Report from Louisiana: On Newspapers

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I have not read a single paragraph of anything uninterrupted in ten years. Perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much. I live with a “talker.”

I adore my spouse; we have a wonderful relationship. We are best friends. We travel, we go out with friends, we have a great deal in common. We have never had an argument.

But bless his heart, he is a talker.

Already, in the few seconds I’ve typed these few sentences, he has chirped up about tomorrow being Columbus Day and therefore no mail and offered commentary on the baseball game currently on television.

Sunday afternoons are quiet and lazy around here, usually. I like to get my stack of newspapers, lie about, and read them. Sunday afternoon I began with the New York Times (I know, I know…). I like the books section. I started there and tried to dive into a review of two new books about the Constitution and the American Revolution. No more than a paragraph into it, my focus had been interrupted so many times I finally gave up and turned the page.

I moved on to the Arts section and tried to read about three ballet dancers returning to the stage after the pandemic.  I had no better luck.

I tried several other articles before abandoning my paper altogether. I have the same issue when trying to read books. I work around it, I manage, because I know how blessed I am to have him and I love our life together. But geez, it’s hard to concentrate on anything.

Now perhaps he has actually done me a favor, right? I mean, The New York Times? Never in the history of ever has there been a more biased newspaper and so shameless about it. But I do enjoy a brief visit to the dark side now and then and sometimes it is terribly beneficial to read differing points of view.  I’m going to dive back into the Opinion section at some point; I really want to read Ezra Klein’s article about the peril of the Democrat agenda right now. It sounds promising. There is another article with the headline “Should You Care What Athletes Think?”  Nope. I don’t even have to read that one. Don’t care.

I truly miss the days of good, thick, news filled newspapers written by intrepid reporters scouting out sources and armed with little notebooks in their front pockets. The state of our media today is shameful and I wonder how, and when, we got to this point. I’ve been around a long time and read lots of papers, but I guess I just quit paying attention.

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: Bare Shelves

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — What in the world is going on in the grocery stores? I’ve never seen such shortages in my life!

The first time I noticed this was when the pandemic broke out and shelves were literally stripped of bread, toilet paper, dried beans, rice, and canned goods like a plague of locusts had flown through. Things got better after a while but have never really recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Every time we go to the grocery store together, my husband’s blood pressure jumps up…” This is that ‘Ridin’ with Biden’ working for you!” He rants and rails all up and down the aisles, raging about elevated prices and shortages.

I can’t blame him. It is difficult.

There is no doubt that prices are higher. And the shelves are noticeably bare. When I found blue Powerade on the shelf last week I bought all four six packs because it’s been unavailable for weeks.

There are a number of factors at work here. Rising fuel costs, rising production costs, and a shortage of workers all along the supply line play a factor:

The maker of Cheerios cereal and Betty Crocker cake mix is facing hundreds of disruptions across its operations, ranging from pricier raw ingredients to a shortage of truck drivers, which executives said will push up prices for supermarket customers over the months ahead.

Higher costs and logistical problems are squeezing General Mills and other U.S. food companies, prompting them to cut their own costs and swelling consumers’ shopping bills. Big food makers including Campbell Soup Co. and Conagra Brands Inc. are charging more for their products as the food industry faces the steepest inflation in a decade, while shrinking some grocery-store packages and dialing back discounts.

So, not only is this problem not getting better anytime soon, it’s going to get worse.

In Louisiana, SNAP participants will see an increase in their benefit starting next week. This isn’t necessarily in response to the shortages; apparently the thinking is that families are trying to stretch their food dollars by purchasing unhealthy, but filling, options, and if the government gives them more money, they will magically decide to buy fresh vegetables rather than Hot Pockets.

Benefits had been increased for inflation over the years. But flaws in the Thrifty Food Plan formula meant many families just couldn’t keep up with the costs. Consequently, families bought fewer fresh fruits and vegetables and relied on more convenient and less expensive processed foods to stretch their benefits for an entire month.

I’m not sure I agree with that logic, but…..

As the holidays approach, industry insiders are predicting more shortages. Grocery store chains are ordering earlier, hoping to be able to have what their customers need for the holidays, but many are having trouble getting fresh meat, like turkeys for example, because many production plants are not working at full capacity.

Obviously becoming alarmed and hoarding is the wrong approach here, but planning ahead is going to be a necessity it seems.

Meanwhile, I’m going to start leaving my husband at home when I go shopping. I don’t think his blood pressure can handle 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.

Report from Louisiana: Bouncing Back after Ida

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I want to share with you this latest article by Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review because it begins to touch the surface of why I love Louisiana and also about how we are recovering from Hurricane Ida.

The southern part of Louisiana, west to east, has dealt with devastating hurricane and storm damage over the past couple of years. It seems that Katrina is the one everyone talks about but that was in 2005. Meanwhile, Hurricane Laura (August 2020) and then Delta (October 2020) followed by historic flooding rains in May 2021, have left Lake Charles, Louisiana literally devastated. Hurricane Ida came along this year and hit the southeastern coast of Louisiana and there are still people without power in some of the more remote areas of SE Louisiana.

Why do we stay? Why don’t we leave and go where we don’t have to worry about such things?

Kathryn Lopez’s piece helps put that in perspective a bit:

In storm-damaged Louisiana, there is not victimhood, but resilience and gratitude. I asked an Uber driver — a single mom of two who had to quit her job as a schoolteacher during the height of COVID to help her children with their at-home school — whether it’s hard living in Louisiana. “Not at all,” she said. “Life always has its challenges, but God is good, and our lives are gifts, and we must live them in love of and trust in Him.” That witness of the people I meet in Louisiana [ … ] is a challenge to the rest of us, who can get caught up in so many things that we don’t have all that much control over.

So true.

Don’t get me wrong: people down there need help. They need those donations of tarps and water that are pouring in. Those huge pots of jambalaya and gumbo that are feeding families, linemen, clean-up volunteers, all of that is appreciated.

But the only thing to do is to clean up and rebuild. I had an aunt that lived in Lake Charles when I was a child; they rebuilt their home several times and never left.

 The Cajun people are some of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. Survival is in their DNA. So is joie de vivre, hospitality, and warmth.

I think about these values often when we travel to that part of the state; we stay five weeks of the year in south Louisiana and I am always impressed by the strong communities, the strong family unit, and the pure faith that these people have. Yes, there are problems, but as Lopez says, we learn to trust in God, to see what tomorrow brings.

Lopez is correct. I don’t think anybody down there feels like a victim. These storms may dampen spirits and slow us down for a minute but pack your suitcase and come on down: the hotels are open, the boudin is hot, and the music is floating up through the trees. You might see more blue tarps on roofs and hear more chainsaws and pounding hammers, but Louisiana is bouncing back better than ever.

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: Podcasts

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  Y’all…I’m so late to this party it is just embarrassing. I am going to need a little help from those of you that listen to podcasts, but first, let me explain.

I am hard-pressed to think of a term that better illustrates the rapid advancement in personal technology in the past two decades than “podcast.”

Perspective: my generation grew up with rotary phones attached to walls by cords. In my lifetime I witnessed the invention of the push-button phone, the satellite phone, the cordless phone, and eventually the mobile cellular phone. It has been a steep learning curve for some of us that are of a certain age. I did not own a cellphone until I was 42 years old; it was a red Nokia flip phone.

Now I own a very expensive iPhone that will probably do a great many more things than what I actually use it for. Back in the flip phone days, I also had a click wheel iPod which was just revolutionary. I actually still have it and still listen to it sometimes.

Technology started pulling away from me when we no longer bought music on iTunes and made playlists. I think now people just stream everything. I’m not really sure. I subscribe to Apple music and Pandora but don’t really use them. I know there is something called Spotify and I don’t know how to use it.

You see my problem?

Back to podcasts. As a high school educator, my students tried to keep me in the technological loop and so I learned about things like Instagram and TikTok. (I have an Insta but won’t fall into TikTok. Refuse.) But podcasts? I didn’t have time to learn anything else! I was barely keeping up already!

The word “podcast” originated in 2004 and in 2005 it was the Word of the Year for the New Oxford American Dictionary. Apparently, podcasting is now a billion-dollar industry. The 18–34 age group seems to be the primary listening audience and by the time you get to my age group listeners drop significantly.

I dipped my toes into the podcast waters a couple of years ago when a friend insisted that I listen to S-Town, the popular true-crime serial. I dutifully pulled out my earbuds and started listening and I loved it! It was hosted by Brian Reed and the story centered around John McLemore, a larger-than-life, colorful character in Woodstock, Alabama. Mr. Reed’s recordings of his conversations with McLemore were fascinating and my friends and I spent hours talking about this story.

But since then? Nothing. I haven’t listened to another podcast. Why?

Right about that time was when I began a big research project and so there was really no time or opportunity to find a new podcast. When I was writing my book (the result of that research), I listened to a playlist on my iPod (not the click wheel one!). Honestly, there’s no good excuse. I just didn’t look for a new podcast.

Last week, someone suggested I try the Old Gods of Appalachia podcast. I’m not much into the horror genre, which is how this was described to me, but I do love anything Southern Gothic and so maybe this would be okay. The episodes aren’t overly long (in fact, they’re a little too short), and I do like the serialized format. I’ve listened to four or five episodes now and while I don’t yet love it the way I did S-Town, I am going to stay with it a while longer.

I would love to find some good podcasts to listen to. Now that I am retired, I think I can put on a podcast and do this godforsaken walking thing that my doctor wants me to do each day. While I like listening to music, or even birds and barking dogs in the neighborhood, I can see myself listening to a podcast while I walk.

But I have so many questions. How do you find a podcast you want to listen to? When do you listen? Why are so many podcasts in the true crime genre? I don’t even know what genre I want to focus on which is the first question everyone asks me. I want a podcast like S-Town. Colorful characters. I don’t want irritating voices or giggling hosts. I don’t want to listen to anything political — I was a political blogger for ten years and I’m tired of that fight. I want a good mystery, or to learn something. Escapism.

Since podcasts are basically today’s version of radio programs from back in the day, obviously I want to be entertained.

So, tell me. What are you listening to? What are your favorite podcasts and why? Help a girl out!

(This article was previously published on Medium; I am reprinting here because I really want your suggestions!)

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: Canned Curriculum Fatigue

By:  Pat Austin  

SHREVEPORT – I highly recommend retirement.

I retired from the classroom after twenty-five years this past spring and could not be happier about it. Not everyone is cut out for retirement, or so I hear, but so far, I am loving it.

Part of the equation is that it was definitely time for me to leave the classroom; Common Core scripted lesson plans were not for me. My very nature rebelled against the canned slides, the prewritten questions, and the dull activities, the endless annotation of a “text.” I railed against all of this for the last five years of my career. You don’t realize what a burden this sort of thing places on you until you get away from it, until you strip away those bindings.

As younger, newer teachers come into the profession, this method will be the only one they know. They won’t know any other way to design lessons because they’ll never have to actually create a lesson. And the rebels, the old guard, like me, we are leaving in droves.

The result will be students that all learn the same material the same exact way.

That makes me sad, but blissfully happy that I am no longer a part of it.

When school began this fall, I thought I would miss it.  I do not. As much as I loved my students, it was time for me to go. The boring, canned lessons create more classroom disruptions. A bored kid is going to either go to sleep, pull out his phone, or act out. I no longer had the energy to battle this.

I worry a little about what is happening in education today but not so much anymore that I think I can do anything about it. I used to believe I could make a difference, that I could change things. Truth is, I could make a difference in my little room with my own students, but that was it. The future of education is in the hands of the big guys like Pearson, like Bill Gates…people with agendas and companies that write tests and publish books.

It isn’t about what is good for the kid anymore, I don’t believe.

To those teachers still in there fighting the good fight, you have my support and my best wishes.

Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying retired life. I get up when I want to, I don’t have to wait until a bell rings to go to the restroom or to each lunch. Lunch can be whatever time and last for however long I wish. I can spend my days in a hammock reading a book, at my computer writing a masterpiece, planning delicious meals for my family. I can travel on a whim. I can spend the entire day sitting on the edge of the Atchafalaya Basin drinking a beer and watching the boats.

And for me, that’s much better than standing before a classroom of bored students reading a canned slide and having them annotate a dull passage for the third time because some suit in some office thinks that’s how kids learn.

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: The Soros District Attorneys are Killing our Cities

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Another violent weekend in Shreveport and our homicide rate continues to climb. The violence is literally out of control on the streets and as of this morning only one elected official has made any kind of statement (a city councilman).

Saturday night, shooting broke out at Tinseltown movie theatre leaving a thirteen-year-old boy dead, two critically injured, and an innocent lady who picked up her kids after a movie traumatized after her Tahoe was riddled with bullets. She was at a stoplight two blocks from the theater. The video she posted immediately after, while waiting for the police, is horrific.

A nearby hospital took at least six bullets through the lobby windows from this incident.

The mayor of Shreveport has made no statement about this violent weekend – possibly because he wasn’t even here. He went to California for the LSU game.

But there is a lot of discussion on local social media pages about this ongoing, and escalating problem. It isn’t just Shreveport where this kind of violence is happening; we realize this. The story is always the same, after every shooting: nobody saw anything. The no-snitch rule is in effect.

We want to blame someone for all of this: the mayor? He’s young, ineffective, a Democrat…whatever your logic. The police chief? The police chief stepped down last week after a vote of no-confidence from the city council although in truth he was doing the best he could with extremely limited resources. He is 100 officers short because the pay is abysmal. A week with an interim chief has made no difference and we are still 100 officers short.

Who else can we blame? Now folks are looking at the District Attorney. Our DA is a Soros boy; every time he runs for re-election, Soros pumps money into his campaign. In 2015, George Soros dropped $406,000 into James E. Stewart’s campaign. He was re-elected in 2020; his opponent in the race, attorney Patricia Gilley, was jailed for contempt of court a month before the election. A mug shot doesn’t do much for your campaign. So, we get Soros boy Stewart for another six years. In the 2015 special election for Caddo Parish District Attorney, James Stewart’s candidate was Dhu Thompson, who had a great chance to win until Soros pumped a fortune into the Stewart campaign.

“As a candidate and citizen of Caddo Parish, if an outsider was that interested in the race, I wanted to know exactly what he had in mind for the criminal justice system if he were to win,” said Dhu Thompson, a Louisiana attorney who lost a district attorney race to a Soros-backed candidate, James Stewart, in 2015. Soros gave over $930,000 — more than 22 times the local median household income — to the group boosting Stewart.”

Soros funded district attorneys across our nation are all heralding over escalating crime rates in their cities.  Soros has spent a lot of money on district attorney campaigns in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. Why?  Because he wants influence over the criminal justice system; the candidates he favors are soft on habitual offenders, favors reduced sentences, plea deals, diversion programs, and aims to combat what he calls “racial disparity.”

In St. Louis, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner has an “abysmal” relationship with the police department:

“I would describe it as abysmal,” Jeff Roorda, general manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, said when asked about cops’ relationship with Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner. “It has gone from bad to worse and now there is no cooperation.”

The city has suffered a crime surge since the Soros-backed prosecutor took office. Violent crime rose by 8.8% since 2006. In terms of violent crimes per 100,000 residents, St. Louis has surpassed Detroit as America’s most violent city.

Soros pumped almost $200,000 into Gardner’s campaign.

In Philadelphia:

“…homicides have again shot up, rising by 34% in 2020 and hitting 257 as of Aug. 3, according to police department figures.

District Attorney Larry Krasner won the office in 2017 running on his background as a defense attorney and litigant against the police department. In that campaign, Mr. Soros’ Pennsylvania Justice and Public Safety PAC spent $1.7 million supporting Mr. Krasner’s bid, a figure which startled a state’s political class that had never seen such sums spent in a district attorney race.

In San Francisco, same thing. The district attorney there is Chesa Boudin who was raised by Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, and according to The Washington Times, “While Mr. Boudin did not receive money directly from one of Mr. Soros’ multiple state PACs, a network of left-wing donors connected to the Hungarian-born billionaire helped Mr. Boudin raise more than $620,000.”

There is no question that this has been the most violent year in recent Shreveport history, and we still have four more months to go. We’ve seen gang violence in the ‘80s, and a terrible riot in 1988, but what is happening on our streets now is the worst we’ve seen in decades.

In response to the violence this weekend, the District Attorney posted on social media: “Unsupervised teenagers driving around with guns shooting at each other is at epidemic level. Parents, if your child is out of control, please go to the Caddo Parish Juvenile Court, 1835 Spring St., and ask for an ungovernable child petition. This will get your child under the supervision of a juvenile court judge and their authority.”

Once in that juvenile system, what happens? A probation worker meets with the kid once every few weeks and asks him questions. “Are you doing your homework? Minding your mother? Staying out of trouble?”  Then the kid goes on about his business.  Stewart’s post was met with ridicule.

Maybe it is time to quit blaming the police chief struggling with minimal resources. Maybe it is time to look at societal factors and why kids with guns are running the streets at all hours. Maybe it’s time to look at the DA who gives them a slap on the wrist, a fine, and sends them back out.

I’m not sure what will be left of this city when Stewart’s term ends in five more years. Perhaps it is time for him to step down.

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: The Covid Quandry

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Man, people are sick and tired of this Covid thing, hunh?!

I mean, I look back to a year ago: we were preparing to go back to school, many places were still locked down, most places had mask mandates, and here in Louisiana, bars were closed and restaurants operated at 50% capacity. We were still a few months away from a vaccine.

Today, hospitals are once again full, elective surgeries postponed, and case numbers are high and still climbing.

I’m in Louisiana and as of this writing there is no mask mandate. In my part of the state we are about 31% vaccinated. And compared to a year ago, people are living their lives once again: live music is back and concerts are packed with wall to wall people. Baseball is back, no more cardboard cutouts in the stands, and the stands are indeed filled with real people. Restaurants and stores are wide open. School is opening around the country without masks and without social distancing. Barack Obama is even having five hundred people out for his birthday party at Martha’s Vineyard! (Did you get your invite?!) He is, however, having a “Covid coordinator,” whatever that is.

So, what has changed? Our attitudes? Covid fatigue?

I think it is a little bit of all of that. I could be wrong, but I think most of us reject heavy government interference in our daily lives. Isn’t that the very foundation of our country? If I want to get a vaccine, it should be my private personal choice. Same with a mask. But wait, they say, you are endangering others by your personal choices! We have an obligation to public health! I don’t have all those moral answers.

But here is the thing that bothers me about the whole shebang. Covid-19 is caused by a virus. It’s science, basic science, and the whole thing should never have been politicized in the first place. Yes, both sides of the aisle manipulated this event for their own purposes. Everyone is guilty on that one. But for me, it is just science, and we have to deal with that now regardless of whether it is biological warfare, an accidental leak, or a natural evolution of the SARS virus. Whatever it is and wherever it came from, we have to deal with it.

What would we do differently here if this wasn’t so politically charged?

What would you do differently?

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: Turmoil in the Church

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Few things have the potential to divide a church congregation more than a change of leadership. This sort of thing can be so complicated.

Full disclosure – I was born and raised in the Episcopal church, married there, but then life happened and for no single reason I can name, I quit attending. Then it just got easier and easier to sleep in on Sunday and I did not attend for many, many years. Even still, my rector was right there when I needed his services for my mother’s burial. That meant a lot to me.

Just under a year ago my husband and I started attending church once again; he had always been more avid about going than I had been, and he really missed church.

The second Sunday we attended the assistant rector announced he was leaving; he’d been offered a church in another state and he and his family decided to accept the offer. We were crushed: this fellow is young and is smart as a whip. But we wished him well and forged ahead.

The very next Sunday, our rector of many, many years announced his retirement. Vowing not to take this exodus personally, we took the news with some trepidation, knowing how tumultuous a decision on a new spiritual leader can be.

To assist with services, our Rector Emeritus was called back into service. This is a man who served as rector of our church for years before the current rector and the word “beloved” barely describes how much everyone in the church loves him. He is a kind, gentle soul. He has a voice that resonates and absolutely instills joy and comfort. Just hearing his voice restored calm and consistency to our services while the rector search committee does its work.

So, the date came for our current rector to leave. We gave him a lovely sendoff, shed some tears, and wished him well. Though he remains in the area, by the rules of the diocese, he cannot attend services with us for one year. Theoretically this rule aims to give any new guy a fighting chance to build his trust and rapport with his new congregation.

But we don’t have a new guy yet. Priests are in short supply, apparently.

We’ve been working with our beloved Rector Emeritus and a series of fill-in guys – guest preachers from various churches. The first guy who came was very different from what we have been used to and while he is not a candidate for us, we are grateful that he did come to lead our services.

We had yet another guy this past Sunday – one we know and like, but also not a candidate. Just a guy helping out.

Now we have heard from a very credible source that our beloved Rector Emeritus has been asked by the bishop to disappear because he “was trying to run things in the church.”

Devastated is too soft a word for how I took this news.

But, after I calmed down, I have to realize that however credible this source, it is still just a rumor. I don’t know for certain what transpired. But our beloved guy was not there Sunday. The congregation was told “he is taking some time off.”

Maybe.

But to leave us completely without a rector? None? That’s not like him.

Speculation is dangerous and I am working very hard not to do that. We will know more in the coming days.

There has been a great deal of turmoil in the Episcopal church in recent years as liberalism creeps in more and more. When the church codified and approved gay marriage in 2015 many conservative members left. Some were even outraged when women were allowed to become priests. Theological changes and doctrine has changed as well.

And there is still the search for a full-time rector. Inevitably someone will be unhappy with the choice. It’s all very upsetting, especially for someone who doesn’t do change well!

If you’re the praying sort, say a little prayer for our little church in Shreveport as we go through difficult times.

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: Inner City Blues

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – There has been a bit of a buzz in my neck of the woods this week about a “scorching” letter written by an Alabama tourist to Mayor Cantrell of New Orleans. This visitor took issue with the homelessness, blight, and open drug use in the city and implored the mayor to “be a leader” and clean up her city.

I can’t speak about NOLA, but I can’t argue with what this guy probably saw because I see the same thing here in Shreveport, and I suspect this is the case in many cities across the nation. In Shreveport, for example, the homeless population downtown can be seen everywhere; on every bench, in doorways of every abandoned building, and posted up in front of the public library. Some ask for money, most stare sullenly into space and avoid eye contact. It is sad to me, and I know that a wide variety of circumstances have brought them here. Some of this may be of their own doing, but not always.

Does this deter tourists? Probably, some.

More puzzling to me is that I don’t see this everywhere. I don’t travel widely, but I do travel. We recently returned from a trip to the Midwest to visit my husband’s family. As is our custom, we spent a day in Des Moines, exploring the vibrant downtown and then attending an iCubs baseball game. Shreveport doesn’t have minor league baseball, so we grab it when we can.

In Des Moines we did not see blight, homelessness, drug use, abandonment; I’m sure some of that is there, we just didn’t see it downtown. We walked blocks, inside the skywalks and outside on the street. Granted, a lot of the shops in the skywalks that we had seen before are gone. A lot of people are still working from home. But the majority of businesses there are booming and there are people living, working, and playing downtown.

It makes coming home to a dirty, crumbling city somewhat depressing.

I am not sure what the answer is. My husband would say it is the Democrats we seem to put into office. “Look at every city that ever had a Democrat mayor!” he screams. “It goes to hell!”

He’s not wrong.

Except the mayor of Des Moines is a Democrat.

Obviously, the blight and decay of our cities is the result of a combination of factors. For example, Louisiana only has two Fortune 500 companies, the highest of which ranks only 143 (CenturyLink). We are not a business friendly state with a rank of 49 on that list. I love my state for its natural beauty, but we have a lot of problems.

At the very least, we have got to get people back to work across this country. Everywhere we went on our travels we saw help wanted signs and places understaffed. Product shortages are evident. From the lowest to the highest, we have got to get this economy going and these jobs filled. The unemployment subsidies need to stop. ANYone who wants a job should be able to find one right now.

And while the tourist who wrote the letter to Mayor Cantrell will likely find his pleas falling of deaf ears in the mayor’s office, I hope he knows that a lot of other people see and agree with his words. We need to elect leaders who will step up and lead, who will do the right thing and not necessarily the popular thing, and who will get this country back on its feet.

It is overdue.

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: On Blogging and new platforms

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — As usual, I am a little late to the party, but in January I decided to start writing on Medium in addition to keeping my own blog, as well as keeping my Monday slot here.

Medium is basically a blogging platform, but it seems to be a decent place to post from time to time because of the built-in audience.  Launched in August 2012 by Evan Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter, Medium has a pretty solid, worldwide following. You can read three free articles a month before you hit the paywall. It’s not clear how many subscribers have signed up for the $5 monthly subscription fee but estimates range from 200,000 to 400,000. 

I kind of stumbled on Medium this spring when this article by Tomas Pueyo went viral and was showing up all over my social media. I thought the article was really well done and if that was any indicator of what kind of work was on Medium, I wanted to know more. I’ve been reading there ever since, and at some point I subscribed. 

On Medium you can tailor your home screen to the types of articles you want to see by simply following  specific categories. In the beginning I set mine to coronavirus articles, culture, history, humor, environment…that kind of thing. I have tweaked it a bit since then; you can also follow tags.  I like a mix of things to appear on my home screen. There is a category for writing, but I’m getting too many articles about how to write on Medium that are weighing my feed down. I am going to take that one off. I took the coronavirus category off as well; I’m tired of reading about that.

The site hosts professional and amateur writers and so again, pick and choose. Famous names include Susan Orlean (a favorite of mine – I loved The Library Book), Nikki Haley, Senator Marco Rubio, and many others. Authors are paid by internal views and engagement: how long someone spends on your article, claps (which is similar to the “like” button), and shares. A writer on Medium earns zero revenue from readers outside the Medium subscription base; external views do not earn money, but in theory they can lead to more Medium subscribers.  It is all about exposure and building a following. 

I have concerns about spreading myself too thin but I am curious to see if I can spark up a following on Medium which would then develop into a little extra cash in my pocket, which is always a good thing. Now that I am finally retired, I know that I will have more free time for writing, and so for the moment, I think I can handle three blogging platforms. My posts at each will be quite different because the audience for each is different.

To earn money on the platform, you have to sign up for a Strip account; it is very simple and safe. Once a month your earnings are transferred into your account.

So, how much have I earned in my six months there? About enough to buy a hamburger and beer for lunch. Not a lot. You’re probably not going to make enough to quit your day job. But my revenue is growing each month, so at least it’s going in the right direction, and I’m gaining followers. Articles on Medium have “a long tail”; that is, they earn money weeks after they’ve been published because the Medium algorithm filters them back around to land on someone’s homepage depending on their interests. For example, logging on to Medium right now, I have a selection of articles from today on back about four weeks.

I’m curious if any of you are Medium readers? If not, check the site out and let me know honestly what you think about it. Like I said, you get three free articles per month.