Wednesday, April 20, 2016
My Love/Hate Relationship With Louisiana
Within a month, I had a job waiting tables at a local restaurant. It took me another 5 months to save up the money to buy a used car, and it was nearly a year before I could find a job in my field. It was an unexpected journey from having nothing, to having a steady paycheck, a woman who loved me, and the peace of mind I had been seeking for years.
Louisiana is not where I ever saw myself ending up. A couple of years prior, I had visited with an ex-girlfriend to attend my sister's wedding, and I remarked that while I liked parts of Louisiana and its culture, it was a place that I could never see myself living in.
Yet, just a couple of years later, that's where I found myself. In time, I began to adjust and find my own niche in a culture that has a distrust of outsiders and a preference for their own ways, even those ways are decades behind the rest of the country.
What I love about Louisiana, at least the southern part of the state, is how friendly people can be. They want to know who you are, who you are related to, and many will buy you a beer during that conversation. You might even be invited to a crawfish boil where you don't know anyone else, and at the end of the night, you've made a bunch of new friends - if you don't talk about political or religious issues that might offend some folks.
For the most part, most Cajuns I've met have embraced me to some degree. After 5 1/2 years, I know people of all political and religious persuasions who I can spend time with, and we get together over our love of food, sports and beer. This isn't the place I saw myself ending up in, but I've learned to make it work.
The political ignorance and individuals fighting against their own self-interests does drive me crazy - as does the racial hatred which lingers just below the surface not only in Louisiana, but across the Southern states in which I have spent all of my life.
One of these days, I may move back to Florida, or even the state where I was born, Virginia. Louisiana has so much promise if only it would turn its government around and elect officials who have the best interests of every citizen in mind, rather than the corporate interests who have run Louisiana into fiscal crisis.
I would like to see Louisiana rise out of the bigotry and ignorance of the Bible Belt and join the rest of the United States in the 21st century sometime in the near future. But if they cannot do that, I will have to regrettably move on, Cajun recipe books in tow.