Posts Tagged ‘report from louisiana’

Photo by William Recinos on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – On this day in 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeast Louisiana and Mississippi.

Here in Shreveport, we are usually unaffected by hurricanes but the reverberations from Katrina still linger throughout the state, and neighboring states. Many folks more knowledgeable than I about New Orleans would tell you that the city still is not the same; others would say that’s not a bad thing.

There’s no question that the city is changed but it’s not all Katrina’s fault. Heaped onto the damage by the hurricane, the people of New Orleans have done an astoundingly effective job at electing (and re-electing) leaders to further its ruin.

Going all the way back to Mayor Ray Nagin who was absolutely ineffective during the actual time of Katrina, taking refuge in the Hyatt hotel where he stayed cloistered on the several floors he commandeered. His errors were tenfold and errors on top of those landed him in prison until 2024.

Then came Mitch Landrieu who attempted to solve the city’s problems by removing statues and writing a book while the crime rate soared. Equity circles were supposed to solve everything.

And now we have LaToya “The Destroya” Cantrell who is surpassed both Nagin and Landrieu in decimating the city and ensuring it will never be the grand lady it used to be.

Crime has reached epic levels in New Orleans and it is no wonder; last week the mayor popped into Juvenile Court in support of a carjacker while the victims sat by dumbfounded:

Cantrell surprised juvenile court officials and the district attorney’s office with her unannounced court appearance Thursday in which she sat with the young perpetrator’s family as he was sentenced to probation for three first-degree robbery convictions, committed when the defendant was only 13.

The kid participated in multiple carjackings using a toy gun that fooled his victims. Meanwhile, the city’s police force is at a 50-year low in manpower, a fact which earlier in the month prompted Cantrell to threaten to cancel Mardi Gras which as we all know is the city’s major tourism revenue source. She has since walked that back but imagine!

Oddly enough she was overwhelmingly re-elected in November 2021.

As a lifelong Louisiana resident, it is sad to see what is happening there. Not all of the decline is the fault of elected officials. Covid didn’t help any nor did the city’s response to it.

Incidentally, I just finished re-reading James Lee Burke’s Katrina novel, Tin Roof Blowdown. I read that one again every couple of years because it is a beautiful piece of work; tragic, of course. But Burke is entertaining, and poetic and it has always interested me that the complexity of his work slips by so many. This novel grew out of a short story, “Jesus Out to Sea,” and it has all of the hallmarks we expect from Burke. Can New Orleans ever regain its grandeur? Of course it can. Part of the charm of the city is its oddities and its ability to morph into something else yet never change.  Despite the destruction of decades of Democratic mayors, New Orleans still stands. And people still flock to it because there is no other place like it, for good or bad.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – It was my intention to post last Monday from the Fete Dieu du Teche but I have to say, I got all caught up in that event that I just wasn’t able to.

I’ve posted before about this annual Eucharist procession down Bayou Teche each year on August 15, on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. In Cajun Country it also coincides with the 257th anniversary of the arrival of the Acadians in south Louisiana. This all-day event begins in Leonville with a Mass in French by the Bishop and ends in the early evening in St. Martinville with some six or seven stops in between where the boats stop, and the procession comes ashore to say the Rosary in each town.

It is just incredibly moving to me to see the entire community in prayer and reverence like this and I love hearing the ceremony in French.

I am not a real believer in coincidences. My husband and I are not Catholic but are Episcopal. They are fairly close; close enough where we can follow the services. On Saturday, two days before the Fete event, we were shopping in an antique store and found “finger rosaries.” We’d never seen one but thought they were very pretty so we each picked out one. We have Anglican rosaries, and I figured I could sort of use this in the same, or similar, way. The one my husband picked had a “Miraculous Medal” of Mary on it. Neither one of us had ever heard of this medal so when we got back to the house Steve did a little research on it.

At the Fete Dieu du Teche, as we were walking down to the bayou bank for the procession, Steve saw a lady in a van trying to park. She was with Radio Maria, and she was having trouble wedging into a parking place, so Steve helped her. After the ceremony, she sought him out to thank him, and she said, “Oh wait! I want to give you something!”

She handed him an American flag with a Miraculous Medal of Mary dangling from it and a card that said it had been blessed.

Kindness begets kindness.

I have so much love and respect for the Cajun culture and not to oversimplify things, but their love of Church, family, and community is incredibly admirable.

Living in three hours away from the area is just too far for me and I can’t wait until we can relocate there. I’m not Cajun by blood, but I had someone down there tell me, “but you are by heart!” I’ll take that incredible honor and I’ll mark my calendar for August 15 next year!

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Some random thoughts today.

Shreveport Mayoral Race:  At my house we are preparing to head down South this week for the Fete Dieu du Teche and I could not be happier to get out of town for the week. Shreveport keeps on getting crazier every single day. The latest? Our ineffective, bumbling, inept mayor has been disqualified from running for another term because he put a false address on his paperwork. Louisiana law requires you to list your address as the same address where you file homestead exemption. Our fine mayor did not do this. He listed another address. His excuse for this error? The media lights and cameras when he filed his paperwork distracted him.

I kid you not.

He has appealed the ruling but it doesn’t look like the court will favor him.

He probably was going to lose anyway; people of both parties are sick to death of him and his self-serving photo ops and lack of meaningful governance.

School is Back!  Teachers and students start school today and I could not be happier to not be in that club! I’m looking at my teacher friends posting their classrooms, posting their wish lists, and now their excitement and anxiety about returning to school. I do not miss it in the least. I miss my friends, but they’re still my friends and so it’s all good. I don’t have to deal with the politics and the dog-and-pony shows and I’m thrilled. But good luck to them all and I do wish all of them a good year. Loved my kids, hated the BS.

And besides, if I was still teaching, I wouldn’t be headed to my beloved Cajun country this week where the oysters are fresh and the beer is cold and the Cajun music sings to my heart. Life is good.

Lisa Graas: Our friend Stacy McCain is asking for help for Lisa Graas, a longtime blogger buddy who is now fighting cancer. A devout Catholic, Lisa is now facing expensive chemo treatments and needs help. When Stacy posted his plea for Lisa, her name resonated with me because I remember his trip to Louisiana when he got stopped in the infamous Livonia speed trap and Lisa came and picked him up. On that day, I had Stacy’s Donkey Cons book in my bag; he was going to try to come through Shreveport on his way back home and I wanted to get him to sign my book. And then he gets pulled over in Livonia and that was the end of that. Anyway, hit the link and help if you can.

Next week I’ll be posting from Arnaudville, La and the Fete Dieu du Teche. Peace out!

By:  Pat Austin

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

SHREVEPORT – This will be my second fall NOT to return to the classroom as a teacher! I retired a year and a half ago and let me tell you, I have zero regrets. Ze.Ro.

I loved my students, I loved my school, I loved my classroom, I loved my principal.

I did NOT love scripted curriculums. I hated dumbed-down curriculums. I hated the politics of it on all levels. The pure, unbridled vitriol from the public whenever the school board asked them for a raise. It was ugly.

So many things about public education are wrong. And so many good teachers have left the classroom because of this.

The pay is abysmal. And I have heard it all before: “You knew the pay was low when you signed up for this job.” Or, “You do it for the children, not the money.” Even, “But you have three months off in the summer and all those holidays!” 

In response: Yes, I knew the pay was low but I thought it would at least be a living wage without having to get a side hustle. Yes, I love the children, but I have bills to pay. And No, I do NOT get three months off in the summer. I was paid for nine months of work which was divided by twelve months so that I got a check every month. I never got paid for not working.

Now that my friends are returning after their summer break (which included professional development and workshops, all on their own time), they are posting pictures on social media showing off their classrooms “ready to go!”. And I am so glad I don’t have to do that.

They are also sharing their Amazon Wish Lists. This is one of the things wrong with public education. I was the beneficiary of many a gift through Amazon; I published my own Wish Lists and man people are generous! And when I decided to create a classroom library, and published a book wish list, people came through in spades. It was AMAZING!

But why oh why does an American public school educator have to do this? Most of these wish lists include items like looseleaf paper, pencils, pens, spiral notebooks, chalk, dry erase markers, tissue, hand sanitizer. It just seems to me that parents and schools should supply these very basic materials. And while I realize there are parents in need, and times are tough, we have “Stuff the Bus” campaigns all over town. And churches collecting supplies. And businesses collecting supplies.

I true “Wish List” should not have to include the minimal basics to educate a child. A “wish list” should include things like pretty room décor, a new teacher desk chair, a fancy keyboard, that sort of thing. Non-necessary things. My classroom library was a luxury – a Wish. It was great to have and my students benefitted greatly from it, but it wasn’t a basic necessity like paper and pencil.

It is sad to me that teachers have to beg for these supplies. It makes me wonder where is all the public education money really going? Over-inflated salaries? Sports programs? It’s certainly not being spent on the cafeteria lunches!

I picked a couple of teachers from my old school and sent a few things from their wish lists. I want to help where I can and I know how hard their job is.

And I’m really really glad it’s not MY job anymore!