Monday, November 23, 2015

A Stunning Night With Lennice and the Two Tears

Anyone that knows a thing at all about me knows that I am a music groupie.  Shreveport is a town that has always, always been flush with musical talent and the names are legendary and far too many to list but from Kix Brooks to Cole Vosbury, from Miki Honeycutt to Micki Fuhrman Milom, from Hank Williams to Van Cliburn to Johnny Campbell to Huddie Ledbetter, to Danny Johnson, to Kenny Wayne Shepherd, our area has produced some very fine talent.

Not all of our talented singers and musicians are famous though; some of them work the local scene and have huge local followings.  They are no less talented.  They don't come any better than A.J. Cascio, Jimmy Day, Johnny Vickers, Robin Vosbury, Julia Dunning, Robin Beach Black, and so many more.

Let's add Lennice Bolton, Renada Thomas, and Deidre Malbrough to one of these lists. The trio performs locally at various dining establishments; we first found Lennice performing solo at The Anvil restaurant on Line Avenue.  Then Deidre started singing with him and now they've added Renada Thomas to the group.  They're calling themselves Lennice and the Two Tears now, but I'm calling them fabulous.

I'm sharing a video of Deidre that I made on my phone last night -- the sound quality isn't the best because it's a phone, right.  Headphones help pick up the musical accompaniment but just listen to the purity and nuance of her voice!

Deidre has performed with a couple of local bands and if you search YouTube you can find a stunning cover of "Come Together" that she knocks out of the park.

What impressed me about this song, this performance, was that it was sort of off the cuff.  Everyone had gone, the restaurant was empty except for just us. Steve and I were chatting with them and Renada was simply charming telling us funny stories and joking around.  We were talking about their favorite songs to sing and that sort of thing and someone said Whitney Houston.  Renada sang a stunning rendition of  "Greatest Love of All" and I could kick myself for not recording, and her version of "At Last," by Etta James, will run chills down your spine.  Simply beautiful.  Renada has performed with gospel praise groups under the name Renada Soul and she has done the National Anthem for the Shreveport Mavericks.

When Renada finished her Whitney song, Deidre sang hers.  There was something about the moment, I can't say exactly what it was, but you knew something special was about to happen.  I grabbed my phone, missed the first few seconds, but the rest was electric.

When she finished, Lennice told us, "What you don't know, what you can't know, is that there is a mistake in that arrangement (on his keyboard) that she picked up and adjusted for.  She never missed a beat."

The servers came out of the kitchen to see what was happening, and the room was silent as she sang. It was almost as if she was alone in the room, totally into the moment, as she sang.  No one moved.

It was just one of those moments when you knew that you'd witnessed something rare.

These three people are far too talented to be playing to near empty restaurants. I don't know what their ambitions are with their music, but more people need to hear them.

You can check them out on Sunday evenings at The Lucky Palace in Bossier; the food, service and atmosphere there is wonderful and the entertainment can't be beat!  They also perform on Wednesdays at Ernest's Restaurant, and Sunday afternoons at Big O's on Cross Lake.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Voter Apathy Killed Louisiana

I am disgusted by the apathy in yesterday's election here in Louisiana.  As I understand it, the early numbers show about a 39.7% turnout, only slightly higher than the October primary.  As of this writing, official numbers are not yet compiled.

In general, I am disgusted with the outcome.  Louisiana has returned a Democrat to the gubernatorial mansion primarily based on the fact that the Republican candidate was embroiled in the DC Madam scandal in 2007. Republicans I talked to just couldn't vote for Senator Vitter because he committed adultery and they couldn't find it in their Christian hearts to forgive him or to look at his conservative political record.  They either stayed home or voted for the Democrat.

John Bel Edwards won the election by a 56% to 43% margin.  Edwards campaigned as a moderate Democrat; he is an Obama supporter.  One of the first things Governor Edwards will do is to accept the Louisiana Medicaid expansion portion of Obamacare.

Another problem I saw with Edwards is that he is in the pocket of the trial lawyers and would do little to support the tort reform that is contributing to the anti-business climate in this state.  The business climate in this state is dismal...that is unless all you want to come in is more chain restaurants and tattoo parlors.  Not much else is happening here.

Edwards also wants to raise the minimum wage -- another anti-business move.

I also find it unsettling that Edwards seems to have no clear position on whether or not he would accept more Syrian refugees into Louisiana and that he has been obfuscating his earlier positions on this for what is apparently a more popular stance.  The Hayride outlined this word-juggling here.  Initially, Edwards posted on Facebook that he would be an "active participant" in talks with the feds so that "we can be partners in the effort to accommodate refugees...".  Well, if we can forgive Vitter for adultery eight years ago, (as his wife did, by the way), certainly we can forgive Edwards a little verbal nuance, no?  Everyone's entitled to change their mind, except when they lie about it.

Initially, Edwards want to accommodate and assist the Syrian refugees coming into Louisiana.  After his Facebook posts advocating this position, and the grief he took for it in the comments, he changed his mind.  Curious.

Both campaigns manipulated language and positions to enhance themselves; that is the nature of modern politics.  David Vitter was a flawed candidate and it looks like in general, Republicans just opted for the Democrat or else stayed home just to punish the Republican party for such sorry offerings.  The collateral damage of that is that good men like Henry Burns lost their elections.

State Representative Henry Burns was in a run-off with Bossier City attorney Ryan Gatti.  Burns lost that race by less than 100 votes.  That race wasn't in my district and I don't know much about Mr. Gatti; both candidates are Republicans.  I know Henry Burns though, and I know there is no finer, kinder man.  I've witnessed the work he's done for and with veterans and for this area.  He was a small business owner and understands the needs and responsibilities of the working man trying to make a living.  He's had an exemplary record in the House and I've never heard a negative word about him.  The only reason he lost his race is voter apathy.  What a shame.

My district BESE race didn't turn out as I wished either.  We had a choice between an educator and a non-educator in that one.  A choice between a woman who has been in education for 27 years and has been a school principal, who opposed Common Core, and a man that supports Common Core and has never worked in education.  The Tony Davis campaign released a photoshopped picture of his opponent, Mary Harris, with Governor Bobby Jindal in a heart-shaped frame to make the claim that Harris would be a "rubber-stamp" for Gov. Bobby Jindal (who won't be in office after January).  That the Davis campaign took the photo of Harris, which originally was on her Facebook page and was of her with Dr. John Fleming -- not Jindal, and photoshopped it to further their own campaign is just dirty politics.

But that's what Louisiana elected last night.

In the Caddo Parish District Attorney's race, we elected the candidate that accepted the George Soros money.  Judge Stewart may be a fine man and a fair judge, but I couldn't vote for Soros money.

All in all, it's a sad lot of affairs.

Elliot Stonecipher's new article offers a few pinpricks of optimistic light this morning.  We did elect Billy Nungesser as Lt. Governor over the Democrat Kip Holden, and we did elect Jeff Landry as Attorney General.

And by the end of the night, Senator Vitter declared that he won't run for re-election to the Senate which opens that slot up to some excellent candidates such as Rob Maness, Charles Boustany, and John Fleming.  There will be a strong Republican field for that seat.

It was a disappointing night for conservatives in Louisiana, but overall it was the apathy that killed us.  If we don't care about our political leaders any more than 39%, we deserve what we get.  We deserve the Common Core, the Syrian refugees, Obamacare, jacked up minimum wage, anti-business climate, and all of the other liberal dreck that comes with it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The 1940s Radio Hour is a Hit at Shreveport Little Theater

Photo courtesy of SLT Facebook page
It's been a long time since I've been to The Shreveport Little Theater but we went out today to see Seva May's production of The 1940s Radio Hour which we enjoyed immensely.

Who doesn't love the music of that era: this production was right up my alley!

The story is set during a December broadcast of a live radio cavalcade show from the Astor Hotel in New York City in 1942.  The first fifteen minutes or so are intentionally chaotic as the various characters dash in, brushing snow from coats, studying scripts, making phone calls, and getting ready for the show.  There is a certain degree of audience participation as you are expected to applaud when the "Applause" sign lights up -- this is live radio after all!

The cast for this production is a likable, talented mix of veterans and rookies which was perfect for this story because that's what you probably actually had in such performances.  It looked like the cast was having a great time with each other on stage and it all worked very well, I thought.

Luke Digilormo played B.J., a preppy sort of argyle sweater kind of fellow who nearly stole the show when they sang "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."  The sassy Geneva Lee Brown backed out of the song (she hadn't rehearsed it) and so the hapless B.J. was pulled up to the mike by the other girls in the act. Digilormo's expressive face and tall, thin frame were a natural for the song and dance number.  It was
a real hit with the audience.

Jennifer Jackson played Ann Collier, who sang "That Old Black Magic" and nailed the 1940s look.  She has a lovely voice. Madeline Collier played Connie Miller who was absolutely adorable in her duet with B.J. singing "How About You,"  and you'll have to see her "ad" for Eskimo Pies for yourself.  Barbara Holmes played Geneva Lee Brown, and she was stunning singing "At Last" in a chill-bumps-inducing rendition of the Etta James classic.  She was quite glamorous with her diamonds and her satin dress!

Absolutely precious was young Zoie Swint who played Wanda the delivery girl who just wants a chance in front of the mike.  In her saddle oxfords and bobby socks, Wanda twirls her hair and closes her eyes as she listens to the other, more experienced singers, just waiting for her chance.

Bree Guggenhein played the part of Ginger, a sultry, sexy songstress who has the men all in a tither as she sings "Blues in the Night," shedding her red satin gloves as she goes.

Rick Stovall was a wonderful Johnny Cantone, the boozing, name dropping crooner who plans on leaving the show after the performance for hopefully greener pastures, much to the shock of his fellow cast members.

This production was the SLT debut of Casey Allen who played the part of Biff Baker, a saxophone player who is headed off to be a fighter pilot.  Allen has a little of a Matthew McConaughey look to him, and has a very poignant scene at the end, when the "show" is over and he's taking his leave.  He's a charismatic young actor who fit his part comfortably.

The show is filled with hits you remember from the era and in between songs there are the obligatory radio ads and jingles for refrigerators, scented soap, and laxatives. One of the girls is sipping a Coca-Cola while singing a Pepsi commercial. By the time the entire cast is spread across the stage singing "Strike Up the Band," you simply don't want the show to end.

Overall, the show was simply filled with great cast members who fully embodied the characters they were playing while still putting their own style and spin on each one.  The Bill Causey band was an excellent choice for this production and I loved seeing my good friend Bill Allen on stage with his stand up bass!

Shreveport Little Theater is to be commended for a fun, outstanding production and regular theater patrons will hopefully excuse my ignorance of the original and previous productions of this show; theater reviews aren't my specialty but we enjoyed the show so much I simply hope to encourage you to go.

The show is running through November 15 and if you hurry you can probably still get tickets.  It might even get you into the Christmas spirit a little bit as the cast sings Jingle Bells and Pops places a little Christmas gift under his tree.

We look forward to returning to SLT for a few of their upcoming shows.  I have my eye on "Hot n Cole - A Cole Porter Celebration" coming up in February/March.

On Holding Our Noses to Vote in the Gubernatorial Election

What am I missing here?

In the Louisiana gubernatorial election coming up on November 21 many of my very conservative friends are voting for John Bel Edwards.  I generally consider myself pretty politically astute and so this mystifies me.  Why?

The only reason I am getting is that they can't stand Vitter and believe he is morally corrupt.

There may be more to it, but I'm mystified.

I don't love David Vitter; his voice grates on my nerves and I think he looks smug most of the time, but given a choice between him and John Bel Edwards, I have to go with Vitter.

As far as I can tell, both candidates appear to be the same on some issues:  both oppose same sex marriage although Edwards would allow it because it's the law.  Both oppose Common Core and are against abortion.  Both are pro-Second Amendment.

Where they differ: Edwards wants to raise the minimum wage (a move that I oppose) while Vitter thinks that would inhibit job creation.

Edwards supports medical marijuana, Vitter does not.

Edwards wants to expand Louisiana's Medicaid rolls, and Vitter, while willing to consider Medicaid expansion, wants to be sure the state can afford it.  He wants a clear plan and that those receiving the benefit are actually working.

Vitter and Edwards disagree on education: Edwards opposes charter schools and Vitter is for them.  I disagree with Vitter on this one.  This is my position on "school choice" and I know I'm probably not in the majority here: I think we already have school choice.  You don't like your neighborhood school, then you can go to a private school or move to another neighborhood.  Expensive?  Sure is.  My position is that we should work to improve the schools we have.  Elect strong school board members, work in the PTA, volunteer as a mentor in your school.  Support the bond issues that come up locally to improve your schools such as those to upgrade technology.  There are things we can do to improve local schools beyond government vouchers to pay for sending kids to out of district schools.

I know - I'm going to get blasted for that.  I know I differ from many of my conservative friends on that issue.

But the clincher for me is that John Bel Edwards supports Barack Obama and can be seen in the crowd endorsing him for president in the video below.  My opposition to Obama is well documented and I can't support Edwards based just on that if it comes down to nothing but that.

Add to the list that the liberal Edwards received a failing grade from The Louisiana Family Forum.

And this attack ad from Edwards?  Beyond the pale.

So, the remaining days until the election will certainly get ugly, but I hope we don't end up with a liberal Democrat at the end of the day.  That's the last thing we need in Louisiana.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Residential Raceway Update

We've had a responsive week on our traffic problem on the residential raceway.  We've had Caddo Commission member Matthew Linn out twice, Gerry May from KTBS out several times, and we've had a radar cop for two days for a total of about five or six hours.

And yet, they speed on.

KTBS did a story on our checkered flag campaign.

The radar box that SPD attached to a utility pole is still hanging out, gathering data.  I sure wish I could see the reports it generates.

The officer sat out and ran radar Thursday afternoon for about three hours and he wrote tickets as fast as he could.  He didn't sit idle more than one or two minutes between tickets before another zoomed by.  Same on Friday: he was here about two hours on Friday. I don't think they run radar weekends or after five because he hasn't been back.  We hope he returns tomorrow -- with friends.  I know how shorthanded SPD is and we appreciate their response and hope it continues.

We've backed off the checkered flag action now that SPD is running radar.  I think most people generally don't realize how fast they are going but there are a few that speed by incredibly fast and when we wave at them or yell at them to slow down, they just go faster to prove they can.  The only negative comment we got on the KTBS piece is that we are control freaks.

I'm continuing my efforts at slowing people down in absence of the radar man. I thought about traffic shaming.  This car, for example... going well over 40.

So is this one.

And this one.

And this one.

And this one.

I could do that all day long.  All of those (and more) were taken in one hour's time this morning and they're all over 30.  But you can't tell how fast they're going in a still photo, and you really can't tell in the videos I did, either.  That's what that data box is for that SPD installed.  And that's why I sure wish I could see those reports!

In the end, I guess people are just going to continue to use the street as a raceway.  I hope that it doesn't take a tragedy to get them to slow down.  One of my neighbors puts orange traffic cones a couple of feet off his curb when his kids play outside, just to warn people to slow down.

I'm doing more research on traffic calming and various ways to get people to slow down.  The biggest factor will be getting my neighbors to stand up and fight this battle with us.  The old Squeaky Wheel rule, you know.

Meanwhile, the race is on.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Update on Residential Drag Races: Only one response from my pleas to city officials

Last week I posted an open letter (and mailed hard copies) to SPD Chief Willie Shaw, Councilman Oliver Jenkins, Caddo Commission member Matthew Linn, and Otis Jones, Jr., Director of Transportation for Caddo Parish School Board, regarding the speeding issue on my residential street.

The only person who has bothered to respond is Matthew Linn - a courtesy for which I'm very grateful.

From the others?  Crickets.  Nothing.  Not an email, not a letter, not even a phone call.

Meanwhile, the drag races along my residential street continue.

So I've started doing some research because I think if you're going to gripe about a problem then you should at least be able to offer a solution.

There is something called Traffic Calming which works quite well in cities both in the U.S. and Europe.

Some of the genius of Dutch and other European methods is not the use of signage and enforcement to slow traffic, but literally a different road design, and that includes putting s#! in the way. 

It is, in essence what my friend across the street was doing when she placed the huge green city garbage can in the middle of the road.  And truthfully, that's the only thing that has worked so far.

In addition to excessive speeds, we also have a huge volume of traffic as this street is used as a cut through to avoid traffic on two major arteries nearby.  I've been counting cars through the day - taking five-minute interval counts every half hour to get an average of about 1800 cars a day.  This is about the same number of cars that Ockley gets, just off of Kings Highway.  Ockley is wide and zoned for 35 mph, with painted center lines. There are four lanes which in practice is two wide driving lanes and a parking lane on each side.

In contrast, our street is zoned for 25 mph, is a narrow two lane blacktop with no center line and has numerous residents who park their cars in the road.  (I can't even tell you how many of these have been hit.)    So, the volume of traffic is a problem.

In addition to the 1800 cars, trucks, and SUVs that zoom through here, we also have 18-wheeler trucks come through to make deliveries to the business areas that border our once quiet neighborhood.  There is no way an 18-wheeler should be zooming down this street, yet there is no signage that says not to, so what's to stop them?  There also seems to be a large number of lawn service companies with trailers full of equipment that have no qualms about swerving around parked cars dragging their loads behind them.

Yesterday we came VERY close to seeing a collision between a UPS truck and a sky blue BMW.

So, given all this, and the lack of support from city officials, (with the exception of Mr. Linn- God bless him), perhaps my neighbors and I need to get more vocal about our problem.  Perhaps we need to appear at City Council meetings and engage the media to make ourselves heard.  Perhaps my neighbor needs to continue putting things in the road to forcibly slow the traffic down and maybe some tree limbs need to "fall" into the street.  Some natural speed bumps.

We've taken to standing on the curb with checkered flags just to let the speeders know they "won the
race" and can slow down.

(As I write this a taxi cab just flew down the street at 55 mph).

As I've been talking to people about this problem, I've learned that it's a city-wide problem.  Do they even write tickets anymore?  Why are drivers in such a hurry?  Slow down!  Life is passing you by fast enough -- at least slow down and enjoy the view.  Quit zooming down my street while texting.  Watch out for children and animals.

What to do?

To help us out, I suggest that the city post officers here at random times to run radar.  Rumble strips might help, and speed tables would help.  In some areas, roundabouts help, but I don't think that's viable for my street.

Until the city gets on board to help us, there may just be some civil disobedience going on.  Nothing harmful, mind you.  No spikes in the road or anything like that.  But maybe a big green trash can.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Open Letter to Willie Shaw, Matt Linn, Oliver Jenkins, and Otis Jones, Jr.

Chief Willie Shaw
Shreveport Police Department

Oliver Jenkins
Shreveport City Council, District C Representative

Matthew Linn
Shreveport City Commission, District 4

Otis Jones, Jr.
CPSB Director of Transportation

 RE: Traffic Concern & Speed Limit Violations in Residential Neighborhood

On behalf of myself and many of my neighbors, I find it necessary to report a serious concern regarding speed violations on our residential street. It has become a critical problem and will get even worse as the construction begins on the Youree/Kings Highway intersection.

For years people have used our residential street as a cut-through when traffic backs up on Kings. This will get much, much worse once the construction on that major intersection reaches its peak. That’s a temporary problem lasting only as long as the construction, but it will exacerbate our already very critical problem of speeding on this street.

Our neighborhood has many young children that play outside in the afternoons and that walk home from school after being dropped off by the school bus. Throughout the day, but worse at peak traffic times, the majority of people driving down our street are driving well over the speed limit. It is absolutely not uncommon to see cars driving 40 and 50 miles an hour in our 25 mph speed zone and sometimes worse than that.

Even school buses are guilty: there is one that comes through here so fast we haven’t been able to get the number to call and report him.

The problem is so bad that my neighbors have resorted to either putting garbage cans in the road to slow people down or standing on the curb yelling at people to slow down. A couple of weeks ago, one woman was trying to catch a loose dog and in order to keep cars from hitting him, she stood in the middle of the street waving her arms so cars would slow down. This is all very dangerous and I hate to think what would happen to a child who darted out into the road as kids have been known to do.

Sitting outside in the late afternoon and early evening is like watching the drag races or traffic on an interstate.

I know that SPD is seriously understaffed and that officers are needed in high crime areas, but we would certainly be grateful if this serious problem could be addressed before something disastrous happens.

I invite all of you to contact me for an invitation to sit in the swing under my magnolia tree, sip some iced tea, and watch this circus.  Plan to come in the hours right around lunch time or from about 3:30 or 4:00 to 6 or 7:00.  Friday evenings are especially wild!  But any time is  sufficient to see the show; in fact Sunday morning one gentleman slammed on his brakes, burning rubber in the road as he backed up to confront a group of us waving our arms for him to slow down!

I know that people speed all over town and there's nothing special about our case except that this construction (much needed, I might add) is making our problem even worse than usual; the level of frustration among the people that live on this street is at a breaking point which contributes to the danger.

I've sent a version of this post in a letter to all of your offices and I have also emailed it to you all.  My contact information is therein and my email is on the sidebar of this blog as well.  Feel free to come watch anytime, and see for yourself.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Take a Trip to the Eighth Annual Barksdale Oktoberfest

Barksdale Air Force Base hosted its eighth annual Oktoberfest celebration last night in support of Operation Bright Holiday which is a fundraiser to bring airmen home for Christmas.  The first year they did this, they were able to send seventeen airmen home for the holidays; last year, over ninety servicemen and women were able to spend Christmas with their families because of this event.

It's a very good cause, indeed!

The team at BAFB that stages this event works for months in preparation.  Col. Anderson is a perennial organizer of this event and is always aided by a great crew; this year Lt. Monique Roux headed things up and I know there were many others in assist.  While the event has many of the same favorite contests from year to year, there is always some new twist or event that keeps it fresh every year; the organizers learn from previous years and so each year the event is better and better.

For example, the first year there were not nearly enough beer taps - only five.  The lines were ridiculously long. The next year there were fifteen; a huge improvement.  The first year they ran out of beer within an hour -- the next year there was plenty of beer.  I learned from experience too; bring a giant beer stein from home and you don't have to stand in line nearly as often as everyone else!

We were, as always, the first to arrive; they were still setting up when we got there.

We had plenty of food, fun, beer, and music last night.

Dinner was Jaeger Schnitzel, brats, green beans with onions, cucumber dill salad, chicken, German potatoes, and giant pretzels.  For dessert, German Chocolate cake.

Our fried Jerry came with us this year.

The band loved Jerry and dubbed him "Luigi."  They even played a song for him.

The band was the very talented Alpenmusikanten who has played this event from the first year.  These guys are incredibly talented musicians and are very much in demand during Oktoberfest season.  We are very grateful that they continue to return to BAFB and support this event!

I lifted my camera to take a photo and Wolfgang shouted "Picture!" in the middle of their song and they posed.

They work the crowd and make certain everyone has a good time.

The children dominated the dance floor in the early evening and it was huge fun watching them run in circles and dance.  The band would cue them on occasion: "OK kids, everyone SCREAM!" And they did.  And then the cue: "STOP!" and they did.  Col. Anderson led them in the Chicken Dance.

We took the obligatory Oktoberfest pictures, sort of.

The contests were back. I sat out of the costume contest this year.  I'm glad I did -- a guy with a baby won.  How can you compete against that?!

There was the Shoe Slapping Contest.

There was a yodeling contest too, but I was in a beer line and missed that.

The band encourages a lot of audience participation: this is volunteer Margaret on the washboard.

She did a great job!

The Hand Jive:

There was no Yard Drinking contest this year, which made me sad.

The annual homage to beer:

We were, as always, the very last to leave.

I'm already waiting for next year!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Oktoberfest: My Favorite Holiday is Here

Oktoberfest 2015 has officially kicked off in Munich:  "O'zapft is!"

The annual celebration is expected to bring six million visitors this year.

There is no more Bacchanalian festival in existence with perhaps Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  It's obviously my favorite holiday -- I have blogged at least 47 times about it.

Locally, Shreveport has joined the nation in forming their own version of Oktoberfest which will be Sunday, September 25 at Zocolo on Ashley Ridge.   It is $20 to purchase a buffet pass, but you don't have to pay just to get in.  If you plan on drinking, beer is $6.00; live music will be via Professor Pork Chop.

Steve and I will be attending the annual Oktoberfest festivities at Barksdale Air Force Base on October 2; this is a fundraiser for Operation Bright Star which brings airmen home for the holidays.  We have attended all seven years so far; this one makes eight.  We have the proud honor of being the first to come and the last to leave each year.

I was honored to win the costume contest two years but got robbed last year; an indignity I hope to remedy this year.

No, seriously, it's all in good fun and this is a celebration that gets better every year.

The food is great.

The beer is cold and plentiful.

And what better way to celebrate than partying with the men and women of our military?

And it's for a great cause.  Doesn't get any better than that. Tickets are available at the Barksdale Club.

Can't wait!

This might get you in the mood:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Take a Trip to the 2015 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival

Last year the Highland Jazz & Blues Festival was nearly frozen out; if you attended last year you were bundled up in many layers and probably had hot potatoes in your pockets.

This year the festival was bumped up from November to September and the weather was the other extreme -- hot and humid, but it was a glorious day nonetheless!  It was nearly perfect, actually, and any attendance that may have been missed last year was certainly made up for this year.

This is my favorite local festival, hands down, without a doubt.  This was the twelfth year and I think I may have only missed one year -- the first one, perhaps.  Not sure.

Highland is an eclectic, artsy, historic neighborhood and is filled with the most interesting people in town and they all come out to celebrate good music and to support local artists of all types.

We got there about 11:30 to stake out our spot before the noon kickoff with Buddy Flett and it was clear early on that it was going to get crowded.  There were a lot of people already gathered on the slope before the Twisted Root main stage.  Because temperatures were expected to hit the upper 90s today, we looked for shade.

Buddy Flett was in fine form and he is always a favorite.

The dancers came out early today:

We decided to scout out the food and the vendors after Buddy's set.  The vendors this year were terrific: there were maybe three jewelry vendors, a couple of artists, plenty of food vendors, and some political campaigning as well (tis the season).

Steve and I both opted for Ki Mexico; I got the chicken pablano tacos with cilantro and onions with a middle range spice and it was great!

Lucky for me, they have a brick and mortar location near my house.

There were plenty of dogs there today -- this is always a dog-friendly event.

And there was even a pig.  This is Stella; she has her own Facebook page!

The local brewery, Great Raft, was representing; I hope Flying Heart is there next year, too!

Robert Trudeau was there with a fabulous percussion group.  I did a Periscope of them; I'm not sure how long Periscope keeps video but if you have a 'Scope account you can check them out here.

They played between sets and were awesome!

The Matthew Davidson Band was performing on the Gazebo stage.  There was a lot more shade at that end of the park, which was a bonus.


There's always a Hula Hoop Girl there...

These people had the right idea with the hot sun overhead; I'm just glad I wasn't sitting behind them!

A.J. Cascio is always a crowd favorite and he had Joe Nadeau with him today.

Nobody makes the harmonica sing like AJ.

This is the mid-day crowd:

Huge, and always a great place to "people watch."

This guy was dancing all over the park and having a great time; and another Hula Hoop Girl:

On our way out I had to stop on the hill by the Gazebo stage; it's my annual homage to my friend Rocque who I always would run into at local musical events; nobody I know loved local music and loved to support local music more than he did.  He loved the classic greats, too; Rocque had seen more concerts than anyone I know and had scrapbooks filled with ticket stubs and photos from every great rock concert you could name.    Every year I stop in the same spot where I sat with Rocque one afternoon at this same festival and I raise a toast among the pines and the music to my friend who is listening from above now.

Now who should I find in that same spot today?  My friend Corina, which is totally appropriate because there is no bigger lover and supporter of local music than this chick.  Rocque would love it.  Karma is real.

And so, another Highland Jazz & Blues Fest is a success.  I ran into so many people I don't see nearly enough; this festival is the best one in Shreveport for it's mix of food, music, friends, and locale. The date change appears to be a huge success. In September, in Louisiana, you never know, but odds are you're going to get better weather than you do in November.  With the Red River Revel kicking off in the next couple of weeks, this new date seems like a good fit.

Can't wait until next year!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Marine Vet Ray Urban Celebrates 95th Birthday in High Style

It was a beautiful day to drive up to Gillam, Louisiana and watch a 95-year old WWII veteran jump out of a perfectly good airplane to celebrate his birthday with a few friends.

With a nip of fall in the air, we took the top off the Jeep and made the 25 mile trek from Shreveport to Gillam to the tiny airport in the middle of a cotton patch next to the Red River. Ray Urban just turned 95 years old and to celebrate, he decided to invite the friends and family, cook a few hot dogs, have some cake, and jump out of an airplane, a feat which would make him the oldest person in Louisiana to parachute from a plane.

By the time we arrived around noon, the cars were lined up along the blacktop road next to the cotton fields and the hangar was filled with family and friends camped out in chairs or perched on whatever tractor, trailer, or crate was handy.

There was a long table set up where you could eat as many hot dogs as you could stand, courtesy of Ray.

And there was a dog, of course.  I never got the dog's name but he was a friendly old dog and was very interested in the hot dogs!  John Powell, Chef de Gare of the local 40 & 8 Voiture 137, served the dog a couple of cut up hot dogs, earning him some applause from the group.

Ray went off to suit up and get ready for his jump.

Ray Urban was born in 1920 in Bogalusa, Louisiana; when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor he was attending Louisiana Tech; he enlisted in the Marines a month later.  He was working on parachute training when kidney stones quashed that and Ray then became an aviation mechanic:
In June of 1943 he went overseas to Midway as part of a squadron, VMF212. "We didn't' see any action. You stay there three months, you watch the gooney birds and after that they watched you," he quips. He was sent on to Espiritu Santos, where he lived in a Dallas hut, so named for the housing's construction in Dallas. He was stationed in the Russell Island, then landed on Bougainville on D+10 November 1944, ten days after the invasion of that island. Ray was often bombed by Japanese, and crouched in foxholes topped with coconut logs and sand bags. Ray returned to Hawaii from Green Island in December of 1945
Ray never lost his love for parachuting, however, and his jump today makes him the oldest person in the state of Louisiana to jump out of an airplane.

As Ray made his way to the plane today he was swamped with hugs, high-fives, and plenty of good wishes.  He was as excited as a kid at Christmas.

He was surrounded by media, microphones, video cameras, and cell phone cameras all wanting to record the historic moment.

He was finally able to break away and made his way to the plane.

There was never a single moment of hesitation or second thought.

Once Ray reached the plane there was another pause for pictures and interviews before he climbed in.

As the plane roared to life and began to roll down the runway everyone cheered and waved.

And he was off!

We were told it would take about twenty minutes or so for the plane to gain proper altitude, so many of us just stood on the blacktop and watched the ascent. We'd lose sight of them and then someone would spot them...

The cameraman was looking, too.

The day could not have been more beautiful.

There were people of all ages there today, from the very young to the very mature. The fella that lives next to the Veterans Memorial Park in Belcher was there and passed out lovely photos of the park. He stood by to watch the jump.

And then we saw one chute open in the clear blue sky, then another.

Down, down he came.

Slowly drifting down, enjoying the ride.

And the landing!

(Sorry for the end of that -- forgot to turn off the video before I moved my camera!)

Family and friends (and media) ran up to be sure all was okay; it looked like a hard landing...

...and Ray sat right up with a big grin on his face.

He said he'd see us same time, same place, in five more years.

And then more interviews...

And a wonderful family photo:

Before we could have cake!

After Ray's jump, Steve went for a glider ride and spent about 45 minutes drifting over the cotton fields, catching one air pocket after another.  He declared it to be a fabulous experience!

Drifting around...

After his ride we returned to the hangar to say goodbye to Ray before heading out.

All in all, it was a great day.  Perfect weather, great company, and a brave, inspirational man who is good as gold all the way through. It doesn't get any better than that.

I hope I make it to Ray's next jump in five years!