Report from Louisiana: The Circus has Left Town and taken the Legislature with it.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Louisiana’s legislative session has ended and as The Advocate puts it, “the circus has left Baton Rouge.” There is never a dull moment in Louisiana politics. Here’s a quick look.

While legislators did not legalize recreational marijuana, they did legalize sports betting. The medical marijuana program was expanded, and jail time for small amounts of marijuana has been eliminated. Mandatory kindergarten passed muster, but tougher teacher retirement rules did not. Governor John Bel Edwards agreed to terminate federally enhanced unemployment benefits in exchange for raising the weekly unemployment benefit by $28.  An attempt to enact closed party primaries failed.

In other pressing issues, women will no longer pay state sales tax on feminine hygiene products or diapers.

At the last minute, legislators passed “a bill that would prohibit government agencies from refusing to issue licenses, permits, and degrees or barring access to public facilities to someone who hasn’t received a covid-19 vaccine until any of the vaccines have been officially approved by the FDA.” Meanwhile, Louisiana State University plans to have a mask mandate this fall when students return to college classes.

The session was not without tension and drama. Louisiana House member Alan Seabaugh came in conflict with Representative Malinda White over terminology in a domestic violence bill. White became contentious over Seabaugh’s proposed changes and reportedly said either “let me get my gun and finish this or I’m going to get my gun and we can finish this.” Seabaugh took that as a threat and has requested the Louisiana State Police follow up on the matter.

I am frankly shocked that Edwards is agreeing to end the subsidized unemployment benefit, however there is no question that he needs to. Businesses all over town are advertising for help, begging for help, and some are having trouble staying open because they can’t get anyone to work.  

It remains to be seen which bills will get the governor’s signature and which will meet the veto. Legislators passed one bill that is certain to receive an Edwards veto: residents would no longer have to have a permit or training to conceal carry.

That’s going to be a big no from Edwards.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Your Best Self

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT –I have just returned to Shreveport after eight days in south Louisiana; for eight days I did not turn on a television. I looked at Facebook nonsense only once a day, and I read zero newspapers. For eight days I have been blissfully unaware of the wider world around me and only concerned about what I was going to eat that day or what rural road I might explore. Is the snow cone stand open today?  Is that a snake in the bayou over there? 

We go to south Louisiana about five times a year and spend a week completely unplugged from the news. It is wonderful! We do talk to people, though, and I can assure you that this part of the state is still staunchly Trump and hoping for a Trump comeback in 2024. It is the NOLA area that is more Democrat, of course, around New Orleans, but most of Louisiana remains politically conservative.

The area we visit is heavily Catholic; my husband and I attend an Episcopal church, which he calls Catholic-Lite.  Without getting into the theological differences, let’s just say that we can attend a Catholic Mass and not look too much out of place. We attended Saturday afternoon Mass and we did okay.

The priest delivered a sermon that resonated with me; the night before, Friday, the diocese that includes Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, and Arnaudville, Louisiana (where we were), began a summer series of discussions called Theology on the Bayou. The event was open to the public and held at Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, in their event space.

Theology in a brewery?  Well, why not? 

The event was a huge success; we got there about fifteen minutes before it started which enabled us to get a beer and find a seat. We spoke to Father Travis, “our” priest, and he introduced us to Father McIntyre from Breaux Bridge who was leading the evening’s program. As we waited for the event to begin, we watched the amazement unfold on their faces as people began pouring into the room; they just kept coming. More chairs had to be set up, then more chairs, then people squished up closer together and more chairs came out. The room was busting at the seams.  It was pretty amazing.

The theme of the night’s discussion was “What makes us human?” and basically, becoming a better human. One of the questions Father McIntyre asked was “What person in your life makes you your best self; that allows you to be, and to become, who you really are?” The part of the night that resonated so much with me was the discussion part when people shared ideas and just talked. I loved the community of it, the mutual desire to be better people, better Christians, and stronger in family and faith.

That’s a message I can get behind no matter what religion it comes from. As we all sat in that room, most with a beer, several with pizza (they served terrific wood-fired pizza there), and the doors open to allow the cross breeze in, I looked at the assembled faces; all ages were present. Husbands, wives, kids, grandparents, everyone. It was pretty special.

At Mass the next day, Father Travis had a similar message for his congregation: that we should be more open, more welcoming, basically, our best selves.

Now that I’m back in Shreveport, where we have daily shootings, the highest homicide rate since the 1980s, and an overload of negativity, decay, and decline, I’m thinking that unplugging for a while might be necessary to my mental well-being! Real life (as opposed to vacation life) brings enough responsibility and obligation as it is without the negativity that social media and even main stream media brings.

If I’m going to be my best self, my happiest self, it is definitely something to consider.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

RT —

Report from Louisiana: My last four days of working for a living!

If you Google “What to do when I retire,” you’ll get lots of lists that include things like teach, garden, visit family, spend time with friends, mentor, buy a motorhome, and join a fitness group.

Excuse me, but I’m retiring, not moving into an assisted living facility.

My list looks a little different.

When my retirement from the classroom begins next week, literally the first thing I’m going to do is drive three hours to south Louisiana and sit in an historically restored Cajun cottage along Bayou Teche. My husband and I go there five times a year and it is our home away from home. I’m going to walk across the street to the grocery store, buy some fancy cheeses, some fresh veggies, and I’m going to spend seven days decompressing and uncoiling from twenty-five years of teaching tenth grade English.

More immediate things on my list include cleaning out closets, drawers, cabinets, and eliminating a whole lot of clutter. Get rid of those work clothes! Why do I have six Pyrex casserole dishes? Do I really need this antique waffle iron with the fraying cord? Those size three jeans in my closet? Yeah, they haven’t fit in fifteen years so it is time for them to go.

I am going to listen to podcasts. Got any suggestions? I listened to S-Town and loved that. So well done. I don’t really listen to podcasts, but I think I might try that while I start a walking regimen. My son listens to some podcast that sound far too much like Beavis and Butthead; I don’t want that. Something good. Help a girl out.

I am going to read that huge stack of books taking over my house; then, I’m going to put them in the Little Free Library on the corner.

Day drink. Why not have a cold beer at noon while I pull some weeds out of the flower bed? Why the hell not?

Stay up as late as I want to.

Finish my second book. I’m close. I need to get it off to my publisher so I can start on my third book.

Narrow down topic for third book.

Learn how to cook alligator. Not everyone can do this well.

Go to Monroeville, Alabama, home of my idol Harper Lee. See the inside of that courthouse.

Re-tile my bathroom. I have no idea how to do this and I think I need tools which I don’t currently own. Saws and things. I can do this. Right?

Spend days and days in the archives at the library doing research. I love this. This was the best part of writing my first book — the research! Love it!

Write. Write. Write.

Drive as much of the original alignment of Route 66 from east to west as possible.

Attend as many minor league baseball games in as many ballparks as I possibly can.

Find some way to move permanently to south Louisiana, to Cajun country, which has my heart and soul.

Brush up my French.

While this little list isn’t exhaustive, I think it is a lot more interesting than some of the suggestions for retirees that I’ve seen. Retirement has proven “boring” for my husband; when he retired six years ago he went back to school and got his BA and then his Masters degree, which was fabulous! But now he’s bored.

I can’t see myself ever getting bored. Maybe this is because I’m technically still working and the reality of retirement has not yet hit me. Maybe after a period of time, I will be restless and aimless.

I doubt it.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.ing

Report from Louisiana: Bye Bye Mask!

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – We went to church Sunday; it is the first Sunday since March 2020 that the congregation could attend unmasked and with social distancing thrown to the wind. It is amazing how refreshing that was.

It seems as if this long pandemic nightmare is finally ending, and people are resuming their lives. Whether you are in the “Covid is a hoax” camp or the “Covid is going to kill us all” camp, the restrictions imposed on us all have affected us all in some way or another.

With excessive government handouts, many people have found it more profitable (and more fun) to stay at home, drawing that unemployment and other benefits. A lot of restaurants and other businesses are having trouble filling jobs. There have been product shortages all across the country as production has slowed. Even if the only way you’ve been affected is that you were required to wear a mask somewhere, we have all been affected by these mandates.

But now, this is changing! Even some school districts across the country have lifted mask mandates.

What is so interesting to me, however, is to note the effect these restored liberties have on people; the atmosphere at church was pure giddiness.  I heard more than one person say, “Oh it’s so nice to see people’s faces again!”  One woman noted that she actually wore makeup today for the first time since this started. Smiles were everywhere. People lingered longer after the service to visit with each other.

It’s obvious, isn’t it? I mean, who wouldn’t be happier without the yoke of government restrictions on them?

And now, you can actually see when someone smiles! Facial expressions are back!

There were more people in attendance at church this week, too. I have noticed since Easter that people are coming back. It has been good to see. Our priest is retiring next month, and we are able to have a retirement gathering for him in a local restaurant! Six months ago, that would not have been allowed. Too large of a group.

I wore my mask where I was supposed to, but honestly, once I had Covid antibodies after I got through the virus, and later, once I was vaccinated, I didn’t see much point in the mask. I got a lot less compliant about wearing it.

I think there are some things we may not see for a while, if ever, though. Salad bars, for one. I’m not a fan of a buffet, but we probably won’t see much of that either. I expect travel and large-crowd events will require proof of vaccination. I’m not sure how all that will work.

For now, I’m just glad I can see the smile on someone’s face.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Year Round School?

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Year-round school.  A lot of districts do it, but I am not a fan.

Louisiana’s (new) Superintendent of Education is proposing year-round school in our state. I know that there are a couple of schools in our local district that are already doing this, elementary schools mostly, but as a teacher, I must tell you, I don’t think I’d like this.

Here’s the thing. I need that summer to recharge. While most people are under the impression that teachers get “three months off” or “all summer off,” of course that is not the case. I am about to retire after twenty-five years in the classroom, and I can assure you that I’ve never ever had three months off, and I’ve never had a summer where I wasn’t required to do some sort of professional development.

Every five years or so we have some sort of curriculum change that requires professional development…training…inservice; new technology, new gradebook software, new this, new that…all of it requires PD. Time taken out of your “summer.” 

As rewarding as it is, teaching is exhausting work. And really, this isn’t the post where I want to defend the position that teachers are underpaid for what they do, and that yes, we knew what we got paid when we went into the profession. That is for another day.

But year-round school? Nope. Glad I won’t be there for that.

Kids need the break too, you see. Yes, indeed, some of them need school all the time; their life at home might be terrible and maybe they aren’t getting meals and maybe they don’t get enough supervision and sometimes the electricity and water aren’t even turned on.

Schools have become the place to catch all of these issues that are neglected at home. We feed our students breakfast and lunch, teach them sex education, breast cancer awareness and self-examination; we do vision and hearing checks, we help seniors sign up for Financial Aid. We provide jackets and clothing for kids in need and sometimes we pay an electric bill. Schools are now social support service providers and while I love kids and will help any child in need every single time, we have to wonder if this is the job of the school.

Are we losing sight of education?

Most opponents of year-round school suggest that kids need time to be with their families, to go on vacation, Disneyland! Most of the kids I teach can’t even dream of going to Disneyland and have never been on a family vacation; some are homeless and live in hotels. Most of my high school aged students work and they work hard, long hours.

When we shut down for Covid, our kids were working. They didn’t log onto Google classroom every day to do math problems and watch YouTube documentaries; they took advantage of the time to work, make money, pay bills.

Not all of them, obviously, but a lot of them. I know this for a fact.

And so as I consider the proposal of year round school, I am conflicted. I think about these kids; they need some down time, too. They are working, they are trying to survive, they are trying to finish school. Where’s the downtime? Teachers need to recharge, too, and a lot of teachers depend on summer jobs to supplement their salaries.

Schools can provide everything else. Can’t we provide a few weeks with no school?

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Office Space

By: Pat Austin

I have been thinking a lot lately about workspaces. As I transition into retirement, leaving my classroom of twenty-five years, I have been moving some things home and setting up a new workspace in my house.

When I wrote my first book, I did it on my laptop sitting at an antique oak desk in front of a big picture window in my living room where I can look out at the neighborhood, watch the rain, and cars speeding down my residential street.  The desk belonged to my grandfather in a railroad office and the top is scarred and marked with various scratches, dents, and ink spills. I have never had the least interest in refinishing it; I love its character.

Working on my second book now, I feel like I want to do this one in a different space. I know, that makes no sense whatsoever, but the opportunity has just sort of developed organically. I’ve inherited a powerful desktop computer from my gamer-son, so I bought a nice, new monitor and have set up a new space.  This time my “desk” is a marble topped wrought iron table that used to be my breakfast table. My chair is an old classroom teacher chair that I brought home and covered in pages from To Kill a Mockingbird, slathered with ModPodge, and finished with several coats of polyurethane. The result is pretty cool.

Speaking of cool office spaces, there is a guy I follow on Instagram only for his beautiful shots of his writing space. I don’t know him, never met him, but I feel like we would be friends based on his workspace.  The sepia tints, the browns and earth tones create a casual, moody vibe. Most of his photographs have a cup of coffee in them; that’s his schtick, I guess. The pictures are cropped in a minimalist fashion, drawing your focus to one specific item in the picture. The focus might be his turntable with an album cover of a cool jazz recording sitting on top or a neat stack of music biographies. It just looks cool, and I enjoy checking out his feed each day.

I like my space where I write to be clear of clutter, except of course for my research. While writing Cane River Bohemia, I had stacks of books piled on the floor, piles of primary source material, letters, photocopies, my index card file, and a stack of USB drives, but it was all put away and organized at the end of the day.  But with my desk in the front, main room of the house, it was extremely difficult to concentrate. My family, as much as I love them, always walked by with a question about dinner, someone expressing their own boredom, my husband’s frequent “aww look at the cat!” statements, and the incessant television carrying on. I feel the need for a quieter space this time. In fact, I wrote all of Cane River Bohemia with headphones and my Writing playlist now that I think about it.

My new workspace isn’t perfect, and it isn’t complete. All I really want is a quiet space that is mine, and that is relatively free from clutter.  Will it help my writing? Probably not, but I’m having fun creating it, and isn’t that the point? It’s the journey, not the destination.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Loose Thoughts

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT:  Random thoughts and observations today.

Help Wanted.  Have you noticed that nobody wants to work anymore? I mean, with this extended unemployment and the stimulus rollouts, the restaurants and shops around here are all begging for help. Almost everywhere you go there are help wanted signs. We went to a Mexican restaurant after church today and the first thing the hostess told us was “we are short of servers today – nobody wants to work…”.  It’s crazy.  I went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond later: also help wanted signs. They’re everywhere.  If you want a part-time job, this might be a really good time to find one. I’m thinking about it! I’m retiring from teaching in less than a month; a little side-hustle might not be a bad thing.

What? Retiring?!  Yes, after twenty-five years, I am done. As of May 28, I’ll be officially retired. Mentally, I’m already there. We took our end of course tests last week – six weeks early because the State was concerned about quarantines. So mentally, the students are done, too; they think, why bother? We took the test already.

To be honest, I’d love to have gone five more years and retire at 30 years; it is about a $300 a month pay cut for me to go now (thus, the side-hustle), but I can mentally no longer battle kids with cellphones, TikTok, terrible curriculum, and apathy. I. Just. Can’t. 

My husband has been retired from the police department for several years and he is bored senseless. I don’t think I’ll have that problem: I’m looking forward to time for writing, doing another book, a million and five home projects, working in the yard, and traveling. But, maybe I’ll tire of all that, too. He doesn’t really have many hobbies and I think it is important to keep busy. We will see. 

But, yeah: twenty-four more days of school. Do it.

Seacor Power Tragedy: President Donald Trump has donated 10K to the United Cajun Navy to help search and rescue efforts in the Seacor Power tragedy.

United Cajun Navy founder Todd Terrell confirmed Friday that the former president made a hefty donation toward the rescue efforts of the seven men who are still missing from the Seacor Power crew.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended their search for the missing crew members on Monday at sunset. At that time, officials said they do not expect to find more survivors from the vessel.

Officials spent several days searching for the missing workers from the oil industry lift boat Seacor Power, which capsized on April 13 during a fierce storm in the Gulf of Mexico south of Port Fourchon. Six of the 19 workers on the boat were rescued within hours of the wreck; five more bodies were found in the water.

This has been a terrible tragedy and so devastating to watch and hear from these families. Heartbreaking.

Kudos to President Trump.  Thank you.

Y’all have a good week!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Dogs

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I have two rescue dogs; one is a black lab who my son found near death abandoned by a dumpster when the pup was about six weeks old. We named him Jazz and he is now twelve years old. We have another rescue, Kipper, who turns four this week. Kipper’s mother was a Boston Terrier and nobody knows what dad was, but everyone that sees Kipper thinks he looks like an American Pitbull. I do not. Kipper is not that big, not that chunky, not that muscular. But he sure is cute.

I have a real soft spot for dogs and I know the names of more dogs in my neighborhood than I do people. There is Toby who walks by everyday with his person. Toby has some sheepdog in him; he is also a rescue. Toby is one of those dogs that is just goofy and has such a happy look on his face. We always go outside and visit with Toby and his person when they come by. In fact, Toby will stop on the sidewalk in front of our house and wait for us to come outside. As soon as we open the door he will bound across the yard to say hello. He makes me smile.

Buddy is a black lab mix that lives around the corner and I see Buddy whenever I walk the block. Buddy lives on a corner lot and so there is a lot of traffic by his fence; his people have used brackets to put a wire basket filled with tennis balls on the outside of the wrought iron fence so people can say hi to Buddy and throw a ball for him. Buddy has more friends than most people I know.

Rico and Colt live next door to me. Colt is an Australian Shepherd and never ever sits still. He is the very definition of a live-wire. Rico is a Chow and he has some kind of lupus that causes sores on his nose. His nose is always raw and it is aggravated by the sun. His people have installed a series of large umbrellas across their patio to protect Rico from too much direct sunlight when he is outside. Rico seems totally unbothered by his condition, however, and is as happy and loving as he can be. He is a stunningly beautiful dog.

Demi lives across the street. Demi’s mother used to have the most beautiful, manicured yard that she worked in all of the time, but dogs have a way of changing the way you live, and Demi digs holes. There is an iron fence around their front yard and I can see Demi digging holes from my front window. Some of the holes are probably close to the water table; sometimes I look over there and can see nothing  but Demi’s tail and dirt flying.

There is something about a dog that makes me happy and calms me down. There’s that whole unconditional love thing, but it’s more than that. They are always glad to see you; they never question you and they don’t care about your politics. I can not imagine a home without a pup, and when we lose them it is like losing a family member. It hurts just as badly. I have a friend who is a chemist, and she lost her dog of twelve years about three years ago. She and her son still drive out to his grave, in a local Pet Cemetery, two or three times a month to place flowers.

I’ve always believed rescue dogs are more grateful, but that probably is not true. It’s just that I’ve always had rescue dogs. Even as I type this, Kipper is asleep next to me on the couch and Jazz is asleep on the floor at my feet. Just another lazy afternoon. And the older I get, and the crazier the world gets, I find that I more often prefer the company of dogs than to people.

Any dog lovers out there? Tell me about your dog!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Dystopian Shreveport

By: Pat Austin

Living in Shreveport these days is turning into some kind of twisted, dystopian experience. It feels like those opening pages of Atlas Shrugged, where everything is gray, gloom, dying, oppressed. It is no exaggeration to note that shootings occur every single day in this city, sometimes multiple times, and often with injuries or fatalities. It is tragic anytime a life is lost to this senseless violence, but it seems even more so when an innocent life, or a beautiful child, is lost.

And we accept this.

On March 20, 2021, five-year old Mya Patel was killed when she was hit by a stray bullet.

Wednesday, March 24, social media reflected multiple audio recordings of shots fired early in the evening, shots I heard clearly while reading in my bedroom.

March 30, a woman a few blocks from me was shot in the hip; luckily she is okay.

March 31, Xavier Griffin, 19 years old, shot and killed.

April 2, one was killed and others injured in multiple shootings.

Last night a woman was shot in the chest in the parking lot of the Masonic Lodge.

It is literally every single day or night – doesn’t matter what time — and we are doing nothing about this. You can check the Caddo 911 Active Emergency Events page and almost every single time you’ll see a shots fired or a shootings call, and those don’t include the ones that never make it to the page or are “holding,” waiting for available officers.

We are doing nothing about it.

“But, what can we do?!”  I hear you. I don’t have those answers. My layman’s opinion would be to first work through the local elections process to elect leaders tough on crime, willing to enforce penalties on criminals. From the mayor, to the District Attorney, to the city council and the parish commission, we need support.

We need police officers and the money to pay them. Shreveport ranks woefully low in police pay and our officers do not stay. We need the best and the brightest, willing to work hard for good pay.

We need jobs. We need businesses to come here to grow the tax base and to provide employment. We need all levels of jobs, from the trades to the administrative. We can’t continue to depend simply on service industry jobs as our main employers.

Businesses won’t come without decent infrastructure. Our streets are literally crumbling, our water system is collapsing (not to mention their mismanaged billing practices), and the city is covered in trash, litter, and empty buildings.

We need a vibrant downtown. The downtown area is trying: there are some places to eat, a few renovated buildings for apartments, you can see a movie, look at buildings. Many people avoid downtown due to safety issues. Maybe we need bicycle or mounted units there. Maybe we need more options for our large homeless population on the streets there.

We need so many things. Old time Shreveporters often speak of the “good ol’ days” when we had sports teams like The Shreveport Captains, where families could go enjoy a game on a pretty afternoon or evening. Now, our baseball stadium is empty, crumbling, and filled with bats and toxic guano.

For the most part, unless you want to drink or gamble, there is not much for families to do here. There are a few things…SciPort is downtown, and the Aquarium.

Before anything else happens, safety has got to be addressed. Perhaps I am alone in my concern. Perhaps I am in the minority when I balk at going to Betty Virginia Park to walk or spend an afternoon outside. Maybe I’m the only one who is constantly on guard when I walk my neighborhood.  Maybe nobody else has started taking their dogs out at night earlier, or in the backyard rather than the front yard. Maybe nobody else has installed surveillance cameras around their home. Maybe I’m the only one much more cautious about locking their car at night. Maybe nobody else has had packages stolen off their front porch.

Maybe all this is just my perception.

I long to see a thriving Shreveport with businesses like when we had Western Electric, General Motors, Kast Metals, Libby Glass, Poulan WeedEater, to name a few. The Captains played baseball in their new stadium and people sat in the beer garden eating hot dogs and sipping nickel beer. New malls and shopping centers dotted the city, and parks were growing. People ate at local restaurants, like Sansone’s, Brocato’s, Abe’s, Monsour’s, The Centenary Oyster House, George’s, and Fertitta’s, to name a few. Downtown was bustling with department stores like Selber’s, Hearne’s, Rubensteins, and Palais Royal. You could grab lunch at a nice, fancy place downtown or a quick, inexpensive burger place. You felt safe. You could park in the Selber’s parking garage and not worry about your car or about getting panhandled or mugged. Shreve Square was hopping on weekend nights: great bands in multiple clubs, people walking between them, great restaurants, good times.

We could reminisce about the glory days forever, and everybody knows times change and nothing stays the same, but the truth is, other cities adapt better than we have. When you travel, when you leave the city and see other places, even places within say a three hour radius, it is stunning to see the difference.

It’s possible to have a clean city with happy people. But Shreveport feels like a city with a cloud of gloom over it. We can talk it up and pretend to be positive. I know people will jump on me and say that it’s the negative people like me that keeps it down. “If you hate it here so much, why don’t you leave!?” I’ve heard it.

The answer is I’d like to be part of a solution, not stick my head in the sand and pretend like it’s great. It’s not great. Listen to that gunfire every night and tell me how great that is.

So. What’s the solution. What do we do? Is this a nationwide problem or is it unique to Shreveport, to Louisiana, to cities with inept political leaders? The city, like so many others across the nation, is decaying from the inside out. I’ve lived in my home for almost forty years and now I wonder if I’ll even be able to sell it when I finally decide to get out of here. And we live in one of the better neighborhoods; it’s an older neighborhood, but has always been considered a good one.

Now?  I’m ready to pull the plug.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Downsizing

By:  Pat Austin   

SHREVEPORT – With my retirement in a couple of months drawing ever closer, and as crime and violence in Shreveport becomes ever more prevalent, we have been giving more and more serious thought to pulling up and moving out of this hellhole  town, and moving to the small community in south Louisiana where we visit five times a year.

No place is perfect, I know this, but some places are more perfect than others.

But this moving thing? It isn’t as easy as it sounds. I have lived in this house since 1978 and my grandparents lived here before me. My mother grew up in this house. It’s not a fine, family home passed down from generation to generation – it’s a comfortable, two-bedroom house in an aging neighborhood.

The problem is that I look around me and I wonder, what am I going to do with ALL THIS STUFF?!  My goodness but I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff.  And I often tell my husband that he is just one paperclip away from being a hoarder.

I want to downsize.

There are days when I look around and think, “Why on earth am I keeping this?” and throw it, whatever it is, into the trashcan. There are other days when I want to list everything I own for sale online. I could pay off a couple of credit cards with the proceeds, I am certain.

I went through a Depression glass phase a few years ago and now I have three china cabinets filled with the stuff. Ok, it’s pretty, but why do I need six lime green salad plates? Or three clear pink coffee cups? An assortment of cut crystal bowls. Vases, pitchers, salt and pepper shakers, and toothpick holders. I have probably fifty of those tiny, individual salt bowls. Several of those have tiny sterling silver spoons with them.

Why do I need to keep all this stuff?!  My children will not want this after I am gone. Of this, I am certain.

I have some 200 DVDs.  In this age of streaming video, why do I still have these? And let’s please not even open the discussion on books. I am literally drowning in books and I can say in all honesty that I do purge these once or twice a year and donate them to the university book bazaar fundraiser. I still have enough books to fill a U-Haul.

Once I actually retire, I will purge a lot of clothes from my closet, but t-shirts, man, I have a lot of those. Way too many.

Dishes. I have several complete sets of dishes – at least two are antiques, wedding china from both sets of grandparents. My mom’s sterling silver flatware. Kitchen Kitsch – vintage canisters, jadeite, vintage ice cream scoops, enamelware bowls of all sizes, and an assortment of drip coffeepots. Now, the coffeepots I can use – when the power is out, a good old-fashioned drip coffeepot can replace the Keurig or the Mr. Coffee in a heartbeat and taste much better. But do I need six of them?!

Old electronics that I don’t know what to do with. We have at least six old computers around here.

This is getting embarrassing now that I’m writing this.

And sweet goodness I haven’t even gone to the garage yet, but that’s easier because most things in there can go straight to the trash. That’s sort of a wasteland before the final commitment to throw away. An old twin mattress, a wooden rocking chair nobody had room for, now covered in mold. Countless boxes of Mardi Gras beads. A couple of discarded weedeaters.  A broken table someone thought we might fix but never did. Lawn chairs. A non-working window air conditioner unit.

In a way, I envy people that move often because I am certain they don’t accumulate junk like all this. I look around and some of the things I really treasure and have a sentimental attachment too, but others, not so much. I tried reading that Marie Kondo book once about throwing out things that don’t “spark joy,” but the thought of picking up each item in my house and deliberating on whether or not it sparked joy seemed like such a massive undertaking I just couldn’t do it.

I do think it is time to start asking myself some hard questions about what I need to keep in my life and what needs to find a new home, or the trash bin. And it would be pretty cool if I could sell off some of these things that might have value to someone else now that I’ve enjoyed them for a while. And perhaps if I can downsize significantly, I can actually see my way clear to sell my house and move away to a place where people don’t get shot every single day and where you don’t hear gunfire when sitting inside your own home at night. The lawlessness here is really prompting some serious thoughts of change.

But before I rent the moving truck, I have to go throw out my collection of Southern Living magazines, the tarnished brass candlesticks that have been stuck in a drawer for two decades, the size three jeans that I will never fit into again, the wooden fish I bought at Pier I twenty years ago because I wanted to live at the beach, the Rolling Rock salt and pepper shakers with missing caps, a couple of broken tv trays, and a beat up Easter egg tree with missing ornaments.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.