Louisiana has always held a special place in my heart. Moss-covered magnolias, the piercing sound of cicadas on sweltering Summer days. The food —distinct in its own Creole and Cajun evolution that defies the American meat and potatoes idiom and instead utilizes fertile swampland for an array of dishes, from court bouillon to crawfish.
The music? Oh the music… Zydeco, brass bands and Southern soul music carve their own unique sounds into your consciousness that causes smiles from ear to ear and beckons you to wear out the soles of your shoes dancing. Music so good that it can make you forget it’s so hot outside that even the windows, covered in condensation seem to sweat. Let Eddie Bo or Clifton Chenier or Trombone Shorty make you sway like the Cajun Pied Pipers they are and if only for just a moment, forget your worries in a world unlike any other.
The people, much like my fellow Texans, take great pride in their heritage and can sometimes appear abrasive by those not well acquainted with local customs. The hue of hot and humid weather and thick-as-molasses accents generally wears away and the salt of the earth charm and southern hospitality generally wins over all visitors in due time.
I am the result of Cajun Diaspora, my mother’s family drifted westward during the depression, chasing employment in the oil boom of East Texas, an area where many of my relatives remain to this day. My grandfather still runs crab traps off the side of his boat dock on the Neches River in Port Arthur and when my family gets together for boils, there are few things in life I relish more. Sitting at a picnic table in the shade, picking apart crabs, knocking back copious amounts of Lone Star or Pearl and talking with my uncle about how many redfish he caught —likely illegally, the last week as the sound of cars driving over the Rainbow Bridge far above remind me I’m still in Texas, if just barely.
To visit Louisiana for me is to see, smell and hear the things that shaped my family and influenced in a large part who I am today. The reason the occasional long drawl slides out of my mouth if I’ve had a couple drinks without warning. The reason I can’t fathom not living near the water and the reason I scoff at Tabasco and reach for the Crystal hot sauce instead.
Last week, I pulled a 48 hour jaunt through the lower half of the state, looking for signs of the cultural cloth that I was cut from. A hajj of sorts, a pilgrimage that took my father and me from Lake Charles to the proverbial Mecca that is New Orleans.
Here are some photos from the journey.