Ever since my fashionista sister Ava married a relatively handsome Frenchman from the bayous of South Louisiana, it is not uncommon to find her wearing hip boots while carrying dead animals or conducting the average household task of deboning a goose. Part of the indoctrination process into her husband’s family has always included a yearly pilgrimage to the unpretentious deep sea fishing mecca of Grand Isle, Louisiana. For years now my inner Martha has been the eager benefactor of the trip; however, this year there will be no fresh Gulf fish on my table. As well, my Daddy’s shrimpin’ business is wiped out as Louisiana takes another hit like the slow death Katrina dealt.
In the meantime, somewhere in Grand Isle, sits a lonely cabin that was formerly home to coastal vacationers like my family, only to be inhabited this year by the usual creepy crawly sand crabs and the unusual creepy crawly media. Somewhere along the Emerald coast a bathing beauty slathers herself with tanning oil, hoping to avoid contact with any tarballs. Somewhere on a yacht, a BP executive flippantly sips his chardonnay wondering how he’s gonna fill his days now that THIS has happened. “What’s next?” He likely asks himself facetiously. The creation of a new reality show, perhaps? So You Think You Can Fish? America’s Got Oil?
The heart of our entire nation is tender for many reasons, at times even angry, over the array of issues plaguing our fair land that extend far beyond oil-coated pelicans. Hard-pressed on every side, we have lost our way. We do not fail to honor our soldiers among the crowds when they stand to receive our ovations. “Look son, look at the soldiers,” I say. “Where Mama?” he says, as the great majority are ordinarily dressed grey-haired civilians. I explain that we are looking at the greatest generation that has ever lived; though they are in many cases conspicuously absent from the forefront of a modern culture in which popular tastes of everything from window treatments to worship have trumped wisdom gained from a lifelong testimony of service.
They represent another time and place where the only jewelry a man wore was a wedding ring and the Buckle was still something like a fastening for two loose ends, attached to one and latching onto the other, perhaps even ornamental or etched with a name like Tex or Bud. That kind of “cowboy cool” would not be uncommon, Dear Reader, as we consider the distinction between the DFW metropolitan metrosexual, and, I submit to you, the Texan retrosexual—a real man’s man.
Like characters in a Marty Robbins song, these are the folks I’ve met this summer as I accept the realization that I won’t be joining my sister in the trip to Grand Isle I had planned. Instead, my travels take me to the places where boots reign right alongside conservative values and I find myself wishing my hair was bigger. I hear words like “pocketbook” and would have likely starved without the sandwich in my purse….darn fiscal conservatives. I am reminded of a youth mission trip to the Yucatan when everyone else had Little Debbie snack cakes and I, being under-prepared that time, was left to eat the road kill of the generous Mayan ladies who made me to feel like a giant at 5’2″. Cilantro has never been the same!
When I haven’t been traveling, I’ve lived every mother’s dream of sustaining the lives of our pet worms Squirmy, Wormie, and Bob, Jr. I’ve also taken revenge for my dog’s shedding by replaying the TiVo version of Martha Stewart’s guest animal expert. “Sit!”…“Down!” My dog Stitch is so confused by Martha’s guest that he doesn’t know where to turn. Martha, Martha, Martha. Such a fitting name for a domestic expert. She compels me to get my closets in order, but I’d have better luck distilling the Gulf.
In lieu of my Gulf vacation, I’ve also tried to keep up with the Stanley Cup, the NBA finals, the World Cup, and a Wimbledon that we will never forget, while simultaneously concluding that anyone can host SNL by method of launching a Facebook campaign. I’m holding out for Carol Burnett with musical guests James Taylor and Carole King who sweep over the parched lands of my soul like wildfire on the country roads this wild heart has lately roamed.
I have daydreamed over strawberries and cream: If Kate and William ever tie the knot, I would think that Venus and Serena should be bridesmaids, for they are practically British by now. We all know how every pregnant woman longs for the pitter patter of feet, yet years later it is the same woman who calls out from downstairs, “Stop jumping! What’s that noise?!!!” Not only does someone close to Jesse’s former girl need to appeal to our beloved Sandy B to QUIT KISSING OTHER WOMEN, but someone needs to tell Prince William that IT’S TIME TO BUY THE COW before the milk goes sour.
Perhaps the son of Shy Di needs lessons on How To Take Matters Into Your Own Hands from my crazy cousin James Carville. Admittedly, I have often wondered how he roped in a respectable girl like Mary Matalin, but something happened in his recent Anderson Cooper 360 interview concerning the Disaster in the Gulf. It was the first cousin of what I’ve coined as The Harold Hill Factor. I felt like he was saying “Think, men, think!” and I was saying, “That’s my baby!”
All in all, we need a Lieutenant Dan moment like the fictitious one Winston Groom created for us on Bayou La Batre. After all, Grand Isle was the place I first learned how to treat a jellyfish sting without a first aid kit! We’ve got history, baby! Instead, all we’ve heard from BP is the same old song disguised with different lyrics. You hear Good Night My Someone and go to bed only to wake up to 76 Trombones. You hear Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star but wake up and hear Tony Hayward singing The Alphabet Song.
Finally, one of the best things with which I have replaced my Grand Isle trip is the simple pleasure of a nighttime stroll. This is an art form of my long lost lazy-days lifestyle that includes fireflies, lemonade, fresh blackberries, and fine company. I hear nothing other than the locusts in the trees above. Attempting to review everything I know about locusts in thirty seconds, I ask myself how hungry I’d have to be to eat locust etouffee’ in this current shrimp crisis? I wonder if I had a large vat of wild honey might I double-dip one? Would I cover them in chocolate?? Heads or tails first? I know and fully comply with Gulf shrimp or boiled crawfish protocol, but am not aware of any culinary bylaws concerning Genus Locusta.
This destructive singing grasshopper reminds me of the need for restoration over our land, a land in which closets and the Gulf waters aren’t the only assets that need clarity, rather, our tattered hearts. Plagued with the effects of natural disaster, sorrow, and pain over the passage of time without resolution, a day is coming when we will return to a grand island of treasure that we could only find for ourselves like wisdom’s sweet song in the darkness. It is there we will find something so supernatural and grand, indeed, when our calamity has been recycled into the fuel supply that charges our future and a still small voice spurs us onward, whispering, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Originally published in the July 2010 edition of The Cross Timbers Gazette.