Friday, October 27, 2006

back in seattle - probably where i belong after all

yall. i had a set back in my quest for my southern identity... and i may need to do more than read "all the king's men" to counter this.

it all started on the monday night i first got to baton rouge, but at the time, i didn't see it just yet. the hadnots had me and my dad over for supper. they served a tasty meal: chicken and dumplings, black-eyed peas, green beans with pork fat... it was real good. well, i was dipping outa second helping of dumplings in my bowl when our host cautioned me, "make sure you save some room for some dessert! we got mincemeat pie in the kitchen!"

(ok. taking a break from the narrative, let me list the problems with this scenario: #1- as yall probably know, i don't eat dessert. #2- my dad doesn't eat dessert. #3- it aint good southern form for a guest to turn down dessert- especially both of the guests. #4- do you know what mincemeat pie tastes like? i like eating everything. but this aint anyhow part of the everything that i like to eat. my mom used to make it when i was little, and i hated it then too. in fact... when our host said the words, "mincemeat," that taste came back to me - and it was weird, cause i'd forgotten that mincemeat pie existed- for serious)

check out the picture... now check out this recipe-

i am not even sure what it is up in there that makes it taste so bizarre. i need to lay out all the ingredients side by side in a row and taste em all separately. they put so much gunk up in the dang pie you'd need to do a chemical analysis probably. and its so sugary and syrupy sweet combined with this earthy biting taste to it, like a pecan pie run amok - right off the road and into the ditch. for the life of me i can't describe this thing... but it's only with keeping on eating it that it really gets to you - real water-torture-like.

well, i had to bite the bullet. i sacrificed my sugar ban for the common good (for my dad and for our southern heritage, or mine at least. my dad's people are from the quaker oat (and corn) fields of the midwest); but here's the kicker, this sacrifice of my 8-year-old sugar ban wasn't even for something i like! (why couldn't it've been cheesecake?)

and i was served a full quarter of that pie tin. i swear. it was bigger than the moon. after i reached my saturation level, i finally resorted to eating only the crust, (i like pie crust), and i left a small pile of the gooey interior in a corner of my plate. left me down-right demoralized. that's what it did to me.
well... if that had been all... but this story continues, see, and pieces fit together that makes a picture of something about myself i wasn't wanting to see.

well... baton rouge is different than seattle- and you can be up in the ihop eating, and a nice old lady two tables behind you- off to the right-hand side, eating some pancakes with strawberries and a dog poo clump of whip cream, can join your conversating with nobody saying or thinking nothing out of the ordinary. and so it was. me and my sister were in the ihop, and we were discussing the sad case of wilbert rideau, who life magazine once called the most reformed man in prison. its a case of a 19 yr-old black man killing a white woman in 1961 and getting sent to death row by an all-white jury, although the murder was not premeditated. (see his website here - and the story of his eventual release. wikipedia also has an interesting summary.)

well, my dear sister was in a moment of corn-fusion and could not remember wilbert's name- so our table neighbor interjected, "his name is rideau!" my sister didn't seem at all surprised by the intrusion into our personal conversation; (we coulda been talking about something private!) she just answered, "yeah! that's his name," and the conversation continued... and this kinda thing happens everywhere - especially the grocery line at the wal-mart. people just talk to each other and say hello and comment on the weather, the upcoming election, your purchases, how the lsu football team knocked the socks off fresno state, and how nice your fake diamond fluer-di-lis ring looks on your pinky finger. if you tried all that in seattle you might get hit upside the head with a can of postum.

well our table neighbor was no different, and we chatted for a while, and eventually the topic came round to the mincemeat pie from monday night previous. she confirmed that mincemeat was indeed a southern dish and used to be made with real meat - and how good it tasted poured over hot italian meatballs. well, after talking on the subject for a while and feeling real friendly with her (i never knew my grandmothers) i decided to confide in her that i hated the stuff. she responded with a disconcerting stare - kinda poker-faced, as if she was thinking something she didn't wanna say.

but finally she did speak, deciding on a semi-neutral comment, "you just used to all that bland food you eat out there." (i'd told her i live in seattle now).

well, this shoulda been clear enough warning for me to change the topic, but instead it got me a little on the defensive side of things, and i explained that i liked spicy foods, asian food, thai food, lao food, crawfish, tony chachere's, jalepenos in a jar, tabasco; i mean, its all part of who i am - you are what you eat kinda thing- but she continued to give me a rather blank stare.

so i took it a step further. and this is true for so many of us,--so don't you, mr. and ms. blog reader, sit back in your chair (all 3 of you that will actually read this far in this entry) and think that its just me that don't know when or how to shut up, cause sometimes - when you're trying to defend yourself, and i mean all of us, you say just the wrong thing and it gets you deeper and deeper in that swamp of a mess you already got yourself into by opening your big trap in the begin with and that's what happened to my sorry self right there in the ihop on college drive in baton rouge louisiana usa.

so here's what i said: "well, i don't like bland food, i just don't like sweet things. mincemeat - it's just too rich for me." (and if i'd just left it there... why did i have to say more??)

"like pralines..." i continued, (and you gotta say it with the right pronunciation if you're from the south; it's not 'praw-lines' but 'pray-lines')

" ... i don't like pralines. they're just too sweet!" i said.

well, her face just dropped and i could see the pancake still in her mouth- and immediately i recoiled into my stupidity - but i had nothing left to say to get me back on firm southern dirt. and i can't express to you the magnitude of my comment. (but i'll try) i mean, pralines are a louisianian's birthright. it's their heart and soul, their joie de vivre, their memories of hearth and home, the good days and the bad, its their hand-carved pirogue under the moon and the stars, their bon ami and their chere - their mother and's their blood.

after a second of pause she finally replied,

"i'm mortified."

and still i had nothing i could say. as we strolled out the ihop, i said goodbye, wished her a good day, thinking the whole time that i knew what she thought of me, and left with a sinking realization that i've been away too long. the whole thing brings my credibility as a southerner into question. yep. i'm bout as southern as a crawdad. i still say yall, and i like red beans and rice. i say pin like pen, and i caught aint cot. so what does that make me? i mean, i will always call baton rouge my home, but will baton rouge always claim me as hers?

yall gotta check out the pralines on this page. make some and send them to the fourth row, second table by the end at the ihop in baton rouge on college drive- cause my little old table neighbor is sittin there waiting for em; her mouth's still hanging open in shock.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

last day in baton rouge

kone brought this massive red drum for us to eat. he caught it off the coast of florida proving that he is a very capable fisherman. (the fish fought old-man-and-the-sea-style). this is right before the big fish lost its head, so kone's smile looks somewhat maniacal, don't you think? he also brought a cooler full of other fish (that he, his wife, and kids all caught). we were generous in sharing the joy of freshly dead fish with friends.
and this here is kone's cooking, deep fried fish (seasoned to perfection) and stir fried veggies...
...proving that despite appearances, kone is also very capable at making some good food. as i always say, "just do it."

and i am proving that i am very capable at eating some good food.

Monday, October 23, 2006

american airlines

lv new orleans 300pm - flt 2350
ar dalla ft worth 435pm

lv dallas ft worth 525pm - flt 1925
ar seattle tacoma 730pm

Saturday, October 21, 2006

calling baton rouge

kone (pronounced gone) came to visit (he lives in florida now) and we went touring around baton rouge: (captions are below the photos)

xiengkone vongkoth

the state capitol- built by huey p. long; the tallest state capitol in the nation. huey p. long was gunned down in the back hallway, and he died 2 days later. the bullet holes are still there in the marble walls. huey long was then buried on the capitol's front lawn.

mississippi river bridge. that little dark mark is huck finn swimming. huey p. long built this bridge. he was a great man. everyone (except dr. weiss who shot him) loved him dearly. as he said, "every man a king" and "a chicken in every pot."

the uss kidd parked on the mississippi river. my brother used to work here a long time ago. for more info see

kone is panhandling here... relaxed style.

the levee - (they gotta put baton rouge on there in case people get confused and think they're already at st. louis)

an oak tree... this is right next to the old state capitol...

we took a quick trip down to new orleans. it is still kinda a mess down there, but that's okay, cause kone came on this little trip prepared.

the dome of the old state capitol - huey p. long didn't like this building - he said it had rats in it.

me by a window in the old state legislature room. kinda dark... shoulda used a flash...

louisiana is known for a lot of things - its food, its music, its hospitality, mardi gras, and also its politics. huey p. long is a big piece of that puzzle. for more on this fascinating man of the people, see the review of his life at notice the last words he uttered.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


i used to really like the rain. and now i remember why:

louisiana rains comes down hard and fast (these pictures it aint so bad; sometimes you wouldn't be able to see cross the street- and cars on the freeway hafta pull over to the shoulder so they won't crash and die.) and the rain here has sound too (thunder and lightening - and sometimes it knocks the power out so you get to light the kerosene lanterns and walk around in the dark thinking maybe there's ghosts in the closets) and wind blowing (woosh! woosh!) and the clouds are all these colors of gray (not just that same ol' dirty bath water gray you get in seattle). yeah, seattle doesn't rain. or whatever it does do aint nothing like rain... it's more like a water torture or something.

i'm fixin to go to sleep. i can sleep good when it rains out.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

in the mouth of 2 or 3

i don't know - maybe nobody but 3 people are reading my blog at this point, but for you 3, i want to give some supporting testimony to my feelings about kite runner (in the mouth of 2 or 3 kinda thing). i swear, i only found these entries after my initial blog entry, but the similarities b/t my comments and theirs are striking...

read this from julie, stay-at-home mom:
but what's up with the comment secti0n? how did it become about harry potter? weird people out there...

and then from "oh the joys" (and please excuse her use of the less polished pieces of english cutlery to slice through a topic; also, a warning... she doesn't like another fan favorite- a ny times bestseller that i won't mention here... just read her review. hear her out. i've never read the book, so i can't say anything about it.) and notice her love of wallace - and she is from the south. i am from the south. i bet we'd be friends.

but as far as kite runner goes, i promise not to bring up the sad poor book again (even though the author made millions off the thing, i still feel inclined to call it poor...)

on to the next book (this one i am currently reading - i'm on page 106):

greg prince's "david o. mckay" book is the most fascinating piece of writing i've encounterd all year. bushman is interesting, but this is also of superb quality, and a much easier read; with unusually high suspense and intrigue! amazing insights into pres. mckay and his administration... get the book now and begin reading! it's non-stop thrills & excitement!

besides greg is coming to town for a visit. contact cindy for more info on this. she knows everything.

my other books: the backslider by levi peterson. this is a most refreshingly disturbing novel, recommended to me - and borrowed (a sorry year and a half ago) from jenni nelson. she has urged me to read it, and i finally did. it's as good as french toast on a sunday afternoon.

also, "the heartless stone: a journey through the world of diamonds, deceit and desire." a good read - although i shouldn't read this cause i am already anti-diamond; it's like strauss said, you should never encourage the brass section or you won't be able to hear your cell phone, or whatever that quotation is... i never know exactly when it comes to quotations... i get confused... spring back, fall forward kinda thing.

also, i am listening to peace like a river by leif enger on cd. i am on disc 4. anybody read this?

and i got me some plans to get robert penn warren's all the kings men. (sarah, if this is your new choice for book club, i am sorry... you can still pick it) well, i have been meaning to read it for some time. deep down i am louisiana, and i need to reclaim my soul. this book will assist in bringing me one step closer to my dream of becoming one with the dirt, clay, and mud of the state where i was(n't) born... the snowy cotton, sweet magnolias, and creole melodies.... mossy old oaks... my evangeline....

for more info on this important piece of prime real estate (state), and the words (referenced above) of our beloved state song, see:

yall should come check us out down here. unlike the rest the country, i just ate red beans and rice, boudin balls, hush puppies, and jalapenios stuffed with crab meat for supper. yall aint never seen that before.


Monday, October 16, 2006


i told you it's in my dna--

rye cracker on a pat of butter:

this is casper. my new best friend. he used to hate me, now he follows me everywhere:

Sunday, October 15, 2006

i did not like "the kite runner"

i did not like "the kite runner." i like that theme for a novel, but due to the sophomoric writing (think work and the glory, namesake) and the heavy-handed sensationalism, i can't encourage anyone to jump on the proverbial bus and be taken for a ride. (and hassan? the afghan haley mills; he's so unbelievably good, i am led to ask ridiculous questions- like: is the author christian?)

many found the book to be disturbing. i found it to be gross; not because i felt bad for the characters and the pain they suffered - because to me, the characters never seemed real. but instead, i was surprised by how far (and gross) this author would go to compensate for his poor writing. this is a problem with some modern writers. it's all been said and done, we are rarely shocked anymore by anything - so modern fiction's gotta push it to the edge and be down-right vile and disgusting to get our attention. so the kite runner goes for the easy punch and of course, moves some to tears-

while people like me roll our eyes and look back to writers from yesteryear, writers not so inclined to set up the dominos in such an obvious and overstated fashion. and i won't even comment on the "cultural awareness" the book offers our geographically illiterate america (how many of us can say "that is a poorly written book" in 2 languages?) but i think i would get more culture from a postcard.

but i am not one to identify a problem without offering solutions. so here are three suggested titles - similarly themed, but well-written and not "over the top" and "into the frying pan."

a separate peace by john knowles; short, easy read. you'll see the similarities immediately, but this book portrays real characters and creates real tension. i read this book years ago - but it has stayed with me. it has a sequel of sorts, but i never read it. i think i tried once, but some books don't need a sequel. (can you imagine a sequel to "a prayer for owen meany?")

atonement, by ian mcewan, winner of the booker prize; interesting thing about this author - he was a victim of our war on terror. he was supposed to speak in seattle and was detained at the border- missed his appointment completely. this led him to quip, "homeland security is making america safe from british novelists." anyway - one of my favorite books of all time.
see the story in:

anne tyler's "saint maybe." my favorite author. this woman can write a story. (and she has never resulted to sensationalism either. her stories could really happen.) but check this book out. it is one of her most moving - and the characters are instantly likeable. i have read all of her novels except her latest and "searching for caleb." i don't know why i've never read that book. it sits on my shelf, waiting... and waiting... and waiting...

feel free to comment. i can take it.

Saturday, October 14, 2006