of my favorite reason to love the Internet-you can connect from anywhere! She writes a bit of fiction and poetry. Very moving!

“Jamie Orillion”: Jamie took senior portraits to another level. I found his style helped redefine people’s idea of photography in our little Acadia Parish. It didn’t take long for his brand to grow (he now shoots around the state and country). Once you click through his archives, you’ll see what I mean.

“Mama Gab”: Gabby was a 9th grade English teacher who transitioned into a stay at home mom and homemaker. She and her husband are raising their children on a one person income. I absolutely enjoy reading her commentary on books and products she uses and the teamwork that is involved in the process. It is refreshing to know that someone puts this much thought into parenting. I feel a lot of people should be aware of this, even if they choose a different route.

“Micah Toub”: As you may be aware, I’m obsessed with thinking. I frequently read Psychology Today. I stumbled across Toub’s blog, “Growing up Jung”. I was instantly hooked, then realized the title is from his upcoming book of the same name. He is the offspring of two shrinks and the memoir discusses how he dealt with this scenario. His web site features the blog and other columns he’s written for various magazines. I look forward to reading his book and giving you a bit of insight on my findings.

Well that’s it for now. I’m sure I will be sharing lots of new information in the coming weeks. As of tomorrow, I am officially turned on to “school mode” and my role as teacher commences with inservices. It’s interesting that I will be a student of teaching, but “in charge” of students. To a parent, that statement could sound intimidating, like I don’t know what I’m doing. But have no fear, I have never been more excited to share knowledge. I just know I am about to learn more that I ever thought possible.

To new beginnings, sharing and caring. Cheers!

Yahoo!

I remember watching the Hurricane Katrina Relief special on TV. So many of us here in South Louisiana were gravely affected by the wrath of Katrina and Rita. We had locals who had lost everything as well as evacuees wining and dining, attempting to delay their grief.

I remember the thumping sound my jaw made as I watched a stuttering Kanye West mutter the words “George Bush hates black people.” I would love to have experienced the feeling that went through Mike Meyers stomach as he realized what his co-presenter just said on LIVE television. Luckily, Meyers, being the man of so many characters, was able to keep his composure as the camera smoothly transitioned to a far away Chris Tucker.

Because I’ve had so much computer time lately, I am able to peruse through Yahoo news every day to keep “informed”. The media really only makes me realize why so many of us are agitated. The 32 stories that rotate throughout the day are mostly about celebrities, credit card debt, mass unemployment, poor housing rates, Obama hate, fast food, celebrities, LeBron James, debt, unemployment…

So why did I start off with Kanye’s Katrina Outburst? Well, I did see something about Kanye on Yahoo! about how he is cleaning up his act and his ego. Gee I feel so much better!

However, I somewhat had to agree with parts of his ego’s ramble. Not that George Bush hates black people (but one day soon I would love to talk about some great Bushisms!) but that the media can spin any story in order to sell it to the public. We’re more likely to find out the truth from a stranger rather than the news, which is why it’s probably a great idea to advocate common sense and meeting your neighbors.

Just think about this for a minute.

We pay attention to people in a box that we have never personally met. We listen and trust their facts and opinions. Yet, how many of us know the person who lives next door? The real people we see get into their vehicles and go to work, or cut their grass, or bring out the trash?

It’s something to ponder. There’s a lot more that goes into our subconscious reality than we realize. If you constantly see negative stories (unemployment, credit card scams, identity theft) right next to tales of lavish lifestyles and celebrity weddings, it will inadvertently cause you to feel slightly depressed. Coincidentally (?) there is an advertisement right next to the story with some product that will make you feel great/happy/satisfied.

My point, you now wonder. Read stories with little advertisement. Watch less television. Interact with real people. Get involved in your neighborhood/town so you personally know what’s going on. Teach these things to your children.

You know, I tried to make this a lighter entry. I was going to poke fun at Kanye and try to be funny. Maybe make you laugh out loud. But no, I had to go and get serious. And instead of going back to edit what I wrote so you would never know of this ramble, I will leave it. It’s real and it wanted to come out for some reason.

But on the lighter note, I leave you with Kanye. Because damn this clip makes me gawk every single time I see it. I really can’t believe he said this to an unsuspecting nation. It’s priceless. LOL.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pVTrnxCZaQ

(Wish I could just insert the video, but for some reason, the blog won’t let me)

Saintly Faith

I wrote a few entries ago about how I’m trying to understand my own version of faith. There are a few recent situations that have caused maturation in this process.

The first occurred on December 7, 2009 when my second niece, Catherine Grace Marcotte, was born.

My sister Meggan was diagnosed on October 10 (our deceased grandmother’s birthday) with the news that she was a high-risk pregnancy case. She had very little–if not, zero—ambiotic fluid in her womb. She would have to be on extreme bed rest and if she reached 24 weeks, she would be admitted into the hospital for monitoring.

Well she did make it to 24 weeks. In fact she made it all the way to 27 weeks before she went into labor.

Catherine was born around sunrise on the morning of our great-grandmother’s 94th birthday. The 2.5 pound miracle was  immediately admitted to the NICU.

During Meggan’s recovery, her high-risk doctor told us just how miraculous Catherine’s birth was. She said she had never been so impressed with a little baby. With how little fluid Meggan had, the fact that Catherine came out so strong and healthy was amazing.

I still have yet to see Catherine. She is still in the NICU and now weighs 4.1 pounds. She was taken off of the oxygen tube just two days ago. At this rate, she will be home in a month.

I know these kinds of births happen often. But when you witness the preciousness of life first-hand, it makes you wonder just how delicate things are pieced together. It really wowed me as to how so many people from Rayne prayed for Meggan and supported them through this difficult phase.  It was a beauty to witness.

On an almost completely different plane, the New Orleans Saints have proven the longevity of the fruition process of faith.

After 40 years, they have finally won an NFC Championship and are headed to their first Super Bowl.

The fans have formed such a bond of unity during this season. I work at a restaurant on Sunday mornings and the vibe was so energetic. To see elderly ladies pulling for the Black & Gold gridiron was a spectacular site.

For the past few months, all you hear is “Who DAT!”. And I live in Lafayette, two hours from the Crescent City.

But Saints fans have existed through all 40 years of shotty seasons, yet they are still ever present and faithful to their patrons.

I feel this is a movement for Louisiana. After devastating hurricanes (Katrina and RITA), we are still here. Happy. Prospering. Even if the rest of the nation can’t see it.

Don’t you think it’s interesting that Yahoo.com released a poll on the happiest states and Louisiana ranked #1?

The media likes to play out devastation, and yes they did highlight the humanitarian acts of people going on air boats to help victims in the 9th Ward, but how much have they focused on the aspect of rebuilding?

George Clooney commented on the Haiti telethon yesterday that we should still donate money over the next few months to help rebuild the country. I totally agree, but what I want to know is how much coverage will still be allotted to the effort? How long before even that is old news?

The point is that many people still focused on all of the negative aspects from the levees breaking. What the media failed to emphasize was that a few weeks later, Hurricane Rita wreaked more havoc on the other side of our state. My sister who just gave birth lived in a FEMA trailer for months while she attended McNeese State University because she lost everything in her apartment in Lake Charles.

That wasn’t shown. It doesn’t really matter to the people here. We just rebuild and have faith that we will make it through. And have a great time while we do it.

I’m starting to see that whatever you have faith in, comes to fruition. It may take 40 years, but it happens. It happens faster in numbers, too.

Maybe we should take notice of what people really put their faith into. It could be an interesting outcome.

Explosions of awakening

I saw light through my closed eye lids and thought it was the sun. It was florescent lights at a gas station.

“We’re in Wyoming. You have to drive now. But you’re about to see the most amazing sun rise.”

These were the last words I heard from Nick for hours. I got out of the back of Louis and went to the restroom in a grody bathroom. After scrubbing my hands and splashing some of the questionable water on my face, I purchased a LARGE coffee and banana.

When I slipped into my coveted driver’s seat, Nick was already crashed in the back and Rick was resting his head against the window. I started the vehicle and looked up to see nothing but an open sky that was now a navy blue.

It was 5:30 a.m. There were hardly any cars on the Interstate as I pulled off of the dirt road onto the ramp. A tiny strip of yellow blessed the horizon as a few of the stars danced their finale of the morning.

Rick asked if I wanted to listen to anything in particular, but before I could answer he already had a band in mind.

Explosions in the Sky.

No other band would have completed the moment more perfectly. I drove as the melody lulled the sun from slumber. This was going to be my first sunrise I witnessed on the trip. From the anticipation building in my tummy, I knew it was going to be glorious. It was the same feeling I had at the Grand Canyon. Peaceful excitement. Something from Nothing. An ironic paradox.

I originally planned on running at sunrise in almost every city. I learned quickly that gluttony and indulgence are so much easier to succumb to than energy exertion. Most people would rather do nothing than something too. I fell into that category several times this trip. Several times during my life.

I have all of these expectations. All of these things that I want to do. Life always seems to have another plan for me. Oh this hidden plan. It gets me where I need to go; where I envision I will be. Just never, ever the way I think it will get me there.

It’s like my mind and life like to play tricks on the “me” that witnesses it all. Because I won’t enjoy what’s right in front of me because I always feel like there is something else I should be doing. The things I have already thought about what I want to do.

My mind is the race track. There are always six lanes running at the same time. It seems like different participants at times. One finishes first. One has to finish last. But they all eventually cross the finish line of this grand circular motion.

This is what I realize as Louis climbed a mountain to reveal the entire sun beaming over an open valley. I was elevated to at least 7,000 feet and shared such an intimate moment with the source of light.

It was as though my answers were illuminated for this instant. I knew they existed and will now always be present, even though reality was going to throw a few hurdles across my track. This is why Alison told me to write this all down. She knew I was going to need proof to remember the illumination.

It’s kind of funny. You can always make something from a memory. Even if it didn’t exist in the moment you originally experienced it.

That’s why I take history with a grain of salt. Half of the time, the intention of action is different than most people expect. Plus, it’s just a culmination of several hundreds of thousands of people’s experience and perception.

How will we possibly be able to write the history of now? There are 7 billion people on this planet. The difficulty of keeping things accurate and true could be nearly impossible.

But I digress from my original memory. Off on another track.

I drove in a peaceful state until 7:30 a.m. We were 30 minutes from Fort Collins and I had no energy left. We stopped at a McDonald’s and I reverted to the back seat.

I needed a nap after that mental race.

USA Today article…

Yesterday, the cover story of the life section of USA Today is about America’s space exploration, or lack there of due to the recession. Next to a picture of a satellite is Brad Pitt’s year-old beard.

God I love my country*. (P.S. this is a *sarcasterick)

The thought of exploration forced me to think of what good has come from exploration in general. Sure, there has been expansion, which has now lead to a population problem, but has it ever really satisfied mankind?

My father has made comments to me throughout my life about man’s need to discover and explore. “It’s what we do.”

From my point of view, which happens to be seen through the form of a Southern white female (although I would argue my shape-shifting abilities), this drive hasn’t really lead us to a place of peace. It has always ended in war. It has always ended in dividing rather than unifying. It has created more labels to argue for or against.

Should we continue space exploration and discover more intelligent life, what do you think the odds are that we will end up fighting them? I have a feeling they already know about us and are just waiting for us to kill ourselves and then they’ll come in and restore our planet.

I was watching a National Geographic movie called “Journey to the edge of the Universe.” Sometimes I feel like that geek in science class who falls in love with the mystery of how we are even alive. Seriously. We are the only planet in our solar system to be perfectly aligned to allow life. How does that not give you chills when you realize this incredible truth?

And how do we celebrate this life? By watching the Golden Globes and argue over who is dressed better? By paying attention to Brad Pitt’s beard instead of human beings in need in Haiti?

I am not saying that our drive to solve problems hasn’t helped us progress as a species. Modern medicine has helped people to survive. I wouldn’t say live, because most of the time you have to pay an outrageous medical bill, which causes you to work more rather than live.

I just can’t help but share the question that stays on my mind every single day.

“What are we doing?!?!?!?!”

Observe what you do on a daily basis. Does it make you feel worth anything? Maybe I’m just really a depressed person. Or maybe I’m just trying to wake some people up so we can LIVE together.

Are we driving technology or is technology driving us? Weren’t we supposed to invent this so we can live simpler lives? When is it supposed to happen?

I’m still waiting.

Maybe I’m just a nutcase who doesn’t know what to do with my own life and I am selfishly shaking up everyone else’s. Or maybe I’m just relaying the message I get when talking to dozens of people a day who talk about what they wish they could do and what they really do.

I am not biased either. I’m not talking to just one genre of people. It’s not just college kids and professors. It’s people working at a grocery store, or music store or bank. It’s people standing next to me in line. It’s people at restaurants. It’s people in public office. It’s engineers. It’s teachers. It’s people in retirement homes.

It’s everyone.

Except for maybe some kids. Kids who still play outside and have imaginations. They are few and far between.

What’s the point of this ramble?

Although space exploration is important, I question the intent behind it. We already have so many problems here that we can’t take care of. Should we really add more to our plate anyway…just to be proud and say we were the first? Where has being the first gotten us anyway? Let’s sink that money into our current state of reality to make it better. Let’s focus on how to LIVE together. Then maybe one day when we are actually ready to handle the consequence of discovering a vast space, we will be responsible enough to follow through accordingly.

Epic in Eugene

We arrived in Eugene at 3 p.m. I knew we had a few hours to spare before Rick was through with his final. Our first stop was at a Jiffy Lube for an oil change. This was the most superior service I had ever received: the staff was friendly, the work was reliable and quick, and the waiting area was immaculate.

There was a young early-college-aged girl there who had gone over 9,000 miles since her last oil change. She said her grandfather normally took care of everything for her. I guess it made me feel a little more responsible.

Louis got a free car wash and we set out in the pollen-filled Eugene. One of the things I love about the Oregon scenery is the fir and pine tree-lined cities and roads. Everywhere is green. The trees are tall, too, unlike the short, grand oaks I am used to in South Louisiana. Unless you want a tour of the swamp for the gigantic Cypress trees, short and stout trees are what you get on a daily basis.

We drove near the University of Oregon campus and watched as students unpacked their dorm rooms. We decided to grab some grub and beer at McMenamins, a northwest brewpub, while we waited.

I felt like the atmosphere was authentically original, however when Rick called to see where we were, he relayed the info that it was a chain. This reminded me of “Mellow Mushroom” chains. Rick told us he and a few classmates were at a beer shop not too far away. Nick and I finished a game of pool and headed that way.

While we were on the road, we contacted Sal, a colleague from Baton Rouge who worked for the same company we did many years ago. He had just graduated from LSU and was on a solo road trip through the west as well. Turns out, he was near Eugene and wanted to partake in the festivities.

Beer Stein, a former fresh pasta shop, has the most extensive bottled beer selection I have yet to see. I was weeks away from home, so I chose an Abita Amber to cure what little homesickness I possessed. I walked up to a table of men from around the world and knew it was going to be an interesting night.

The gentleman asked how Rick and I knew one another and we kind of looked at one another like, “We don’t really know, yet we trust one another enough to ride half-way across the country together.” We all shook hands as Sal arrived, sporting an LSU visor and polo shirt.

The crew decided it was time to move to the party house, which was to be held at a pair of co-ed’s apartment.

The night started slowly,  mixing intelligent conversation with stout beer and wine. I’ve never felt more sophisticated in a tiny apartment. I exchanged tales from the road while they exchanged knowledge of physics.

I could tell Nick and Sal were bringing the Louisiana out of one another, especially when they disappeared giggling. I was mid-conversation with Erik, a student from Connecticut, when the duo arrived with Nattie-lite proclaiming it was time for beer pong.

They were a little too tipsy to notice the looks of disdain, but regardless they edged their way into the seemingly microscopic kitchen. The kitchen table was brought to center, cups were set up, and then the geniuses discovered they had no pong for the beer. Undiscouraged, they huddled for a quick game-time decision and voted on the use of a quarter due to the lack of a ball.

Rick and a buddy reluctantly played the first round. However, it wasn’t too long before Nick and Sal’s contagious energy spread to a few party-seekers. Once a few girls challenged the testosterone in the room, the hype of the game soared.

I stood in the hallway and held random conversations with strangers, while the sounds of fraternity hoo-rahs filled my background soundtrack.

At one point I counted and there were 12 different countries represented in the apartment: India, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, USA, etc. I felt like I was drinking with some of the smartest kids in the world. I literally could have toasted with someone who will make a remarkable scientific discovery. The moment still gives me chills.

As the party escalated to rambunctious, there was a phone call made to the hostesses from upset neighbors. We needed to move to a new location.

At this point, I could’ve gone to sleep– and it was not even midnight. The girls allowed Nick and Sal to pass out there, but I decided to push forward and walk to a bar with the physics crew.

I just kind of hung back and watched the rest of the evening progress. Erik was now talking to a girl from class. Rick was talking to….well everyone because that’s what Rick does.

Rick flirts with anyone. He isn’t gender specific either, although he is straight as a nail. He just likes for people to like him. He’ll tell you that directly if asked.

Anyways, the goal was an 80’s theme party, but that bar was too packed, so we stopped at an uppity type place. I felt sorry for the only couple in the bar that seemed to long for a romantic outing together. We were loud.

People were pulling cans of Schlitz from their jacket pockets, while others were crying. The night took a very emotional turn once we started walking through the streets of Eugene. For some, it was the last time they were going to see one another. Many of the International students were going home for good. Some of the American students were choosing not to return to the program.

People were saying their good-byes.

It was now around 3 a.m. Not counting the one hour nap, I had been awake for 18 hours straight….only on three hours of sleep. I was entering the delirious state.

The bar closed and we decided to walk to Hilary’s. I would label Rick and Hilary the co-leaders of this pack. They both exude strong male presences that cause people to gravitate toward their auras. This was proven correct when the hordes of after-party-seekers showed up at the apartment for hookah and beer.

For the first time ever, I just sat in the corner and watched the party ensue. I didn’t tell stories. I didn’t try to meet anyone. I didn’t become a part of the entertainment. I just watched.

I watched friends exchange stories. I watched them hug their possible last physical meeting. I watched first kisses that had obviously been desired for quite sometime, but the courage wasn’t mustered at previous occasions.

It was beautiful.

The clock was creeping to 5 a.m. and the crowd started to dwindle. I finally struck up a conversation once my fourth wind emerged. There were a group of Germans who had just made it in town to meet one of their comrades in the program. Their plan was to set out through the west on a road trip to see the Grand Canyon.

One of the guys, Karl, lived in New York City. I started to tell him about this quirky little Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn that was my favorite place because of the authentic eateries and people. He stared at me in disbelief and said that was where he lived with his grandmother.

As we chatted about some of our favorite Polish food (the burgers!), his friend Pascale passed out on me. We all laughed and they agreed it was time for them to head out.

It was now almost 6 a.m. and Erik and I decided to walk back to the original party house to get our vehicles. Our hope was to see the sun rise, but as we walked, we realized the overcast wouldn’t allow our dream to come to fruition.

My sinuses were starting to act up due to the allergens in the Eugene air. My immunity system was probably just reminding me that I had abused it with lack of sleep and excess beer.

Erik and I hugged before we got to our vehicles. It was then I noticed his face resembled that of Elijah Wood, or the kid from Harry Potter. At this state of delirium, the night felt like a magic spell had been cast over the snow globe-dom of downtown Eugene.

I drove back to Hilary’s and fell onto the couch that had been made up for me with blankets and pillows.

Sleep.

My Moroccan Cab Driver

I had a life-encouraging conversation with a cab driver form Morocco, the country Penny Lane wanted to travel to in Almost Famous–one of my favorite movies.

It was one of those moments when you felt like you met someone who introduced you to someone who haled the cab with the driver with whom you were meant to exchange words.

I was on Facebook earlier that afternoon chatting with Val. She was in Austin, I in Portland. She told me she had a friend who lived here who I just had to meet.

A little back story. The whole reason I know Val is because of a mutual guy we both had a thing for. We often pick on him and say the whole reason we both liked him was for us to end up becoming friends.

Well, her friend Kate had been living in Portland for a few years. Val sent me Kate’s info and after a few rounds of phone tag, she came meet me at this trendy restaurant. We discussed how Val and I had met and she told me she remembered the incident.

These are reasons I do not believe in coincidences.

Anyways, Katie took me around the Northwest part of Portland, which I hadn’t seen yet. We drank and hung out with some other locals: one who told me about a girl he is in grad school with who wrote about the travesty of Katrina (the girl’s last name is Trickey). The other guy was from south of Savannah, Georgia and we talked about the South.

Another anyways, Katie and I both realized how tired we were and she was going to call me a cab. She ran outside of the bar to conduct the search and ended up haling me one that was already outside.

We say goodbye and I hopped in to find this 40ish black man driving the cab. He and I strike up a conversation and I say I’m just passing through Portland.

This sparks a whole discussion on what exactly is passing through. He says he is a child of the planet and has traveled the world twice over. I am completely understanding what he is saying and we catapult ourselves into this very deep talk.

We crossed labels and cultures and barriers that most people won’t allow. We were both so astounded as to just how much we understood one another on a universal level.

Yet again, it was one of those conversations that I don’t think I can adequately capture.

The one thing we both emphasized though is that there is hope in this world.

One of the things that gives me hope is that I have reached this level of universal understanding.

I am from South Louisiana. We are the last to get anything. The fact that I have these types of conversations on almost a daily basis with people from my state gives me hope that there is a larger understanding taking place within the human species.

I tell this to the cab driver and he is flabbergasted. He then tells me about this monkey theory about a single monkey evolving and another monkey modeling that monkey’s action. Eventually, there is this exponential growth of monkey understanding and that’s how it becomes an evolutionary cultural custom. It’s all in the exponential sudden spurt.

That’s how I know something big is about to happen. It’s the whole reason I had to get away from the South. I knew in my heart that something is taking place in humanity that most of us don’t even realize. You can find it in the most unexpected places.

We can’t compartmentalize how we find truth. But as humans, we try to figure out everything. This life is not meant to be understood. But we spend lifetimes trying to say that the answer comes in a certain form. However, when you let go of the expectation, the answer shows up in an unexpected fashion.

We have to let go and trust one another.

We stayed parked in front of the Ace hotel talking about these universal ideas for five minutes. Both of us were so excited to have found someone who “gets  it”. Neither of us wanted to part ways because we both knew it could be a while before we found another soul to share this truth.

All we did was tell one another to pass along the peace and hope that it does exist.

His name was David. We shook hands after formally introducing ourselves and smiled.

This is the Liver philosophy. This is life. It exists. I found it in Portland. I have found it everywhere. It is me. It is you. It is now.

Still alive(r)

The last few weeks have been beyond hectic. Once we hit Portland, my internal journey twisted and the pace reached new heights. I intend to include some details about my favorite spots in Portland, Eugene (OR),  and Fort Collins, Colorado.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m writing this from home. I returned to a scorching hot Louisiana two weeks ago in order to prepare for my sister’s wedding. Needless to say, among trying to relax, catching up on sleep, preparing for a wedding, and figuring out what to do next, writing has been a challenge.

The Internet at my roommate’s (parents) house is not what I am used to. There is no Wi-Fi in Rayne, LA. I may have to go pose as a traveler at the Best Western.

I will post some interesting pieces soon. As for now, I’m preparing for Canada. I have already traveled almost 7,000 miles this summer and that number will double after this next trip.

I’m just trying to muster up some creative flow in this vortex of home. It almost seems like I never left. I swear this state does that to you. I guess it’s like that for everyone.

Vegas. Day 2

SO I woke up and tried to remove the stick from my derriere and thought to myself, “I’m in Vegas, let’s have some fun.”

Fun turned into us eating breakfast at McDonald’s because that was the cheapest place in our hotel. For $3 I got coffee, a parfait and apples. Not too bad.

We didn’t wake until after noon, so we showered and decided to go meet Nick’s uncle Edgar at the Gold Coast. Casinos really do crack me up. These people just sit there and pull handles or poke at buttons while these multi-colored bright lights shine on their faces and all you hear are clanks and bells and bad karaoke. You smell stale cigarettes, desperation and bulky buffets.

Oh yeah, didn’t I say I was supposed to remove the stick?

Well, we walked through the casino to one of the little bars where this jazz band was playing. They were actually pretty good. Of course there were Sinatra covers followed by salsa music. Uncle Edgar stuck out from the crowd, his white hair and regal demeanor commanding attention.

Nick and I watched him guide his dance partner–we assumed it to be Clara–around the wood-grain floor. He looked so happy. They all did.

It made me wonder about retirement. So many of the couples here seemed to be celebrating the end of their life in style. Edgar had told us about how the majority of them meet once a week for dancing and most of them frequent the shows and casinos around town. I’m used to elderly people in South Louisiana who retire with their grandkids. It was refreshing to see older people push it until the end.

Me, Nick, Edgar and his partner, who did in fact turn out to be Clara, went to the Cortez Room for dinner right at 5 p.m. I thought it was going to be one of those buffet lines, but it turned out to be a very hoity-toity spot.

We started with wine and bread. Nick ordered a 22 oz. Prime Rib and I the pistachio-crusted salmon. The food was exquisite but the company was better.

IMG_0064

IMG_0065

Clara and I talked about her time when she was younger and she lived in Germany for two months. She was originally from Tyler, Texas, but had moved to California. She had been all over the world. We talked about hopes and dreams and the future. For some reason, I was spot-on with my jokes and quick wit. We couldn’t stop laughing. She ended up introducing me to her friends and I took her number down so I could call her if I was ever in Vegas again.

IMG_0066

We all hugged at the end of the meal and sadly parted ways. Nick and I headed back to the Excalibur to wait for Derek to get in. I played video poker while Nick watched a soccer game in one of the bars. There were actually very talented singers performing classic karaoke favorites as the background music.

IMG_0079

Finally Derek arrived. We hugged and he looked around with a hint of disdain on his face. I empathized his expression and we laughed about the irony of us both being there. The three of us decided to stroll through the Strip, but not before getting those annoyingly big daquiris from Dick’s.

So for anyone who has never been to a Dick’s Last Resort, it’s a restaurant where the servers get paid to be complete assholes. The guy who checked our id’s made a comment about Louisiana being white trash. We laughed about it, but thought of how many people from home would have probably hit him, which made it even funnier.

We wandered around looking for something to do. Nick’s goal was to see the dealertainers at the Emperial Palace. The blackjack dealers are impersonators and transition from singing to dealing.

We found our way there, paid $11 for a pack of Camel lights and watched Nick lose $40 to Toby Keith. The Tina Turner-a-like was actually damn good. It was pretty dealertaining.

IMG_0068

We then walked to this other Irish casino where more karaoke prevailed. The first girl we hear was from Louisiana and singing my anthem, “Bobby Mcgee”. She turned out to be from Marksville but now lives in Vegas.

We then walked to the Bellagio to wait for the fountain display. This was by far the nicest casino we went to. The colors were soothing and it seemed so classy. I tried to put $10 in a machine that I thought was the one that was going to help me make it rich, but it turned out to be broken and I had to get a clerk to give me my $10 back. We walked through the lobby that had the most amazing glass artwork, and then made it outside for the infamous fountain show.

IMG_0073

IMG_0075

IMG_0078

My stomach started to hurt, probably from the mixture of salmon, Jack Daniels, and 190. Derek wasn’t feeling the Strip either, so we got some water and cheez its from Walgreens and went back to hotel room.

I really can’t capture the essence of the conversation that took place between the three of us, but I will say the discussion was our whole purpose of going to Vegas.

Derek and I have devised a plan to put together a documentary geared towards third graders through middle schoolers that presents both the history of Cajun culture and current day youth who still live it. When kids think of history, they think of really old people who dance at Randoll’s (a local Cajun restaurant in Lafayette). But there is a whole generation of young Cajuns who live out the culture everyday.

We are now working on a proposal to find funds to go to Canada to do some research and also document some of these college students who are participating in pertinent events to Cajun culture, such as the Festival d’été de Val-d’Or in Quebec City and Congres Mondial Acadien in New Brunswick.

We will have to work fast, but I haven’t been so motivated in quite some time. This is the perfect project for both of us and we are both needing something of this caliber in our lives…appropriately devised at the Excalibur.

We finally all feel asleep after 3a.m. and Derek was headed to Yosemite by 7a.m. Nick and I were going to get massages before we left, but opted to head straight to California. Our time was up in Vegas. We didn’t win money to cover the trip like we had hoped, but the information exchanged at this site will bring us the ingenuity to fund our lives. Or so I hope.

Vegas wasn’t what I expected, but it was what I needed. And so it follows the theme of the trip.