Friday, February 25, 2011

You Are Cordially Invited Under Penalty of Contempt of Court to...

Well, well, well, just like the federal government sends you their New Year's greetings in the form of income tax forms, anything coming from the state has got to be equally not welcomed. And, as you know, they do invite you in such a loving, caring way it kinda chokes you up inside to be a citizen of these YOU-nited States. You can RSVP if you'd like, but the state is really expecting you to come. As a matter of fact, excuses for not attending your civic duty will only be accepted by a written note from your doctor, your lawyer, your travel agent, or... your Momma!

Oh and please try to remember to get to the courthouse on time or a little bit early to get the better parking "options." There will be no tolerance for parking violations which are strictly enforced by our fine police department. There can be no parking on paved surfaces, even partially, and no double parking or parking against traffic. All cars parked on our lawn will immediately towed away at the jurors' expense.

We shouldn't have to remind y'all about our dress code. No shorts or tank tops, flip flops or peddle pushers, no bikinis, g-string underwear, untied shoes and certainly no pierced body jewelry. And since Jeremy Shockey has been released from the Saints roster, please refrain from wearing anything with an "88" on it.

As for what you can bring into our highly secured lobby, there's no guns, knives, billy clubs, tazers, sharp objects, hair pins, hair picks, bobby pins, church veils, doilies as hats, nail files, nail clippers, suspenders, garter belts, pointed black brassieres, ( also covered under the dress code! ) brass knuckles, stiletto heals or blue suede shoes. No scissors, rocks or paper heavy enough to be used as a paper cutting device.

All of these rules and regulations makes you wonder exactly what kind of party is being thrown and whose attending. I don't know. It makes you wonder who needs to be told to dress appropriately, to not park on the lawn and leave your weapon of choice at home. How more obvious can this be? It's a Courthouse, for heavens sake!

It just seems we all might take some sort of pride in participating if it all wasn't presented in such a punitive way. It should be a privilege to be a part of our legal system ensuring equal justice with equal representation under the law. To be there deciding a person's innocence until proven guilty. It is our democratic way of life. It is what soldiers have fought and died for to protect. That's really special and a big responsibility as an American.  Somehow it all has been turned into a burdensome drudgery everyone tries like hell to avoid including me. Instead of being a positive force, it kinda puts a sour taste in everyone's mouth.

Of course, since I have to be there, I might as well make it work for me. So, I called the courthouse to ask them if I could bring some pencils and a sketchbook to draw in. Lord knows there will be a wide range of "subject matter" to chose from. The official statement was that it was acceptable... but only if I draw quietly and not disturb my fellow jurors.

See, a positive approach to the problem. There is, still, after all these years, a Santa Claus, a Jiminy Cricket, a Tinkerbell, an Easter Bunny and a Loop Garoo!

Now, what is it they say about lemons?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Five and Twenty Blackbirds...

Yeh, I almost forgot about the Great Backyard Bird Count that began yesterday. I've been doing this annual weekend count since I lived in California. Just 12 left hours to go! I suppose there's been a flurry of activity in Cornell Lab's Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity as the staff makes sure every technical detail is in place to begin accepting and displaying data from what they hope will be more than 100,000 checklists during the count. They're ready to start receiving everyone's backyard count! Tally birds for at least 15 minutes starting tomorrow and enter your checklist at Tell at least 10 friends or family members so we can make history with the most comprehensive count in our 14-year history! For me, here's this weekend's take:

    • 2 Great Blue Herons ( I rarely see two at one time! )
    • 46 Robins ( they always return each November and around this time return north! )
    • 7 House Finches ( love their song... it says,"Spring." )
    • 15 Brown Nuthatches ( our fearless staple that will feed from your hand if have the patience to invite them. )
    • 16 Carolina Chickadees ( our regular staple )
    • 7 Crows ( only see them at harvest time and winter, rarely after that! )
    • 10 Eastern Blue Jays ( Smart, but aggravating bird because they have many calls and one imitates a hawk perfectly which scatters all the smaller birds from the feeder. )
    • 15 Tufted Titmouse ( our regular staple )
    • 64 Goldfinch ( they always hit the feeder around November and unfortunately leave just as the males complete their mating colors. )
    • 23 Northern Cardinals ( We have about a dozen paired off and one female always sets up shop in our hydrangea plant. )
    • 5 Juncos ( Visitors every winter scratching away at the fallen leaves. )
    • 10 Bluebirds ( We already have three pair setting up shop in the houses and it is still February! )
    • 5 Mockingbirds ( our regular staple )
    • 8 English sparrows ( They kill bluebirds in the nest and take over the box. Not a native! )
    • 2 Pine Warblers
    • 7 Red Breasted Woodpeckers ( our regular staple )
    • 2 Eastern flycatchers ( They're many species, but you can tell a flycatcher because of the tail bobbing up and down. They're visitors each winter.)
    • 25 Red-winged Blackbirds ( They like swampy areas, but I only see them in the late winter at the feeder )
    • 4 Brown-headed Cowbirds
    • 1 Snowy Egret ( Pierre, our cocker spaniel likes to chase them off from the back pond! )
    • 6 Yellow-rumped Warbler
    •  14 Mourning doves ( our regular staple )
    • Two Turkey Vultures
    • 1 Rufous-Sided Towhee
    • 4 Carolina Wren
    • a bunch of some kind of ground hugging sparrow( unofficial count since I don't recognize the species. )
Whew, that's a pretty diverse count but nothing new flew in this year. Louisiana has a diverse crowd because it is a major stopping point, coming and going, along the Mississippi flyway. Every early spring, I get a visit from a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak couple. The female arrives a day behind the male and they only stay for a few days and then, they are gone till next year. This has happened every year except 2005 because of Katrina.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Okay, What Is A King Cake and who swallowed the baby Jesus?

In New Orleans and southern Louisiana, the tradition of the King Cake was brought to the area by colonists from Spain and France and is mostly connected with Carnival, which is also celebrated in the Gulf Coast area, especially in Mobile where Mardi Gras is celebrated on Fat Tuesday in the same manner as in New Orleans. King cake parties go back to around the eighteenth century. Basically, it is called a King Cake because the tradition of baking and eating them begins on the twelfth night of Christmas, which is, January the 6th.
The king cake comes in a number of styles. The most simple, said to be the most traditional, and the one I am enjoying right now, is a ring of twisted bread similar to that used in brioche topped with colored icing or sugar, usually colored purple to symbolize justice, green to symbolize faith, and gold to symbolize power. Some king cakes are traditionally deep-fat-fried like a doughnut, and there are many variants and many shapes and sizes and some come with a cream cheese, or raspberry jelly or praline filling. These kind are really great but chocked full of calories. Once in a Mardi Gras season should be enough with these kinds. Like beignets, king cakes are great with coffee in the morning.

 Earlier baby dolls as trinkets are documented in New Orleans back to the 1930s and were mostly made of china or porcelain. Today, the plastic baby is more common place and usually colored pink, brown, white or gold. 

 To be politically correct, for a while, 'cuz no one in New Orleans cares about being politically correct, and because some bakeries were shipping cakes out of state and didn't want a lawsuit, they included the baby doll separately from the cake to be embedded just before cutting and serving. "Foreigners" were concerned children could choke on the trinket while eating the cake though no kid I ever knew, and I knew a lot of them, ever choked on the baby Jesus. Some adults, I was told, would swallow the baby rather than admit they got it biting into their slice of cake. Those adults must have really not wanted to give the next party or buy the next king cake to resort to such drastic measures as swallowing the baby Jesus!

Most kids back then, in the fifties and sixties, got their cotillion lessons from parents having king cake parties. In my neighborhood, right after New Years day through to Mardi Gras day, all us kids from sixth grade through eight grade, had weekend parties. The girls got all dressed up and the guys had to wear a suit. We played the standard party games, maybe have a dance or two, to Fats Domino or Louie Prima and try to conduct ourselves politely as little gentleman and ladies... until the king cake was cut. Therese tells me that they never had king cake parties when she was that age. "That was for all those "suburban kids,"she asserts.

Anyway, the tradition at these parties was the same as for the adult participants celebrating in their own adult and scandalous way, which is, that the person who gets the baby doll is declared the King or Queen of the day and obligated to provide the next king cake or host the next party or both. 

Enclosed is a few local bakeries that have been making King Cakes forever. Check 'em out at:,,

Please note: No king cakes or bakeries were hurt in being displayed on my blog and no one person or bakery reimbursed me for my wonderful endorsement... but it would be nice!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Roopa Airaree Oppa ... Ahhhh!

Funny...  I've been a member of a local gym here on the Northshore for about eight years now. When you belong to anything for length of time you learn to love all the crazy characters that hang around. From the gym rats to the beautiful ladies socializing on the tennis court to the senior citizens playing cards resplendent in their blue or gray or strangely blonde hair, it is all a part of the whole experience. And of course, the men's locker room is like most men's locker rooms any where in the world, though it is the personalities that enhance the environment and enrich one's life. You get so familiar with the guys that, after a while, you can tell who's talking to whom even if you are seated in the stalls while taking another lesson on constitutional rights! I can understand why when professional athletes retire, the thing they all seem to miss is the "camaraderie."

In the weight room, most men lift a little weight, stare out the windows, chew the fat and do another set. Most come in to pump up, burn a few calories and release, in a socially acceptable way, their aggressions. I know I do. Some workout in plain clothes, gym shorts, sweats, muscle shirts and such. Some, like doctors, workout between shifts in their scrubs, and some who do wear them, aren't even doctors. And some just look like a "dirty laundry basket." But, almost all are there do their body some good and that can't be bad.

Three times a week, every week around midday and for about three hours, one man comes to the gym to really bust it. He is, besides Jack LaLane, the best looking and best in shape seventy year old I've ever met. He's about 5'9" and a very buff 175. Salt and pepper colored hair, sometimes with a goatee and sometimes not, he wears long jogger's pant with a tank top or shirt and always in black and almost always dripping in sweat. He is a model specimen that all men should aspire to be now and into their golden years.

And, boy does he know it!

Now, I'm not the kind of guy to rip anyone who has the discipline and dedication to look that good at his age or any age, but I was curious about his motivation. When, after many years of seeing him at the gym working his insane routine, I had to inquire about what drove him. He spoke, with all the drama and animation of a Richard Simmoms, of his misspent youth which led to his mid age crisis and his ill health which, according to him, had him on his death bed at 55 years of age. The drama was a bit over the top, but I later found out his other motivation was to make all those younger than him wonder in awe at his physical prowess doing things many twice as young as him could not. It is not enough that the dude looks great in his outfit, but he has another device to attract all those who are a bit blind. He grunts when he lifts the weights or does isometrics, or even sit ups.

Now, as guys pushing iron around, we all have made our fair share of intended and unintended "noises", but this guy beats all.  "HerRump," "Aiyh-YAH-hoo," "Argh-ROPE-pa," and the ubiquitous, "Whoaaa-UP-ah." But, that's not all. If you hang around long enough, say, into his third hour, the grunts seem to send strange, cosmic messages. Or, at least, that's how I hear it! Loud and clear on the up take and kinda mumbly on the down take and with many variations on a theme.

"HerRuuumPAH's gotta-fiddle-di-do"! "Whoaaa-UP-ah inna GumboPot,""Argh-ROPE-pa 4she gos'cuz" and an occasional raspberry like,"FIB-bermagee-gu-GU-roo" or something similar. Every now and then, I can't help but hear soft-core invitational mumblins' between the clink and clunk of weights. It's funny because sometimes I will stop mid rep just waiting to verify what I thought I heard... or worse!


"What is the meaning of all this, I ask you?" What ever it is, it works for him... and in so many ways!