Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rampant Crime in Shreveport: SIGIS Reminds You to Be Safe

It's that time of year.  The thugs are out and crime is up.

Consider this post a PSA to remind you to be careful and watchful when you are out.   It seems like every time I turn on the news there is another burglary or hold up.

Just this morning, around 10:00 a.m., a 72-year old man was severely beaten at his home on Line Avenue.  If you don't live around here, where this man lived is a high end neighborhood on a busy four lane street just two blocks from a large, upscale shopping district. 

Yesterday a woman was robbed at gunpoint at the Capital One ATM on Youree Drive (another very busy main street).  Two men approached her car, one hit her in the head with his gun and demanded cash.  He shot at her as she drove away.  

Day before yesterday a man went into Johnny's Pizza on Gilbert, pulled a gun on an employee, took money from the register, an employee's purse, and cell phone.

I can keep going, but you get the idea.

Times are hard, the holidays are upon us, and desperate criminals are becoming bolder.

Watch yourself out there and keep your doors locked (both car and home).  Don't open your door to anyone you don't know.   When you leave a store, keep a vigilant eye as you walk to your car.  If you see anything suspicious go back inside and ask a security officer to escort you or watch you walk to your car.  Take a friend with you when you shop and avoid shopping at night if you can.  Park in a well lit area.

Here are some good safety tips when you are out shopping but that 72-year old man mentioned above was not out shopping.  Remember to be cautious at home, too.

Be careful out there.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: "The Courage to Rise Again - A Journey from Tears to Testimony"

Several years ago when I was at the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival I met Bertha Cooper Harris.  It was 2008 and she had a vendor tent set up in which she had some of her work for sale on display.  I bought a
"gift tag" which I actually use as a Christmas ornament.  I admired her work at the time and have looked for her to return to the festival each year.

This year she was there and I bought another ornament; this one is a red glass ball with one of her figures painted on it.  I love it!

I also bought her book which came out this year: The Courage to Rise Again -  A Journey from Tears to Testimony.  

Mrs. Harris has a compelling life story.  She was born just outside of Homer, Louisiana in Claiborne Parish.  She was the eighth of nine children and grew up in a live of poverty and struggle.  The family lived on "Cooper Hill" surrounded by grandparents and other relatives and for a child, lots of good times.  When Bertha was around seven, her father died; it was not long after that Bertha's mother moved to a chicken and dairy farm to find work so she could support her family.

Bertha was exposed to violence and abuse at an early age when her two brothers were forced to endure beatings and abuse by Mr. Hunter, who allowed the family to live on his farm in exchange for work.  Their living conditions were deplorable.

Eventually the family ended up on Beene Plantation in Bossier Parish where they picked cotton.  It was hard, back-breaking work and it did not take long for Bertha to figure out that she wanted more out of life than picking cotton.

As if life in extreme poverty and hardship was not challenge enough for one soul, Bertha later endured an abusive marriage, domestic violence, and even later, years of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Through it all, she found the courage to keep fighting back and to win.

I don't want to give away everything here, but suffice to say that Mrs. Harris writes a gripping, page-turner of an autobiography and I found it hard to put down.  I found myself feeling protective of her when her husband beat her and rooting for her when she was determined to finish high school and continue her education.  I felt her loss and heartbreak when she was separated from her sister, and her pride when she achieved success in her work at an insurance company. 

Through it all, the book is a portrait of the life of many black Americans in the rural South who faced extreme poverty and prejudice.  It is also a portrait of a strong, courageous woman who fought back against the wrongs she faced.  She has strong words of advice and wisdom for women subjected to domestic violence and for victims of harassment. 

Fans of author Lalita Tademy's Cane River  will be fans of this book.

From her website:

In the small section of the south, where she was raised, many conditions had not changed much since the end of the Civil War when she was growing up. Tenant farmers and black farm families were practically owned by the family plantations where they worked. Escape from this bonded servitude was exactly that. Many families were always in debt to the plantation store or the owner. Her family was unique in that her grandparent’s family owned their own land. However it did not make them exempt from conditions of those around them. And certainly Bertha’s life may have been a snapshot of history in many respects. 

Berrtha’s struggles to advance in a world where she felt she had little control against forces of bigotry, sexual discrimination and harassment is parallel to struggles that existed throughout the country, only the names and places were different. Her journey to overcome these forces was often a struggle for survival. The story of this struggle should assist those who struggle today with the complex values and apparent glass ceilings in life and the work place.

And almost as a side note, we have the art.  In 2003 Bertha Harris began to paint.  She is a self-taught folk artist many call "the next Clementine Hunter."   Her pictures show a simpler way of life often reflecting family scenes and her early memories of life on Cooper Hill.  One of my favorite paintings is of William Chatman School (which I've ordered from her website!) but I love the one of life on Cooper Hill too for its pure joy of living.

Her book is filled with illustrations of her work.

You can buy the book here which would make a great Christmas present, by the way, especially paired with one of her prints.

Bertha is also on Facebook.  And of course, here is her website.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving


The start of the holiday season.  It comes with mixed feelings around here; I love the holidays but it's always sort of bittersweet, you know?  There are the memories of holidays past (both good and bad!) and inevitably things change. 

In our family we used to all gather at my mother's house...well, actually, at my grandmother's house before that.  Then, when Thanksgiving dinner got to be too much for my grandmother, we did it at mom's house.  We've always been a small family but mom always pulled out the sterling flatware and serving pieces, a white, starched tablecloth, candles, the whole nine yards. 

My grandfather would always bring a bottle of port.  The men folks watched football and when it was time, dad would carve the turkey with the electric knife (that's the only time of year we ever used the thing.) 

As a kid I always some little job or task to keep me occupied - something like filling the salt and pepper shakers or preparing the relish tray (celery, sweet gherkins, cocktail onions, olives). 

The extended family would come in from Dallas, and often after dinner family friends might drop by.  We ate around 1:00 and after dinner the women always lingered around the table over coffee and pecan pie while the men adjourned to the den for football. 

Almost always some crazy family foible would occur, like the time my grandfather went for a walk after dinner and got lost; he went to the wrong house.  We all were in a panic looking for him.  It was funny later, but not at the time.

Anyway, in more recent years as my own mother has become ill and unable to do the cooking, Thanksgiving has moved to my house (which ironically is the same house in which my grandmother lived, so it's sort of come full circle).  Nobody comes anymore, though.  the Dallas family saves their holiday trip for Christmas.  I always cook just for us, me, Steve, and my son John.  After we eat I always take a plate to mom. 

And like my mother, I pull out the nice dishes, the tablecloth, the candles.  I cook way more food than the three of us need.  But, it's hard to let go of those traditions, you know?

It will be a quiet holiday but one with lots of love and lots of food!  And new traditions are always liable to spring up when you least expect them.  This year my brother will be joining us, or at least, I've invited him.  And if we aren't too stuffed tomorrow evening, Steve and I are going to attend the Thanksgiving dinner at the American Legion to support those that don't have any family at all and try to help make a brighter holiday for them.

Holidays are always bittersweet for me as I remember the good times of the past, the people that are no longer with us, and the family that can't be here.  But there's so much to be thankful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and I hope you take the time to enjoy Thanksgiving.  Christmas will come soon enough.  One holiday at a time, please.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wish List Part 1

I'm trying to get into the Christmas spirit.

I only do one holiday at a time and while I'm totally focused on Thanksgiving this week (I love to cook!) I'm thumbing through my December magazines this morning.

I came across this jigsaw puzzle in Real Simple magazine.  LOVE!  Somebody get this for me for Christmas!

My only other wish for this puzzle would be if you could choose the titles you want in it.

Oh well.  It's way cool as it is.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Take a Trip to the 2012 Highland Jazz and Blues Festival

It was a lovely day in the park today for he ninth annual Highland Jazz and Blues Festival.

Some photos:

Perennial Shreveport favorite Buddy Flett opened the show:

One of my first stops was at Bertha Cooper Harris's tent.  Several years ago I bought a Christmas ornament from her and I treasure it.  She wasn't at last year's festival so I was glad to see her back this year.  She does primitive art reminiscent of Clementine Hunter.

I bought a copy of her book and a new Christmas ornament.  I'm anxious to read her book - she has quite a compelling story.  I thumbed through it while I was listening to the music today and it is filled with photographs of her work.  I'll certainly post a review once I've read it.  She's a neat lady.

I've got my eye on this print of Chatman School which I can order from her website:

I walked around and looked at the art:

Hardrick Rivers Revue was playing on the Gazebo Stage; they play often at our favorite Natchitoches spot, The Pioneer Pub, and they're very good:

Here's the annual "Steve petting a dog" picture:

These dogs were great.  They sat right behind us and soon had had enough:

The Jerry Beach Band came up after Buddy Flett's set; Jerry was able to persuade daughter Robin Beach Black to come up for a song but her son was having a little separation anxiety:

He was adorable.

As always, there was plenty of food:

I had boudin balls and fries:

It was superb.  Steve got a cheeseburger.  It was hard to decide - too many choices!

The Scotty Boy Daniels Blues Band was fabulous; Steve bought a CD:

The mid-afternoon crowd - this is nearly three hours before the headliner:

More art:

Beef jerky vendor:

Redneck Wine Glass:

If Monet had a tripod...

A guy in a kilt:

and a big umbrella:

I eventually stood in the Port-a-Potty line and the guy in front of me figured out how to manage his business and his dog on a leash...

...the little dog was confused trying to figure out where his owner went.  Every time one of the purple doors opened the dog looked up in anticipation.

The headliner was the son of blues legend Muddy Waters: Big Bill Morganfield was a huge hit:

All in all, it couldn't have been a more perfect day: the weather was perfect, the crowd huge, and fun was head by all.  I'm a terrible videographer but I did shoot this random look at the crowd as The Glenn Rainey Band played "Ho-Di-Ko-Di-Ya-La-Ma-La":

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
Take a Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Oktoberfest at BAFB

Head to the Park Today for the Highland Jazz Fest!

Today's the day for the 2012 Highland Jazz and Blues Festival.

The weather is chilly right now but will warm up to the mid 60s today; not a cloud in the sky and it's a beautiful, perfect fall day to sit in the park and listen to some great music.

There will be good food and plenty of arts vendors as well.

There will be people and dogs to watch.  Once I even saw a guy bring his exotic bird to the park.

There will be beer.

There will be good times.

This is how much fun we had in previous years.

Come on out.  11:30 - 5:30.

(Oh, and hey, I'm still raising money for Adam; he lost everything he owns in a house fire last week.  Can't you chip in a few bucks?)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What if You Lost Everything in a House Fire?

Y'all remember Jodi Burr?  The lady who ignited a nationwide movement of support for her Marine son when she put up a banner in his honor?

Her 23 year old nephew lost everything this week in a house fire.

This blog is raising money to help this young lad so everything you put in the tip jar through the end of November will go straight to him so he can rebuild his life.  It's the holiday season, you know, and it's the time for giving.

Hit the tip jar.


I'm putting the word verification back up for comments - at least for now.  The spambots have become so bad they're filling up my mailbox.  Every morning when I check my email I have to delete between 40 and 50 spambot comments.   By the time I get out of school in the afternoon there are 40 more.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony 2012

Steve and I attended the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony today sponsored by the Friends of the Municipal Auditorium. 

The Municipal Auditorium is located on the west end of downtown Shreveport and was built in the 1920s.  It is probably now most famous for being one of the first places Elvis Presley performed but many other musical legends performed there.  The building is noted for its intricate brickwork, acoustical perfection, and art deco styling.

Note on the front it says "Dedicated to those who served in the World War." 

The building was placed on the National Register for Historic Places:

Here's a plaque posted inside with a bit of the history:

There's a nice little museum inside where you can learn about the history of the place and tours are offered:

And, of course, there are reportedly ghosts in residence, too.

Sadly, there were probably more ghosts in attendance than people there to honor the veterans.

The Friends of the Municipal Auditorium had a lovely ceremony organized; a nice sign in table and refreshments greeted you upon entry:

But this is a "crowd shot" taken right after the ceremony started:

One more small group came in after I took this bringing us up to a total of 24 people in attendance. 

Shameful.  Granted, it is Sunday and maybe church ran late for some people, the weather is a little dicey, and there is a Veterans Parade later in the afternoon at the Fair Grounds, so maybe people had other things to do.  Still, it was a sad showing.

Emcee Tom Pace opened the ceremony: there was the invocation and the posting of colors; Meredith McLellan sang a beautiful a capella rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner."  We had bagpipes and a drummer who played "Amazing Grace."

The 2012 Inductees included Corporal Cleauthor Sanders, Corporal Frank Buckles, Lt. Commander Seal Jonas B. Kelsall, and Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Seal Robert J. Reeves.

A late addition to the program was Senator Mary Landrieu who called and asked to attend the ceremony; she wasn't on the program but she made a late entrance after the ceremony had already started. 

Senator Landrieu took the stage and read a prepared speech, primarily, it seemed to politicize the event and garner publicity for herself.  She spoke about what she had been doing throughout the state to honor veterans, about a parade she and her brother attended in New Orleans with the Lt. Governor, Jay Dardenne, and about the Drum Corps from the Revolutionary War descendants who participated in that parade.  With the father of CPO Robert Reeves sitting on stage not ten feet away from her, she talked about how now Osama bin Laden is dead and the Taliban is on the run.

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to turn on my video camera.  If the local media captured her speech I will add it at the bottom later.  It was bizarre.

Some of the veterans in attendance were stunned to hear Senator Landrieu usurp the solemn ceremony for political grandstanding.

As if that weren't bad enough, she closed her remarks with comments about General Petraeus.  An induction ceremony for four honored veterans was not the forum for Senator Landrieu to preach to us about General David Petraeus.  She reminded the audience that we "are not perfect" and that only Jesus Christ was perfect. 

"I want to go on record here today," she said about Petraeus.  "I'm a fan."  She noted his honorable career and sat down.

It wasn't the time or place.

Following that bizarre addition to the program, the awards commenced.  Corporal Cleauthor Sanders was in attendance with his wife and family.  He spoke briefly about his time of service and then the Friends of the Municipal Auditorium presented his pen and ink portrait by local artist Jerry Harris.  Corporal Sanders also got a smaller version of the portrait to take home.

Senator Landrieu jumped up to shake his hand and announced that she would see to it that Corporal Sanders and his family are flown to New Orleans for a tour of the World War II museum.

The father of CPO Reeves accepted the award and portrait of his son and that of Lt. Commander Kelsall for his family (the two boys were childhood and lifelong friends here in Shreveport).

Mr. Reeves gave a very moving speech about his son and closed by saying that for the two of them "to be on that helicopter, together, at that time, well, it had to be God's will." 

(Kelsall and Reeves were on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter that was shot down in Afghanistan on August 11, 2011, killing both of them and 28 other souls.)

It was a very nice ceremony, despite Senator Landrieu's bizarre speech, and from there many departed to head to the fairgrounds for the Veterans Parade. 

I believe Senator Landrieu was on her way there as well.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Take a Trip to the 2012 Vets for Vets Event

Just over 1,000 people turned out today for the 2012 Vets for Vets Biker Event at Riverpark Church in Shreveport.  It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies and a crisp wind keeping the heat and humidity at bay.

The event is hosted by the non-profit Vets for Vets organization and raises money for local hospitalized veterans.  This was the eighth year for the rally and it seems to be growing every year we are told; this was our first time to attend.

The rally began at 9 but it was closer to 10 by the time we got there.  Riverpark Church is located on the Red River and is the site of the old Hamel's Amusement Park.  Signs of the old amusement park days remain.

Steve and I could still see parts of the old train track that went around the park and several of the old buildings are still there like the kiddie barn, the bumper car area, the skee ball building, and even part of the old log ride.

Through the morning the bikes started filling the parking lot:

As soon as we entered the park we bought t-shirts and then Steve ran into his old Army Reserve buddy, La. Representative Henry Burns:

We visited for a bit, they told old Army stories, and then we moved on to check out the vendors.  The Krewe of Elders was there serving food:

There were lots of vendors selling biker related merchandise: leather, boots, jewelry, and so on.

There was a Wounded Warriors tent - a charity I proudly support:

We checked out the silent auction - I bid on a couple of things and didn't win.  There was a neat old Bel Air on display:

It was beautifully restored:

A World War II veteran spoke briefly about how the world was back then.  There was three types of government he said: communism (Russia), socialism (Germany), and capitalism (United States); he said it was free market capitalism that won the war and helped recovery after the war.

One of the highlights of the morning was the demonstration by the Security Forces with their dogs:

The dog, a Belgian Malinois was absolutely beautiful:

They went through an obedience demo and then one guy put on "the bite suit" and the dog, Rufus, I think, started drooling.  It was amazing to see the training and discipline of the dog.  And when he finally got to "bite" he did not let go until directed:

At one point in the demo the dog was in mid-jump about to bite when the handler called him off and he immediately closed his mouth and sat down as directed.

Meanwhile, the music was getting started and a line dance got started:

These are actually some of our American Legion friends and they do love to dance!

All of the bands today donated their time for the Vets for Vets.  Dickie T and his group, the Bone Dancers, and our favorite: Soulfish Blues Band.

Here is Steve with Ron Chatelain, one of our highly decorated veterans and a heck of a nice guy:

When it was time to eat I had a hamburger and Steve had fried fish. About that time Gary and Kay Huntsman arrived (Gary is with Soulfish) and we staked out a good bench from which to view the band's performance:

The bikers left to do their parade past the War Veteran's Home on the Parkway and past the VA hospital.  It was quite a site to see them all.

Finally it was time for Soulfish to take the stage.  We just love this band: nice, good people and wonderful musicians.  Julia Dunning continues to impress with her vocals.  Several people came up to her to tell her how much they enjoyed her singing.

The event ended with the playing of Taps:

...and we departed.

Steve and I then turned the Jeep south and headed to the Pioneer Pub in Natchitoches for dinner.  Why not?

After dinner we walked along Front Street and admired the shop windows.  They are getting ready for their big Christmas festival:  we especially liked this window:

Now that'll put you in the Christmas spirit!

More Veterans Day events to come this week, but for now, we close.

The rally raised over $8,000 for the vets and that's a good day.

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
Take a Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Oktoberfest at BAFB