Saturday, April 18, 2009

0103--Farewell to Lafayette

Some little friends came to the back porch to say goodbye on our last morning on at the cabin. We headed out Thursday, late morning, and arrived back to Buffalo Friday afternoon. It was hard to say goodbye to a place that has become so special to us.

0102--Joe Hall and the Louisiana Cane Cutters


After Pecan Island, we drove straight to Opelousas to see Joe Hall and the Louisiana Cane Cutters (http://www.myspace.com/canecuttersmusic). They were performing for a taping of "Swamp 'n' Roll," a regional television show about Louisiana music. You can check it out at http://www.kdcg.com/music/index.php#swamproll.

Before we left, Ron had connected on line with Dan Sanda, a guitarist with the band--and it turned out we both recognized (and Ron says, had met) Dan from the Blue Heron and Grassroots music festivals up here. Dan says he "lived at those festivals" for a few years. Had a chance to chat with him after the music wrapped up and will definitely look him up again on our next visit. He moved to Lafayette to get involved with the music scene there.

On a side note, they actually tape this Cajun/Creole television show at a Mexican restaurant called Casa Olé. Kind of surprising . . . but we were certainly happy for the terrific meal we had while watching the band. Totally delicious and much different than anything you can get around here. And, really, what a cool idea! We'd TOTALLY go out to a restaurant on a weeknight to see a band for an early show and have dinner/drinks. More places should do this--it really made dinner an EVENT.

0102--Sunset on Pecan Island

The sun was dropping by the time we were ready to head back to civilization.

0101--The Ones That (Fortunately) Got Away




This was just one of several alligators who found the fishing bobber totally intriguing--so much so that Ron had to move to other waters to try to catch FISH instead of ALLIGATORS. For sure, neither of us had seen anything like that. Fortunately, they'd let go of the bobber after Ron gave the line a sharp tug . . . I'm not sure what he'd have done if they refused to give up!

0100--The Crab

First catch of the day: A blue crab about the size of a dinner plate. This was one of four crabs Ron caught over the course of two weeks.

0099--Pecan Island Revisited



Ron wanted to take another crack at fishing on Pecan Island, so we headed back there on Wednesday morning. Sadly, we hadn't thought to log on the GPS the location of the spot he liked, so we wasted a lot of time looking for it--although we did end up seeing the tree full of birds seen here, so it wasn't a total wash.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

0098--Cypremort State Park




Spent much of Tuesday at Cypremort State Park on Vermilion bay, right off the gulf. Ron didn't have a lot of luck fishing, but it was sunny and beautiful.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

0098--Crawfish!


Ron picked up some fresh local crawfish (a mix of wild and farm-raised) for dinner last night. As the bag shows, they're actually from right here in the little town where we're staying. The final dish is crawfish etouffee--made with Lisa Sonnier's homemade sauce (she and her husband Rocky own the cabins where we are staying). Ron ate it with a big grin on his face, as you can imagine (and was nice enough to prepare me a garden burger for my dinner, too!).

0097--The Frog Capital of the World

Rayne, LA, is Frog City. From their web site:

"Frogs and Rayne have a relatively long history that dates back to the 1880s, when a gourmet chef named Donat Pucheu started selling juicy, delectable bullfrogs to New Orleans restaurants. Word of Rayne's frog delicacies spread like wildfire, and soon attracted the Weill Brothers from France, who started a lucrative business exporting frogs to restaurants. For years, world-renowned restaurants like Sardi's in New York boasted of offering frog legs from Rayne, Louisiana.

"The success of the Weill Brothers business helped put Rayne on the map as the Frog Capital of the World. In 1946, Rayne's froggy reputation was furthered when the International Rice Festival invited Rayne to host the first Frog Derby, an event where the prettiest women in town dressed frogs up in jockey uniforms and raced them. This event continues today; if you happen to be in the area on Labor Day weekend, you can still see it as part of Rayne's annual Frog Festival."

Rayne is also Louisiana's Mural city. Pair the two titles and you get a city covered in frog mural and sculptures. The one seen here is at the rear of an amphitheater next to the restaurant where we stopped for lunch. They were on the menu, but we both skipped the frog legs.

0096--Mouton Accordions



Stopped in to Mouton Accordions--Acadia's oldest accordion makers--to check out their incredible custom-made instruments. As seen in the top image, they're made by hand from a wide variety of woods with gorgeous inlays and available in every color you can imagine (and start at $2200). Greg Mouton showed us around and let Ron check out an accordion he had just finished--made in Rosewood with blond and purple stains.

Ron is seen here with the world's largest accordion--Mouton Music's Mardi Gras float (there's also a giant guitar float). A large number of the businesses in the area have their floats parked out in front of the stores. Here at the cabins, there's a GIANT crawfish float in the parking lot!

0095--Rain, Rain, Rain

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Rain was pouring down on Easter Sunday outside Angelle's Whiskey River Landing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

0094--Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie

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Angelle's Whiskey River Landing is in Henderson, LA, on the bayou side of the levee. It's an old dance club with a glassed-in dance floor that gives you an almost 360-degree view of the bayou (in this video, you can sort of see the cypress trees out there behind the band). They're open Sundays for live music from 4pm-8pm--and the place is always packed to the roof. The plywood dance floor is worn to a glossy shine from all the dancing. This Sunday, the band was Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie, who always put on an amazing show; every member of the band can play and sing their butts off. (Coincidentally, we ran into the only other couple who was dancing at Friday night's Corey Ledet show; they were collecting the cover at the door for this show. Nice people--and great dancers!)

093--Ron at Angelle's Whiskey Landing

video
Hey--my camera does stop-action video. Cool!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

092--Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys


video
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys at La Poussiere, a Cajun dance hall in Breaux Bridge, on Saturday night. (Sorry the video is so dark--but you can definitely hear how great the band sounds. You might be able to see it if you turn your monitor brightness way up.) La Poussiere has a HUGE dance floor that's packed with local dancers. The whole building shakes like there's an earthquake when things really get going!

0091--Leroy Thomas at the Fais-Do-Do

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Leroy Thomas played Saturday night in an outdoor pavilion next to a crawfish restaurant. We'd never been to this place before and had quite an adventure finding it for some reason--the GPS kept wanting to take us in what was clearly the wrong direction. Glad we made it, though! (And the restaurant was cute, too, so we went back this morning for the Easter buffet; Ron is now a devotee of their fried turkey.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

0090--Fred's in Mamou

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Is that daylight coming through the curtains? Yep, because it's breakfast at Fred's Tavern in Mamou . . . where the music--and dancing--starts at 9:00AM on Saturday. You can enjoy whatever cocktail you'd want to drink at that hour (we went the Bloody Mary route) and jostle for a place on the packed dance floor. (This video was taken at 9 sharp but, trust me, twenty minutes later it was shoulder to shoulder and you couldn't even see the band.)

Hosting the event is Tante Sue de Mamou, a 70-something firecracker who walks around with a bottle of cinnamon schnapps in a holster (she'll eagerly share it with you), and forbids kissing or cussing in the place ("it's a family establishment"). Tante Sue also advises you to keep your feet on the floor while dancing (no standing on the bar or jukebox) and to leave your food and beer on the table, because otherwise she'll have to mop up.

The place is insane. At 9:00AM. Only in Louisiana . . . which is why we love it!

0089--Corey Ledet

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Checked out Corey Ledet Friday night at a daiquiri bar, of all places. The band sounded awesome; sadly, though, there were a total of 15 people there (9 of whom sat outside on the patio). Also, the show's volume was totally out of control. Mind shearing! Even Ron (who most of you reading this will know spends every Saturday playing music that would leave most people deaf) was astonished at the levels. We ended up staying for only one set and both still had ringing ears this morning. Again, though, I have to say, the band totally rocked.

0088--Wedding Crashers

When we arrived back at our cabin from the Pecan Island trip, there was a big event underway in the large courtyard area the cabins surround. It turned out to be a rehearsal dinner.

We were about to skirt around it when Rocky Sonnier, who owns the cabins and the Cajun food/catering business run out of the main house, started yelling, "Buffalo! Buff-a-lo!!" He insisted we join the party and fill up plates from the kitchen (shrimp etouffee, tossed salad, potato salad, fresh bread--quite a spread).

There was also a live band starting, playing Cajun/Zydeco/Blues stuff--really good. We hung out for quite a while--but we also had our own agenda for the evening, so we cut out at about 9:30.

As a side note, though, Rocky said that one of the members of the band was the grandson of Amede Breaux, who wrote "Jolie Blon," the song that has become sort of the Cajun national anthem. I'm not sure it's true, but one of Breaux's grandsons is the accordionist for Beau Soleil, and his bio says he has musician siblings. And, to be fair, Rocky does seem to know everything and everyone involved in Cajun music.

0087--Bird on Sign

Just loved this bird, who was pretty upset that we were hanging out in its territory and flew around cackling.

0086--More Fishing




After stopping to buy some fresh bait (huge shrimp) in Cameron, Ron decided to give the fishing another try. This time was more successful and he landed an amazing 2.5-foot (maybe bigger) alligator gar. Weirdly, he also caught a huge crab! The area was just teeming with life (numerous alligators, fish jumping everywhere, a dozen kinds of birds circling).

0085--See You Later, Alligator

We turned around in Cameron and started heading back east toward Lafayette, when we encountered this lovely fellow taking a stroll across the road. He was close to 8 feet long, just to give you an idea of the scale. (No pun intended.)

0084--Rita Destruction

The Creole Nature Trail winds its way toward the coast and a (very) little town called Cameron. The industries here are fishing and offshore oil drilling. The town currently consists of a marine supply store, a gas station, a few bunkhouses, a bar, and the obligatory Family Dollar store. These are in pretty rough shape, but the rest of the structures in and around the city were clearly decimated by Rita. Boats are wrecked on the shore, cars are tipped over in the middle of fields, houses are shredded.

0083--Pecan Island

Headed southwest out of Lafayette Friday morning toward the gulf coast along the Creole Nature Trail, which winds its way from the bayou, across the Intracoastal Waterway, and on the the marshlands bordering the Gulf of Mexico. An incredible, desolate drive. Well, desolate except for the literally thousands of alligators (and birds, and fish, etc.).

Ron brought his fishing gear and dropped in a line at the spot seen here, where he had the alligators to keep him company. I walked up and down the road quite a ways while he fished and there were at least five alligators--often more--visible on each side of the road at all times. (The road is flanked by waterways and marsh on both sides for about 50 miles.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

0082--What Ron Would Do (Not)


I asked Ron to "pretend he saw a giant alligator" and his response was to take off running. I approve of this response . . . but it's not what he'd actually do. He'd try to feed it some snack crackers (or whatever was on hand) to make it do a death roll. Then, he'd say something like, "It's fine--he's just a baby" to me as I was backing up and reminding him that even if the gator didn't take all of him, it might settle for part of him.

0081--Lake Martin


Roseate Spoonbills nesting at Lake Martin.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

0080--Lake Martin

videoDid some other goofing around--shopping in Breaux Bridge (the town we're staying in), hitting one of out favorite junk/antique shops in Lafayette--but spent a good chunk of the day at Lake Martin. It was ridiculously knock-you-off-your-feet windy, but Ron had a good time fishing and I meandered around taking pictures. Also used my new pocket camera to take this video of an Egret catching and eating a crawfish.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

0079--Lafayette Rhythm Devils at Randol's

videoWent to Randol's tonight to check out the Lafayette Rhythm Devils--what a terrific venue and a terrific band. Lots of great dancers, too. We were surprised to see Eric Frey, who we know from the Red Stick Ramblers (see posts 009 and 015 of this blog) on stage playing bass for the band--a guest appearance. Also in the band was Yvette Landry, who we've seen in various incarnations of bands at Grassroots (Balfa Toujours, Courtney Granger). Had a couple drinks and more than a few dances to some really great music.

0078--More Avery Island Photos


0077--Avery Island

Visited Avery Island (the salt island where Tabasco Sauce is made) today. Skipped the Tabasco factory tour this year, but went to see the Jungle Gardens. Below is the long and short from their web site. (Edmund McIlhenny is the guy who invented Tabasco--if you look carefully, his name is still on every bottle.)

"When Edmund McIlhenny's son created the Jungle Gardens he added another ingredient to Avery Island, one that gardeners and nature lovers enjoy as much as the gourmets who relish the zesty taste that a few sprinkles of Tabasco sauce adds to the dishes before them.

"Ned traveled the world gathering greenery from every continent for the exotic garden he created on a 200-acre section of Avery Island. White-tailed deer, alligators, and thousands of herons are among the wildlife you may see in the Jungle gardens. The herons are descendants of seven young snowy egrets that Ned McIlhenny captured in 1892 and raised in flight cages built over a lagoon. The birds were on the brink of extinction because their plumes were popular decorations for ladies' hats. The egrets fly to South America in the winter and return to their Avery Island home every year."

This is mating season for the egrets, so we were able to see literally THOUSANDS of them.

0076--Ron also Loves Cracklin

What is there really to say about this?

0075--Ron Loves Kittens


This Ron's new girlfriend--and little orange kitten who was bonding with him last night over some shared hush puppies. She sat outside our door and cried for him for several minutes after we called it a night.

0074--Mulate's


I ate dinner at the cabin, but Ron saved room for crawfish etouffee at Mulates. Crawfish are in season right now and Ron says the flavor difference is remarkable. He never really loved them until this visit.

Should make it all the more fun (well, for him, I guess) to go to the Crawfish Fais Do Do in Henderson this weekend--to see one of our favorites, Leroy Thomas!

Anyway, saw Jay Cormier at Mulates and did some dancing. I tried a "Cajun Punch" . . . which is some kind of delicious cocktail I'm not sure I could describe.

0073--Pool and Daiquiris


Ron is out fishing in the bayou behind the cabin, so I figured I'd take a few minutes to update the blog, since I missed it last night.

Yesterday started out running a few errands . . . which was pretty successful until we hit a major traffic jam (due to construction). Sat in that for a while, then noticed a bar offering dozens of daiquiri flavors. That sounded a lot better than sitting in traffic. Turned out there were pool tables, too, so we ended up staying for five or six games.

Happily, we also spotted a poster in the place announcing a performance on Saturday by Corey Ledet (a great local accordionist)--so we'll be back!

Monday, April 6, 2009

0072--Arrived!


Ahh. Here we are. The top photo is the view from our back screen porch this evening.

Got a whole carload of groceries and made a good dinner--what a relief! After three days of greasy restaurant food (i.e., the only vegetarian thing on the menu is grilled cheese), it was about time for something fresh, delicious, and NOT grilled.

Settled in for a low key night, then will tackle the world at large tomorrow.

0071--Margaret's Grocery and Market


On old Route 61 in Vicksurg, MS, we stopped at Margaret's Grocery and Market. It's clearly defunct now (and, sadly, not being maintained), but here's what the posted signs said:

"Margaret's Grocery and Market, The Home of the Double Headed Eagle [???] is owned by Margaret Rogers Dennis and her husband Reverend H. D. Dennis, who is responsible for the architectural look of the place. Dennis was born in 1916 in Rolling Fork, MS, and married the widow Rogers, his fifth wife, it 1979. Most of his structural additions to the store are built of cinder blocks and painted red and white. The interior of the market/church is decorated with elaborate candelabras and chalices as well as conventional shelves for groceries. Reverend Dennis also owns a church bus, outfitted with a pulpit and pews." (This bus is also on site and similarly decorated.)

The picture here includes less than half of the total expanse of the complex, which extends far out beyond the actual building itself.

0070--Highway 61 Blues Museum

Stopped in Leland, MS, to check out the Highway 61 Blues Museum, which is definitely a work in progress but still very interesting.

There, we met Pat Thomas, son of the legendary James "Son" Thomas. Pat plays all his father's songs and sounds remarkably like his dad. He showed us around the museum and played a few songs for us. Pat represented The Mississippi Delta Blues Society of Indianola, MS in this year's International Blues Competition in Memphis, TN.

The town of Leland was also the boyhood home of Jim Henson--and Kermit the Frog was born on Deer Creek, which runs through the town. The Cohen brothers also filmed parts of "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" here.

This all makes it sound rather idyllic . . . it's not. In the heyday of juke joints, Leland was regarded as "the hellhole of the Delta" because of the railroad town's wall-to-wall bars, drunks, prostitutes, etc. In the 1970s, major efforts were made to clean up the town. By all accounts it worked--at least for a while. Today, there are some lovely homes on the river, but the rest of the town is filled with, well, basically shacks. Tiny (two-room), railroad houses that are universally falling down, boarded up, and/or half burned down. The lots and streets are full of trash, abandoned cars, and people eager to help you with your drug purchase. (Here's to the community activists who are still trying to make something of this town--they are clearly battling overwhelming odd and crushing poverty.)

0069--Highway 61 Revisted (by Us)


After leaving Greenville, MS, this morning we returned to Highway 61 (the Mississippi Blues Trail). Ron, naturally, needed an iconic photo with his accordion to commemorate the trip.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

0068--WINNERS!


The town we are staying in has a few blues joints, but these are located on what Ron called the "cusp of f*cked" side of town. If you know Ron, who is generally fearless in any urban environment and determined to see live music almost no matter what, you know this is saying something very, very bad.

Fortunately, the Mississippi shore is dotted with casinos, so we figured we needed to check one out to get the real experience. Started on the video blackjack, then spied the Hee-Haw penny slots; it boded well. We left up $3.81 (guess we won't be quitting our day jobs) and several free drinks. Nice.

0067--Mississippi


Took a little detour to a state park on the Mississippi. Nothing remarkable other than a giant river and gale force winds that made it almost impossible to even stand up.

0066--The Crossroads



If Ron comes back and is suddenly an even better accordionist, this is probably why.

0065--The Mindfield

Next stop: “The Mindfield,” the creation and life’s work of Brownsville, TN, artist Billy Tripp. He began building it in 1989 and plan for it to continue to evolve until his death, at which point it will become the site of his interment.

Photos can't really do this work justice. It covers almost an acre and is an incredibly kinetic work, with pieces dinging and swinging with every breeze. Complex pieces of metal create text throughout the sculpture, and painted wood pieces (and a hand-assembled water tower) add to the assemblage. We stood in silence, taking it all in, for a long, long time.

According to Roadside America, "Included in the network of steel are individual pieces representing various events and periods of Billy’s life, especially the death of his father, Rev. Charles Tripp, in 2002. The latest addition, a water tower salvaged from a defunct factory in Western Kentucky, was dismantled, transported to Brownsville, and reconstructed single-handedly by the artist. It now stands as a memorial to Billy’s parents as well as a testimonial to his current life, his belief in the inherent beauty of our world, and the importance of tolerance in our communities and governmental systems."

0064--Albino Squirrels (Maybe)


Headed out from Kentucky into Tennessee this morning--on our way to Kenton, TN, home of the albino squirrels. Or are they? Apparently there's some contention because some of them have dark eyes, not pink eyes. In any case, they are all over the town . . . but apparently not enough of a tourist draw to keep many of Kenton's businesses open, unfortunately.

For more on the white squirrel controversy, see:
http://www.roadsideamerica.com/set/squirrels.html

Saturday, April 4, 2009

0063--Bill Monroe Birthplace

This didn't show up on any maps, but Ron spotted a little sign for the birthplace of Bill Monroe--so we HAD to go check it out. After all, he's the only person ever to be inducted into the Bluegrass, Country, AND Rock and Roll Halls of Fame.

It's in a tiny, tiny, town (TINY!) called Rosine. The Barn Jamboree was a hall where Monroe played on many occasions. 

On the way back to the highway, we were listening to Conor Oberst's song "Sausalito," which contains a line about "highway shrines where pilgrims disappear." Couldn't help but think about this humble tribute to old Bill Monroe . . . and his impact on virtually every kind of music that followed.

0063--Licoln's First Home

Abraham Lincoln was born nearby in Nolin, KY, but this was the first home he said he remembered living at. As a child, he was reputedly rescued from drowning by a neighbor boy. The creek he nearly drowned in: Knob Creek, namesake to a brand of bourbon in which many people I know have also nearly drowned. (Sub sole nihil novi est, huh?)


0062--Ron Makes his Mark

Ron took the opportunity to hand dip his own bottle of Maker's Mark in their characteristic drippy-red seal. 

0061--Marker's Mark Distillery


Right down the road from Heaven Hill is the Maker's Mark Distillery (a much better stop). Took a great tour through the distillery, bottling, and aging facilities. Ron is shown with one of the actual vats of mash . . . which they weirdly encourage us to dip our fingers in and taste, telling us how to determine the age of the mash by taste (ours was at day two of the three-day process). Then, we went through one of the many barrel houses, where the bourbon is stored for 5.75 years (and rotated by hand) in charred oak barrels before being tasted to see if it's ready for bottling. If not, it may stay in storage for up to 7 years, until it's perfect. We also got to taste the raw, distilled bourbon-ready spirit (before aging). Trust me; stick with the aged stuff; they call the raw spirit "white dog" for a reason.

0060--Wow.

Not much needs to be said about this. *sigh*