New Iberia is one of the places folks around here go when they want to experience Louisiana coastal culture without going too far afield. Tailor-made for these folks is the upcoming Preserve Louisiana Tour: Cajun Land, which promises “a Cultural & Architectural Tour to New Iberia” from Friday, Feb. 16-Sunday, Feb. 18.
Over the three-day period, participants will have the options of visiting the Tabasco Factory (left) and Jungle Gardens; the Shadows On the Teche Plantation; the Bayou Teche Museum; the Joseph Jefferson House and Rip Van Winkle Gardens; the Evangeline Tree and Monument and the Museum of the Acadian Memorial.
Given that this is a coastal Cajun event, food is bound to be the main attraction for some. Dining options will include the Little River Inn, the Jefferson Café and Landry’s. Diners can also enjoy the live show, meanwhile, back at Café Du Monde … at the Antique Rose Ville. Along for the tour will be Peggy Sweeney-McDonald, author of the play, in which area “foodies” discuss their favorite foods and food experiences.
Single tickets are $675; double tickets $1,150. Before you develop too intense a case of sticker shock, be aware that those prices include all transportation, a two-night stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites, all meals, the tours and the live show.
This is the second of these large-scale cultural tours. The first one, held last year, went to Natchez, Miss.
For more information, visit preserve-louisiana.org.
If you want a cultural experience that won’t take as much of your time or money, consider going to a conversation between authors Tom Piazza and Jonathan Santlofer at Octavia Books at 513 Octavia St. in New Orleans on Jan. 30 at 6 pm. (No admission as far as I know.)
Piazza is the author of the manifesto Why New Orleans Matters and was a principal writer for Treme. Santlofer has published five novels and received two National Endowment for the Arts Grants.
More recently, the two have been working on a really big book titled It Occurs To Me That I Am America. This compilation of literature and art includes some of the major, major names: Louise Eldridge, Alice Walker, Julia Alvarez, Alice Hoffman, Paul Theroux and lots of others. The artists represented are just as prestigious; among them are Art Spiegelman, Roz Chast and Eric Fischl.
Santlofer says the idea for the volume came as a reaction to the 2016 presidential election. The book, he says, “aims to address the anxiety that many Americans are feeling about losing the freedoms for which we’ve fought; to remind us of America as an international symbol of hope; and considers the most basic notion of all: what it means to be an American.”
If your traveling interests tend more to nature than to manmade culture, there are tour guides in Morgan City who believe they can show you American Bald Eagles between Feb. 22-24. The annual Eagle Expo lets participants see, get close to and learn about a number of large birds.
On Feb. 22 at 6:30 pm, a presentation at the Patterson Civic Center will feature a bald eagle as well as a falcon, hawk and black vulture.
The next day, at a photography lecture by C.C. Lockwood, participants can learn how to photograph eagles. (Call 225-769-4766 to sign up for this special program.)
On four different boat tours, you can see bald eagles in locales as various as the Atchafalaya Basin, Turtle Bayou, Lake Varret and Bayou Magazille. You may also see red-shouldered hawks, white ibis, blue herons, great egrets and others. On a fifth tour, you probably won’t see any eagles, but will see the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge and its signature black bears.
The event also includes a dinner, a breakfast and a series of seminars. You only pay for what you go to. To see the price schedule, visit Cajuncoast.com and search for “13th Annual Eagle Expo & More” or call 800-256-2931 or 985-380-8224.
Many People Back At Work
By the time you read this issue, Southwest Louisiana’s unofficial holiday for Christmas and New Year’s will be drawing to a close. In fact, at this point, at least one employee has returned to work at nearly half of the Lake Area’s businesses. The area is expected to reach full employment by Jan. 31 — just in time for the beginning of Southwest Louisiana’s unofficial Mardi Gras holiday.
If you want to get some good or service in the Lake Area before folks start taking off for Mardi Gras, your best chance will be on Jan. 30 from 10 am to noon. At that time, according to the Local Employee Participation Survey prepared by Trey Trey’s Mud Emporium Economic Institute, a total of 83 percent of the Lake Area’s employees will be working at their jobs. (Please note there is a margin of error of 3 to 4 percent in the survey.)
Arcadia Publishing Books CHEAP!
One of the best series of books about Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana has come from Arcadia Publishing and its Images In America Series. Some of these books are two different volumes titled Lake Charles (one by Jessica Hutchins; one by Janet Allured and others); Imperial Calcasieu (Robert Benoit), Kenner (Troy A Broussard), Crowley (Ann Mire) and three different books on Rayne.
If you hurry, you can get in on a sale that lets you buy three Arcadia titles for $20 during the month of January. A total of 904 Arcadia titles are part of this sale. And while that list of 904 doesn’t include the books specifically about SWLA mentioned in the first paragraph, it does have some titles that might be of interest to the Southwest Louisiana audience, for example:
Baton Rouge Cemeteries
The Galveston Buccaneers
Houston’s Courtland Place
The Texas Hamburger (a survey of major Texas burgers).
If you’re a real American history buff, I can assure you you’ll find topics you never heard of before in this list of 904. For instance, while one of the three books I ordered was New York in the Great Depression (obviously on a well-known topic), another was Outbreak in Washington, D.C.: The 1857 Mystery of the National Hotel Disease. Who knew? My third volume, Theatres of Portland, covers a historical topic I searched on site some years ago.
These books originally cost $19.99 or more. I was surprised and pleased to learn there’s no postage charge for this sale. To start looking through that long list, visit Arcadiapublishing.com.
You Don’t Say!
To date, I have a fairly positive impression of new Gov. John Bel Edwards. But I admit I don’t always understand what he says. For instance, the Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp recently quoted the governor as saying, “If you cut over a billion dollars [from the Louisiana state budget], I can tell you, TOPS will not be fully funded.”
How’s that for a statement of the obvious? Would it have been any more insightful for the governor to have said, “If you cut over a billion dollars, you’re going to cut at least a penny from the education budget — and maybe two pennies”?
Perhaps Edwards was reminding everyone of the inevitable TOPS cuts to get the attention of legislators with wealthy supporters whose children are about to head to college. If so, I believe that play has been used before in the Louisiana Legislature. It didn’t even get a first down.
State’s Sexual Harassment Tab Tops $1 Million
Crisp and Mark Ballard also reported that in the last decade, Louisiana state gubment has paid “nearly $1.3 million to settle sexual harassment claims.” (Since the info the Advocate got was a “partial response” to a request from the state’s Dept. of Administration, I’m going to guess for now that the figure could be higher than $1.3 million.)
Payouts have included:
• $150,000 for La. Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control commissioner Murphy Painter. (Painter strenuously objected to the state pay-out, claiming it harmed his reputation. After the allegations, Painter was fired. He’s been sued several times.)
• $89,000 for Frederick Tombar III, who was executive director of the La. Housing Corp. A La. Division of Administration Report concluded Tombar “clearly established a pattern of sexual harassment and [a] hostile work environment.”
• Courage Idusuyi was paid $85,000 by the state. Not only was he accused of long-term sexual harassment, he was also sued for “taking perks from contractors in exchange for preferential treatment for work tied to the federal flood education program.”
• $150,000 went to former Orleans Parish Juvenile Court judge David Bell. In addition to his sexual harassment woes, Bell is now heading to trial on a racketeering charge that relates to a Jefferson Parish car stealing operation.
These are just the more colorful pay-outs. The list (or partial list) of recipients includes such traditionally non-powerful individuals as prison employees and a janitor supervisor. With their story (“Records: Louisiana paid $1.3 million to settle sexual harassment claims over the past decade …”), the journalists provide a detailed list of 28 settlements that includes such info as the names of the parties and the amounts of money involved. There is much discussion of Bel Edwards’ former chief of staff Johnny Anderson. But as far as I can tell, the state hasn’t yet paid any money for him.
I wonder whether I’m the only one who feels that the state government of Louisiana (or the state government of any state) should never pay even one thin dime to settle a sexual harassment charge against someone in state government. And if, for some reason, a state feels duty-bound to throw taxpayer money at dozens of people who’ve been accused of sexual harassment, maybe it could at least hold off on the ones who’ve also been accused of bid-rigging and racketeering. Just an idea.
You Heard It Right
By the way, some of you may have heard a rumor that a teacher who objected to a raise for the Vermillion School Board president at the school board meeting was put in handcuffs and dragged out of the building. And you may have thought, “Well, that’s some kind of urban myth. It can’t possibly be true.”
It’s true. The whole thing was filmed and it’s all over the Internet.
A word to the wise: in Louisiana, it’s probably best to just stand quietly by and let those school board people vote themselves as many raises as they want to. Besides, what else are they going to do at school board meetings?
The Twitter News
Believe it or not, this special section has nothing to do with Donald Trump. This time around, the Up Fronter will look at what some of the state’s top journalists are Tweeting these days. This should give us a pretty good overview of what’s most newsworthy in Louisiana right now.
• “lol someone is shooting off fireworks in the hood” — Chelsea Brasted, lead reporter for the Times-Picayune, Jan. 8.
• “This is a super-easy sewing project (or fabric glue project) that will keep your hands warm this winter.” — FOX29 News, Jan. 8.
• “You might see snowflakes in Shreveport this week” — The Shreveport Times, Jan. 9.
• “Baton Rouge is getting ‘I, Tanya’ this weekend.” — Matthew Sigur, Advocate journalist, Jan. 10.