Louisiana Trip

Hezakiah's Hands - Lake Charles Trip

I’m back at my parents’ home after having spent the week with my dad doing volunteer work in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Dad is a member of a local organization called Hezakiah’s Hands (it’s associated with his church).  He’s done several projects with the group, so I figured, it being important to Dad, I’d volunteer.  It was a great experience.  The group of people traveling down country (there were 18 of us) was a blast during the long ride.  We had a great time. I was amazed by Lake Charles.  It’s been a few years now since the devisitation of Hurricane Ike, but the ramifications persist.  Of course, living in the places where I’ve lived, where hurricanes don’t really exist, I felt kinda ignorant having been surprised that yes, it does take a long time to rebuild a community.  We would drive along the main thoroughfairs and all looked fine.  Once we ventured off the main drag, though, we’d see empty lots, boarded houses, and houses that shouldn’t be inhabited.

The first day’s shock was seeing the conditions of some of these places.  The habit, in Louisiana, is to raise houses from the ground, sometimes on pylons, but most of the stuff we saw was raised in a few blocks.  One house was perched precariously over a veritable pool of grey water that had gathered beneath it.  Its blocks were cockeyed in every direction from the force of wind and water.  Some room’s floors dropped half a foot or more over the length of 12 feet.  The shock the next day was when it sank in that a contractor had caused the pool.  The homeowners had sunk their lifesavings into saving their home, part of that project was building earth under their house to keep out water.  The contractor, instead, heaped earth around the perimeter of the house making it appear to have been filled in.  The perimeter just created walls for the collecting pool.  The underside of the house was rot and mold that had permeated all the way to the laminate flooring of their living room.

 

The people we met were wonderful.  We were treated to homecooked meals (smothered quail? – I’ll show you the photos later).  As I left one site, the lady of the house hugged me.

 

During the course of the trip, I took a few hours of footage on my D300s.  I will get it uploaded sometime soon.  I need to get to my equipment in my apartment first.  Too much footage to hack on my laptop:)  Meanwhile, I’m posting a photo of the group.  We were working in cooperation with the Presbyterian Disaster Assitance (hence, the shirts).  As always, I try to avoid religion in any of my discussions.  My beliefs are very personal, but universal in nature, and I’ll just leave it at that.

“… have some tacos to cool off.”

So, today, I took a bus from Philly to Scranton, to meet up with my dad.  We are preparing for our trip to Louisiana. Today is also my dad’s birthday. In continuing efforts to entertain my father, I thought, for fun, we’d go to a late lunch at this place called “Quaker Steak and Lube”. Ok, before you get to thinking this is the cheesiest lunch plan on the planet, especially for so important a day: hear me out. Quaker Steak and Lube was featured recently on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs Food” (excellent show). The host, Adam, had to eat their most insane hot wings. I thought : this is great idea! What better way to celebrate with my dad then to try climbing Everest! (seriously, though, my other thought was “Dad’s going to get a great laugh”).

I can’t tell you how nervous I actually felt, leading up to the arrival of the basket. Dad had “hot” (3k Scoville Units — measure of hotness). Atomic = 150k units. I ate the first three with zeal and they were delicious!! Then came the pain, chased by lots of milk. As I ate, and Dad gave me the play by play on the sweat pouring off my forehead, I reflected that the worst part was the dual concentration of ignoring the pain, and abating the nausea building in my stomach of the 2 massive glasses of whole milk swirling amid hot sauce (and the pudding I had for breakfast – not a good way to start the day).

Pain upon pain. The heat was only in my lips, tongue and throat, but it was so intense, that the rest of my body actually shivered with cold! Beth, our waitress, was incredible, sympathetic. She had to try all of the sauces, as part of her hiring, so she understood. At the end, she brought me a small cup of chocolate sauce which she said would take down the edge. I wasn’t crying. (maybe tearing). I was tough. Still a man. Still had my deep voice going. She was right about the chocolate helping.

Then Dad said the phrase which locked in my mind. “Well, for dinner, you can have some tacos to cool off.” Probably any third party will think my dad crazy with a line like that. No, Mom just had dinner planned, and Dad was just reminding me, but the delivery made me laugh so much the resulting afterglow in my stomach was slightly frightening. It subsided, as did the pain. “Boy,” my father said, as he does when imparting wisdom, or when he is too embarassed to pronounce my name, ” eating that was a really stupid idea.”

Reach out and make a friend