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.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Missoula, Montana: Jason Collins (1992)

Beat this: Jason Collins reads D’Aulaires’ book of Greek mythology to his seven-year-old daughter at bedtime. His wild two-year-old, Michael, is somewhat too young to listen and busy jumping in puddles anyway. Jason and his wife, Ginger, only recently moved to Missoula from Baton Rouge, after Ginger accepted a job at the University of Montana, forging the path for the new Department of Speech Pathology. This works for Jason as well because he can work from almost anywhere most of the time, since after learning to use email, he started a software consulting company, Mammoth Computers (?) He does need to fly back and forth to Louisiana about once a month, since at the moment most of his clients live in Louisiana. Speaking of clients, he was hired by a school in Baton Rouge which is getting some sort of reality television makeover, which Jason will have to be on site for this month, and thus may become the next reality show star.

Ginger and Jason had Dad, Isabelle, and I over for buffalo burgers and pie, and offered us wine or beer, both from local companies, so we ended up having a great region-specific meal. Pie, Jason told us, was how he ended up marrying Ginger. Either Bobby Manuel or Robert McMann was dating Ginger’s neighbor and thought that Jason and Ginger were made for each other or maybe only that it’d be really convenient to have them date. Ginger helped out the case by making lots of pies and Jason started spending the time that he would normally use to go running to eat pie. Not that you could tell, today anyway. But maybe he got back into shape by chasing after his son (who kept us entertained by escaping on his tricycle).

Denver Part 2: Jennifer King Barnard (1988)

The next morning, we watched North Korea lose only to be sent home and probably shot. I got hyped up about running around the cute little park in Josh’s neighborhood, left dad to do all his texting and facebooking on his pride and joy—what he calls his “igod—“ and ending up mostly wheezing in the mile high city.

Jennifer King picked us up and brought us to a little bar and grill, I think it was called the Pearl Street Grill, where I was amazed to see a Nicoise Salad on the menu. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been able to order one…I think it’s been too long since I’ve been out of the south. Anyway, Jennifer is the kind of woman that I wish I could be, however I’m not sure that I’m cut out of the same material. She’s one of the clearest and cleanest speakers I’ve ever met (and by cleanest I mean that she uses no unnecessary words), career-driven, sharp, motivated, exudes confidence, and knows precisely who she is and what she wants.

After graduating from LSU, she moved to Colorado, pretty much sight unseen, and eventually ended up working in software sales. She moved into software and operational management consulting for firms world-wide, which translates to traveling back and forth from Italy several times a year. For many years, Jennifer told us, her life was pretty crazy busy and she was traveling for work more often than not. However these days, she’s trying to slow down a little bit and spend more time with her dogs, her cabin, and her new husband.

Here’s their story: She put her condo up on the market and was beginning to house shop, however, her condo sold more quickly than she anticipated, so she and her dog ended up renting in an apartment building. Her dog soon became interested in another dog living on the same floor and they liked to bark at each other. Eventually the owners met, the dogs started going on walks together, and their masters decided that they liked each other at least as much as their dogs did, and decided to get married. So Jennifer ended up moving into a house with not one but two dogs and a new husband. So Jennifer’s senior roast, which she said she hated, proved untrue: she has not been married and divorced five times.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Denver Part 1: Josh Plumley (1995) and Beau Fleming

I know I've been remiss in posting lately, and I'll blame it on lack of internet (not entirely true) and the overwhelming draw that Missoula has to sit back and forget all responsibilities.

We found out that while eastern Kansas is just lovely, western Kansas is as flat and relentless as everyone says it is. So when dad said, "Look Katie, I think those are the Rockies!" I told him "No way, those are just the bottoms of clouds." I hadn't seen these kinds of mountains in some years, and they're just unreal as they rise from out of the plains of Kansas.

Josh Plumley met us at his house that evening and we walked to his neighborhood sushi restaurant which had a really odd western name that sounded more like an Irish Pub, but great sushi. There he introduced us to his wife, Alissa, and her mother, Phyllis. Alissa is one of the friendliest people I've ever met and made us feel incredibly welcome in their home (Josh did too, but he has nothing on his wife). Their story is that they work for separate companies in technology sales but had to communicate with each other fairly often via telephone. After (and I'm shaky on this fact) about two years of talking, they finally met at a conference and turned out to Alissa's surprise that "Josh wasn't an old man!" They spent the entire conference together and that was that.

On another note which may be of much interest, horror, or relief, depending on the audience, ESA as of next year is banning the practice of the students' favorite way of embracing the culture of Europe. That is, drinking in the British pubs and Parisian bistros. Goes for the teachers as well. Well we got to talking about this development to Josh and his take was "Probably for the best," and told us this story:

Josh and a friend of his had a couple of drinks and were walking back to the hotel when they were lured into an establishment by the promise of dancing girls. The two of them were escorted by a man down a flight of stairs into a room where they sat down by themselves. They ordered drinks from the man, which he brought over, and told them, to their horror, that they owed 600 pounds. Then the man walked out of the room. In shock, the two of them sipped on their drinks and decided that they were screwed. Next the dancing girls entered the room and provided a performance. The man returned and told them that they owed another 600 pounds. They were worried that not only would they not be able to pay, but they might not get out of there alive. Once again, the man walked away and they were alone in the room. So they decided that they better make a run for it before he came back and charged another 600 pounds for sitting there.

They escaped unscathed and if you think about it, got away with free drinks and a free show.

We got back to the the house after dinner and Beau Fleming showed up for a few drinks. I had a technology crisis and was dealing with my computer at that point, so I didn't get to hear his story. What I did gather is that he's a psychiatrist and has had some interesting patients. Dad let me know that it was too bad that I didn't talk to Beau because he's "really interesting and smart." Maybe dad'll write a post.