Lebanon Reporter

August 1, 2013

From here to there and everywhere, Part I


Lebanon Reporter

---- — I’m always excited when it comes to impending trips of any kind. You can ask my wife and she would certainly say, “He’s always so wired that it drives me absolutely crazy until we finally head out on the road.” It doesn’t really matter where we are headed. I’m always stoked about going somewhere. Whether it’s a baseball game in Indianapolis or a trip to visit my sister in North Carolina, it just doesn’t matter. I’m always ready to go exploring this great country of ours.

I can remember as a child just how much excitement there was as I anticipated an upcoming trip to visit Chicago, Ill. I could spend days and weeks wandering the great halls and galleries of those majestic museums that dot Lakeshore Drive. Not only are the museums something fantastic to see, but so too is Lake Michigan.

You need not travel to the Bermuda triangle to explore shipwrecks, when there are countless vessels that have met their demise under the water that borders the northern part of our state.

Once inside the Science and Industry Museum, the first place that I’m drawn to is the massive model train layout that has been continuously operating for as long as I can remember. I use to stand and gaze at each and every function that was happening as trains whizzed by in all directions. It was easy for me to shrink down in size and become a part of everything that was going on. Whether it was traveling in one of the many passenger cars, or simply standing along side one of the locomotives as it went by carrying goods to all corners of our country.

No matter which Chicago museum I went to, I always seemed to be able to blend into whatever scene that I was observing and really feel like I was a part of the exhibit.

I vividly can remember my first trip to Louisiana as a teenager. My sister and brother-in-law had recently been married, and made their first home together in Lafayette, La. My sister was an elementary school teacher and my brother-in-law was employed with a large oil company.

Entering the state of Louisiana is like traveling to another time and place. Compared to central Indiana, it was like visiting the moon. Everything seemed so alien to me. Large lizards (alligators) roamed freely, both in the back country and sometimes even in cities such as Lafayette. On occasion I have traveled back to that land of diverse culture and unique landscape, and wondered why we don’t take some time discovering the state of Louisiana.

First and foremost, the food is some of the best that can be found anywhere in the world. Besides being the most desirable, at times it is the most unusual. I would have never thought that I would want to devour a platter of fish bait. Yes, the elusive crawdad (crayfish) that hides under rocks in our creeks and rivers of Indiana is also a delicious delight to our palates when visiting that southern state. (It also is the very same creature that once invaded my personal space by grabbing onto my rear end with its large claws.) Let’s not forget the melt-in-your-mouth shrimp that inhabits those southern waters. Whether they are small or very large, I can eat those critters till the cows come home. And what those southern cooks can do with the larger ones is absolutely fantastic. The master chefs will split the backs of larger shrimp and stuff them with crab meat.

Where else can you go and dine on a reptile that could be eating you if the circumstances were different? Yes, I’m referring to the alligator, the dinosaur of the swamps. As far as I am aware, I’ve only eaten the tail, and let me tell you, it is some of the most delicious white meat that you could ever devour. Much of the food that I have eaten, I probably would rather not know the origins or species type. I figure if it tastes good, why do I need to spoil it by knowing that it had just been crawling or slithering in the swamps and marsh lands the day before. Many of the foods in Louisiana I can’t even begin to pronounce, especially some of the wonderful French desserts.

The inhabitants of the Louisiana are even more unique than the food they eat. Many I have met can be a little wary of strangers. Normally they don’t appreciate people they are not familiar with asking them too many questions or trying to find out about their lifestyles. But, I’ve learned that once you gain their trust and show that you are truly interested in how they live and work, you will have no greater friend. Instead of suspicion and mistrust, you will eventually find that many are willing to give you the shirt off of their backs, along with a hearty meal to boot.

Accents and different types and mixes of local sayings have always intrigued me. So, no matter if it is a southern Texas drawl or a mix of French, Spanish, or island dialect of Louisiana, I have come to love the diverse languages and cultures that make up our wonderful country. So, pack your bags, close your eyes, and travel with me to different ports of call.

Email Raymond L. Snoke at shark_guy2@yahoo.com.