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Sabine Pass Battleground

I drove to Sabine Pass a few weeks ago, just for the day, it was the first time I’d been in Texas since driving out to Louisiana from California in 2010. Interestingly, this is right in the area where my mother grew up; although my maternal grandmother’s family has lived in the same area of south Louisiana for several generations, my grandparents lived in Port Arthur, Texas for many years and their three eldest children were all raised there. I think Sabine Pass was its own town when my mother was growing up, but now it’s within the city limits of Port Arthur.

I primarily wanted to see the Sabine Pass Light, which is actually on the Louisiana side of the Pass. But all the online directions I found direct you to the Texas side, I think because there’s no longer actually any road on the Louisiana side. The Light was de-activated in the 1950s, and the last private owners donated it to Cameron Parish in the 1990s, and of course they haven’t done shit with it. If a hurricane came along and wiped out the road any time since then, I doubt they bothered to fix it. But I may try to get there from the Louisiana side, or at least see how close I can get, because I couldn’t get close enough to get any good photos from the Texas side.

However, I don’t count the day wasted, I drove around and found some other interesting things to photograph. I like that drive too, it’s straight down LA-82 (and then TX-82) for most of the way. It’s a highway, but it’s a 2-lane rural highway with pretty scenery, and to get across the Calcasieu River I took the Cameron Ferry. Louisiana used to have dozens of ferries; nowadays I think there are 8 of them left. You can take I-10 to get there, but it goes so far out of the way that it doesn’t actually save you any time.

One of the places I found was the Sabine Pass Battleground. There was a Civil War battle fought here. I liked the contrast between the little shell-scarred bunker, and the weird modern machinery hulking in the background. Sabine Pass is like that, it’s very rural but surrounded by refineries and everywhere you look there’s refinery towers or oil-drilling equipment looming over you.

I recently read a book called Visit Sunny Chernobyl, in which a journalist, inspired by the titular trip to Chernobyl, decides to visit the world’s most polluted places. One of those places is Port Arthur. (If the Keystone XL Pipeline ever gets built, the American end is going to come out in Port Arthur.) But even with all the refinery crap cluttering up the scenery, it doesn’t really LOOK polluted, at least not in Sabine Pass. The sky was blue, the vegetation was all healthy, and there were birds everywhere. Not all pollution is immediately visible, I guess. It’s not anything obvious like oil spills or smog, but you know it’s there when you look at the cancer rates for the area. Chernobyl is beautiful too, according to the book I read. The flora and fauna are all flourishing in the area. But people who go there have to wear radiation detection badges, and can only stay so long.
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I was in Laguna Beach, CA from Thursday to Monday for my aunt's wedding. We stayed in the same hotel where the wedding was, and the beach was at the end of the street and down a staircase. It was great to be back in California again. I mean sure, SoCal isn't "my" California, and it's full of douchey people, but it's pretty. I got to see the Pacific Ocean and eat In N' Out Burger (animal style, of course), and I think the hottest it got the entire time was maybe 77 degrees. (It's been over 90 for weeks running in Louisiana.) It was nice to be reminded that there are places in the world where summer isn't fucking awful. Oh, and I didn't see a single mosquito.


It was overcast in the mornings when I was on the beach, and the sea and sky were all different shades of the same blue-gray color. I never enjoyed swimming in the ocean--saltwater irritates my skin--but I always liked to sit and watch/listen to it, and walk along the surfline. And the Gulf of Mexico is not a substitute. Maybe Florida has crystal clear water and pristine white sand beaches; but in Louisiana the water is brown and gunky from leaky deepwater oil-drilling platforms, and the beaches are strewn with garbage from lazy Cajun slobs. They love to run their pissflaps about how this is GAWD'S COUNTRY, then throw trash all over it in the same breath.


This my uncle (my aunt's older brother, not the guy she married) at the rehearsal dinner, which was at the Mexican restaurant across the street from the hotel. They had a tequila list longer than most restaurants' wine lists, and I talked Mom into doing a couple shots of añejo with me. I also got her addicted to mojitos, she drank 3 the first night and never stopped drinking them the entire trip.


Yes, that is my aunt and her now-husband's dog in the wedding ceremony, wearing a tiny tuxedo with a boutonniere. In fact, it was a casual wedding, and he was the only member of the wedding party dressed formally.


The day after the wedding we drove to Long Beach and had brunch aboard the Queen Mary. It was like having mimosas on the Titanic, but without the pesky iceberg.

I got to eat a lot of seafood during the trip. Not that Louisiana is short on seafood, but it's hard to get anything that isn't Cajun. Don't get me wrong, I like Cajun food, but sometimes I miss the kind of seafood I grew up eating. I had calamari, lobster mac & cheese and lobster ravioli, seared ahi tuna (raw on the inside, just how I like it), snow crab legs, smoked salmon... the hotel restaurant even had swordfish, although I didn't order it. I haven't seen swordfish on a restaurant menu since I was a kid, I think we overfished it.

As I was sitting in the Dallas airport waiting for my connecting flight, it suddenly occurred to me that I only saw like 2 black people the entire time I was in Orange County. Granted, OC is the whitest part of California, but still. People say the south is more racist, and maybe it's true that white people from the south are more likely to be racist. But there are also a lot more black people in the south, and less self-segregation between black and white here. I see a lot more interracial couples in Louisiana than I ever did in California, for instance. It's real easy to be smug about how not-racist you are when you never work with, date, or interact with black people.
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My maternal grandmother died last week. She was 93 and my sole remaining grandparent. She hasn't been well in a few months; she had oral surgery last summer to remove the few teeth she still had because they were becoming impacted, and she never quite recovered from that. She still had good days, but all her little ongoing health problems seemed to get worse, and mentally she started slipping. She had a heart attack last month, and although it wasn't major, her doctor said she had to go into a nursing home and undergo physical therapy before she could go back to her apartment in assisted living. She was miserable there--it was a perfectly nice place, but she hated what it represented--and although we tried to make her believe it wasn't permanent (we kept her apartment at Eastridge for her), we think she just lost the will to live. She developed congestive heart failure and was re-admitted to the ER on Monday evening; she died peacefully in her sleep on Thursday morning while my mother and aunt were talking to each other in her room. It was so quiet that at first they didn't even realize she was gone--she was DNR, so she wasn't hooked up to a crash cart alarm or anything.

My grandmother was Catholic and she wanted the whole nine yards when she died: vigil, rosary, mass of Christian burial, and internment in the vault with my grandfather (who died in 2006 at the age of 98, after 68 years (!) of marriage). I'm an atheist, but I had no conflict about doing any of these things, even saying the rosary, which yes, I know how to do. (And I collect rosaries, so I had plenty to choose from.) It's not about me and what I do or don't believe, it's about respect for my grandmother's beliefs and wishes. Not even an argument.

It took up pretty much the whole weekend, and of course it was rife with bizarre family drama--although nothing like my grandfather's funeral, which included, among other events, a cousin's husband who wandered into the wrong funeral and kissed the wrong body. Let's see, my mother asked her cousin's ex-husband to say the rosary, and the cousin tried to murder him with her eyes during it. Oh, and during the rosary he said the first 3 Hail Marys were to stop "the sin of abortion, especially partial-birth abortion" (which is not a thing that actually exists). Not only is it tacky in the extreme to drag your politics into a funeral rosary, MY GRANDMOTHER WAS PRO-CHOICE. The same ex-cousin was also a pallbearer, and in the limo he used the phrase "colored boys", which my aunt's fiancé said was like "laying a giant turd" in front of everyone else present. So I pretty much never want to see him again, but my mother loves him for some incomprehensible reason. (Also she doesn't like the cousin he was married to, and it drives her crazy that she's still friends with him.)

Let's see, what else... the priest saying the mass was Filipino and frankly had an accent that you could have hacked with a machete; my aunt, sister, and myself also nearly got a fatal case of giggles whenever he said "Jesus Cwist". And of course there was the presence of my mother's older sister and her husband, who no one can stand. No one in my immediate family has spoken to them since my grandfather's funeral. Mom, Aunt Lori and I immediately started joking that Granny didn't like her enough to wait for her to get there before she died, or she just didn't remember that she had another daughter (she was supposed to get there on Saturday; she hadn't visited in over 3 years, even though she just lives in Florida), because we are terrible people.

Mom took my sister and brother-in-law and my aunt and her fiancé to the airport on Tuesday afternoon, and just when I thought all the family drama was over (not there was any from any of those particular family members), one of my cousin's girlfriends left a comment on my oldest brother's Facebook, berating him for not coming, saying he didn't "have enough respect" to "share her last day with us". HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE. My brother lives in Chicago and has only worked a few weeks in the past year and a half--he's a legal proof-reader/editor and the job market SUCKS out there right now. More importantly, the house he shares with his boyfriend and his boyfriend's parents just suffered catastrophic damage when the Des Plaines River flooded. He felt like they needed him more, and everyone completely understood. Pam (the cousin's girlfriend), is a complete fucking moron. No, I mean seriously--if her IQ cracks 90, I'll eat a dictionary. She has NO situational awareness or tact and is completely blind to social cues. I replied to her comment that I know she isn't "the shiniest coin in the fountain", but I thought even she could understand why Rian didn't come to Granny's funeral. Then all of Rian's friends started landing on her with both feet, she and my cousin unfriended everyone, and I guess we'll never see either one of them ever again. Big fat bummer.

So now we're trying to get back to normal, and of course that's when you really start to deal with loss, once all the funeral/family obligations are finished. I feel okay. I'm sad and I miss her--I had an especially close relationship to both of my mother's parents--but she had been telling my mother that she was "tired" and she was "ready", and I take comfort in that. I'm grateful more than ever that I moved here when I did, I saw more of her in the past 3 years than I had in the previous 20. My only regret is that I didn't move here sooner, so I could have spent time with my grandfather as well. But I just wasn't ready to leave California then, although I had started to accept that I probably would one day.

I'm a little worried about my mother, so much of her life since she moved back to Louisiana has revolved around her parents. She saw on the cable guide last night that Dancing With The Stars (Granny's favorite show) was coming on, started to say that she had to call her mother to remind her, and got very quiet for a while. I'm hoping she will now get the knee replacement surgery she's needed for a few years, she always said she couldn't because it would lay her up for too long. I want her and I to do more while she's able, but her knees always hurt.

Here is my grandmother's obituary, which my aunt, mother, and I wrote together. And we picked out the photos for the video tribute together as well--some of them were photos I own, and a couple of them are photos I took: this one, and the photo of her with her 90th birthday cake.
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I feel like 2011--my first complete year in Louisiana--was a pretty good year for me. I still feel positive about my decision to move down here, and the Lomography meetup group has been going well. We picked up another member--our first male member--last month. He's been living and working in South Korea for the past few years, and he made a Shaun of the Dead reference like 10 minutes after we met, so I think we're going to get along.

I don't know if I mentioned it, but I got a Christmas bonus (a week's wages--gross, not net) and told that I'm getting a raise. I bought myself a Nook Tablet today, as a post-holiday reward to myself. I'm still going to get most of my reading material from the library, but I can see buying new releases that have waiting lists, or obscure titles that can't be obtained through interlibrary loan. Plus there's magazines, music, games, movies, TV, web browsing.

Jamie and Greg went back to Los Angeles today, and Rian returned to Chicago on Tuesday. I have tomorrow off, then it's back to the grind. But I have the next meetup--in Morgan City this time--next weekend, and Hope and I have discussed doing a Lomography road trip in March. I was thinking either north Louisiana, the Galveston/Beaumont area of Texas, or Mississippi. And by a weird coincidence, she mentioned a restaurant in McComb, MS. That's the town that my father's family was originally from, although he mostly grew up in North Platte, NE. So it's probably going to be Mississippi this time, although I'd like to do more in the future.

One thing I'd like to do different in 2012 is that I'd like to do something for Mardi Gras. I didn't last year, and I kind of felt like I wasted being in south Louisiana. I think I'll probably go see the Krewe of Muses parade in New Orleans. That's an all-female krewe that rolls through uptown the Thursday before Fat Tuesday. Since it's all women, and not in the French Quarter, and not on Mardi Gras the actual day, there's a minimum of the obnoxious shenanigans I associate with Mardi Gras in New Orleans going on: namely, drunk college girls flashing their tits and drunker frat rats trying to date rape anything with boobs.
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So now I can talk about all the awesome presents I bought everyone:

Granny: There isn't much a 92-year-old woman really wants or needs. My grandmother lives in assisted living, which amounts to a 2 room apartment (3 if you count the bathroom), and the woman has bordered on hoarder all her life. It doesn't get too bad because her apartment gets cleaned every day, but she has a lot of stuff and I didn't want to give her something that would just add to it. So I got her a jar of soaps that look and smell like gardenia petals; each soap is good for one handwashing, it lathers up and washes away. She loves scented things, and this will be something that she'll enjoy but will get consumed.

Phil: I bought him a scrimshaw box made of water buffalo bone. He always admired scrimshaw, and he needs something to put his watch and rings in so they aren't just rolling around loose in his night table drawer.

Mom: You know those oval paper cups with the fluted edges that they serve hot dogs in when you get them at a fair or from a street vendor? I got her a set of 5 stoneware dishes that look like that. Mom likes the occasional chili dog, and you can't go wrong giving her any kind of dishes.

Jamie: I got her a bamboo serving tray that's got a slate inset and comes with chalk. So when you serve cheese or whatever on it, you can write the name underneath. It's a good size, it will hold at least 2 or 3 cheeses or appetizers. And it matches her bamboo floors!

Rian: Rian loves jigsaw puzzles, so I got him one of those 3D puzzles of the New York City skyline. What's cool is it has buildings from different eras, so you can build the 1812 skyline, then remove some of the buildings and put new ones it and re-create the skyline all the way up to next year (it includes the Freedom Tower, which hasn't been built yet).

David: David loves cookbooks (we all do; Mom, Rian, David, Jamie and I all got cookbooks for Christmas) and a few weeks ago he was saying how he thought Persian food had a real interesting flavor profile, how it blends sweet with savory. So I searched on Amazon and found him an introductory Persian cookbook.

Rian got me the Real Simple cookbook, Dinner Tonight: Done!. Uncle Larry got me The Atheist Manifesto and a gift card from Barnes & Noble (already spent that on a fountain pen!). Jamie and Greg of course got me the trip I took to Los Angeles last month and seeing The Cure at the Pantages. Mom and Phil got me season 5 of Dexter, The Girl Who Played With Fire (the novel, I already have the DVD), some instant film, a sealing wax set, some stationery, perfume (Tom Ford's Violet Blonde), gift cards to Hobby Lobby and Old Navy (already spent on capris and a couple of graphic tees), and they renewed my subscription to Real Simple magazine.

My culinary contributions thus far have been cake balls, which David says has ruined cake for him. You make a cake, just a sheet cake from a box mix. And you let it cool, preferably overnight. Then you mix it with a can of frosting and form it into balls, about rounded tablespoon size. Freeze them for at least a couple of hours, then melt some chocolate in a double boiler and dip the balls (heh) in it. Set them on wax paper or aluminum foil, and by the time the chocolate hardens the cake inside will be thawed. I made a butter pecan cake with chocolate frosting and semi-sweet chocolate, and a lemon cake with lemon frosting and white chocolate. That one is TITS.

And yesterday afternoon I baked a brie. I actually got the recipe from a magazine ad for Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry, which any honest professional chef will tell you is preferable to making your own. It tastes exactly the same and saves you hours of prep. Anyway, you thaw a sheet, roll it out on a floured surface, and cut off the corners. Mix chopped dried cherries (soften them in warm water first), toasted pecans, honey, rosemary, and a tiny pinch of salt. Put it in the middle of the sheet, put a large round brie on top (and when you're baking brie, it doesn't have to be a super expensive gourmet one), and pull the edges of the pastry sheet up. Flip it over onto a baking sheet, brush it all over with egg and a little water, and I usually decorate it with little cut outs of pastry from the corners you cut off. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes and cool for at least a half hour. I don't put this on crackers, I just cut little wedges and serve it that way. It's pretty and tastes like a million bucks, but it's super easy to make.

So, what did Santa bring YOU?
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My parents bought a puppy! I was just starting to think about moving out, but if there's gonna be a puppy in the house, fuck that. I'm staying for another year at least.

puppy 1, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

He's a mutt, mostly beagle. Which is a good foundation, because beagles have friendly personalities and very few inherited health problems.

His name is Hank. That was my idea.

puppy 4, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

He's the same color as the couches, so it doesn't matter if he sheds.

puppy 9, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

We heart him lots already.

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My mother is about to stir some major league shit in the family. It gets pretty thorny, so try to keep up:

My maternal grandmother's family owns quite a bit of land around Henry. It was originally all owned by my great-grandfather and now belongs to his children (only of whom my grandmother still survives) and grandchildren. It's controlled equally by my grandmother's children (my mother and her siblings), the children of 2 of her brothers, and the widow of another brother (great-uncle Nat) who didn't have any kids. She lives in Lake Charles and prefers not to get involved in shit like what's about to go down; more sympathetic I could not be.

My grandmother had 4 kids and my mother, as the only one actually resident in Louisiana, acts for all of them and my grandmother--she's my grandmother's executor.

My great-uncle Keifer only had one son who died of pancreatic cancer years ago; his widow Carol acts for their 2 sons. There's also a daughter but she's been largely absent from the family for years.

My great-uncle TB had 4 kids, one of whom died a few years ago. His son, my cousin (well, second cousin once removed) Maury, acts for his siblings. The other 3--Madeleine, Sammy, and Val--generally leave everything up to Sammy. Sammy is an asshole of epic proportions; and I wouldn't piss on his wife, Janelle, if the bitch was one fire. My mother caught her basically looting the rubble of my grandparent's house after Hurricane Rita. Mom and Madeleine used to be close, even though Madeleine is an ignorant racist shithead; but a few months ago they had a falling out because Madeleine kept stealing the figs and pecans that grow on my grandmother's property. Val worships Glenn Beck and is constantly pining for the good old days when certain folk weren't allowed on golf courses.

They're a bunch of worthless cunts, is what I'm saying.

Apparently Sammy and Janelle's son Bart, who is a state trooper, has been leaving his crab traps at the fishing camp 24-7, so no one else can fish there. He also told the people that my grandmother gave permission to raise crawfish to (they farmed some of the land for years but lost all their equipment in the hurricane) that they had to pay him. And only him. And we're pretty sure he's having all his state trooper buddies out to the camp and charging them money, which he is not not sharing with the family.

So Mom and Maury and Carol are going to get together and like, read the village charter and run Bart out on a rail? I don't even know. But it's gonna be some kind of epic hick showdown, that's for sure. I'm kind of looking forward to it. Mom has been on the phone all evening, plotting her takeover of the family estate.


Dec. 25th, 2010 11:18 pm
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Christmas isn't just about presents. It's about the one time of the year where your family makes an effort to get together and get along. (It helps that my immediate family are actually all cool people and none of them are bigots or Faux News watchers or god-botherers who tell me I'm hellbound).

That being said: come on, presents are awesome.

christmas 2010 presies, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

From the 'rents:
A blank journal in a re-usable leather cover (with another blank journal that will fit inside).
A wax "S" seal.
Harajuku Lovers "Wicked Style" Music perfume.
An Old Navy gift card.
Brooch, a snake twirled around a branch with a green stone in its mouth.
Mom tried to get me the Holga 35mm TLR, but must have been fucked up because she said it wouldn't take any of her cards. She's going to try again this week.

From Uncle Larry:
Susan Sontag's essay series On Photography.
The Girl Who Played With Fire.

From Rian:
A Barnes & Noble gift card (gonna use this to get both the book and movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).

From Jamie & Greg:
The Williams-Sonoma "Asian" book from the Food Made Fast series.
A sampler of teas from Chado and a tea filter (as you can see I already had one and it was excellent).

From David:
A really beautiful Waterman fountain pen. It can take cartridges and also be filled from bottled ink.

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landry cemetery 8, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Late yesterday afternoon, when I got home from my bicycle ride, I asked my brother Rian (who arrived from NYC on Sunday) if he wanted to go look at anything nearby. He's like me, he enjoys riding around and finding stuff and places (before I got a job, when I first moved down here, I used to do that a lot); plus I know it can be dull to be stuck at the house all day.

We had been talking about this old cemetery that he and Mom had been to back when the 'rents first moved back here, but that I'd never seen, the Landry Cemetery. It's pretty hard to find if you don't already know where it is. He was like, let's go there.

One of our great-great-great grandmothers is buried there; actually, she's a direct matriarchal descent straight to me because she's Granny's (my mother's mother) mother's (Momo) mother's (Grandma Lee) mother. She's also how our family can call itself Cajun, because no one really knows where the Delinos (my grandmother's father's family) came from. The working theory I've heard all my life is that they're Spaniards, I guess from when Louisiana was Spanish territory. There's a village in Spain, de Lino or something, that they allegedly came from, but it's all pretty much guesswork.

Surrounding the cemetery is what my Aunt Lori claims is called "Pollit's Woods", which were the local spooky spot when she was growing up in Henry. They're supposed to be haunted or infested with loups-garoux (Cajun werewolves) or something. I did hear what I'm pretty sure was a coyote, this sort of howling bark that sounded like no dog I've ever heard, so maybe that's where that reputation comes from. (And I wasn't even aware that we had coyotes in Louisiana until a couple months ago.)

landry cemetery 9, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I just thought this was cool, the different sizes. I guess it's a family, parents and kids. Is that morbid? I dunno, I've never found cemeteries depressing or scary, I guess because I don't really fear death. Nothingness isn't scary to me. It's not like I'm gonna be there to experience it.

landry cemetery 3, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Licheny Jesus!

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This weekend was very pleasant, sunny but not hot with just the right amount of breeze. It made me miss bicycling, so I went to Wal Mart to see what they had, and instantly fell in love with this:

Seriously, you guys. It was like that scene at the end of the Firefly episode "Out of Gas", where Mal sees Serenity for the first time (only she's not yet Serenity, just some busted-up piece of rusting junk, so I am obviously more shallow than Cap'n Tightpants). I wanted to pull it off the rack and slip a ring on its handlebar. I forced myself to walk away, because a) I wanted to wait a few days for my next paycheck; and b) I couldn't have fit it in my car anyway, I'll need Mom to come with me in her truck. But she will be mine. Oh, yes... she will. Probably Wednesday-ish.

I got some shooting done in my Argus C3, although I didn't finish the roll, and last night I made dinner for Granny again. She's kind of depressed about the upcoming holidays, because she misses Grandpa more during them. Plus a few of the residents in her assisted living home -- ones she actually liked -- have recently died.

Mom says she's also worried about Uncle Larry's memory, but I find the ALZHEIMER'S OMG diagnosis everyone's leaping to a little premature. I mean, the guy was a speedball addict for 2 decades. If a little short term memory loss is the only thing he suffers from in his 60s, he's gotten off easy.

I made turkey sage meatloaf, which I brought up making a couple months back and which Mom came up with about a dozen excuses (it's too different, she doesn't like meatloaf, she's 91 and won't try anything new, blah blah blah) for why Granny wouldn't eat it. The last one was the excuse that seriously made me think this was some bizarre conspiracy against me cooking for my grandmother, for motivations I can't even begin to guess at: "She won't be able to chew it". Right. Because everyone knows meatloaf is up there with like, steak or peanut brittle in the category of foods that are tough to chew even when you're not working with your original 90+ year old teeth. The hell?

So I made it anyway, and Granny liked it (I made a kick-ass gravy; gravy is something that I'm kind of hit-or-miss with but this one was a resounding success), and the first thing she said after finishing was "I like meatloaf, it's one of those things that's easy for me to chew".


You guys, I love my mother, but there are things she does that make no. fucking. sense. at all. to me. I'm learning she exaggerates the hell out of Granny's fussiness w/r/t food. Yes, like most 91-year-old Cajuns, she's a little picky. (Although she'll eat calves' brains and headcheese, 2 things that I can't even look at or smell, never mind chew and swallow.) It reminds me of how she used to exaggerate Grandpa's hearing loss. I mean okay, yes, when the guy entered his 90s, his hearing suffered a little. You had to pitch your voice a little louder in order for him to hear. But she used to bellow at him as if he were stone deaf. Once he and I were talking and I guess Mom thought I wasn't screaming quite at the top of my voice enough, and she yelled "DAD, CAN YOU HEAR HER?!?!?!" He looked at her mildly and said "I could hear you out in the street."

You have to have known my grandfather to understand how truly devastating that was. I was dying.
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