Friday, November 30, 2007

Crawfish or Crayfish? You Decide

(Metairie, LA) - This week's Adventure in Eating brings us back to south Louisiana. On the way to this New Orleans suburb, I stopped in historic downtown Opelousas, Louisiana for lunch at the landmark Palace Cafe, where daily lunch specials tempt your tastebuds. I've spent almost five decades in Louisiana, and I've never heard anyone call our favorite crustaceans "crayfish." That is a decidely Northern word. Yet, the Palace Cafe is prominently offering crayfish bisque. In the same window, they tout the more familiarly named crawfish etouffee. I was so confused, I went with a catfish po-boy, which was excellent. Two other guys from Shreveport were having lunch in Paradise, and they said the etouffee was the best they've ever had. Not knowing exactly what "crayfish" is, they stayed away from the bisque. Tonight's football game featured two of the best programs in the state. John Curtis and Evangel Christian have 32 state championships between them, but this was the first time they had ever collided in the playoffs. The Evangel Eagles of Shreveport lost 29-10. My daughter's friend the quarterback was under siege all night long.
It was nice calling a game involving a hometown team. I saw a lot of people I
know, including some members of the local media. A local sportswriter was fascinated by the difference in size between me and my broadcast partner Ronnie Rantz. Ronnie stands somewhere north of 6 foot 5. So, in order to look reasonably balanced on TV, I was standing on a coke crate. I was originally on two crates, but Ronnie isn't used to having to look up at people, so we brought it down a notch. This was a source of immense amusement for a my buddy Roy, who started snapping pictures of my little booster and sending them to mutual friends on his cell phone. Hey, whatever works.
This was my last assignment of the season for Cox Sports Television. The road has been long and I'm a little tired, but I will defintely miss it.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Pictures Tell a Story

I'm guessing most people just don't think much about the fact that their parents had lives before they came along. There's also the idea that, even while you're around, Mom and Dad are real people with activities which don't revolve around you. I spent a little time poking around some of my father's scrap books and stumbled across a picture of my mother and my best friend's mother from A Long Time Ago. Both ladies have passed away, so I can't ask about this photo. They're young and trying to look glamourous.....Perhaps they succeeded, but the setting leaves a little something to be desired. They seem to be sitting on a big sofa cushion which is elevated by a tire! The utility poles and the palatial mansions behind them also seem a little inconsistent with their sartorial splendor. The more I stare at it, the more I just laugh. I'm sure they had a fabulous time, whatever they were up to.
Then, there was this inspiring photo of my father lathering up:Whatever compelled him to construct an outdoor shower? He's still around to answer the question, but I'm not so sure I want to ask. Knowing him, it was all good, clean fun. He owned his own business and was able to retire at 55. He was able to accomplish this largely because he did a lot of the hard outdoor work himself. One of his most prized possessions to this day is his backhoe. (Look behind him to his right in the above photo.) Working on that big yellow beast is therapy for him. He comes alive when he fires it up. It's really amazing to see.The backhoe fed me well, put a nice roof over my head and sent me to Catholic school for twelve years, so it's a family jewel.
My father worked hard for a lot of years, in the weather. He would sweat and freeze and get dirty. He always said he would never ask any of his employees to do anything he hadn't done, because he had done every dirty, disgusting job that might come up in a day's work. They saw it for themselves. I worked several summers for him and his brand of work inspired me to go to college. When it was time to relax, though, He certainly knew how. He could clean up really well and, I'm told, party with the best. Who knows? Maybe that's the inside joke of the couch cushion and the tire. Again, I'm afraid to ask.
He can also relax casually. His favorite place is a porch. At some point of any day, he is likely to find his way to one. If there's good company there, then all the better.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Suspicious Activities Continue

This is apparently the web sensation that’s sweeping the nation. Someone decided to steal this idea from this other person, then it became something of a meme and Workman got tagged, then he tagged me. (Is that clear enough?)
What you do is list things about which you are suspicious, then tag someone else. There isn’t much else to it, no minimum number of suspect things, no explanations required.
Speaking of stealing, the entire set-up above is a blatant theft from Matthew, who deserves it for forcing me into this whole thing. He had to explain memes and tags to me. So, if you get it, More Power To You.
This reminds me of the time my friend Steve sent me a basketball shirt and asked me to send shirts out to five people. They were supposed to follow in kind, and I was going to get hundreds of shirts. I hope Steve got some, because I wound up minus four shirts when the whole thing netted out.
That's a long way to go to say that I suspect Matthew's little meme-tag suspicionfest will come to a screeching halt right here. I have been challenged, however. So, here goes:

I am suspicious of:

A) People who tell you that unpleasant things are being said about you "because you deserve to know." A while back a friend of mine cautioned me to "beware the messenger." This is outstanding advice.

B) Anything teenagers say. They will lie at you as easily as they will look at you. They will tell you they woke up at 8:15 when they really woke up at 8:00, just because distorting the truth gives them a feeling of power and a misguided teenage sense of freedom.

C) Parents of teenagers who believe their children are well-behaved and obeying all the house rules. For more information, see Suspicion B. Here and now, I'm going to "out" my perfect cousin Alicia, who barely knows I'm alive. When we were 16, I went out with her and some of her friends. She, of course, was a perfect child. That night, she told her parents what was and remains to this day the most preposterous, lengthy, detailed lie I have ever knowingly witnessed. I wonder if they have figured her out yet.

D) Local politicians. There are some good ones, I just know it. However, for all the talk of fixing the potholes and attracting new business, there is always a self-serving undercurrent. Our job is to find the sincere ones and elect them.

E) Voters. See Suspicion D. I'm guilty of this myself: I just don't pay attention to what the candidates are saying during the campaign. I'll read a synopsis on-line or in the local paper a couple of days before the election. I think my standard of preparation for the election is higher than about 90% of the people out there, so there's not much we can do about the self-serving politicians.

F) Prime Rib. Really? How do you know? You're paying for prime rib. The menu says it's prime rib. I'm guessing it's somewhere between pot roast and Choice Cut. Enough au jus and horseradish, and it just doesn't matter. I knew a guy named Dean Rock who said he can't tell the difference between a filet and Steak-umm's. I think that's a strength for Dean. I'm also suspicious that Dean Rock is his real name, but that's another story.
Okay. I've done my job. Now, I have to tag/ challenge others. Since this blog has approximately two dozen readers, almost none of them other bloggers, this is a tough one.
I challenge:

1. Bastian, who I have never met and will be shocked by this. But, she recently blogged about Steak-umms, and that's good enough for me.

2. Elizabeth Pryor, who reads Daddy D and has her own blog and has been suspicious since I knew her in high school.

3. Kathryn Usher, notorious for her suspicious leanings. She comes by this quite understandably. Her father was (I couldn't possibly make this up) a referee for Professional Wrestling.

4. Linnea, because she has spent time in the local media AND in the pageant circus AND in entertainment circles. She is a lovely talented person, but how can she not be suspicious?

5. Teddy! Because I can't tag Linnea and not tag Teddy. But mostly because, if Teddy participates this whole thing will be worth it because what he writes will be brilliant and hysterical.

6. I'd like to tag Trudeau, but his blogs carve suchnarrow niches that I have no confidence he would play along.

There, Workman. I did it. I'm going with you to the Faroes. And if anybody communicates with Dean Rock, tell him I said hello and next time I see him, I'll buy him a T-Bone...or some Steak-umms.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Old Road Home

Interstate 10 between Lafayette and Baton Rouge has been closed for more than a week. This ranges somewhere between minor annoyance and major inconvenience for people who travel in South Louisiana. Twice during this closure, I have been compelled to make round trips to the southeastern part of the state; and my usual route has stretches which are considerably congested because that stretch of I-10 is unavailable. So, I've used this as an opportunity to travel on older federal and state highways.
U.S. 190 took me over the Mississippi River in the shadow of a rusty old railroad bridge.Farther down the road, I crossed the Atchafalaya River and breezed through legendary Louisiana speed trap Krotz Springs.Shortly thereafter, a turn to the north on U.S. 71 took me through Beautiful Downtown Bunkie.I will be sure to mark my calendar for the Louisiana Corn Festival.Not to be outdone, Cheneyville reminds us it was founded in 1811, and is still alive and kicking.The timing worked out well for me, because almost exactly at noon, I found myself in LeCompte, home of the landmark Lea's Lunchroom. Lea's is famous statewide for its oven-baked pies and home-style plate lunches.
The pace is a little slower away from the interstate, which offers a traveler many opportunites to appreciate the state's agriculture. This time of year, sugar cane is being harvested.While the world is a little sweeter because of that, the travel isn't exactly enhanced by getting behind a cane truck.
It's not that they drive slowly and have a tendency to turn left, it's that cane has a tendency to fly off the truck and go "whap" on your car and "crunch" under your tires. The trucks stay almost exclusively on the back roads, leaving the interstates for those of us who are just passing through. The old road home was a nice change of pace. Now, let's get I-10 open and let the corn and cane farmers work.I'm looking forward to getting back on the interstate, where you can fly by in relative anonymity. Call me paranoid if you want to, but winding down the back roads by the rivers of my memory*, I felt like somebody was watching me like a hawk.
*Glen Campbell lyric: "Gentle on My Mind"

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Friday, November 23, 2007

It Was a Heck Of A Ball Game

(Metairie, LA) - I saw a quarterback make a critical mistake at a terrible time tonight. HIs team trailing by six with 19 seconds left in the game...he brought them to the line of scrimmage on 3rd and goal from the five yard line. He had no time outs left. He didn't throw into the end zone. He didn't run out of bounds. He ran up the middle and was stopped at the four. 4th and goal, clock rolling. He rushes his team up to the line of scimmage...and SPIKES THE BALL! Incomplete pass. Ball game over. He loses by six in his final high school game.
High drama and heartbreak sufficiently chronicled, I headed back to a hotel room alone.
Being a mercenary sportscaster is a peculiar experience. I enjoy dabbling in television. Doing play-by-play is a significantly different experience from being a local anchor, as I was for a quarter-century. As it goes now, I'm the only import working on this crew. So, after the games, people just go home. They're all very nice to me. They treat me with respect and keeping hiring me, so I must be doing okay; but I haven't made any friends yet.
Typically, I drive across the state, call the game, spend the night and drive right back home. I'm really learning to lean on books on CD for company. Maybe one of these lost and lonely nights, they'll schedule a broadcast from north Louisiana. I'll take everybody out for beer after the game.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Best Thanksgiving: Uneventful

Any time you entertain in-laws, there's potential for hilarity. We had all the ingredients in place for Thanksgiving: my wife's sister, their parents and a table full of food. I'm happy (but, frankly a little disappointed) to report that Thanksgiving was a low-key affair. Everyone got along well. The food was good and the weather was nice.
The kids took the chance to catch up on their rest. All college admissions people know they've been studying relentlessly and making terrific grades while dedicating themselves to school activities and community service. We did take the time to engage in a spirited Guitar Hero competition. I'm the rank amateur in the house, of course. Mr. Facemelter took the time to give me some pointers.Then, we went to a Christmas tree farm and started the transition to the next holiday.There weren't even any ridiculous frustrations there. The Dallas Cowboys won, to boot. Nothing very entertaining happened on Thanksgiving, and that's probably the best thing we can hope for.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Unexpected Glimpse of Joy

I found myself in a part of town I do not often visit. I encountered some people who are enduring misfortune. There were others who have devoted their lives to helping them. The meager moments I spent in their company were hopeful. Then I spotted young brothers, Isiah and Ahmad, blissfully unaware of their plight...just playing together. Isiah was the picture of joy. Ahmad was happy, too,despite being surrounded by strangers who did not know his name.He and Isiah likely could not tell you where they were, knowing only they were not at home. I met their mother, who perhaps had made some mistakes in judgment but is still young and attractive with a determined look in her eye. She is searching for a path for her young family. I hope she can use her sons' smiles to light her way.

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Check (Not), Please

Why, in 21st Century America, do people still write checks at the grocery store? Tonight, the night before Thanksgiving, people are out making mad dashes for supplemental gravy, a can of cranberry sauce and the ingredients for green bean casserole. Everybody's in a hurry, because they can't believe they neglected to get something. Things are humming along frenetically but smoothly until some lady pulls a checkbook out of her purse. Come on! Get a debit card! Do you not have enough discipline to keep up with what you're spending? Are you too old to figure out how to work them newfangled plastic things? What gives?
I'll tell ya what gives: a waste of time. She didn't start writing the check before the total was announced. That's another ninety seconds out of my life. Instead of swiping and punching in the PIN, she has to pull out a driver's license, then show another form of ID. The manager has to come over and sign the check. Oh, by the way: on the eve of Thanksgiving, the manager wasn't busy or anything.
If you can't handle a debit card, then just cash your paycheck and walk around with a wad of bills. Keep your checkbook in your purse until you're alone, on your own time paying bills back at the house. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Lady and the Press

A dry cleaning/ laundry establishment in town has been decorated with some poster-sized historical photos, including this one. It's an interesting picture on its own merits. Why would this lovely lady in a formal with long white gloves be pressing pants? We have no answers.
Why do I care? Because the lovely lady is my wife's grandmother, who passed away sixteen years ago. It's a little unsettling to walk into a business and discover an image of a member of your family unexpectedly on prominent display.
Wouldn't you want to know more about this photo? What is its context? Was she posing for a business, a charity? It's clearly a formal photograph and it probably was published, but I've been unable to find anyone who seems to know where or why. I've spent a lot of time trying to track down its original purpose, but my wife and her mother just aren't that curious. They got copies of the photo, and they're content with it. I'm using clues. In the photo,she's obviously of a certain age. Her hair is snow white and her face shows tremendous life experience. The formal and the white gloves tell you something. She was in a wheelchair when we got married in 1987, so the picture was apparently taken some time in the early to mid-80's. That's about as far as I've been able to narrow it down so far.
This, of course, is making me nuts. How can they not want to know more about it? I guess it's my job to obsess about it. I will say that this lady was a wonderful woman. I knew her for six years before she left us, and I'm a better person for (Photos are courtesy of Brian Lewis. Visit the website.) it.
Now, if I can just figure out why she was pressing pants, I'll feel much better.
Update: Daddy D has been advised that Mrs. Annan was on the board for Shreveport Opera, and this photo was made for an ad in the Opera's program. The dry cleaner/ laundry place used board members as models for their ads. We are still unclear on the timeframe.
Another update: a note from my Mother-in-law: 1967 - it was in the Opera brochure - caption under picture was "why wash and swear? Call Azalea Cleaners". Boy, I missed the timeframe by a significant margin. -DR

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Nest is Still Full

A high school senior lives in our house, and this has created some stress. His mother and I are driven to distraction by the college application process. He has applied to expensive private schools over a broad geographic footprint. We have heard from one school so far, and he was accepted! He celebrated by attaching his rear end to the sofa, grinding a video game and shotgunning Yoohoos.
ATTENTION, UNIVERSITY ADMISSIONS HUMANS: His test scores are excellent. His GPA is high. He shows up for work on time at the chicken place. We are happy he is doing this. It gets him out of his room where all he does is study, study, study!
In the meantime, Little Sister took a big risk recently. In front of a packed house at a local theater, she belted out a duet from "Gypsy" with lots of high notes and solos. Despite extensive school and community theater experience, this was the first time she has put her voice out there all by itself. The reviews have been spectacular. The best part is, she has no intention of pursuing The Stage as a career. She has her own college plans, and her performance art is just an outlet. I hope we learn something from what we're enduring now with her brother. Maybe the next college application process will be a little less stressful.

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Crossing the Bridge

In Louisiana, we have a lot of water: lakes, rivers, creeks, bayous, swamps and a gulf. Throw in ponds, sloughs and a bog or two and you understand that we have a lot of bridges.
Having been forced to drive into a part of the state I haven't visted often, I may be guilty of underappreciating the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge. I crossed over it a half-dozen times over the last couple of days, and it grabbed my attention sufficiently to inspire a couple of drive-by snapshots. This span, we are told, was the first "large weathering steel bridge in the United States." I don't know what that means, but it's nice we're first in something. The bridge crosses the Mississippi River as part of Interstate 310, which connects U.S. Highway 90 with Interstate 10. The first thing you notice is that there aren't that many cables connecting the towers to the bridge decking. This, apparently, is something of an engineering marvel. It's signifcant and interesting, and I'm glad I've driven across it. I'm just glad I didn't think too much about it before I did.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Long Way Home

(Destrehan, LA)- The high school football playoffs have brought me to this New Orleans suburb for another TV assignment. It's strange, because I seem to do more sportscasting than I was doing when I was working full time as a sportscaster. I had the opportunity to watch the top-ranked team in the state, the Destrehan Wildcats. Two of their offensive stars have commited to play college football at LSU, so maybe we have seen the Tigers' future. Destrehan won easily, 42-14.
Getting here was an adventure. The main east-west thoroughfare in south Louisiana, Interstate 10, is closed between Lafayette and Baton Rouge because of a gas well explosion.It will, in fact, be shut down all weekend, we are told by the state police. So, I drove through parts of the state I have not previously visited. The good news is, I got nice food on this trip...south Louisiana stuff: excellent gumbo and jambalaya. I refused to stop at a chain burger joint. Nice payoff.
The bad news is, I have to take the same circuitous route home. I was orginally planning to attend the LSU-Ole Miss game on Saturday, but I'm aching to get back to the house. I'll watch it on TV and hope it's not much of a game so I won't regret my decision.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cheers for Chad!

One of the most consistently successful local basketball coaches operates in relative obscurity. Chad McDowell, the head coach at LSU-Shreveport, is a winner. He has proven it time and again, and it’s time people took notice. At the start of his fifth season as the Pilots’ head coach, McDowell already has more than 100 wins to his credit, and a couple of the most noteworthy victories don’t even show up in the statistics. In November of this year, his NAIA squad won exhibition games over NCAA opponents McNeese State and Centenary. Make no mistake about it; exhibition status notwithstanding, those victories are attention grabbers.The Pilots have won 76% of their games since the program was resurrected in 2003, and 88% of their games in LSUS’s basketball facility, nicknamed “The Dock.” McDowell’s ship has come in thanks to his ability to attract NCAA-caliber talent to his rising tide program. One of his brightest stars was Fredericko Payne, who led the NAIA in scoring two seasons ago. Payne scored an average of 25.5 points per game and was selected as the first All-American in LSUS history. Payne was the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006. He was named the Louisiana Small College player of the year in 2004, 2005, and 2006.
This season, McDowell’s emotional leader is Josh Porter, who missed most of the 2006-2007 season after breaking two vertebrae during a game. There was legitimate concern at the time that Porter may be paralyzed. There was fear that his life may have been in jeopardy. A year removed from those horrific moments, Porter has made a full recovery and is playing one more season for Coach McDowell.
The Coach creates the kind of atmosphere that draws players to his program.He did it at Byrd High School, his first head coaching assignment. His teams won 86 games in four years. He moved to his alma mater, Southwood High, and took the team to the 5A state championship game in 2001. In two seasons leading the Cowboys, he notched 67 wins while losing just 10 games. Then, the opportunity to coach at the college level presented itself. Five years later, his list of accomplishments includes GCAC championships in 2005 and 2006, back-to-back GCAC Tournament titles; three consecutive NAIA National Tournament appearances, two GCAC Coach of the Year Awards (2004 and 2005) and four Louisiana Small College Coach of the Year Awards (2004-2007). In 2006, the Pilots rose to No. 1 in the nation in the NAIA rankings.
He has done all of this while deflecting attention away from himself. His coaching style generates a fast-paced, breathless brand of basketball that is as entertaining to watch as it is effective. Catch the Chad McDowell Show at The Dock while you have the chance. The way things are going, he may be piloting a much larger program before you even realize he was here.

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