Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Michelle (nee) Lock and Elizabeth Lock

Elizabeth Brown, Elizabeth Rogers, Brian Sims, cct, Anna Mary LeBlanc in Chicago

Micah cagley

Richard, Micah, and Jonah cagley in Pittsburg.

Micah cagley, Jackie Plauche cagley, Eddie Barry
Micah cagley, Jackie Plauche cagley, Eddie Barry

Dad says he just caught up with his writing: Lots to read

September 8
Am glad that I did because, among other reasons, Jim whipped up a super meal of potatoes, asparagus, and filet mignon -- all cooked just right. Later we drank a number of his specialty vodka drinks and started telling stories of old times including one I'd like to forget: If a student brought candy or a soft drink into my class, for punishment i would confiscate the contraband and eat or drink right in front of the student's face, usually evoking, to my delight, outrage and chagrin. But after lunch one day Joan Heyman, fran Freeland, and some of their friends cavalierly sauntered in late, annoying me considerably. Joan also carried in a coke can which I angrily grabbed. I took a huge swallow and then had to rush out of the classroom to spew forth a mixture of coffee grounds, coke, Tabasco, jalpena peppers, and slime mold. I have been had by students many a time but rarely as badly.
After leaving ESA Jim graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, picked up an MA, and has had jobs too numerous to remember all over the country. But right now he teaches motorcyle safety and takes care of the house and son while Michelle, the primary breadwinner, slaves away in the basement administering conference calls between clients and her company, headquartered in Seattle.

Sept 9
After Jim and I walked his son to school and Jim cooked a huge breakfast, I Drove most of the day to Minneapolis on highway 94 through the farmlands of Wisconsin dotted with well maintained barns and silos and well contented cattle. Winter will be coming soon
Stayed with John and Jill Maraist. When I arrived, John fixed a number of Old Fashionds for Freddie Bowie and me, after which I remember having dinner with them, but that's about it. Both of them have remarkable credentials: Freddie , a Davidson alumnus and track star,received his doctorate at Berkeley in chemistry. Of Mr. Begnaud, he says, "I would run through a wall for him.". Recently married, Freddie now works in a consulting firm. He wants to combine some business with his academic background to eventually start his own company.
John received his doctorate in Germany after graduating from Tulane. After teaching in Australia, he left academia to join a start-up firm doing technical work so arcane that I cannot begin to explain it. John, perhaps the smartest student whom I've ever taught, once wrote a journal his freshman year entitled "A Mathematical Proof of the Existence of God. " which converted me from agnostic to believer.

Sept. 10
After cooking me a cardiacally unfriendly but delicious breakfast, John took me around Minneapolis. We spent several hours in the Museum of Art looking at a 1964 my freshman year in high school) exhibit with narcissistic interest, and spent a lot of time looking at a show of a really good argentinian painter named Kuipcha (sp?) who uses maps and stadiums as starting points for his ideas, then wandered around the waterfront. The Mississippi comes through Minneapolis, which was a thriving mill town, until fairly recently producing more flour than any other town in the United States. A dam across the river allowed merchants to channel the water through sluices that drove the waterwheels. Below the dam we could see boats moving up and down through several locks and John pointed out the new bridge built where the old one had collapsed into the river two years ago carrying unlucky motorists to their watery deaths. That night, at a sports bar, John, Jill, and I watched the New Orleans Saints send the Minnesota Vikings to their grave. Couldn't be sweeter.

Sept. 11
After a late breakfast at a local crepe restaurant with Jill and John, I departed on highways 94 and 32 for Racine, Wisconsin, to visit Charles Barousse and his wife Claire. I would like to point out that since entering Iowa I have seen trees, a few at first in South Dakota, more in Nebraska; but after i crossed the Mississippi at Davenport, the vegetation looked familiar to my accustomed-to-southeastern-foliage eyes However, the pastoral beauty of Wisconsin lived up to the claims of its most ardent admirer, Laura Kolar.
Charles and Claire live right on Lake Michigan which stunned me with its size and might. It's like the ocean, with big waves rolling in and water as far as the eye can see. Charles, who will defend his PhD thesis soon, has taken a job with a start up company specializing in speech recognition. Claire helps out with legal issues relating to patents, and they both hope to strike it rich. At the least, Charles says that he will gain the equivalent of a post-doctoral experience. Charles and Claire's apartment, littered with various musical paraphenalia --trumpet, cd's, LP's, keyboards, guitars -- brought back memories of his days as bass guitarist for the Hekatomic Cherries, a loud, aggressive highschool punk band that had its heyday in the 90's but still maintains a legendary status among certain devotees in Acadiana.

Sept 12

Drove into Chicago, on the south side, near Soldier Field (where the Bears play) and Chinatown, to stay with Mary Anna LeBlanc. Also met her fiancé, Matt, who's a physical therapist. Louisiana memorablilia dots Mary Anna's apartment, indicating her plan to return to her native land soon. After a long, complex discussion involving culinary compromises (Anna Mary hates Middle Eastern; i hate hamburgers and pizza), we decided to have dinner with s number of alumni at Le Bouchon, an obviously French restaurant in one of the trendier parts of town. Attending were Charles and Claire, Anu Gupta Desai (a doctor in NYC visiting her husband who works in Chicago, John kramer (working with the National Trust for Historic Preservation) and his partner ( an architect), Casae Hobbes (studying library science at the university of Chicago) and me ( a homeless nomadic herdsman) . On Charles' suggestion most of us repaired to a well-known bar called the Maproom afterward The dinner party enjoyed the food, the drink, and each other's company very much.

September 13
Had lunch with Stanton Valentino and Emma Arcenaux (beginning her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago) at a dive but a very good Taco place near DePaul University where Stanton has just started as a freshman. To my chagrin Stanton insisted on paying for lunch but at my insistence he also
made a kind donation to the Tates-Tutwiler Scholarship Fund. Admirers of Stanton will be happy to know that he has barred the door to the behemoth of conformity with his brighly dyed yellow hair and a ring through his lower lip But I actually spent most of the day with Emma visiting the Museum of Art, being stunned as always by Grant Woods' "American Gothic," the photographs of Cartier-Besson, and Edward Hopper's"Nighthawks," Later we walked through Graceland Cemetery, where the robber barons of the Industrial Age -the Fords, the Sullivans, the Palmers-- built monuments to the themselves. One notable exception , Cyrus McCormic--who grew up, by the way, on a farm near my hometown of Lexington, Virginia-- only has a simple gravestone to mark his passing. However, he did demonstrate his Scotch-Irish thrift by buying up a whole acre of land --at a bargain price --for the interment of future generations of McCormicks.
That night I had dinner at a good Thai restaurant in downtown Chicago with Michelle Lock Erics, Elizabeth Lock, and Michelle's daughter Tayler ? a very pretty and funny high school senior. Michelle, a nurse, and Elizabeth (an executive at Mars (yes! The candy company) are both married with childrenbal but Elizabeth has a long road ahead of her in child raising whereas Michelle, with an earlier start, has just about finished.

September 14

Meant to visit the museum of Contemporary Art but ended up spending lunch at a Palestinian restaurant and most of the day with Mary Hibbeler who teaches English at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Mary has a sunny, airy house with even a yard on sort of the northern side of Chicago near the Ukranian section of the city. Later, I met Brian Sims for a beer at the ?? Before dining at Arturo's (a Mexican restaurant on the north side) with him, Mary Anna, Elizabeth Brown (just graduated from ULL and just arrived in Chicago in search of a job), and my niece, Elizabeth Rogers (in Chicago on business). Brian, married now with two children) "manages" five schools in Chicago, teaching principals how to do their jobs in blighted urban areas. After leaving ESA, Brian received a Masters degree at Stanford, met his wife Gretchen there, and then began teaching in ghetto schools in New Jersey and in California. Eventually he took a job as a principal in a failing Chicago public school and developed a program of improving the quality of education in at risk schools, a program that president Obama is heavily relying on to further his educational goals.

Sept 15

Reluctantly, I left Chicago, regretting the people and places I had not seen or not spent enough time with. I drove back to Lebanon, Indiana, mostly on interstate 65, retrieved the bus (still without electricity, except for the headlights), had a good lunch with Mary Painter (my quondam roommate's (Will's) wife), and headed on interstate 70 through Indiana and Ohio towards Pittsburg. Camped at Madison Lake State Park in honor of the famous Madison Miller. Unfortunately the womAn in charge shared none of Miss Miller's charm
and laughter.

Sept 16
As I cruised by. said "Goodbye, Columbus" in memory of Philip Roth's great novel of youth, then
much later turned off to drive towards a swath of northeastern Ohio and western West Virginia on highway 22 before crossing the Ohio River into a piece of West Virginia and entering Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. This is coal minining country, real Appalachia with all its beauty and poverty and for the first time on this long trip I felt right at home, having grown up and taught in country just like this before coming to ESA. Looking for Jackie Plauche Cagley '85 I drove through Pittsburg rush hour traffic in the rain only to find that I had gone to the right address but to the wrong zipcode. My phone which i also use as my GPS, also died at this point. As I tried desperately but in vain to turn around on a narrow street a car full of hoodlums appeared, threatening with vile profanity to kill me. Fortunately, just as i had grabbed a tow chain and the situation began to really deteriorate, a kind citizen showed up, helped me turn the bus around, and led me to a gas station where another kind young attendant saw my distress, charged my phone behind the counter, gave me a banana and a cup of coffee, left a line of customers to point me in the right direction, and explained the details of my route. Since it was raining heavily, was night, and the windshield wipers did not work, driving to Jackie's house continued to be no fun, especially after I sideswiped some object, leaving the right outside mirror flattened against the side of the bus. Finally I made it but had one last test of backing the bus into jackie's driveway in total darkness, fortunately guided by her and her husband Richard and her five-year-old son Micah, who had waited all day for the bus to arrive and had cried when he feared that I and the bus (which interested him a lot more than me) would not appear.
Jackie and her husband couldn't have been nicer during the whole visit and for once I was able to remember the names of some alumni children: Noah, Jonah, Micah, and Michelle. Notice also that the boys were named in the same sequence that the biblical characters appeared.

Sept. 17.
Spent the early part of the morning talking to Richard, after which Jackie drove me around showing me Shady Side Academy, the most prestigious private school in Pittsburg; a local mansion from the robber baron days; Michelle and Jonah's school, Micah's school, and the cross country course where Noah, also a swimming star, runs. Then she took me to meet Eddie Barry, who lives not far from the Carnegie Mellon Institute on a cobblestone street. Eddie, a sort of land man, puts deals together for oil and gas companies --especially relating to shale properties which are the hottest thing going these days.
After lunch Jackie drove me back to her house where I took a profound nap and then headed out towards Maine, where I need to be on the 22nd to meet my family who are flying in for a wedding. I drove up highway 28 to interstate 80 where I headed east. For the next couple of days the road took me through the most beautiful countryside that I have seen since leaving the West, but in this case immaculately kept up farms and beautiful deciduous forests just beginning to don their autumn foliage.
However at this point I should know better than to enter a state park campground after dark in the bus on a magnificent autumn weekend. Of the 170 possible spaces 170 were filled --although the campground host thought that she had given me the last space. After waiting for about 30 minutes for an idiot who blocked traffic while filling up his RV with water in the middle of the driving lane, To my annoyance found an RV already in my spot Unable to locate the owner, I angrily backed in, with a hostile line of cars behind me, only to gently sideswipe an SUV, thereby adding to an already chaotic situation by causing swarms of campers to emerge with unjust commentaries. Luckily, the man parked in my spot decided to leave even though he also had proof that the spot belonged to him. After his departure I locked myself in the bus and poured myself a stiff drink but was unable to go to sleep for a while because of the raucous noise caused By a group teenagers about 50 yards away.

Sept. 18
It turned out that the rowdy teenagers were, irony of ironies, about 20 Amish boys and girls having a big time. The girls, wearing blouses revealing nothing, long "prairie" skirts, and either scarves or those little caps in their hair, giggled together a lot and were as cute as they could be.
Loafed around all morning reading a book by Ian Fraiser called "the Great Plains" and watching the Amish teenagers until I finally summoned up the energy to leave. Continued on interstate 80, then took interstate 81 north, then connected to interstate 84 east. Beautiful all the way. Nothing but Incredible forests turning gold and red and farms on a rolling countryside that challenged but did not defeat the energy of the bus.
Picked up a hitchhiker on the way to Albany, New York. If he had not been so boring I would have taken him further but instead dropped him off, feeling guilty, and found Land of Glory State Park just west of the New York state border. Much better situation with nicer people, less of a crowd, and no craziness. BTW I found out the next day that it was probably the hitchhiker who stole my credit card and made himself $500 richer at an ATM machine.

Sept 19.

As I write these words, a flock of robins, migrating undoubtably to Louisiana gathered bugs around the campsite. I will be following them down very soon.
Later, pushed the bus along interstates 80 and 81 (through the rest of Pennsylvania) 84 (through New York State and Connecticut and part of Massachusetts), 495 (through the rest of Massachusetts), and finally 95 (up into New Hampshire and Maine) -- 400 miles today and made it to South Portland, Maine, where I'm staying safe in the bosom of the northern side of my family. The southern side will arrive in a few days and we will have a big old time.
My only long stop of the day was at the New Hampshire State liquor store, right across the border from Massachusetts. Since New Hampshire has no sales taxes and since they discount the liquor, it's probably the cheapest place to buy legal alcohol in the world and thus the store is always packed with customers filling up their shopping carts, getting ready for a big time. There's an exit off the interstate solely devoted to this store; and just so you don't have to turn around and go back in case you mised it, there's another exit to another store six miles down the highway. Last year I stopped here to supply the ingredients (rum, bourbon, brandy, champagne, etc.) for the artillery punch that I make for the alumni Christmas party but alas, my friends and family consumed all of it by September.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

John Maraist


Emma Arcenaux, Stanton Valentino
Kfras, cct,Elizabeth Pyenson , Lew P, Ben P, Emily p,Anders p, Nick

Jim, Andrew, and Maggie Meier

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sept 4- Sept 8

September 4

Later... Since i received so many comments on bus mechanics after a recent post:

So brokedownbus.blogspot.com after doing so well and taking me from Omaha to Chicago yesterday fell victim to a busted brake caliper. I'm stranded in Wilmington, Illinois -- a nice little town. Last night I befriended the local police, attend the high school football game, talked to my mechanical guru Mr James Adams (formerly transportation chief at ESA ) and shed a tear in my beer. James also explained to me why the bus cruises 10mph faster now: the guys at Rocky Mountain Diesel had disconnected the governor when they repaired the throttle linkage.
As luck would have it, Tom Brown, from brown's wrecker service, ordered the parts (caliper assembly and brake pads) that I needed and found a local mechanic who pulled the wheel off, disassembled the brake system on the back left tire, and replaced it with a lovely new assembly. What had happened was that the brake pads had worn all the way through, causing the pistons in the caliper system to overextend themselves, which in turn led to the destruction of the whole assembly.
Anyway, back on the road again, I drove like mad on highway 80 and then on 94 straight to Ann Arbor, Michigan filled with fans (including Tyson Cromwell -whom i missed) for the opening University home game as well as parents saying goodbye to their children who would start school the following Tuesday after Labor Day weekend. I was determined to meet the six Pyensons having a family reunion.
Despite a worrisome leak of power steering fluid, which compelled me to stop every hundred miles, I made it in time to have a great dinner and even better conversation with Kristen Fraser who begins an impressive PhD program in English.

September 5

Wandered around Ann Arbor on a beautiful fall day with Kristen until 3 o'clock, when we met the Pyensons. Catherine, the only family member living there, is in her second year of architecture school at U. Mich. Ben lives in Montreal and studies biology in an MA program. Nick along with son Anders and wife Emily, has like me spent the summer driving cross/country from Vancouver to Washington DC where he has a job as a curator at the smithsonian museum. Their father Lew is a professor at western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Warm in their praises, All agreed that ESA gave them a more focused education and clearer memories of classes than any other institution that they had attended.
After lunch, I had more happy times buying cheese, olives, prosciutto ham, and power steering fluid for my drive the next day. Kristen and I did a lot more walking and sight-seeing followed by a late dinner and parting. Since Kristen wants to study Ecocriticism, I lent her a book written by alumnus Anthony Wilson , entitled Shadow and Shelter, which surveys the literary treatment of the swamp in Southern literature.

Sept. 6

Drove south to Lebanon, Illinois, on 94 and then highway 69 south where
my former college roomate Will Painter and his wife Mary reside in a farmhouse with three Shelty collies and a beagle. Will's retired but busier than ever with engineering projects in the Dominican Republic and with a huge football stadium in North Carolina. Besides that, he's been a race car driver since we graduated and was off to Watkins Glen the next day. Mary, the saner of the two, trains dogs and runs the many projects going on around the house. Will fixed me up with a mechanic in Lebanon to try to figure out the power steering and loss of electricity issues in the bus and lent me a van for my trip north the next day. Will, formerly fanatical about our alma mater Princeton, has soured on the school ever since they refused to give his daughter Gallia enough scholarship money to attend, and has transferred that enthusiasm towards the military. Justly proud of his service to our country, ( he recently retired as a naval Commander) , he sports his Vietnam-Desert Storm Veteran's cap, has a big Go Navy sign printed on his trailer, a puppy named Shooter, and a number of American flags planted strategically around the house. I had almost forgotten how much I love this guy.

Sept. 8

Left lebanon headed to Minneapolis on interstates 90 and 94 to see the John Maraists and Freddy Bowie. While passing through Rockford, Illinois, I remembered that an alumnus Jim Maier lives there. So I had already entered Wisconsin, thinking of Laura Kolar, a former teacher who was very proud of her natal state, when Jim called back. So I reversed course to visit him, his wife Michelle, son Andrew, and Brittany spaniel Maggie.

To be continued

August 31- Sept 3

August 31

I sit here tonight in Badlands Nationsl Park under a big sky as the stars come out after cooking a perfect pasta dish. Today was incredible: woke up with Devil's tower gazing down, cooked some oatmeal, and drove through the Black Bills of Wyoming and Douth Dakota and ended up in Badlands. Saw prairie dogs, bison, bighorn sheep, and mule deer in the park. This trip has made me believe that the USA is the most beautiful country in the world. It takes a lot of time and effort ,but once the children have left and the dog has died, I recommend that all of you get out there and see it. Or see it with your children. It's no wonder that I see so many geezers like me, driving their RVs with stickers that say, "We are spending our children's inheritance.". We geezers are allowed into National parks and Monuments for free and get to camp for half price (usually six dollars). For some reason attendance in national parks Is down, so you can usually drive right in. Tonight I can see the Milky Way in all its glory, something that hasn't happened to me since childhood.

Sept. 1

Spent a good part of the morning learning about the successful reintroduction of swift foxes, black -footed ferrets , prairie dogs, bison, and bighorn sheep into Badlands NP. The ferrets were assumed to be extinct but about 10 years ago someone found a tiny population in Wyoming, some of which were captured and sent to the park. I had never heard of the very rare swift fox which only weighs about five pounds and, like the prairie dog and ferret, was practically eliminated through poisoning campaigns. Basically the same process holds true for the rest of the animals mentioned, so the park acts as a kind of Noah's ark.
I drove east on 90, as usual, but turned south on highway 83 at Murdo south Dakota, and drove all the way to North Platte, Nebraska. Camped in the city park (5 dollars) where Mosquitos annoyed me as I cooked. Felt like home! Along those lines, I'm now back in central time zone, for the first time in 2 and a half months.
All the areas I've driven through in the last two days are Plains Indian territory, where Custer fought and died , where the tragedy of Wounded Knee occurred, where Buffalo Bill had his heyday, where recently the shootout at Rainbow Ridge occurred. The plains Indians were an endangered species themselves, but I see many signs of progress on the numerous reservations around here.
Highway 83 passes through what my guidebook says are some of the most remote parts of the USA. I loved driving down it. The wind drove the dust in south Dakota into every crevice in the bus. So I thought quite a bit about Woody Guthrie's songs of the Dust Bowl era and sang Dylan's "Hollis Brown" over and over again in my head. Nebraska was much more verdant. I crossed a number of rivers and began to see more trees. Bruce Springsteen has a very lugubrious album called "Nebraska" and I can see how lonely it can be. It's like a green west Texas.

Sept. 2

Today I go looking for the Platte River, often described as " a mile wide and an inch deep," Buffalo Bill's mansion, and Julian Gradingo (sp?) in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Later ... Found all of them. Had a great dinner with Julian and his best friend Jan. Julian's in a microbiology Phd. program here at the university of Nebraska. But he still loves computers and we chewed over stories about run-ins with mark broussard over hacking incidents. As the night wore on Julian became more and more effusive about how ESA had shaped his life, how much the teachers had meant to him. Especially considering that he's a graduate student, Julian made a very generous donation to the Ts-T Scholarship Fund. His warmth and generosity touched my heart as much as anything on this trip.
I drove off into the night headed for ann arbor which I have to make in two days, but only got about 20 miles down highway 80 when I pulled over and fell asleep in a rest stop.
I see definite signs of fall up here: high school football games, geese flying over, cool weather, blackbirds gathering up.

September 3

Woke up at 5:30, started driving, passed Omaha --home of my hero, Warren Buffet (who's making this trip possible), crossed the Missouri river, and entered Iowa, thinking of Barbara Bridges, our conversations in the faculty lounge. Wish she could be here now! Will drive all day today.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And Then There Was One

I'm back in New Orleans, so now Dad's travelling in that bus, all alone. Here's what he has to say:

August 19 -- the first day that I felt better, so late in the afternoon I took the bus down to the central part of the city, bought a lot of books -- especially at a store specializing in crime fiction with every Michael connelly, James lee Burke, and Lee Child novel ever written. Ended up at the huge Pike street market where I bought a dozen west coast oysters and three huge Dungeness crabs for a good old Louisiana oysters- on -the - half shell and boiled crab dinner. A great meal if I do say so myself.

August 20-21 Craig mitchell's parents, brothers, sister-in-law, and nephews flew in for two weeks so suddenly we had 11 people and a dog in the house. Lots of fun! Recovering from my backaches, I spent half a day in the Seattle Museum of art, where not only did they have a Cranach version of "Leda and the Swan" but also a Kurt Cobain and Andy Warhol show --not to mention a fine collection of Northwest Native American arts and crafts.
The Asian Art Museum on Capital Hill sits in the middle of a beautiful park surrounded in turn by some of Seattle's most impressive houses. My favorite parts of the museum were the Hiroshige paintings of rural scenes and the modern art room filled with striking paintings composed by various artists from the school of Murakami. After dinner chez Les Mitchells, I had a bottle of wine with an old friend outside the Calcutta room at the Newcastle Golf Club, which overlooks the whole city of Seattle.

August 22nd

After a leisurely morning with Missy and her family, I took the ferry from south Seattle to Vachon island where I spent the night with Billy Plauche, his wife Ashley, and their two sons. They took me all over the island. We stopped at a number of farms along the way and ended up, after snacking on calamari an hour before dinner, having an amazing meal of mussels, shrimp, and salad at their house stuck right up against 400 acres of forest in the middle of the island. Besides his involvement in making BP pay up, Billy is the lawyer for the mollusk industry on the west coast, which makes him a great person to know.

August 23rd. Said goodbye to Ashley and the boys, then two hours later toMissy Dinkins, her husband Craig
Mitchell, his parents, his brothers, their famies, and the West Coast -- all of which I came to love. Drove over the Cascade Range on Hwy. 90 and then took 97 to wenatchee, Washington where I stayed with Bindu Manuel Nayak, her husband, and their three children. Wenatchee calls itself "the Apple Capital of the World." Even though it's on the edge of the desert, the Columbia and Wenatchee rivers meet there, allowing lots of irrigation for the orchards. Bindu took
me to dinner. It was great seeing her and catching up with her life as well as hashing over ESA matters and medical theories. She's an endocrinologist married to a cardiologist -- a family good for just about anything that ails someone from south Louisiana.

August 24th

A long day driving all the way to Missoula , Montana, where I met my daughter Isabelle and some of her friends including Emile Legendre -- both of whom had just arrived , ready to start another school year at the University of Montana. Dinner consisted of buffalo meat, hot dogs, and Cold Smoke ale from the great Kettle House Brewery.

August 26 waiting around Missoula for Rocky Mountain Diesel to take a good look at the bus in preparation for the Big Drive East to New Hampshire, where I have a wedding Sept. 25th. But there's a festival here this
weekend starring Robert Earl Keene, one of my favorites, so I will stick around until Sunday.

August 27.
Brett goodell hosted a gathering that I attended with Isabelle and Emile Legendre. Brett lives in a house with some other rugby players -- big, friendly guys who know how to party
Like some of us did in our animal house days of yore. The usual sorts of excesses took place with much singing, laughing, and yelling. Isabelle and I left early, around mIdnight, but not so early that we did not have some regrets the next day.

August 28

MIssoula has a great open market on Saturday. So IsabelleI and i bought some vegetables and buffalo meat for my trip east. But the big event was the River Roots festival which featured Robert Earl Keene. He didn't disappoint, playing lots of new songs with his really good Austin band. He's quit drinking and looks better than he has in 20 years; but he still finished off with a few of his big hits from his salad days. The audience all chimed in when, in "gringo honeymoon," he sings of an American refugee in Mexico who abandoned his wife and family and lives in a "little one-room shack" who, when asked of his plans, answers, "I ain't never going back." the other line that the crowd loved is "the road goes on forever and the party never ends.". The song actually is about a couple who get involved in a drug deal. The guy gord to the gas chamber because he took the fall for the girl who shot a policeman but she ends up with all the money. So the moral of the song is more than a bit ambiguous but the guys didn't care.

August 29
the bus is in the best shape that I've ever seen it, thanks to the guys from Rocky Mountain Diesel. It charges up hills (well, a lot of them, anyway) and travels about 10 mph faster than previously. So I will try to make 1800 miles from Missoula to Ann Arbor by the fifth of september (which i previously deemed impossible) in order to meet the Pyenson family who will reunite there on Labor Day weekend. Left Missoula and Isabelle who has her first day of classes on Monday.
Drove on interstate 90 down to Columbus, Montana. Camped at a city park there by the Yellowstone River. A big storm came in that night and I was glad to sleep blissfully and securely on the bus.

August 30
Continued on 90 (which goes all the way to the Atlantic). Drove through Billings in a downpower until Sheridan, Wyoming, where the weather began to clear off. This region, the Bighorn Mountain Range of course was made famous by General Custer's defeat but also by CJ Box's crime novels starring game warden Joe Pickett. Beautiful, lonely country still filled with Crow Indians (who have a huge reservation here) Prarie dogs, antelope, and bison -- all of which I saw today.
Finally stopped and camped at Devil's Tower, Wyoming, made famous by ET. Since leaving Missoula I've eaten nothing but buffalo meat -- buffalo sausage for breakfast and buffalo steak for dinner. On the Pacific coast I always ate Salmon. I used to like it but after a while I came to detest it. P

Saturday, August 14, 2010

8.2.2010: Las Vegas: Chrissy Bercier (1989)

Let me just say that dad loves Las Vegas and wants our family to go there for Christmas. I don’t think even Chevy Chase went there for Christmas. That would just be the weirdest family vacation I can imagine. Here’s what dad wrote in his diary, “left Drake and drove to VEGAS (misty on highway 93) out in the desert past the Hoover dam to see Chrissy Bercier. Had dinner at the Bellagio (very expensive) and took pictures of each other in front of the fountains highlighted in Ocean’s Eleven. Chrissy works as a veterinarian and warned me against feeding bacon to my dog.”

8.1.2010: Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ: Mark Kwong (1993) and Drake Ledbetter (St. Andrew’s)

A few weeks before we had planned to set off for Phoenix and Vegas, we got the weather report that it was going to be 116 degrees out there. I told dad that I’d wait for him on the coast while he drove into the desert on the bus. I think he used me as an excuse, because the next day he showed up with a bright blue rental car. Phoenix was surprising pleasant, and when someone apologized to us for the “soupy” weather, we just laughed and laughed. We got into Phoenix and realized that Arizonans have worse road rage than the Los Angelinos. We did manage to make it to Mark Kwong’s house in one piece (although I kind of doubt that we would have, had we been in the bus). We got there kind of later than planned, and his wife, Carolyn, was already putting their youngest son, Peter, to bed. The twins, Colin and Nicholas were still awake and hectic. Apparently, they feed off of each other. Dinner was outside on the patio, near the pool, no mosquitos, and Mark, fresh from a trip to the south of France, pulled out a rosé that he had brought back with him. I like rosés, but generally find them undeveloped. This one had depth.

The Kwongs had a tough time with Katrina. Four months pregnant with the twins, they evacuated, leaving their house and most of their belongings behind. They thought that they would have some damage, but when Mark returned to New Orleans to check on the house, it wasn’t damaged, it was gone. The houses around had survived, just not theirs. This, coupled with other stresses, caused Carolyn to go into labor at only six months in. She gave birth to two tiny tiny babies, that under professional care, managed to grow into the funny little boys that they are today. I think that they can look back at that time in their lives with good humor now, but I can only imagine the fear and stress and anguish that went on during those days. They did, however, have flood and wind insurance, made out like bandits from the insurance money, and were able to sell the property several years later.

(me, CCT, Drake)

(dad in the aura of the vortex)

We left the Kwongs and met up with Drake, a St. Andrew’s student of dad’s who lives in Scottsdale. Drake was at this weird club in the middle of a Disney-ish downtown that was (in his words) “a singles club for the 40-plus crowd.” Dad and I convinced him that we were tired and happily avoided going inside. In the mere couple of months that Drake has spent in Scottsdale—recently moved from Arkansas—he’s really gotten a handle on the surrounding area. The next morning, we hopped into his suburban and drove to Sedona to feel the vortexes. As we were walking up the path to the Sedona Chapel, dad’s cell phone rang in two different ring tones…and no one was calling. He’s sure that he connected spiritually to Sedona. We wandered all over the place, checking out the mystical shops, Hopi crafts, and the burritos. On our way back to Scottsdale, while Drake regaled us with his stories, we went through the most vertical town in America. His daughter, meanwhile, was at the Lady Gaga concert, who in turn was dissing Arizona. Back in Scottsdale, Drake took us to the Camelback Resort. We sat outside, under the stars and the waving palms, listening to soft guitar music, and sipping on the most perfect martinis. This was a place that I could image diamond and fur drenched starlets of the 1930s conducting their rendezvous’ away from the invasive world of Los Angeles.

7.31.2010: Santa Monica, CA: Kohlie Frantzen (1985?), Brett Landry (1995?), Tiba O’Conner (1999), Kevin Brown (1999)

(Front row, left to right: Brett, Arden, Elise; back row: me, Tiba, Phillip, Kevin, Kohlie)

We shopped with Kohlie and his family at Whole Foods in preparation for the party. The night before, Elise, Kohlie’s wife, had already started cooking red beans and rice. At the store, with help from the Frantzen girls, we picked out lots of salad material, including beets and a delicious cheese that tastes similarly to mozzarella and sounds like baretta. The only two people to arrive who we hadn’t previously seen were Brett Landry and his wife Brenda.

In about six months, the two of them are planning on moving to New Zealand to seek their fortunes…or at least the perfect wave. They’ve both been working in advertising/marketing for awhile now, but their ultimate goal is a career change. When Brett moved to L.A. a few years ago, he picked up surfing and now is a total surfer dude. His dream is to open a little surfer B&B in New Zealand. Brett said that when he was growing up, his family took a trip to New Zealand and he fell in love with the place. However, he wasn’t able to get back until he and Brenda eloped there. They both seem excited by the prospect of a new adventure, and she told me that her dad is kind of nutty like mine; he’s travelling around for the summer, living out of his truck, and taking photographs of national parks. He’s probably getting in a little more camping than we are.

At the end of the night, before we had all drained the last of our Abitas and scraped our dishes clean, Arden, the youngest of the Frantzens, gave us an accapella version of a tune from Annie, practice for a few days later when she performed on the streets of Santa Monica.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

7.29.2010: Irvine, CA: Stephanie Gold Schutz (1984)

I had thought that I was the only ESA alumna to head off to Scripps College, however, there is one more, and she is Stephanie Gold. This isn’t in the records, so ESA, you need to update! After another drive through crazy southern California freeway traffic, we made it to Irvine and were met by Stephanie and three of her five children: Rachel, Sam, and Angela (10, 9, and 16 years-old respectively). The whole family is vegetarian, and there doesn’t seem to be any real or latent rebellion, which is pretty cool. Stephanie’s husband has studied quite a few religions, and even spent an intensive two years learning Sanskrit so that he could read the Bhagavad Gita or “Song of God.” At some point during this time he decided to forgo consumption of animals (and even of keeping animals in cages, so no pets for the Schutz family, unless they end up living in the country with a huge yard). Eventually he decided to convert to Mormonism; he told us over dinner that he really liked the philosophy that the Mormons have, and he quoted this to us:

"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

He really liked the last part—that anything that was lovely, etc., could be incorporated into their lives.

We ended up having lunch and dinner with the Shutzes, all which was vegetarian and delicious. Lunch was polenta with a tomato sauce and a salad with blueberries, and dinner had an Indian theme. During the time before and in-between, we chatted and dad gossiped, and we took a walk with the kids to the lake to feed the ducks. They had bought their house when the market was at its peak and weren’t too happy about its devaluation, but apparently their neighborhood is pretty religiously diverse and they get to have interesting conversations with the neighbors. We drove back to Lily’s house full and happy.

7.27.2010: Manhattan Beach, Lily Henry (1993)

For the better part of our sojourn in LA, we stayed with Lily, her husband Nathan, and her step-son Jake. However, being the busy people that we are, we really didn’t see them very much except for breakfast (well, I was usually still sleeping when they got up at six). After seeing Kohlie and family at the museum, we realized that we didn’t have anything to do that night, which is a rare occurrence, so we made plans to have dinner with Lily, Nathan, and Jake. They decided to take us to a sushi place where the executive chef had been on the television show, Iron Chef. Even though we’d been warned to avoid celebrity chefs, and even though the music was loud and techno, the place had really interesting food—not your typical sushi restaurant fare.

There we got to really hear about their lives. Lily and Nathan only recently got married—about three months ago, and almost immediately after the wedding, she had to have back surgery on her spine. So even though she doesn’t show it so much, she’s in pain often which would put me in a really bad mood all of the time, especially considering that she has a 2-hour round-trip commute to her law office. Despite all of this, she treated us really well, and her family was wonderful (and her dog too….I wasn’t able to make friends with the cat).

Friday, August 6, 2010

7.27.2010: Kohlie Frantzen

We met Kohlie Frantzen and his wife and daughters at the LA County Museum of Art on maybe what is called the Miracle Mile. We didn’t mean to be late, but we had parked on the street, neither of us had change, and after trying to get coins from a variety of vendors for about 15 minutes, we realized that our meter had a big “FAIL” written on it, indicating that it was out of service, so our bartering for coins was for naught. As we walked in, I found out that Kohlie lives in Lafayette, is on the ESA board, and that he and dad are friends who see each other quite often, although dad’d never met his and his wife, Elise’s, wonderful children before. We were introduced to his two girls, Ella and Arden, who said that they only liked to eat pizza and hamburgers (although they later proved me wrong at Whole Foods, “we need lettuce for the salad!”). They are in the ESA lower school and maybe it’s the parenting or maybe ESA, but I can’t say enough about how great they are.

I guess they had been at the museum all day, because after lunch, while dad and I were raring to check out the exhibits, the girls were museumed-out and ready for a different adventure. About this time, after we had finished with all the Acadiana gossip, we somehow managed to convince Kholie and Elise that having a party at their house was a good idea, so we were on for Friday.

7.26.2010: Barry Landry, Tiba O’Conner (1999), Kevin Brown (1999), Jamie Latiolais (1994), Lily Henry (1993)

Barry let us spend the night at his and his girlfriend, Andrea’s, house, on Venice Beach. Barry’s currently writing a play about New Orleans, and although I’m only about 15 or so pages into it, I’m liking it. Except for the stripper who wears Chuck Taylor shoes. Sorry, Barry, just don’t think they’ve hit the south.

(Tiba and Kevin)

We drove to the Valley where Tiba O’Conner lives and had lunch with her and Kevin Brown. Part of the lunch was a bowl of lychees; their fragrance nearly drove me crazy and I flip-flopped between bouts of huffing the scent and madly peeling off the skins and chewing on the fruit. Pretty vulgar sight, I’m sure. Tiba has this great Mediterranean style house, that she said was good for parties, although she dissuades guests from stomping on her red-clay tennis courts. Both she and Kevin work in the film industry, although in different fields. Tiba has recently finished working on a project for the USA pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai, and had to work madly for about a week in Bangalore, India with a group of animators to finish the film on schedule. She’s now on a much needed break. Kevin’s been working on short films, prepping for a film festival, and writing a variety of screenplays to present to a studio. To pay the bills, however, he’s working as the technology expert for a family, doing everything from setting up the music system in the house to designing wall-paper patterns with the owners.

We eventually returned to Barry Landry’s house and to our delight and amazement were served sausage from Mamou. We were joined by Jamie Latiolais, who now works at Ceders-Sinai—yes that hospital where Britney Spears and the other celebrities get carted off to when they drive into other cars or shave their hair off. Jamie’s in a wine club and brought us over an incredibly good Chardonnay (?), which she described as tasting “like butter.” I’m glad it didn’t taste like butter, but it tasted close enough. She may have also said, “The difference between a good chef and a great chef is a stick of butter.” Regardless of whether this was her saying or not, I will definitely take it to heart and repeat it often.

At some point during this meal, Andrea walked in the door after a statistics class and showed us the work she was doing in her studio. She makes lovely jewelry out of ceramics and leather and has recently started selling her pieces at Fred Segal. If you’re in the market, the name of her company is Dandy Craft.

Really late that night we arrived at Lily Henry’s house, where she very graciously showed us our beds, then quickly returned to her own.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

7.25.2010: Bel Air and Venice Beach, Los Angeles, CA: John Hill, Elizabeth Hill, Barry Landry

“Rented a car and drove to LA on the 101. Got lost in Bel Air, but eventually found our way to John Hill’s house near the top of a canyon in what he calls “the ghetto of Bel Air.” Hardly a ghetto! Had dinner with John and his wife as well as with John’s four dogs, Elizabeth Hill, and other guests. Elizabeth is a sex and love addiction counselor in LA (a good place to practice” while John is a hedge fund manager (the good kind). Spent the night at Barry Landry’s in Santa Monica. Barry had some misunderstandings with the ESA administration and didn’t graduate, but was in Kohlie Frantzen’s class. Barry is a writer.”
--Dad’s journal

7.21.2010: Santa Barbara, CA: Laura Lewis Shelbourn, Colin Grussing (2003)

(Colin Grussing on right with beer bottle and red shirt)

We had to make it to Santa Barbara on the 21st for the wedding of Andrew Cox and Janelle Sharer, friends of mine from New Orleans. At this point, dad and I split up—he stayed with Laura, and I stayed with Colin and about 10 other friends of the couple in a big house up a ridiculously steep hill. I spent almost no time with Laura, but I did find out that dad keeps a secret notebook, so here’s what he has written down:

“I stayed with Laura and her husband Craig and children Peyton, John, and Witby until the 25th… Laura is the chairman of the board at the Crane School. I parked the bus there and met the headmaster who took me on a tour of the school. In its friendly, family spirit, and in its separate, mosdest buildings that fit into the character of the area, and in its greenswards, it reminds me very much of ESA. A fine, happy, well-run school with smart, dedicated teachers.”

It’s a little harder to write about Colin since we’ve been roommates for the last three years. However, its always fun telling people what he does for a living—he sells mostly green body suits online at his website www.begreenman.com. There’s a character on a television show that occasionally wears this suit and about 2 years ago, Colin thought that a friend of his, Jesse Faulk (2003) would like to own this suit and wear it. After scouring the web to find anything, he discovered that he could only buy one on ebay for an extraordinary sum of money. Eventually he came across a Chinese company that sold fetish suits pretty similar to what he was looking for. He asked them to make a few changes, bought ten, and immediately sold them. He used that money to buy more and his business took off. These days he sells the suits in many colors and in two-tones and doesn’t have to have a second job.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

7.19.2010: Marin Country, Cameron Maddux (1994)

When dad talks about the planning of this trip, he’ll sometimes mention that he originally meant to bike across the country so that he could get into shape while seeing people. Now all we do is eat, drink, and sit in a car. That said, I like doing all three. We drove out to Marin County from San Francisco, over the misty and magnificent Golden Gate Bridge. Their apartment looks over an aviary and sits at the beginning of the Tiburon Peninsula. We were fed a delicate lunch of olives, mango salad, three cheeses, avocado, and cherries. Cameron and Mary had met while working at the same advertising agency in Chicago. One weekend, Cameron, Mary, and her son Sam, went on a weekend trip, and without really deciding to, eloped.

We started off on a walk along the peninsula and ended up on a six-mile trek to the end and back, stopping at a park only to hear a band play, oddly, Iko Iko, then again at a restaurant on the point to fortify ourselves for the walk back. Cameron is now running (I think) the marketing department at the Academy of Arts in San Francisco. He’s teaching art students how to be a little more business savvy and showing them that they have opportunities to use the skills they have commercially. Cameron’s worked in advertising and marketing since he graduated from college, and really introduced us to the school of marketing thought that firms need to either figure out for themselves or hire someone to really delve into the psyche of the consumer. Often, those with degrees in sociology or anthropology, or those with world experience, are hired by firms—there’s a real academia in this field. These days, he told us, companies are trying to find new ways to have a relationship with the public. Rather than interrupting us doing things that we really want to be doing, companies are trying to find ways to draw the customer without being a bother. For instance, Levi has opened a workshop in San Francisco in which anyone can enter and learn printmaking. They’re opening another workshop in New Orleans that’ll focus on teaching some aspect of music. These workshops have nothing to do with selling their clothes. Listening to Cameron talk was fascinating. But even nicer was seeing such a tight-knit family interact together.

On our way back to the house we ran across about a mile of blackberry brambles and were able to pick a delicious dessert.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

San Luis Obispo: Tommy Fertel

We met with Tommy Fertel in San Luis Obispo. Tommy's in a wine-making program at Cal Poly-Tech and told us all the ins and outs of making wine, the problems that arise, and about all the bugs and birds' nests that get crushed into the wine and bottled. I'll let the video speak for itself.

7.20.2010: Chad Cosby, Robin Norvelle, John Putnam

San Francisco and surrounding area will forever be associated with Rod Stewart for me. When John Putnam loaned us his truck, it was equipped with a tape deck and one tape which was Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits. We listened to this tape non-stop, including on our venture into Silicon Valley to see Chad Cosby in San Jose and Robin Norvelle at Google. We met Chad and his fiancée (who at this point may be his wife!) Bianca at their apartment complex, “It’s like living in a weird hotel,” in San Jose. They decided to take us out to lunch at an incredibly delicious Malaysian restaurant, where dad and I ordered lots of food and watched Chad and Bianca split a salad for their wedding diet. I felt bad, like they were starving themselves, and gave whatever was left of my lunch to Chad. We found out that Bianca had just gotten into medical school in Burlington, Vermont, so the two of them would be moving out to the east coast. Luckily the company where Chad works has a location there, so he is able to continue working for them and designing those chips that are in your Igod. While we were in San Francisco, someone had told us that there was an interesting video with Chad in it, so before we saw him, we watched the video, which stars not only him, but also Shome Dasgupta, Eddie Barry, Paul Simon, and probably some other people that I’m forgetting. Anyway, Chad told us that this video was an engagement gift that one of his friends, who creates music videos in Atlanta, had made for the two of them without anyone really knowing. http://vimeo.com/11315404

Google could probably feed a small country for a few days with the amount of food onsite for its employees. It was too bad we had already eaten when we got there, because there’s practically an entire buffet in every room that’s organic, freshly cooked, probably delicious, and free. And it puts Piccadilly to shame. Then there are the bikes that just hang around loose for anyone to hop on and ride around, the wave pool, gyms, volleyball courts, masseuse, doctor, dry cleaning service, and on and on. Apparently though, there’s a Google 15 (like the freshman 15), so all is not pure and good in the world of Google. This is Robin’s world, which we were able to enter for a few hours (and take a few pieces along with us in our pockets).

We drove back to Napa to the sweet sounds of Rod Stewart (It’s late September and I think I should be back in school/ or steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool/ or try to join a rock and roll band that needs a helping hand/Oh Maggie I couldn’t try anymore) and had one last hurrah with John Putnam and his Napa gang. He whipped out a wild boar pasta dinner, the boar which he had shot while we were living the soft life in San Francisco. Just thinking about it is making me hungry. John, we’ll probably be back to bother you again for more pasta on our way north to Seattle.

7.18. 2010: Jeremy Simon, Leah Larkin, Robin Norvelle, Geoff Young, Kathryn Fernandez, Ryan Sandrock

On the 18th, Sandrock agreed to throw an informal dinner party at his house, although he told us that we couldn’t have any inert bodies lying on the floor the next morning—he had to show his house. He and his wife are moving closer to Stanford, where she’s a professor. We set off on the bus that picked us up at 30th and Mission and headed towards the Ferry Building, where we had heard that there’d be a huge farmers market. There, we would meet Jeremy Simon, now a (we’ve heard) famous yoga instructor, and Leah Larkin, granddaughter of Sidney Herbert, thus ESA royalty. We met Jeremy and his boyfriend Joey near a fountain and chatted while waiting for Leah and her five-year old daughter, Molly, to show up. The night before, Jeremy had had a yoga class, which he said, “incorporated yoga, flying, and thai massage.” Dad totally chickened out and blatantly lied to Jeremy that we had all gotten back from Napa (just me and Isabelle) too late (still not true) to attend the class. That day, Jeremy told us that it would make his day to “fly his former English teacher,” so dad had to pretend he was game. In the middle of this huge, packed park in San Francisco, Jeremy Simon had dad fly while German tourists and other onlookers took photographs. It was really an amazing sight to see.

When Leah and Molly showed up—Leah is a Biology professor at college outside of San Francisco—we moved onto the stalls to see what produce could be had. We bought beautiful bell peppers in a range of colors I had never seen, Japanese eggplant, artichokes, mint, cucumbers, sun-warmed tomatoes, goat cheese, button mushrooms, and very expensive shrimp. And after we collected this haul we realized that we’d really have to haul it back to the Sandrock’s. Molly collapsed face-down on the ground about 20 feet away from the house, but revived after hearing that she’d get a popsicle once we arrived. We cooked up a feast using the bounty we’d bought, and a few things brought over (lots of sausages) with Jeremy Simon and Joey, Kathryn Fernandez, Leah and her husband, son, and daughter, Robin Norvelle, Geoff Young, and, of course, Ryan Sandrock.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

7.17.2010: Ryan Sandrock

We spent the next night at Ryan Sandrock’s house in Bernal Heights. He decided to take us to a “southern” restaurant—The Front Porch—that has several Cajunesque dishes on the menu. The moment we sat down, he said, “Oh no, bringing you here was a huge mistake.” Of course we ordered the gumbo, fish pontchartrain, beignets, fried okra, and whatever else we could make fun of that was on the menu. They did burn the roux, but the fish was delicious, although definitely west coast style. Towards the end of dinner, Sandrock (I can’t help it, this is what I called him as my teacher) began to tell us about how he was the greatest cross-country and track coach at ESA and how many state championships had been won under his tutelage. Sometime around this point he pledged $200 to ESA for every group win that either the boys or girls cross-country or track team won. In perpetuity. I have the signed contract in my wallet.

7.16.2010: SFMOMA, Mission District, San Francisco: Robin Norvelle (1998), Geoffrey Young (1994), Kathryn Fernandez (2003)

After lunch we went back to the truck and ended up hanging out in the parking lot for about half an hour while dad called people and messed around on facebook. Isabelle and I sat in the tailgate of the truck and made up lyrics to Joni Mitchell’s California: “Sitting in a parking lot in San Francisco/waiting for dad to finish texting, but it sure looks bad/and he won’t give tourism a chance…” Finally Isabelle and I decided to go check out the Caulder to Warhol show at the San Fran Museum of Modern Art, but I guess dad got separation anxiety, so he came along with us.

Once everyone got out of work, they—Geoff, Robin, Kathryn—met us in the café at the museum.

Kathryn showed up in a swingy purple and black striped skirt, which I totally coveted, and told us about her job working for the Federal Court (I think) for the summer. She’s in law school at Berkeley, living in the Mission District, and making the most of her young city life—tickets to Conan, opening of Inception at the Imax. There was a period, she said, when for work she had to go through and dismiss criminal charges against people. As she was walking home, her purse was snatched. “Someday,” she said, “I’m probably going to have to clear his record, and I won’t like it at all.

(Geoff and Kathryn)

The three of them decided that we should head to the Mission District for drinks and burritos, so we headed towards the Bart while listening to adulations on public transportation in the area, and got a whole spiel on how to use the system.

Geoff works in the Mission, and we ended up in darkest bar I think I’ve ever seen—or perhaps this had to do with the effect of walking into a dark bar while there’s still light shining outside. Once inside with martinis in hand, Geoff told us about working as a therapist to the homeless in the area, school, and his generally busy schedule. Apparently he’s been able to hold onto this job, however funding for all sorts of programs for the homeless are being cut, resulting in somewhat of a desperate situation. I think this is the way Geoff put it, “If someone is hanging on by a thread, and that thread is cut, there’s nothing left.”

Robin is currently working out at Google, living in San Francisco, has a shuttle that picks her up at her door every day, and seems to have a generally awesome life. More about Robin and our Google tour later…..

(Me and Robin)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

7.16.2010: Downtown San Franciso, CA: Ian Edmundson, Ryan Sandrock, and Elizabeth Boodle Herp

(Liz, Dad, Ryan)

It has been years since the last time I had dim sum in San Francisco and I not only love the food, but the whole craziness of the system, so I posted that we’d be going on Dad’s facebook wall and once it was there, it was like a contract that he couldn’t get out of, especially because he got an immediate taker who we didn’t even know was in San Francisco, Ryan Sandrock, former civics teacher and track coach extraordinaire of ESA from right around 1999. Also joining us was Ian Edmundson who left ESA to go to boarding school after his freshman year (he would have graduated sometime in the ‘80s), and Liz Boodle, whom dad had taught during his days at St. Andrews, and crazily had been Mary Cobb’s roommate (whom we had stayed with outside of Kansas City).

(From left to right: Ian, Isabelle, Me, Liz, Dad, Ryan)

Although Ian hadn’t graduated from ESA, he had written a book about the history of the founding of ESA! We learned that while the founders quibbled over what the school should be named, Jerry Simon, New Iberian lawyer and grandfather of alumnae Maggie, Katherine, and Martha Simon, had to fill out the paperwork to create the legal status of the school. So he gave the school the simplest and most precise name that he could think of—just for the paperwork—and it stuck. Otherwise, Ian’s working as a finance consultant for small businesses in the bay area, has three children, one of whom is an infant, and doesn’t get a lot of sleep at night.

Liz Boodle was really excited to see dad, as he had been her favorite teacher (he thought she was a great student too) at St. Andrew’s. Dad had told us that she was the sweetest and one of the best students he had taught there. She let him know that appearances were deceiving. She said that she had been on the verge of expulsion during the entirety of her career there, and had even had to go in front of the discipline council a time or two. Although she may have not been the ideal student, she did say that going to boarding school kept her out of worse trouble had she not gone. Now she’s a lawyer in San Francisco, married to another lawyer, and has a blonde son who looks just like his father. I know this because she invited us to stay in her very charming Victorian house, at which we ungraciously arrived very late, and after having cocktails with a whole slew of other alumni.

7.15.2010: Napa California: John Putnam (1985)

On our way to Napa we picked up our first hitchhiker, Homegrown or, as the ladies call him, The Prince of the Redwoods, in Gaborville, CA. We had stopped at a gas station and were about to leave when he asked, “You hippies wanna give me a ride?” I kind of resent being called a hippie, because while I ride in a somewhat alternative vehicle, and while I do enjoy the beauty of nature, I don’t subscribe to what I feel is the ethos of hippyism. Whatever. Anyway, we gave him a ride across town. He loved the bus and told us that he wished he owned a school bus so that he could “drop acid and drive his children around.”

In Napa we arrived at John Putnam’s house, and briefly met his wife, Jennifer, his 6-month old baby, Emmett, and his dog Alligator T-Bone, who is merely referred to as T-Bone. We sat outside on his patio sipping the wine that he produces, 20 Gauge, as the California light faded into the golden hues of evening and he reminisced of the old days.

Many years ago, when he was living in Florida, he was helping out with a photo shoot for a British lingerie company in the Keys, and as the only “Yank” there, the crew kept razzing him about his inferior culture, intelligence, etc—in a friendly way. He decides to put and end to all of this nonsense and finds his old copy of the Canterbury Tales. He brushes up, goes into the work the next day, and after getting grief from the crew, launches into the intro. About a page and a half in, he asks, “Shall I continue?” to a mute response. No one gave him anymore trouble and furthermore his recital attracted the attention of not one, but two of the ladies. Dad said that John should donate money to the Tates-Tutwiler Scholarship Fund simply based on this story.

(Isabelle, Darcy, John, Gordon, Dad)

We moved over to the really cool apartment where John was putting us up, owned by his friend Gordon Huether, who regards himself as a “not-famous,” artist, which may or may not be true, that is, the not-famous part. That night, Isabelle, Dad, and I had what felt like a pretty rowdy night with John, Gordon, and Gordon’s friend Darcy, which consisted of drinking many bottles of Gauge. John let us leave the bus at the apartment and loaned us his much smaller 4x4 diesel truck, so that we wouldn’t roll backwards down the hills in San Francisco while visiting the many alumni there.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Images from the road, pre-Missoula

Adam Broussard, who we ran into near a random dam in the middle of nowhere in Idaho. He's from Eunice, has lived in Idaho for about 16 years, and told us that he had bear and mountain lion meat at his wedding. I tried to find some to buy, but it can only be procured by the bullets from your own gun.

Sally and Seth Carpenter, former ESA teachers, with their three children Adeline, Esther, and little Naomi. They're currently living in Idaho Falls, Idaho. We spent one night at their lovely house and had the most delicious chocolate mint cookies I think I've ever had.

The fellowship with the bus in front of the Grand Tetons.

A park we stayed in after leaving Liz Landry in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Dad and the elusive Liz Landry.

7.13.2010: Big Lagoon campsite, Humbolt County, California: Chris Richard (1993)

Chris Richard told us two amazing things. The first was that in one litter of puppies, there can be multiple fathers. I forget the second. Chris, maybe one can help me out with this one.... The dog fact came up because Ebo, Chris’ 13-year old beast came to hang out. One day, right after he had moved to Humbolt, he was sitting on the beach with some friends. A man walked up and said that a dog just had a litter of 12 puppies and did they want one? Chris and three of his friends did, and he picked the only yellow dog that didn’t have a curly tail (the mother was a type of Japanese guard dog)

Eventually, we came to the point that the story which Matt Rainey had told us about Chris and the Rio Grande in early June wasn’t entirely on target. I revise: Chris was walking back from the bathroom when he brushed against a cactus with his leg. He bent down to pick out the stickers, lost his balance, and put his hand down, right on another cactus. So to get his right hand out, he put his left hand down (and wouldn’t you know it!) onto another cactus plant. At this point, he falls backwards and gets stingers all over his back. Very painful. So he eventually manages to get up, walks back to camp, and wanders from group to group asking, “Do you have any tweezers?” “No, no,” they reply. He finally asks Mrs. Markwell, who takes a good look at him and realizes, with horror, how bad the situation is. She finds dad, who had previously told me that he had fortunately brought lots of tweezers in the first aid kit on the particular trip, and they get a group to start plucking the stickers out. Chris passes out. A week later, in Lafayette, Chris went to see a dermatologist who had to go back over his body and pull out the rest of the stickers. Unfortunately, his skin had grown back over many of them, so he had to make tiny incisions all over his back with a scalpel. The dermatologist ended up pulling out over a hundred more.
“At least you didn’t die,” was his parents’ response. Amazingly that wasn’t his last outing club trip.

Humbolt Country, at least what we saw, is beautiful, and we were especially impressed by the giant Redwood Trees. It can be an odd place though, Chris let us know. Recently, in the papers, a story was run about some bad LSD going around town. The people who had taken it would stand on the sidewalk and dive into the street thinking that it was a swimming pool. It wasn’t, but they kept getting up and doing it over again. Chris told us all of this over a delicious meal of speckled trout cooked in olive oil and lemon, herb seasoned fresh salmon, roasted potatoes, salad, rice, Italian bread (that I can’t spell), and beer from a brewery where Chris worked for awhile. Since then, he’s been off the sauce, although he may have a glass of champagne for toasting at Matt Rainey’s wedding in Louisiana in August.

7.12.2010 Eugene, Oregon: Chris Massari (1989)

We almost didn’t make it to see Chris. On the last hill on the way to his house, the bus decided that she was tired and couldn’t move anymore. So we just sat there in park for about five minutes, and I guess it was a good enough rest, so we were able to continue on. Chris drove us to lunch in his new sporty Jeep that he had just bought (Dad: “Is this a Hummer?”). Our second vegetarian lunch was literarily named Soylent Green. “Awesome,” said dad. After Chris graduated from Tulane, he married his sweetheart, Kendra, and the two of them moved all over the country: Vermont, San Francisco, Florida, Eugene. Twelve years later, they had Sam, who is now four, and loves big vehicles, including our bus. Turns out, their family recently visited ESA, had seen the bus on campus and took a tour of it then. This time, Sam sat in the driver’s seat and Dad showed him how to work everything, including the PA system. He told us to “sit down and shut up.” Just like a bus driver.

Before we met Sam and Kendra, who had spent the day blueberry picking, Chris took us on somewhat of a tour of Eugene, including stopping at a bank to let Isabelle deposit a check. We drove up into a park that was bursting with rhododendrons (ok, we saw a bunch of leaves) and we got there right as the sprinkler system got going. I have to admit that I dozed off in the car, so when we found Pre’s Rock, I was vaguely aware that this person had graduated from ESA, was a great runner, and died in a car accident. Most of this is true except for the ESA part. Anyway, Dad was into the memorial, and after considering how to take a picture with it, said, “Oh! This is how all the grade girls do it!” Isabelle and I have started a daily tally on how many times he compares himself to a woman. Our favorite might have been, “I feel just like a 9th grade girl!” after Emily Johnson offered to pick us up in a car in Portland.

(Dad posing with Pre as a teenage girl)

Chris now works at an almost brand-new hospital in internal medicine, but works on a salary so he doesn’t have to worry about whether his patients have health coverage or not. That said, he doesn’t think that the health care bill went far enough. I was surprised—I think he may be the first doctor that I’ve met with this opinion. This may be due to living in the south, because Chris said he was not alone in his thinking.

I’m really sad that we forgot to take a picture of the entire family, but here’s what Chris said about them, “We have so much fun, the three of us.”

7.10.2010: Portland, Oregon: Kim Powers Geist (1993), Jay Powers (1987), Ashley Flanagan (2001)

We really had a blast in Portland staying with Kim and her husband Greg and their baby Clay and their dogs Jasmine and Betty. Betty was so nice that she slept with me on the blow-up mattress…first time I think I’ve ever shared a bed with a dog.

When we returned from the beach we arrived to a kitchen in full swing. Their friends, Kevin and Mira, had brought supplies for Dark and Stormys, and I think we all had a few, then feasted on pulled-pork sandwiches, steamed kale, salad, corn, cherries, brownies, ice cream, hurricanes, and local brews. Jay showed up and began shower us with stories about work, ESA, New Orleans, snow balls, and his children—what Kim called “The Jay Show.” Love siblings. Here’s one:

Jay was living in San Francisco working on becoming a psychiatrist. He and a friend of his, who had cool dreadlocks, were driving around town and just pulled into a parking spot. A man driving his daughter pulls up next to him and starts shouting, “Hey! You took my parking spot!” So Jay thinks that he’ll use his training to reason with they guy: This parking spot doesn’t belong to anyone, you don’t want to do this with your daughter in the car, etc. Then the guy, who had been eating an ice-cream cone, launches it at Jay. With his super-fast reflexes, Jay swats back the cone which hits the guy’s car. The guy gets back in the car and drives away yelling. So Jay’s friend says “We should totally chase that guy.” “Yeah!” says Jay. So they leave the parking spot and take off after the guy and his daughter. At some point they realize the fallacy of this chase. Jay’s friend says “That guy totally assaulted you with that cone. We should file a police report.” The two of them head to the police station and report assault by ice cream cone and provide the license plate number. To this, the cop responds, “Yeah, we’ll totally look for that guy.”

Ashley Flanagan and her boyfriend, Zach, drove in from Eugene where she’s getting her MA in history (Greek and Roman) and teaching (hello Dr. White!) Western Civ to freshmen at the university. These kids, she told us, have no idea about anything about Western Civ. So this brought up the memory of Dr. White and his bricks, McIntyre and his ceiling, and dumb things students say in general. On a test Ashley gave, one student wrote, “without a telescope, humans would not know that the sun existed.” Hmm.

I think my favorite quote of the night came from Jay’s daughter, although she wasn’t there: “My butt is so cute it should be in the front. People would really enjoy seeing it.” She’s five.

Over the course of the two days that we stayed with Kim and Greg we found out that while she had been trouble in high school, these days her life is that of the professional working mother. She got her PhD in Pheonix, Arizona on something to do with spiders, which, she said, was really cool. She decided not to continue with life in academia, moved to Portland (one perk, her bro and his family would be around), and found a job doing environmental consulting and impact studies for an engineering firm. This job occasionally butts heads with her husband’s, who regulates water quality. And who rides not one, but three motorcycles.

7.10.2010: Ecola Beach, Oregon: Neil Prejean (1998)

The beach in Oregon means an entirely different thing than it does in Louisiana, which is staying out of the water because you’ll get cold, rather than filthy. But there you sit in a fine mist and watch the crazy surfers reduce themselves to puckered, red, shivering messes. I forgot to mention that it is intensely beautiful. Walking down to meet Neil, we realized that this was a momentous occasion—we had hit the Pacific Ocean at last. The day warmed up and we found Neil, his wife Miranda, and his 6-month old daughter Avalyn. I read somewhere that babies of all species have evolved to be irresistible so that their parents or caretakers don’t kill them or leave them to die. This is a bad intro to talking about Ava, but I found that while she was around and awake it was hard to focus on anything but baby.

Neil and his family had only recently moved to the area (suburb right out of Portland: “Like New Iberia is to Lafayette, sort of,” says Neil) from Colorado so that Miranda could start an intense Physician’s Assistant program, while she has a baby. She’s away from home all day and is sick of breast-pumping, although the school has provided her with her own room and refrigerator. Neil is still working for the aero-space engineering firm that he worked for in Colorado, although from home, where he can sit around in his pajamas, and they are none the wiser. He said that he’s the first to work remotely for the company and that they must really like him. While Oregon is no Colorado, there are plenty of farmers’ markets, outdoor activities, and they found a cool 100-year old house to live in. I hope it isn’t drafty in the winter.

Oh and Kim and Greg loaned us their car to get to the beach so that we could get back in time for the barbeque. Poor bus got left behind.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Portland, Oregon: Emily Johnson (2000) and Gabe Blackwell (1996)

We’re now leaving Portland after a busy two days of constant activity with a bevy of ESA alumni. I think the west coast is going to be hectic. Here we go…Emily Johnson picked us up from Kim Powers Geist’s house in the southeast quadrant. Emily’s been really our first veritable tour guide, sticking with us for a good 10 hours or so. We’re into picking up the habits of the natives so we asked Emily to take us to a vegetarian spot for lunch, although we did find out that Emily has forgone her vegetarianism. These days, she needs lots of protein to keep up with her career which includes personal training and yoga instructing. She did also let us know that there is such a thing as too much biking from her personal experience. Earlier in the year she had the problem of the inside of her knees having more muscle than the outside. Apparently this is a painful affliction.

After lunch we walked over to the Costello’s, the café where we found Gabe Blackwell at work. Although we’re some years younger, Gabe was one of those people who both Isabelle and I had known about, either from some reputation that he had that we’ve forgotten or the fact that he’s a fellow New Iberian. Gabe looks different from my hazy memory and I think it has to do with his hair. I remember it being black and him having lots of stubble but instead he’s clean shaven, clean cut, and almost a dirty blond. And he definitely doesn’t have a New Iberia accent. As we all know, the job market’s a bummer these days, so he’s been having a tough time finding a collegiate creative writing teaching position. So he works on his writing. He told us that he finished a novel set in Los Angeles in the 1930s and one of the characters is Raymond Chandler. Another is an actor that had an extremely large head and kept getting cast as a villain. Dad said he knew how the poor guy felt (hat size of dad: 8 ¼ and I’m not lying). Gabe has published several short stories and has a website that can be found by googling his name. Gabe got busy so we left, went to the smaller Powell’s bookstore on Hawthorne, and spent some time there waiting out the afternoon heat before we attacked the ominously named Mt. Tibor.

Emily had not informed us that as a mountain, in the animal world, Tibor would be a kitten that could barely open its eyes. Then there was belly dancing, Shakespeare, cocktails at Venerable Quandary, and some ridiculously good black cod at the socially conscious sushi restaurant, Bamboo. There, Emily told us an awesome story about how she spent 35 days walking on a pilgrimage from the Pyrenees in France to a shrine on the coast of Spain called something de Compostela.

That night, we went to bed thinking about how we were going to spend eight hours on the bus driving to and from coast of Oregon to hang out with Neil Prejean, and his wife and child on a cold beach.