Center for Ethics and Leadership

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Laissez bon temps roule!

Louisiana, you are a special place. I thought I had fallen in love with New Orleans, but now I've gotten to know Baton Rouge and Cajun country. My wife, son, and I went to LSU for my daughter's Master's commencement ceremony. Did she ever plan a weekend for us! Every restaurant was perfect, even the crawfish and burger spot off campus. And as she said, LSU is an ag school, so their campus store ice cream is not to be believed. But it is to be devoured. Frequently.

And what is Louisiana without music? From the moment we arrived and had lunch at an antiques and arts store, there was someone playing something good. That old, paunchy guy in sandals and shorts? A language prof at LSU sitting on a chair playing John Hartford, old spirituals, and whatever on banjo, guitar, and fiddle. On Saturday night in New Iberia, way out in Cajun country, there was great fiddle and concertina while locals danced the two-step. The crawfish were good, too.

Avery Island, a good 75 miles from Baton Rouge, is a long ride. But that's where the McIlhenney farm is -- where the one, the only, the original Tabasco is made and where the McIlhenney family has preserved many acres as a bird and plant sanctuary.

Fifteen miles in the other direction is Alligator Bayou: A Louisiana Wilderness Adventure. Sounds a little hokey, but don't jump to conclusions. This is 1500 acres bought by former construction executives and now preserved as a nonprofit land conservancy. The tour was informative, and the swamp has a beauty all its own.

The cathedral of Baton Rouge is one of the prettiest smaller churches I have seen. The form is Gothic, but the execution is modern. I think it is the beige brick interior and the stained glass windows done in lighter colors. The liturgy is also more vibrant than most I have attended.

The best vacation I have ever had, right under my nose in the USA. As Russell Conwell, founder of my undergraduate alma mater, Temple University, famously wrote, there are acres of diamonds in your own back yard.

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