Posts Tagged ‘frank’

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Random, unconnected thoughts and observations:

HOT: As I write this, it is literally 104 degrees in Shreveport with a heat index of 106. I know it’s summer, but we don’t usually get this kind of heat until August. And rain? What’s that? When I open my door, it is literally like walking outside into a blast furnace. Meh.

HATE: And on the subject of suffering, you might think with the heat driving me indoors, I could take refuge in the mindless distraction of social media. Nope. That’s no place I want to be right now. There’s a lot of hate out there these days, folks. A lot of hate. I’m staying all the way away from that.

PAYWALLS: Am I the only person who gets frustrated by paywalls? I know, we need to pay for good journalism. But I’m talking about The Advocate, for crying out loud! I tried to read three articles today and they are all behind a paywall. I don’t care enough to find a workaround right now.

FUEL: We are preparing for our annual trip to the great Midwest next week to visit husband’s family. And we drive. From Louisiana to Iowa. There and back, we anticipate gas to be $400 of our budget. That is insane. IN.  SANE. Needless to say, we won’t be making the side trips we usually do, like going to see minor league baseball or going out to eat. Bummer.

BOOKS: My reading has slacked off for some unknown reason. I just finished an historical fiction novel, The Tobacco Wives, that was mediocre. The best books I’ve read lately have been nonfiction. Bayou Farewell by Mike Tidwell was awesome. Beautifully written. I’m currently reading Antagonists in the Church and it’s making some valid points. I’m ready for a good, thick Stephen King novel to entertain me. Something I don’t have to think too hard about in this dang heat.

CRIME: If you’re trying to keep up (and why should you, really?) we continue to have at least one shooting a day here in Shreveport; we have thirty homicides so far. The saddest part is that by far the majority of those are teenagers and early twenties. Young people. And no, I don’t blame guns. I blame the poor economy, the lack of opportunity, the lack of a moral compass, lack of ethics, high poverty, much despair. Nothing to lose. Sad.

TELEVISION: Guilty confession – I don’t watch much TV, but when we aren’t watching baseball, our TV is usually tuned to FETV where we watch old stuff. I’ve seen every single Andy Griffith, Hazel, Beverly Hillbillies, Emergency!, and Perry Mason. Every. Single. One. Not sure I’m proud of this.

PUBLIC ART: Oh hey, and if you missed it, check out the new public art installation in New Orleans now that all those pesky monuments are gone. I don’t think this is behind the paywall.

Stay cool, y’all. Peace out.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – A few days ago on this blog, datechguy wrote about a favorite local business that was a casualty of the Biden economy:

In the grand scheme of things it’s just one more business that has gone under thanks to the Biden Administration Economy and the steal of the last election. It’s just a few more jobs lost by people who worked there for decades, it’s just one more person whose decades of hard work building a business has gone for naught. Nobody in Washington will note it, it will not make the NY Time or the Washington Post or the TV news nor will those in the administration which insists we have a booming economy notice that it is gone.

Y’all. I could have written this myself because the same thing happened to me this week and I know it’s happening all over the country. I know it is.

One of my favorite local businesses is Champagne’s Bakery located in Henderson, Louisiana on the edge of the Atchafalaya Basin. The business began 134 years ago in Breaux Bridge and is known for their French bread which they sell wholesale to a large percentage of restaurants in the Acadiana region. At the bakery in Henderson, when the bread is fresh and hot, a flashing light like a siren will spin wildly on their sign. It’s a landmark!

Champagne’s (pronounced SHAM-pines)  is known for their trademark “pink cookies.” They are about the size of a quarter and are little sandwich cookies with icing as the filling. They are just the right size to pop into your mouth whole. During Mardi Gras they make them in purple and green; during football season you can get them in LSU purple and gold or Ragin’ Cajuns red. But always there are pink ones. They are delicious!

When the bakery announced on social media last week that they were closing, a large number of shocked commentors lamented the loss of the pink cookie.

A local radio station reached out to the owner for an explanation:

Paul said that, like most places, the bakery took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Business slowed, but Paul said it wasn’t terrible.

The bakery was still recovering from the pandemic and things were looking pretty good until, he says,  the economy began to turn.

When I pressed him for more, he said that inflation is killing the business.

3 years ago, Paul was paying around $15 for a case of eggs. Today, he is paying around $60. A few years ago, shortening for the baker cost Paul about $28 for shortening. Today, that same package of shortening sets him back $90.

Who can survive increases like that?!

Not to mention that when we were there two weeks ago, they were having trouble getting supplies in because of trucking woes. Their suppliers couldn’t get their goods to them. Smaller trucking companies are having to lay people off and make adjustments of their own; look at the diesel prices to figure that one out.

So, yes, I’m mad that I’m losing my favorite bakery. I’m even more mad that another, yet ANOTHER, local mom ‘n pop business is going under, a casualty of the Biden economy. But what really bothers me is where this is going to end. The WalMarts are going to survive. They’ll be here forever. Most of your chain restaurants are going to survive too. But soon you’re going to lose the local flavor, and even part of the culture, of what makes your area unique.

You’ll have to participate in hyper-capitalism to get anything done, to buy goods and materials, to eat.

Our local diners, those that are left, are struggling. They’re raising prices, they’re closing a couple of days a week, they’re struggling to find employees. They have to take what they can get from the labor force and it’s often lackluster.

I diverge from my point a bit, but really, where is this going to end?

In The Advocate this morning was an article about struggling shrimpers; fishing is a major source of livelihood for people in south Louisiana but rising fuel prices are contributing to the demise of that for a lot of fishermen.

Where does it all end? What will out economy and our culture look like at the end of this?

The loss of our local bakeries, restaurants, diners, and shops will soon mean our country is generic from one end to the other. You won’t be able to tell New Orleans from San Francisco.

Maybe I exaggerate, but not by much.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I think I’m going to give up eating out for a while.

Working under the same theory I used when I stepped back from social media to avoid general aggravation and blood pressure spikes, avoiding the restaurants and fast-food joints in my area for a while will serve two benefits: 1) I’ll save a few bucks, and 2) I’ll be less aggravated when my order is screwed up, if I ever get to place an order at all, that is.

My husband is blaming the low level of quality service on the stimulus and extended unemployment checks that were doled out during the pandemic. He’s probably not wrong, but may not 100% right, either.

It just seems that lately, service sucks. Period. There’s no pride in a job well done and so many people won’t do one iota more than what is in their job description.

Example: we went to Sonic for a quick hamburger for lunch on the way home from church. The place is busy, but not overwhelmed. We pull into the parking slot, push the button to order, and wait. And wait, And wait. “Reb button is activated! We’ll be with you soon!”  Waiting. Eventually we see a carhop stroll out to drop off drinks to the car next to us. My husband gets her attention, with some effort, as she walks back by us and asks if the call button is working properly and explains we’ve been waiting ten minutes to place our order. She shrugs and says “We shorthanded. They’ll get to you.” And she strolls away.

We left and went to Whataburger, a regional hamburger franchise we like. Again, business is steady but not overwhelming. But we waited literally 35 minutes after placing our order to get our hamburgers and fries. Husband walked up to the counter to inquire, and our food was sitting in the back; nobody had thought to bring it out. It was cold, but we took it and left.

This happens in restaurants too; it’s not just fast-food places. I took my son out for a steak dinner the other night and the steak was not cooked to order (not even close). Inedible.

The cake in my picture above? “Holy Eucharisp” was written on a cake my church ordered to celebrate Baptism and First Communion on Pentecost. WHAT is a Eucharisp?  The bakery thought this was acceptable. And sent this product out to us. #fail.

I’m not a picky customer. Not by a long shot. But quality of service is declining. Am I the only one seeing this? Labor shortages are bringing us the lowest levels of productivity. Are we really to the point where any warm body behind the counter will do? It’s one thing when we are talking about hamburgers but what about when it’s happening in your pharmacy or your auto mechanics or your other service areas? For the record, my pharmacy used to be open seven days a week but now it closes on weekends.

These are scary times. Our society and our levels of acceptance for poor performance have changed. We’re so grateful to finally get that cold hamburger we just take it and move on. Obviously it’s not just hamburgers we’re talking about here. Think of all the things that metaphor could apply to.

We’re in trouble.

By: Pat Austin

ARNAUDVILLE LA – We are on the road again this week, down in south Louisiana. As it happens, this dysfunctional economy reaches all points of our nation, including tiny little Arnaudville in St. Landry parish.

Through our years traveling in this area, we’ve always known it to be a conservative stronghold; the more liberal elements of our voting population are over in New Orleans and that’s a whole ‘nother world, as they say. In south central Louisiana you find a lot of strong Catholic families who are of conservative belief in their politics. On top of that, this Cajun culture especially is comprised of hard working, independent people who want to raise their families, earn a living, and in many cases, build their business.

And so when you walk into a bakery, for example, and the proprietor is suffering because she can’t get the products she needs to create the goods she sells, the message hits home.

The frustration among business owners we’ve talked to around this part of the state is clear. One of the major issues right now is the cost of fuel; truckers are paying inflated prices for diesel, which is passed on to the business owner, which is passed on to the consumer. The bakery owner we talked to said she was told that the trucking company she uses is laying off drivers and others are shutting down completely. The smaller, independent companies can’t carry these prices increases much longer.

This is all anecdotal, but the fact is, we all see the higher gas prices. We talked to another business owner who can’t get the spirits and alcohol he uses in his bar business. They’re having to get creative in their mixology and sales. But, he said, in the end, they’re still losing money.

The story remains the same in nearly every shop, restaurant, business, that we’ve visited this week. Frustration is real. More and more people are talking about what I call “doomsday planning” – they’re putting in gardens and stocking up on basic supplies. We talked to one lady dining next to us in a restaurant this week who said she’s storing up cans of tuna, dried beans, water, just as a precaution. “I’ll still be able to eat; I’ll still be able to feed my family,” she said.

And that’s what it comes down to. People want to be able to provide for themselves and their families and pretty much nobody I’ve talked to wants any handouts.

I feel fairly certain this is the case throughout the country, not just in south Louisiana with perhaps the exception of those liberal pockets who want to keep making excuses about it being the fault of the conflict in the Ukraine. People around here scoff at that and are quick to remind that gas prices were rising long before that conflict erupted.

I’m not usually a worrier about things I can’t control, but I suspect all of this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. And I also suspect that the midterms are going to be a bloodbath for the Democrats. People don’t like living like this and the only thing we can do about it is vote correctly.