Couldn't stop thinking about the Coastal area of my girlhood

I was less than 50 miles from the Gulf more that a month after the BP disaster, the crawfish were bitin,' and amid the bon temps, a not-so-thin veil of sadness

I was steep in my homeland in Bayou country and could inhale rich air from the nearby marshes. The Crawfish Boil, a ritual you can genuinely embrace only if you have Cajun and Creole in your blood, upbringing or heart, was on. More than 20 of us partied the afternoon through evening, eating cayenne spiced mudbugs, sided with steaming boiled potatoes and corn-on-the-cob and fresh red and yellow bell peppers, locally made Richard's Sausage and Leonard's Boudin, and of course, drinking favorite sodas, waters and brewskis. All under a typical late May southwest Louisiana sky teasing with showers. (OK, girl, slow down. Deep breathing!).

For all the karma, I couldn't stop thinking about the nearby coastline and the dreary future none of us wanted to talk about in this venue.

As we swayed, bopped and clapped and littler ones danced to Zydeco, rap, blues and pop music from my nephew's iPod mix blaring from his Dad's parked dark blue GMC Sierra, waiting for refills from the next sizzling hot pot of the main dish, the thought lingered in our minds. I knew if I was feeling it, everybody was. There were little signs anyway, like the missing boiled jumbo Gulf shrimp helping at our feast that in years past depending on the economy accompanied our featured critters.

Gulf shrimp "depending on the economy!?'' Oh what a luxury it was to have so fickle a worry as the high cost of Louisiana crustaceans. A worry that we knew would eventually fix itself based on our adjusted home budgets, a change in job market reports or Wall Street stock listings. Or supply and demand. Something cyclical that wouldn't indefinitely wipe out livelihoods, cultures and small towns dependent on clear Gulf waters and the well-oiled state wildlife and fishing industry.

At our little celebration, none of us wanted to bring up the April devastation that started with loss of human lives. This was a Memorial Day weekend festival, a 23-year tradition, that we did not want dampened by a typical seasonal afternoon downpour or an atypical debate of the BP mess that was marring what had started out as a mighty fine year for a state that had been to you-know-where and back since Aug. 29, 2005. Thoughts hovered, but we didn't speak of it. Too much pain. We needed this family gathering.

My brother the educator/award winning fisherman had been repairing his boat all year for a little summer R&R on the water in nearby Cameron/Hackberry, the coastal inlets still healing almost five years after Rita. ( Since the storms of '05, his passion for fishing had quietly subsided. I noticed.

It's been years since another brother, an operator at one of the plants on the Calcasieu River and our family politico, had been mildly relaxed about government's inadequacies and the state economy woes set off by Katrina. Another brother living out of state since college had started to dream again of going home to retire. Another, a lifelong Saints fan, believed that the Super Bowl miracle victory was a good omen. After surviving Katrina and almost losing his home, it had to be a sign. Saints fans and their long maligned team reaching the mountaintop, a good sign certainly on a commerce level.

(Wait a minute. Is that breeze after the passing threat of a rain shower fanning a faint waft of the crude? Nah. We're too far inland, aren't we? It's all in my mind? Party time, right? )

Yep, we were not gonna let the oil guzzling evil dudes drain us of these few hours of jubilee and escape. This year's crop of the red creatures that live underground had been plentiful this year -- beau coup crawfish in Creole-speak. Not a skinny one in the batch. The plumpest, juiciest I had seen them in years. "They look like mini lobsters,'' one guest gleefully blurted out, as the server piled the main attraction onto her 18-inch wide plastic plate. UmmmUmmm, "Talk About Good!''

I'm grateful for the bountiful crawfish season and relieved it's just about ending. One industry that will not be immediately impacted by the devastation only beginning in the Gulf.

Small saving grace.

Funny the things you hold on to
The handwriting on the wall

Long before the beginning of the down-spiralling of the daily newspaper and long before the family computer became a household item, I did a story on Jennifer Abrams, a fourth grader whose family were considered lifestyles pioneers of the PC. It was the '90s and the family was well into Web site construction, online researching and desktop publishing.

A year later, Jennifer's school was having career day and she suggested to a teacher that the ' ''lady reporter that made her family famous'' come and speak to her classmates. It wasn't a stretch since back in the day I often spoke officially and otherwise to young people about the virtue of reading the daily newspaper and the pursuit of journalism as a calling.

I spoke the usual that day to the students I met with, impressing upon them how important a job it is to get the facts and get it right, and edit and write well. Told them about my personal adventures in journalism and about the different types of journalism, opinion pieces, analysis, features, news reports, blah blah blah. The students were polite, as they often were, listening, even coming up with the obligatory follow-up questions, mostly to impress their teachers.

I went back to the newsroom and continued my important job. A few days later, a letter came. Yes, it was called "mail'' back in the day. I opened it and there was Jennifer's note. I laughed out loud and shared it with the colleagues, most of them fellow cynics, and I tacked it on the wall of my cubicle where it hung until years later when I said goodbye to the newspaper business.

I've always appreciated the honesty of youth. Jennifer's note, forgive the cliche, became the handwriting on the wall ("Even though no one really wanted to be a journalist...''). The sweet pat on the back was also a lesson in humility I always treasured.

Think I'll try and find her on Facebook.