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.”

Wood’s Hole – Kevin Burke and Cal Scott

In my musical tastes, I’ve never gotten into Folk music, let alone fiddle music.  Probably mostly from a lack of exposure.  My brother, on the other hand, has been becoming engrossed in the genre, to the point where he is learning to play fiddle on our great great great great great grandfather’s instrument.

Adam’s fiddle hero is an Irishman named Kevin Burke who now resides in Oregon.  Adam found out a few weeks ago that Kevin Burke would be performing not too far away in the town of Wood’s Hole in Massachusetts.  When we arrived at the community hall Sunday evening past, an hour before opening, we were the only ones there.  It remained this way until about 15 minutes until showtime.  Soon after, the place was packed.

The venue was perfect.  A community hall of oak and pine built ca 1879.  Tall ceilings and wonderful acoustics.  No mics needed.  We were certainly the furthest trekkers to this show; most were local.  

I’m including a link to a youtube video of a previous performance of Kevin Burke with Cal Scott (who also played that evening in Wood’s Hole).  The concert was incredible.  Not only did the music move, but the performers were entertaining between pieces.  It was also educational: not just in experiencing something new in my case, but also in feeling somehow transported to a place I’ve never been.

Wood's Hole, MA, Community Hall

 

Review: The Brown Bunny

I like to consider myself an appreciator of film.  I watch all kinds, not just for enjoyment but because I want to broaden my mind and my creativity.  To this end, I’ve become a customer of NetFlix (woo).  This week’s selection?  The Brown Bunny  by Vincent Gallo.

Ok, if you’ve seen this film, or heard of it, you know the controversy surrounding it.  If you have no clue what I’m talking about… well, good.  I’ll get to that in a second.

I started my brief Vincent Gallo kick by watching his previous film, Buffalo 66.  It was incredible!  I really went into that film with no expectations and walked away with a feeling that I’d just experienced something truly unique.  Gallo has a style that’s his.  It certainly draws on great influences (Goddard would be a likely candidate), while at the same time, Buffalo 66 had those elements that make a great film: characters that you believe in, a story that carries you through, and a progression of events that bring about a real change in the characters.  Buffalo 66 had those elements in spades.  The Brown Bunny does not!

The story is basically encapsulated in : Despondent motorcycle racer drives van across country while pining for lost love.

1.5 hours could easily have been condensed into 10 minutes.

The majority of the film has no dialogue (not necessarily bad : a matter of style), no plot progression (bad), and is more or less non-stop portraits of Gallo himself (who, by the way is writer, director, lead actor, editor, and cinematographer).  It’s like watching someone preen them self in the mirror over and over and over.  Not to mention the final minutes which finally show some progression in the story, but only through the device of a very graphic sex scene and a (I’m sorry to say) rape scene.  It goes beyond over-the-top.  It was just revolting.  Rape, as an idea, as a word, in and of itself is horrible enough and conjures things that scare and upset the audience in ways that make the point; there was no reason to depict it on film.  I’m not being some kind of censor here.  I’m not out to say what’s decent or indecent.  I am out to say that moments in a film are like words in a book : they need to serve a purpose.  Showing a rape scene served no purpose.

But wait…  I’m not going to be negative about the whole experience.    As I told my brother, who watched the film with me, I’m glad I watched it just for the education (I mean, even when I eat something I end up disliking, I at least feel good that I tried it).  The Brown Bunny is not anything I would recommend to anyone.  Buffalo 66, yes, but not this film.  I am glad I saw the cinematography (it was beautiful at many moments).  The editing created a definite unease which was very masterfully handled : however that unease, like the movie as a whole became redundant and self-serving.  That’s really what it comes down to in my mind: this movie was self-serving and not, in any balanced way, designed to serve the audience.  However, I don’t want to overlook the fact that a man got in a van and made a movie.  Vincent Gallo put together a guerilla project that he believed in, and I think that’s an accomplishment in-and-of itself.

 

Reach out and make a friend