Well, dear readers, it has been awhile since I have graced these pages with the wit and wisdom of the Accidental Cajun. That is not to say I have abandoned my post, however, as I have been assiduously researching all things bayou. If it wasn’t for the need to pay the damn bills I could get a lot more done.
Once again, my research took me to the great state of Louisiana. There I was bedecked with beads in New Orleans for Mardi Gras; I traveled across the Causeway to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain; from the marshy suburbs of Madisonville and Mandeville to the bayous of the Cajun country surrounding Baton Rouge, I trekked across southern Louisiana like an itinerant preacher, preaching the gospel of the converted — and it occurred to me, on some level, that I was converted. Things now seemed normal to me that in the past I would have, at minimum, raised an eyebrow.
While raised humbly on a swamp in Northeast New Jersey, until recently, I’ve always had airs intellectual snobbery, as if I were displaced aristocracy. It was no accident that I chose the city of Boston to attend university at, the staid and condescending epicenter of intellect in the United States. We in the North look at those below the Mason Dixon with some bemusement, if not outright scorn. We have Boston and New York city, the centers of learning, culture and the arts. We have the biggest, best, and most important (choose your hyperbole). In our minds, everyone else wants to be us. Now I look back at my self-absorbed youth (as I still live in a city of self-absorbed people) and think about how wrong I was. Now I yearn for that which I had for so long scorned. For things that now seem normal…
I now think it is my God given right to drive up to to a daiquiri shop, as I did in Covington Louisiana, and drive away with alcoholic beverages (straws out of course). I no longer find it odd that there is a fifty-fifty chance that either beer, bloody mary, or chicory coffee will be the first drink of the day; asking for a “go cup” has become second nature, as has walking around in public with an open container; knocking back five pounds of crawfish at Sammy’s is a light lunch, and no one looks at me askance for sticking my finger in the crawfish head to get out that luscious fat; the fact that thinking about the boudin balls, hushpuppies, and sautéed crab fingers at the Chimes, and then suggesting we stop whatever it is we are doing to get some, is greeted with enthusiasm. I now find myself listening to the stories about how Uncle Roy caught the boat on fire or about how to escape when a gator jumps in your boat and find them perfectly reasonable, nodding in tacit agreement. I think everyone should have a “camp.” I no longer recoil in fear when someone I don’t know says hello or asks me if I am enjoying myself. That it is not the least bit odd to have long, involved conversations about food or sports with people you have never met before. I find that I too am finishing sentences with the phrases “be careful or be safe.” The fact that we shot pool at a wake isn’t the least bit troubling to myself or any of the mourners; that my LSU hat opens more doors then a skeleton key, and is also an acceptable substitute for a shower; a college mascot has a better habitat than the white tigers at the Audubon Zoo; that everyone knows to have the “fish in the bag” at Louisiana Lagniappe. It now seems normal that I think about gathering family and friends together around a huge pot of something more important than making money; that living is more important than making a living; that we should make sure we play at least as hard as we work.
I could go on, but I think y’all get the idea. As I look out the window, a light dusting of snow on the ground, I think about the place I have always called home, and the home that is calling me, trying to reconcile who I have been and who I have become.