Saturday, December 29, 2007

Nick Saban is a Rock Star

For a season or more, football fans in Louisiana have been pretending to hate Nick Saban; but actions speak louder than words. Saban is spending a few days in the state with his University of Alabama football team. The Crimson Tide will play Colorado in the Independence Bowl, and the Buffaloes have essentially been an afterthought. There are plenty of reasons to keep up the "Hate Nick" charade: he left LSU and he now coaches Alabama. There was a two-year gap between those circumstances, but none of that matters.
I had a chance to chat briefly with him one-on-one on Friday. He was polite to me and to everyone he encountered. He patiently signed autographs and posed for pictures. While a line formed to get a piece of Saban, Colorado Coach What's-His-Name was essentially ignored. I watched Saban carefully. He discreetly looked for an opportunity to exit, found it, caught the eye of a nearby Alabama state trooper and made a bee line for the back door. He left without incident and no one said an unkind word to him or about him.
A lot of local fans are planning to wear LSU colors to the Colorado-Alabama game. While that may make no sense, it lets them feel good about themselves. It also girds them for their intention to boo Saban. But, they will be stuck in a conundrum. They don't really want him to lose, because an Alabama win will make LSU and the rest of the Southeastern Conference look better. Plus, if Alabama's good, it's easier to pretend to hate Saban a while longer. Also, Crimson-clad fans around town outnumber their conterparts by about 1000-1. Considering this is the second year in a row Alabama has played in the Independence Bowl, that's pretty impressive. (Thanks to Photos By Brian for the image.)
Daddy D Note: I, among many others, shared the head table with Saban at a bowl event. My employer funds two community service scholarships for high school seniors and I had the honor of presenting them to the deserving recipients. The young lady in this photo is bound for LSU. The other (not pictured) is going to Yale. I'm not sure if I'm flattered or disturbed that the mayor (in the top right corner of the photo, seated next to his wife and a prominent Baptist preacher) seems to be paying attention.
Saban photo is by Dougas Collier of the Shreveport Times -----------------------------------------
One more thing: The Independence Bowl mascot, Le General, was around. Of course I stopped for a photo. Unfortunately, I only had my cell phone.

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Thanks for the Memorms

The Bride and I spent part of the First Saturday After Christmas shopping for house stuff, which led us to a store known for its knick-knacks, if not its paddy-whacks. It also has its share of wall hangings. This creates a subset of photo frames, which got us here:I'm not sure what's supposed to go in the slots slated for pictures: images of Marie Osmond and Mitt Romney? No. Wait. They are not Memorms, they're Mormoms...and that's completely different. Maybe we are supposed to display pictures from the Mamores, a group of mountains in the Lochaber area of the Grampian Mountains in the Scottish Highlands. They form an east-west ridge approximately fifteen kilometers in length lying between Glen Nevis to the north and Loch Leven to the south.Maybe I should make it a personal quest to visit the Mamores, just so I will be able to use this frame. That would be a good idea if I bought it, which I did not.
Or, maybe someone simply made a spelling error. No matter, I got a good laugh out of it, and you can't ask for a better memorm than that.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

The Happy Couple Is Sort of Legal

The lovely young woman who seems so thoughtful here can no longer legitimately be called a girl. The Good Half of the Happy Couple has turned 18. We are not sure what this means, except that it was a cause for celebration and an excuse to be ambiguous about what time the Other Half would be home last night. Whenever it was, I slept through it; so I suppose it doesn't matter.
His ascendency to adulthood is less than two months away. His grandfather says he can see him transforming into a man. I guess the vision that comes with age has something to do with that. As for me, I just have trouble seeing past the haircut.
All kidding aside, it is a little disconcerting to think that in about six weeks, they could run off, get married, or basically do whatever they want and we really don't have a lot to say about it. We still have influence. We still have power. After all, we control the money, the food, the shelter and the car. Surely they wouldn't be short-sighted enough to do something irresponsible and impulsive. I guess it comes down to this: once he turns 18, we have a say but we don't have a vote.
My best friend's kids are eleven, nine and four. He and his wife are extremely busy. It seems like a heartbeat ago that my kids were that size, all cute and thinking Mom and Dad have all the answers.I blinked and wound up here, where I apparently know very little about my children's moment-to-moment activities. That's the way it's supposed to be, I think.
Oh, that thing about having a say and not having a vote. The opposite is true for the Happy Couple and others like them. They will have the right to vote in the next presidential election.
I can think of one more circumstance which puts this all in perspective. Someone I worked with recently had this observation: "Now, we are actually hiring people who were born in the 90's." Let the transformation continue.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Whole Lotta Love at Christmas

One half of the Happy Couple is out of town for Christmas, which means Mr. Facemelter has been spending quality time with his parents and his sister. While there have been a few sedate, relationship-affirming moments, mostly there has been a lot of sound. Waves of sound. Mounds of sound. We know that kids with their Christmas toys can be loud. This is especially true when the Led Zeppelin fan in the house gets a new amp for his guitar. I need coolin', baby. I'm not foolin'.
His stated goal was to make sure the neighbors could hear him. He tried. We made no attempt to discover if he was successful. Our only hope is that the people in nearby homes couldn't exactly pinpoint the origin of the Christmas Rock Concert. Gonna Make you Sweat. Gonna Make You Groove.
Speaking of groove, our daughter has a new one thanks to her recently-attained automotive freedom. We have seen precious little of her during this break from school, because she is Out There exploring her universe, expanding her horizons and all that. She did come home long enough to score an i-Phone, a navigation system for her car and various clothes/ scents/ jewelry to enhance her innate cuteness. This did work against us at a Christmas Eve party when a teenage boy expressed interest in her. For a variety of reasons, some subjective and others genealogical, nothing will work out there. Whew.
All surviving parents got together under one roof for gift exchange and a nice lunch. So, Christmas has been a success even though we do not come from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Snowball Fight!

It never snows around here. If it ever does, we will celebrate. with apologies to my mother-in-law, it might go something like this:

Don't send a lame Holiday eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Growing Up in the Church

This time of year, people have a tendency to take stock of their religious beliefs. Conversations about what we believe have popped up in diverse contexts for me lately. My son said he engaged in a robust discussion at work about creationism vs. evolution. I recently attended a Roman Catholic mass and an Episcopal Eucharist in the same day, leading to internal conflicts about communion. My daughter has been spending a lot of time with some friends who are active in an evangelical Christian church.
It can all be very confusing when church has always been a part of your life. I went to Catholic schools for twelve years. I was an altar boy as far back as I can remember, and a lector after that. I married the daughter of an Episcopalian priest, and so I shifted a little left in the late 1980's and became a lay eucharistic minister in her church.
My kids were baptized in that church, and both have been confirmed there. My in-laws' roots run deep there. My wife's grandfather, an architect, designed the place. It was my father-in-law's base when he went to seminary. So, it is in many ways a home for our family. I don't even really grasp the depth of it, because my kids are fourth-generation members. I'm still a newcomer.
Now, we are in the holiday season. I know there are different ways to express greetings this time of year. For me, one way is best: Merry Chistmas! Sometimes, you have have to go with what you know.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Look Out, World. Here She comes

My baby turned 16 today, which means she gets her driver's license tomorrow. This means some time in the late afternoon or early evening, she will be piloting a thousand pound death missile out there all alone. God bless us all.
The Sweet 16 weekend went well, by all accounts. The crew assembled and everybody dressed up for dinner. The celebration continued, thankfully, with a low-key cake-and-ice cream event back at the house. Knowing the potential for "serious" partying that seems to always exist, it was refreshing to know they were content to stay at the house, open presents and watch a DVD. It was reassuringly old fashioned. Many of the girls stayed the night and they prepared breakfast in bed for the birthday girl. While the weekend was low in drama, it was certainly high in calories.There's enough drama ahead. She will explode onto road in her black bullet tomorrow. Everbody get out of the way.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Miles Mania

Will he stay or will he go? The central question surrounding LSU football coach Les Miles has been a remarkable distraction during the dark days fans experience between the end of the season and the bowl games.
Miles’ game of footsie with the University of Michigan has kept LSU fans lathered up, whether they wanted him to hang his hat in Baton Rouge for a while longer or if they were willing to help him pack. ESPN didn’t help matters much by reporting with certainty on the morning before the SEC championship game that Miles would be the Wolverines’ new head coach. That led to a hastily-called news conference during which Miles vehemently refuted the report. He said without equivocation that he would return to LSU, that he would be the Tigers’ coach next season. About a week later, Miles was reported to have had telephone conversations with Michigan’s decision-makers, leading to another statement reaffirming his intention to stay at LSU.
The by-product of all this uncertainty has been a cacophony of conjecture and internet message board clatter. There was word that Alabama coach Nick Saban was expressing strong interest in returning to LSU, assuming Miles left. Bobby Petrino, the coach of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons who ultimately left to coach at the University of Arkansas, was said to be sniffing around Tigertown. Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville was said to be interested. The rumor mill was grinding at a record rate. All the while, those in the know were stomping their feet and turning purple proclaiming Miles’ desire to stay put. All of this hand-wringing is made more interesting because not that long ago, some LSU fans were getting antsy. They wondered if Miles was the man who could lead them to where they wanted to be. For the second time this decade, LSU has made it to the national championship game, and you can’t do much better than that. When Saban coached the Tigers to a national title four years ago, many people thought that might be a once-in-a-generation achievement.Certainly, Tiger faithful should hope that the program can sustain this caliber of play. Stability at the top certainly should help. Since Charles McClendon retired, the nameplate on the door to the coach’s office has been changed with disquieting regularity. Men like Bear Bryant, Eddie Robinson, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden are rare. They got head coaching jobs and kept them. Take a look at their success. Staying put had a whole lot to do with it. That’s what LSU fans should hope for: that Miles does indeed stick around for a long time.
For that to happen, people will need to learn patience, a virtue with which we seem to have lost touch. Every legendary coach has had “down” years when thing didn’t go his way. A football program with stability will nonetheless experience cycles. The presence of a superstar quarterback, for instance, may frighten away the next great recruit. Great coaches lead great programs which can recover from disappointing stretches. Allowing the coaches and the programs to be great requires a particular kind of discipline from administrators and fans. It also calls for a shepherd’s mentality. Sometimes, you have to keep the wolves (or the Wolverines) at bay.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Amazing Intern Term Paper

The most recent post about my broadcasting students' term papers reminded my old friend Dave Foster of an intern we had at the television station a few years back.
He attended Texas A&M, and of course was assigned to write a paper to sum up his internship.
At Dave's urging, I am posting the paper here in its entirety. The identity of the student will be protected, for reasons which will be obvious once you read his writing.
I can't believe he turned this in, but he did. I will say this is Hemingway compared to some of the papers turned into me last week. Just to be fair...many of my current student's efforts were excellent. So, without further prologue....the Texas A&M sports intern's paper:

This summer, I had the opportunity of interning for the sports department at an NBC affiliate in Shreveport, Louisiana. Since I had just finished my freshman year, I figured that I wouldn't have much of a shot at getting an internship, but I wanted to put my name out there just in case I got lucky. Well, I was aware of the possibility because I had visited this particular station the prior summer and followed around the current intern. I then attempted to be the early bird getting the worm by emailing the station in early February about the internship before someone older and more deserving of the experience stepped up. Well, everything worked out for the best, and I've been enlightened upon three main points about the field that I was oblivious to before the internship. First, being a good speaker and an avid sports fan does not mean you're set for success. Second, I was introduced to the basics behind editing tapes, highlights, satellite feeds, and scripting what's going on air. Third, you have to start in a totally different medium of broadcast before embarking into sports.
Initially, just because you might be a smooth talking Tom Cruise face-double that watches ESPN's Sportscenter every night doesn't mean you're going to step into this business and bank seven figures. That would be like someone who can pass algebra and sketch a 3-D box going to an architecture firm expecting to draw up a blueprint for the new Twin Towers. In May, that's how my brain was wired. Well, on my first day, after being showed everything in the studio and told about their daily routine, yada yada yada, I began to realize that there was more to it than just showing up for the six o'clock news and saying, "The Braves beat the Dodgers today!" You've got to have extreme patience in learning the field of broadcast, not just sports. This includes knowledge of the equipment, station, and area you're communicating with. For example, ESPN covers all sports and scores across the country because it's a nationally broadcasted network. But, if you're in an area like Shreveport, you can't spend two of your three minutes giving scores on water polo games at a YMCA in Lansing, Michigan. Then you're going to get so much hate email from the locals that you'll look forward to that XXX junk mail. You have to totally let your personal interests be cast aside. It's very important to know your demographic area's interest meaning what particular teams and sports they watch the most, and if anything local, no matter how big or small is happening, you gotta stress it like Mr. Rodgers on playing nice. Even bigger, you have to worship homegrown talent like Michael Jackson after Macaulay Culkin. For instance, I have a large interest in the Tour de France bicycle race in which a Texan, Lance Armstrong, is going for his fifth consecutive title. If I had the choice, I would go into great detail about how hard his struggle has been, his training, how monumental it is, and my viewers would want my head because they turned on the television wanting to know if their local golfer is in the top 100 of the tournament he's playing in. To add to that, until you're Joe Sports at ESPN or CBS, you don't get jack done for you. You have to write everything you say, edit what's going on the air when you're talking, provide all necessary information to the producers, put base on your own zits, clip your own nose hairs, and iron your own clothes. I think the point has been taken, so to wrap things up, you need to have an extensive knowledge of the broadcast field, a precise idea of your particular audience's needs, and the discipline to know when to separate your personal desires for the good of the station and your audience.
As mentioned earlier, don't think you can get a maid and a gopher just because you're on television. People like Troy Aikman and Deion Sanders aren't getting to work five hours ahead of time to edit their highlights or type scripts, they just show up to talk and look pretty so the ratings will top Fear Factor's. If either of those guys walked into a local station, they wouldn't be qualified enough in the real business to turn the television to the right station. But those star athletes are the lucky exceptions. I couldn't be hired by a station right now ready to go to work, but I have a roundabout idea of everything that needs to be done before showtime. First, I was shown how local stations subscribe to satellite feeds from national bases. I was at an NBC affiliate, but the station didn't subscribe just to NBC. They have satellite feeds flowing in all day from NBC as well as CNN and CBS. You never know, another network might provide last- minute, needed information before your base network, or package a story in a more precise, creative way. I was instructed how to go on a computer, look at a list of highlights compiled by a certain network, and load a highlight from that computer onto a tape. I was then shown how to take those certain tapes, cut out the garbage, meaning dull moments, corny statements, etc., and sequence things logically into a way that would look nice on air. On a side note, I caught on to editing and cutting tapes like a one-legged man learning to ride a bike. You have to take one tape filled with what you just loaded, cut it the way you want it, and put it onto another tape that's going to be used for the air. It sounds easy, but so does shooting a monkey into outer space. Furthermore, after we had gone to a site somewhere and taped a game or recorded a whole game on television and we only wanted twenty seconds to talk about it on air, I was educated about a time code method of recording that enables you to get exactly where you need on the tapes. This way, you don't have to fast-forward or rewind ‘til the cows come home and donate their bodies to the Atkins diet. Lastly, I was introduced to the software they use to type what's going to be said on air. This is used for the monitors that are going to be read while broadcasting, to read over the air when the viewer is seeing a highlight, and for those at home, such as the hearing impaired, who use the show caption mode on their television to read what is being said.
Finally, you can't just jump into sports straight out of college. It's not every day that the job of a sports anchor is open so you can't expect to shake hands with the dean, get your degree, and go to work. You're advised to start out as a news reporter so that you can get quality experience in using your on-air voice and posture, putting together a short, to the point news package, and learning the lifestyle that goes with working at a news station. Plus, unless you get very lucky or your dad's Bill Sportsguy and you're Bill W. Sportsguy, you have to start in the smallest market possible. We're talking about getting a map and a magnifying glass, finding the smallest place possible and starting by making coffee and buying donuts. It's tough, but it's a competitive business and you've got to start at the bottom like every other profession. Plus you've got to be a really sharp, quick-witted writer to make progress and compete with the big boys.
All in all, the internship has been a great experience. I've learned that you've got to have much more in you than just good looks and sports knowledge, that many things that go behind putting three minutes of sports on the air, and that you're not going to be able to leap out of college onto the sports desk. Right now, I'm just a kid drenched behind the ears, but I plan to dry them off in time to one day have the 11 o'clock Sportscenter spot.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Worried to the Point of Distraction

The least-discussed aspect of my professional life is dominating my thoughts. At night, I teach broadcasting classes at a local community college. The telecommunications division is fabulously equipped. In fact, the students provide content for a 24-hour cable station and much of what they produce is vastly superior to at least one local station's attempt at news. The school turns out plenty of production assistants and a few videographers. There's a lot to be proud of there.
It is the end of the semester, and my young broadcasting students' research papers were due last week. They got the assignment on the first day of class, 18 weeks ago. They received a number of reminders along the way. Of course, most of them obviously waited until the last weekend before the paper was due to actually work on it. That's to be expected. There are sixteen students in my class. Two of the papers are outstanding. Ten are above average or good. Four are complete train wrecks. I can't explain how horrible they are: terrible English, factual inaccuracies AND giant passages are obviously copied and pasted directly from the internet. One student didn't even bother to change font styles. He just copied and pasted paragraph after paragraph from various sources, then wrote a one-paragraph conclusion. It's shockingly stupid.
Another included a long passage (Hell, a whole magazine article) without any attribution. The thing is, the article was written in 2002 and made a reference to something that the subject of the paper hoped to accomplish by 2004. I intend to ask him something like this: "I know you didn't write this. Did you even read it?" Honestly, I'm on the verge of being angry about this.
I have found absolute proof of blatant plagiarism and preposterous laziness. My head says to give them zeroes on the papers, which would cause them to fail the course. I know that's what I should do. BUT...they're freshmen at a community college. Maybe they actually don't know any better. What if other students did something similar, but were more clever about disguising it? Can I reward cunning and deception? Would it be inconsistent if I failed a handful? In college, I wasn't perfect. I wasn't a saint. Would I be a hypocrite?
This would not be the first time I have failed students. My conscience was clear the other times. Kids just didn't show up or didn't do the work. They failed themselves. I wonder if these people are actually stupid, or if they think I'm stupid. They have failed, no question about it. The only thing I have to decide is whether to allow them to get credit for sitting through the course.
I've been losing sleep over this since the papers were turned it. No mater what I ultimately decide, I'm sure I will lose more sleep when all of this is behind me.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Worlds Collide

My wife and I have kidded for years (well, actually...decades now) that we are in a "worlds collide" relationship. I am the product of an old Cajun and a country girl. The closest my wife has come to the country is The Club for Sunday brunch after church.
I still haven't figured out how I was even allowed into the house the first time I met her family. The parents and the grandparents were together that evening. God as my witness, we were going to a party honoring debutantes. The disparity of our upbringing reached out and grabbed me recently as we thumbed through some old scrapbooks. As far back as the 1930's, my in-laws were appearing on the society pages of the local paper. This is my mother-in-law as a baby, with her mother. Reading the caption, I can discern no specific reason for them to be in the paper, except that there was a perception that the public was interested in seeing photos of society types dressed up for various seasonal occasions.
That was just the beginning. For a couple of generations, my wife and her people appeared posing in the paper. Fast forward to the 60's, and there's my wife with her mother in an eerily similar photograph. The caption which accompanies this moment of loveliness alerted riveted readers that my father-in-law and his bride had recently moved back to town from Dallas and had reproduced. Don't get me wrong...I'm happy they did, because this little girl would grow up to be my wife. I'm just not sure why it was in the paper. Did they have a press agent, or what? The future in-laws met at Southern Methodist University and after graduation they moved to her childhood home, which the paper proudly proclaimed. My parents probably never heard of SMU. Ask them what it stands for, they'd probably say "Some Messy Underwear." But, I digress.
As she grew, the young Future Mother of My Children straddled a giant graphic Easter egg in another published photoillustration. This took up a full page of newsprint and was accompanied by a short essay about why children love Easter.Years later, in the spirit of Christmas and Equal Time, my future wife appeared with her baby sister in a photograph which was used to extoll the joys of the Holiday Season.I don't remember anyone from my immediate family appearing in the newspaper. That's probably a good thing, because it means we mostly stayed out of trouble. My wife did not continue the tradition with our daughter, and we've never discussed it. Maybe she should take it up with her mother's agent.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Wife in Chains

A therapist might tell you that a middle-aged couple which has been together a long time could be inclined to "try new things" in the marital department. That is not what this is about. Somehow, my wife got dragged into a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. It's called the "MDA Lock-up," and the organization's people pick conscripts up and put them in a pretend jail. The idea is the "arrested" person raises bail money, which of course goes to fund research to fight muscular dystophy.
This is not a new thing. It happened to me several times when I was a full-fledged Member of the Media. I don't think I ever hit the goal the MDA set for me, but I hope they are grateful for what they got. My wife and I respect the work they do, but neither of us is comfortable asking people for money. As we have established many times, she is a good sport. So she played along with a smile on her face.
I hope it wasn't the cuffs making her smile.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Fightin' Words? Consider the Source

"Do you think spending the holidays in Shreveport two consecutive years is a reward? I lived in Shreveport for 14 months right out college and it felt more like a death sentence. I still have nightmares of having my car breaking down late at night in Bossier City. Medication and afternoons on a shrink's couch simply can't get me past this." - Paul Finebaum in today's Mobile Press-Register
It is tempting to get worked up when you read something like this, but let's take a breath. You have to know this writer's work. He's intentionally provocative. In other words, he writes stuff like this simply to incite a reaction. I tried something similar for a couple of years on the radio, but didn't have the stomach for it. I got tired of people not getting the joke. It wore on my wife and family that there was always someone mad at me about something Radio Darrell said. Even now, there's a local radio personality who stirs people up. Some people just don't like it. Others just don't get it.
From Finebaum's perspective, another trip to Shreveport could be a grind. For people here, the only thing attractive about a 6-6 Alabama team coming back to the Independence Bowl* is the opportunity to pretend we hate Nick Saban for three or four days. We don't really hate Nick Saban any more than Finebaum hates Shreveport. He was unhappy when he lived here and wrote for the Shreveport Journal. That was in large part because people didn't understand or appreciate his particular brand of sports wrting. He moved on. We moved on. He's basically been forgotten here, except on the rare occasion he tries to deposit excrement on our cake.
We can hate Finebaum for sport, just to be in keeping with the spirit of things; but then we're playing his game. Ignore him and he will go away, just like he did when he was fourteen months out of college. That's really the best thing we can hope for.
*Alabama will play Colorado in Shreveport on December 30. Remember, this is the team that lost four games in a row to end the season, including falling at home to Louisiana-Monroe. So, now a joke is making the e-mail rounds:
The University of Alabama is going to decline the invitation to the Independence Bowl. Their travel agent showed them the route between Tuscaloosa and Shreveport. It turns out Alabama won't be able to go because they can't seem to get past Monroe.

Finally, keep this in mind: It was in vogue twenty years ago to make fun of the Independence Bowl. I hear Finebaum is up for a role in the big-screen version of the late, lamented TV show "Arrested Development." Sometimes, typecasting works.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Joy in Krotz Springs

Krotz Springs, Louisiana is noted for a number of things. Its name, on its own merits, seems to encourage derision because when spoken aloud it sounds subtly obscene. It has achieved infamy throughout the state as a merciless speed trap. Then, there's Billy's. Anyone who has traveled U.S. 190 between Opelousas and Baton Rouge knows Billy's, because that's where you stop for boudin and cracklins. If you don't know what those are, let's just leave it at this: They involve pig parts and they taste really good. So, for lunch I had boudin balls a side of cracklins and a Diet Coke. I was happily, although not healthily, fed. The good people of Krotz Springs are no doubt aware of the notoriety of their police force, so they have spent a little time gussying up the quarter-mile boulevard which bisects the town. This includes permanent signage discouraging littering.
There are seasonal banners wishing us joy. Here's how we can achieve that: Fewer speeding tickets,more boudin. Happy holidays.

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