Monday, August 15, 2011

Public Transportation

I'm in Lake Charles.  At the end of July, I took a week-long trip to Memphis.  It was a nice trip, but too hot.  It's too hot in Lake Charles too.  Really it's just miserable everywhere in the South right now.  I had the air-conditioner blasting during my drive back, and I think poor little Zeus still may have gotten over-heated.

Since my move to Lake Charles, going back home always brings up one major frustration: Travel Time.  Lake Charles may be a frustrating place in many ways, but I absolutely love the fact that I can get just about anywhere in less than 15 minutes, usually less than 10.  In the greater Memphis area, I usually have to allot at least 30 minutes to get most places, and I hate it.  Living in a small city has ruined any desire for a long car trip.  And there's something just awfully tiring about driving a car, especially in temperatures of 90 and higher.  Not to mention Memphis drivers are rude, aggressive, and careless; they drive huge SUVs and tailgate like all hell.  Basically, after a day of running around town, I have to go back to my parents' house and sit and be quiet to de-stress from the day.  

This has a point: why don't Southern cities invest in decent public transport?  Yes Memphis has the MATA buses, which are as about as efficient as walking.  I realize that Memphis may be more spread out than the typical large city and probably doesn't have enough tax revenue to keep the city from sliding into anarchy, much less build something as exotic as an underground metro system.  But let's dream a little.  
You may remember my love affair with the bus drivers of Angers.  The system just worked so well.  Rarely do commuters have to wait more than 10 minutes for a bus, and the bus drivers were just so damn nice.  (Unless you were riding without a ticket -- I am ashamed to say I was caught riding dirty exactly once.)
Why don't many American cities have the super-efficient, awesome, and mostly friendly bus system like their European counterparts?  Yeah, it is super annoying when people idealize Europe like it's some model of high civilization while America is dismissed as some kind of flailing barbarian of a nation.  And there are plenty of things America does very well, but, man, wouldn't it be nice to have decent public transport in places other than NY and DC?

This post is mostly a complaint; I apologize for the lack of reasonable analysis.  

In other news, I have obsessively listening to the Freakonomics Podcast.  A while ago they had an interesting episode about Why Cities Rock.  Essentially, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser explains why (according to his data) city-living makes people "richer, smarter, greener, healthier, and happier."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Abroad is back.

I am subject to my whims.  I've decided to change the heading back to Abroad.

Any thoughts?

On the radio

Something I love about Lake Charles (and SWLA) is the local public radio station, KRVS.  Radio Acadie has great programming, all the time.  (No, this post is not brought to you by their underwriters, or anything like that.)
At home, in Memphis, I started listening to MPB.  That's right, Mississippi Public Radio has better programming than the whole grand *cough* city of Memphis.  I'd love to listen to WKNO Memphis, but other than the weekday news and some of the weekend broadcasting, it primarily plays classical music.  Not that there's anything wrong with classical: I enjoy a bit of Mozart and Bach here and there, but unless it's Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (that's pt. 1, pt. 2 here), classical is not my preferred driving music.  And somehow even MPB's classical radio is better.

Anyway, KRVS has awesome music, almost all of the time.  And when it's not awesome music, it's sweet talk radio.  Radio Acadie plays plenty of Cajun and Zydeco, and there's even some programming in French.  They also broadcast tons of different folk, bluegrass, and blues music, David Dye's World CafĂ©, a baller Monday night opera show, and quite a bit of jazz.  On the talk side, there's the usual Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Fresh Air, as well as This American Life, BBC (at a reasonable hour!), and all sorts of Louisiana Arts programs, including From the Poet's Bookshelf.
If you're in LA, here's a schedule.  If you're not, hopefully your state likes public radio more than west TN.

Louisiana may lag on all sorts of state ranking lists; however, the Sportsman's Paradise has managed to provide one of my favorite public services.

Here's a song (kind of) about the radio.  Sure, Courtney Love might be a horrible human being, but love her or hate her, this song is pretty awesome.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Explanations and Pink Dolphins

Al Abroad has been on a bit of a hiatus.  This is due to two things:
1. Grad School is hard.   Really, it is.  This semester kicked my ass.  12 hours of classes + teaching + tutoring hours + eating/sleeping/taking care of the dog.... There just aren't enough hours in the day.
2. My perspective is off.  The easy thing about blogging from France is that everything was so novel.  There was always some quirky or annoying or bat-shit-crazy thing to write about. Plus, I was always on the go, meeting new people, seeing new places.  Louisiana is also quirky, sometimes annoying, and definitely bat-shit-crazy.  But it also looks, in a lot of ways, just like home. And I go about my day-to-day much like I would at home.  Recognizing, processing, and analyzing the aforementioned quirky/annoying/bat-shit-crazy stuff can fall by the wayside.
However, I've been following more blogs than I used to, both those by friends and total strangers, and reading those blogs has reminded me that writing in a non-academic way can be really fun.  My friend Crystel recently mentioned how it's a different kind of creative outlet that really gives her a break from her job in non-profit.  And reading Elvynia's blog makes me nostalgic both for our time as tea-chairs and traveling.

There are definitely things I can share about Lake Charles and my day-to-day experiences.  I could talk about the people who want to tell me everything about their lives while I'm standing in line at the store, or I could write about all the fascinating books I flagged for "weeding" in the reference section of the library.  I can complain about the humidity, rather than the cold.  Or recount the absolutely absurd moment I experienced in the American McDonald's.  Or I could share this bizarre image, which I found in a Google Image search for Lake Charles:
Read about this pink dolphin here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A note on the name...

I changed things up a little.
Al, abroad ---> Al, a broad

I think referring to myself as "a broad" is funny, even though "broad" is technically a derogatory word for a woman.  I am taking it and owning it.  Kind of.
"Abroad" means many things, including just being away from home, but now the play on words is still there in a different way.
Why not?

There goes the sun...

So this post was supposed to be "Here Comes the Sun," but then the whole country decided to freeze over...
(Bro. Dave -- you're totally right; there are so many things to talk about any place in the world!)

The most wonderful thing about living in Louisiana is living in Louisiana in January.  Last week we had temperatures in the 70s (21C).  I spent several days outside, at different parks, jogging and walking Zeus.
It's easy to take nice weather for granted.  Our lives are busy; my life, as a grad student, is full of papers to write and books to write and classes to plan.  However, after spending last winter with less sunlight than I can ever remember experiencing in my entire life, sunny, warm temperatures in January should not be ignored.  It should be celebrated, and how better to celebrate than a Thursday jog along the lake front with a Zeus?

Anyway, we continued to celebrate the beautiful weather on Friday.  A few friends and I enjoyed a delicious meal on the patio of a local bar.  Then, Zeus, Mila and I sat in my friend Danielle's backyard and watched Zeus play with his friends, Clementine and Winston.  They enjoyed the sun too.
The best thing about all of this was the sunburn I got on my face and neck.  I'm not even kidding!  It's already faded away, but I think a person in the northern hemisphere should consider herself luck if she can get a sunburn in January.

Now, however, the cold weather has struck.  This once sunny city will hit low temperatures of 29F (-2C) tonight.  In honor of the cold weather, I blew a fuse in the living room, knocking out any chance of heating the front part of the house, as well as shutting down the internet.  Because I did not think that was enough trouble, I managed to plug a heater into a bathroom socket (to try and get just a tiny bit of heat in the rest of the house) and create a small explosion.  The heater shot sparks at me and Lauren (who was trimming my hair) and surged all of the outlets in Kelly's room.
Long story short, we don't have the circuit breaker box in our part of the house.  Also, our 80-year-old landlords, The Johnsons, are out of town for the next two weeks.  
I had to call a friend to have her email their grandson (Dr. Blevins, also head of the English department, professor of one of the classes I'm taking, and for all intents and purposes my boss) to let him know we were cold.  He ended up coming by, getting things fixed up (and showing us the stupid circuit box on the side of the house, i.e. totally accessibly by us), and checking out a few other minor maintenance matters.  It was only slightly embarassing and ended up taking care of some issues we've been having for months.

Anywho, there went the sun...

Kevin and I are flying to DC tomorrow -- that is if none of our flights are cancelled!  It will be freezing there too, so everyone should enjoy this nice sunny music video.
They like sitting in the sun with animals as much as me!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dear Readers

Well I haven't posted in 5 months, I guess it's about time for an update.

I've been thinking about where I should go with this blog.  Should I keep posting? Should I start something completely different?  What should I focus on?  What is life?  Who am I?

Seriously though, there is cartharsis in telling stories, and last year I found this to be a wonderful way to share stories with lots of people.  My idea is to shift towards a more general focus of "stories about people."  That sounds interesting, right?  Everyone loves story.  And people are always interesting.

For example, Kevin and I have gone down to the lake several times recently with Zeus.  There's a man who hangs around down there (I honestly don't know if he's homeless or what), and he LOVES zeus.  The first time we were there, he just yelled at Zeus, "Hey Black! Hey Black!"
More recently, he's told me about his sister's dog, which apparently looks exactly like Zeus.  According to might-be-homeless man, both his sister's dog and Zeus are a breed of dog called "curry" or "kurry."  I like "kurry" better.  We had a very confusing conversation about this.  I can't find any such breed of dog, so if anyone has a lead (ha, isn't that kind of a dog joke?) let me know!
Since then, this man has insisted upon showing Zeus to any of many random men who also hang around the lake with him.

Alright, I'm going to think about the future of Al Abroad...

Christmas Kurry Dogs