Time to Turn to the Yard and Get Overdue Tasks Done

Yesterday I got some help in my yard. It was good to be outside in the sun, and getting to little tasks that have pestered me for so many years felt great.  There are always those tasks you never find time to get to–but this time I had my son-in-law with lots of time on his hands so I got him to come over and help me out.

First we set out to fix the ramp going up into the shed in my yard.  Without a gutter water has streamed down the side of the little wooden building so it was rotted out.  We removed the rotted boards and screwed a big piece of wood at the bottom so we could attach new boards to act as a loading ramp.  Then Francisco moved the clasp so that instead of having to keep the door closed with a leaning board, it would actually clasp.  Sweet!

Then it was time to attack the garden.  Peeling back the black plastic and the remains of some of last year’s plants showed that many of them were still locked in ice just inches from the surface.  You should see how hard we pulled on the old Brussels sprouts–and they wouldn’t come out.

I have big plans on expanding my garden this year, and in the way was an old iron pole, anchored in cement in the ground.  We dug down and around and rocked the massively heavy cemented pole until it leaned over.  We tugged and tugged and finally dragged it out of the earth. With the pole moved, now we had room to double the size of the garden. Spring progress!

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Louisiana in Pictures: From Baton Rouge to Lafayette

This is a land where every meal comes with a king-sized dessert.

This is a land where every meal comes with a king-sized dessert.

Dan Chasen, security chief at Duck Commanders Warehouse, shows us their patented duck calls.

Dan Chasen, security chief at Duck Commanders Warehouse, shows us their patented duck calls.

Chef Pandarina Soumas demonstrates how she fries okra at the Sainte Terre event and wedding venue in Benton, Louisiana.

Chef Pandarina Soumas demonstrates how she fries okra at the Sainte Terre event and wedding venue in Benton, Louisiana.

Reenactors in Nachitoches at the Fort St Jean Baptiste.

Reenactors in Nachitoches at the Fort St Jean Baptiste.

Dana Wicks, the 2015 captain of the Krewe of Centaur in Shreveport.

Dana Wicks, the 2015 captain of the Krewe of Centaur in Shreveport.

Captain Tom Billiot of Cajun Pride Swamp Tours in LaPlace, Louisiana, with a young gator.

Captain Tom Billiot of Cajun Pride Swamp Tours in LaPlace, Louisiana, with a young gator.

Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens, Baton Rouge.

Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens, Baton Rouge.

An eager raccoon in the Manshack Swamp, in La Place.

An eager raccoon in the Manshack Swamp, in La Place.

The futuristic Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History museum in Natchitoches.

The futuristic Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History museum in Natchitoches.

Gator  on the Creole Nature Trail All American Road.

Gator on the Creole Nature Trail All American Road, where 15,000 of the animals live happily.

 

Thomas Whitehead, an art historian, with Clementine Hunter's murals which were recently installed in the Northwest Louisiana History museum.

Thomas Whitehead, an art historian, with Clementine Hunter’s murals which were recently installed in the Northwest Louisiana History museum.

A rate snake on the Creole Nature Trail, near Lake Charles.

A rate snake on the Creole Nature Trail, near Lake Charles.

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Antoine’s: New Orlean’s Oldest Business Turns 175

Antoine's Restaurant, more than 175 years in New Orlean's French Quarter.

Antoine’s Restaurant, more than 175 years in New Orlean’s French Quarter.

Rick Blount is clearly pleased to be where he is today.  We met the CEO and fifth generation proprietor of Antoine’s at one of their private dining rooms yesterday where they were marking the momentous occasion of having been open since 1840.  That’s quite an accomplishment in a city that’s seen so many legendary businesses and restaurants come and go amid flood and recession.  Rick enjoyed sharing his story with the crowd, and later with me as we talked about the challenges and the big staff in the busy restaurant.

Waiters at Antoine’s often come from the same families. A proud tradition of nepotism is common, with a father, then a son, a nephew and then a family friend. One of our waiters in crisp tuxedos and bowtie said he ‘had only been there 15 years.”   Customers often call up and make reservations and request their favorite servers, who can earn princely sums for this very respected professional waiter career.

Rick Blout, CEO of Antoine's Restaurant, shares his story in one of their many private dining rooms.

Rick Blout, CEO of Antoine’s Restaurant, shares his story in one of their many private dining rooms.

Blount started getting in the the way in the kitchen back in 1973,  popping in as an owner’s kid, and then he left the family business to get involved with businesses like yacht brokering and real estate for a few decades. But then his grandfather passed on. And the family looked at him in 2005 and said, ‘well if you know so much why don’t YOU run it?”  So that’s how he came back with his wife to run this venerable institution.

Rick said that there are still huge problems underneath the French Quarter, and though Katrina was the event that caused the most upheaval, the infrastructure down below is barely able to function with so many people visiting and living here. And he said that so many people he’s met after 2005 reacted with outright dismay that the government was going to have to pay for much of the clean-up. “They send billions to California and to countries around the world, but people really got mad about having to help out New Orleans, as if we didn’t deserve it.”

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Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette: Now That’s Some Zydeco

Gerard Delafose and the Zydeco Gators at the Blue Moon Saloon, Lafayette, LA.

Gerard Delafose and the Zydeco Gators at the Blue Moon Saloon, Lafayette, LA.

It was a late night, we’d been on the road since 7:30, and dinner didn’t end til 9:30. So when we were taken by our Lafayette Louisiana hosts to a local nightclub, I wasn’t sure if I’d pass, or just watch a song or two and go back to the hotel.

But when I walked up to the Blue Moon Saloon, on a sidestreet in Lafayette, and heard Gerard Delafose and the Zydeco Gators belting out a tune, I knew it was the real deal, and I had to stay for more.   What a powerful combination–the requisite squeezebox, played by the frontman Gerard, the washboard played by a tall gent in a porkpie hat, and the rest of the battery cranking out a solid, steady beat, I was hooked.

The Zydeco tunes kept on pumping out, tremendous infectious music that you could not sit still for.  The place is a classic–out back, an open air area next to the bar with a raised
bench so you can see the band, and in the other part of the house, a funky youth hostel with 20-somethings milling about. It all felt so real, so absolutely Zydeco, and here we were in Southwest Louisiana where of course the Zydeco is real, and so are the players.

It was a great night of music, hands down the best Zydeco I’ve ever heard, and a great reason to stay out late in the town that’s been called “The Happiest in America.” Maybe that’s because they went to the Blue Moon Saloon for a beer and some rockin’ music!

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Northwest Louisiana’s Highlights on a Glorious Spring Day

We set out from Shreveport early this morning on a tour across Northern Louisiana, beginning on an interstate but quickly getting off on the smaller blue highways lined with pine trees, some clear cut, and some showing the replanted trees for a future harvest.  Our bus trip took us for several hours, to the towns of West Monroe, Monroe, and Natchitoches.  Here are some of the interesting things we saw today in this rural part of the state.

Cruising down the river in Natchitoches.

A great day for a leisurely cruised down the river in Nathitoches.

A shy 2 year old at the Warehouse 1 restaurant along the river in West Monroe.

A shy 2 year old at the Warehouse 1 restaurant along the river in West Monroe.

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Commander HQ in West Monroe, LA. in an office used while taping the TV show, Duck Dynasty.

Dan Chason, head of security at Duck Commander HQ in West Monroe, LA. in an office used while taping the TV show, Duck Dynasty. In the office are parts for duck calls that are assembled there.

Downtown Natchitoches.

Natchitoches is the oldest town in Louisiana and among the most pretty, with flowers everywhere and an accessible water front with shops, wrought iron railings and 35 B&Bs right downtown.

 

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The Building that Elvis Has Left in Shreveport

The Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport is famous because it’s where America’s favorite singer, Elvis Presley, got his big start.  We toured this beautiful edifice built in 1929 today and got a chance to go backstage and see the dressing rooms and even listen to a few tunes sung by an Elvis look-a-like.

Shreveport's Municipal Auditorium's ancient lighting board.

Ancient electric lighting controls backstage at the Muni.

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The building was famous before the King set foot there in 1954, because it was the home of the Louisiana Hayride, a radio show there that featured stars like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr, Kitty Wells and George Jones. The show as considered a crucial stepping stone to the venerable Grand Ole Opry–if you could get a big audience applause here, you’d come back for an encore and really earn that $18 that they paid singers back then.

The Muni as its  known, seats around 3200 in a circular arrangement, with removable seating down front, and today it hosts popular music acts as well as Rotary Club Meetings and functions. People love to stand in the doorway on stage right where so many stars families used to watch the performers. The acoustics are first rate–in fact Eric Clapton composed on of his biggest hits just sitting by himself on this very stage.

It was built without air conditioning, which down here in Louisiana is quite a challenge.  It wasn’t until 1956 that the main part of the arena was cooled down. The tour included a chance to sing in a group up on stage, and see the many different parts of the big arena including the dressing rooms, backstage where there are still the primitive levers controlling the lights, and a wall with famous signatures like Jerry Seinfeld’s scrawled on it.

But there was once top secret work that went on here: “The filter ladies” were locked down in the basement during WWII and charged with drawing the maps that were used in the Normandy invasion!

With its decorative panels up on the ceiling that resemble wagon wheels and the ornate front inscribed with word memorializing WWI’s fallen soldiers, it’s a beloved building that Elvis had a contract to play every Saturday night for 18 months, until the Colonel bought out his contract and he went on to stardom.

Groups are welcome to contact Teresa Micheels at 318-518-5027 to set up historic or even ghost tours of this fabulous shrine to music. Oh yes, doors open at random and they say that seat number 37 is haunted.

 

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