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  • Nov 07 / 2008
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Beausoleil Is Coming Your Way!

Bob & Evann's wedding waltz, Le Petit Theatre, French Quarter, 10.18.86

Beausoleil, the best Cajun band in the world, is playing in Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin next week — and Chicago, Minneapolis, Wilkesboro, and other venues nationwide early next year. Michael Doucet (the fiddler) and his group played at our wedding in the French Quarter in New Orleans in 1986 (see photo above).

I first heard Beausoleil (and their Cajun rock incarnation, Coteau) in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1976. Mike’s wife at the time was one of the best two-steppers in Acadiana, and I often took advantage of the fact that her husband was unable to dance with her while playing the fiddle. The story I wrote about my Sunday night trips to Boo Boo’s Lounge in Breaux Bridge to hear Coteau and dance with Linda Doucet was published in a Baton Rouge weekly and quickly led to my first real job, as editor of the bilingual Cajun monthly La Gazette des Acadiens.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the publication of “The Fiddler’s Wife,” I decided to turn the story into a song:

THE FIDDLER’S WIFE
My favorite Cajun band
Is playing here tonight,
So I’ll grab a seat
And tap my feet
Near the fiddler’s wife.

She can’t dance with him
While he plays the fiddle.
That gives me
A chance to dance
With the fiddler’s wife.

Have the fiddler play
The song called “Jolie Blonde,”
‘Cause the prettiest blonde
In tout le monde
Is the fiddler’s wife.

She can’t dance with him, ETC.

She’ll go home with him
When the band is through,
But until they’re done
I’ll have some fun
With the fiddler’s wife.

She can’t dance with him, ETC.

Beausoleil came to St. Louis early last year and played at a casino near our house. I hadn’t seen Mike in years and had a lot of fun getting caught up with him. And my wife and I got a chance to demonstrate that we can still do a mean two-step — mais, chere, next day we were sore, yeah!

Inspired by the outing, I decided that Doucet deserved his own song, so I wrote this for him a few days later:

DANSER, DOUCET
Little Doucet when he was young
Didn’t know how to dance.
All the girls in town would crowd around,
But he wouldn’t give them a chance.

Danser, Doucet?”
“Je ne peux pas, ma chere.”
“Danser, Doucet?”
“Je ne sais pas le faire.”

Little Doucet had to compensate,
So he picked up grandpa’s fiddle.
He tightened the strings till they started to sing
And he learned how to play a little.

“Danser, Doucet?” ETC.

Little Doucet got to be real good
And formed a band called Beausoleil.
They worked real hard, won a grammy award,
And they’re playing for you today.

“Danser, Doucet?” ETC.

Despite his fame, Doucet hasn’t changed,
He’s a victim of circumstance:
All the girls in town are still crowding around
Trying to get Doucet to dance.

“Danser, Doucet?” ETC.

  • Nov 06 / 2008
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Gumbo Time

November 6th and I’ve still got okra blooming in my garden! Amazing! My Dad always grew okra and tomatoes, back in New Orleans where I grew up, and here I am, 50 years later, doing the same thing in St. Louis. I’ve got several plastic bread bags filled with chopped okra, frozen in my freezer, ready to be thawed and tossed into gumbos during the coming cold weather.

Gumbo is an African word for okra, so, technically, “okra gumbo” is redundant. I assume the dish became known as gumbo because okra was the main ingredient. I was playing Scrabble on the computer last night when my villainous, inanimate opponent, the self-styled “Maven,” played the seven-letter word “bendees,” which, according to him (who, in his dual role as referee, cannot be challenged), means okras. Whatever.

Okra is in the hibiscus family, and I’ve always thought its delicate yellow flower is just about the prettiest thing on earth. My wife once had a dress that color — and looked good enough to eat in it! Unfortunately, the flowers don’t last long once picked; and, if you pick them, you don’t get the okra pod that would have replaced it.

  • Nov 03 / 2008
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Am I A Socialist?

In a way, I’ve been a socialist all my life. I grew up in a large family, where everyone shared everything, each according to his ability and each according to his need. I was educated by Teresian nuns and Jesuits, who shared everything, according to ability and need. I now have a large family of my own, where everyone shares everything, each according to his ability and each according to his need. In this sense, I guess I am a socialist. In fact, the only true socialists in the history of the world have been members of healthy families and religious orders. This kind of socialism, of course, is voluntary, motivated by love.

The other kind — the fraudulent kind, associated with demagogues, revolutionaries, and homicidal maniacs — is coercive, motivated by envy and lust for power. It’s time we stopped confusing the two.

If you want to be a socialist, go ahead. Just do it on your own dime.

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