Friday, February 10, 2012

Pomped, Polished, and Perplexed

We visited the regions around the coast for a bit in the occasional free time.  I drove a few hours up that great river as well.  Louisiana is pleasant in February, and there is a toughness and an honesty that is elemental.  The oil-fields and coastal fisheries create a rugged aesthetic.  Signs advertise "underwater welders wanted" and "fresh seafood daily".  The insanely tough men and women who tend to all aspects of commercial fishing and oil-based commerce are rugged and charming.  A man taller and twice my weight stood in line next to me at the local fish-shack for lunch, still smelling of torch-joined steel in his fire-retardant cover-alls.  Like nearly everyone in this region, his tough exterior melted away when he starting chatting me up in his pleasing-to-the-ear Cajun patois, recommending various items on the menu, substantiating his evaluations with actual local trivia.

"Onna Tuesday, yor gonna want the shrimp, 'cause Eljay does the buyin' that mawnin' an he's picky. If ya come tomarrah, ya gonna wanta git the fish, 'cause it's only been on ice faw 'bout three awahs when they open."

He was a man who obviously had no fear of butter, heavy cream, sugar, or deep-fried anything.

The region is packed with beautiful bones of houses, still viable with a lot of elbow grease.  If any elbow grease is left over, the folks here would surely fry something in it.

I was given a tour of the parade costume warehouse to the north.  Almost three decades of costumes filled the hangar, many of which were fantastic.

From the hard-boiled pipe-welders, steel cutters, fishermen, engine mechanics, and oil workers, to the delicate and elaborate pomp and flashy ostentation of the parade participants, I had come full circle.  Louisiana is always thought of in terms of either the Bayou or Bourbon St.  While the live music, parades, and generous open-container laws are very nice, I have developed a love for the industrial side of the state, and I am happy to remain among the petroleum pipes and ships, eating the oyster stew and the grilled fish for days on end.  I stick out like the sorest of thumbs, but the hospitality is unparalleled.  The giant fella in the welding cover-alls said that if I was around this Friday, he would like me to attend his cookout.  All around, people seemed more concerned that a stiff in a suit felt out of place, and invitations to a church fish fry were inescapable.


Back home and at the office, my shoe-polisher had arrived, and while I was eager to spin a shine onto my oxbloods, I couldn't help but notice the picture on the box.

What exactly do they think I am going to go with it?  I had intended on everyone polishing their shoes, but this horrible picture makes me feel naive now.

Maybe it will spin me back to the mid-80's when Paul Hogan was still trying to charm us with his Humor Australis or when Andrew McCarthy was trying to date one of the figures from the top of this post.



  1. Your experience in Louisiana reminds me of Southern Ohio, near the Ohio River, which has a similar mix of huge industrial compounds set in a rural atmosphere with many charming old homes, log cabins, and other vestiges of by-gone days.

    The shoe polisher was too bizarre--were there any enlightening 'English' instructions to go with it?
    --Road to Parnassus

  2. I know that statistically speaking women prefer men with well cared for footwear, but she looks absolutely elated to be in the presence of well polished shoes.

  3. I love when the locals are welcoming at a location like that...makes one feel very American. I expect the fish and shrimp were superb....great post!

  4. My stepson was stationed in Louisiana in the fall of 2010 to document the local vessels used in the cleanup and it was the best time he had in his 4 years in the USCG. And not just due to the proximity of the French Quarter.

  5. I am so sorry I did not know you would be in my area of Louisiana. We and our place along the Historic River Road would have welcomed you. Perhaps next time. We so enjoy your blog.

  6. I just saw one at the local thrift shop yesterday. Debated whether to buy it. Didn't.

  7. This was a great post. I enjoyed reading your experience and what you valued and appreciated about this visit. Authenticity, honesty, and appreciation for the integrity of others. A great combo, particularly when served up wth Gulf shrimp, Louisiana style...


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