Saturday, April 14, 2007

St. Gabriel

I woke up in Abbeville, just south of Lafayette and headed to the Abbeville RV park to see about a shower but they don't have any. So five days without a shower and I'm driving in the Louisiana heat (though very mild at this time of year, it's hot in the van!) to Lafayette to check out the thrift stores. I found nothing so I continued on to Baton Rouge. Found nothing there too but a guy did follow me into the thrift store parking lot to ask me about my conversion system. He said his son has a shop 10 miles up the road in Denham Springs and I could go up there and filter some grease. I went up there and looked around but didn't find the shop and I really wanted to get out of town and back out to the country. I have been driving almost exclusively two lane highways all the way across the country. I think I've done maybe a hundred miles on I-10 this entire time. It stresses me out and I don't get to enjoy the drive so whenever possible I stay on the back roads or the scenic byway. However, the stretch of 10 that I drove from Henderson to Baton Rouge was kind of amazing as it passes over the Atchafalaya basin which I am dying to come back and explore. That looks like some serious swamp!

I from Baton Rouge I crossed the Mississippi river again and went to Plaquemine where I crossed the river again, this time by ferry to St. Gabriel. I stopped at the St. Gabriel Grocery and was immediately engaged in a conversation with two men sitting on the porch, drinking beer in the shade. I showed Frank my van and vegetable oil and he said I should do a demonstration in the parking lot. I needed to filter my grease anyway so I set up there and by the time I got started the parking lot was full of trucks and people just getting of work from the nearby chemical plant. So I showed of my rig to half the population of St. Gabriel. People were very friendly and interested, Frank and I decided to go into business together converting cars and filtering grease and hire Reggie as our accountant.

Frank said he would call his wife and ask if I could come over and use the shower. I imagine the conversation went something like this: "Hi Honeybabe, how you doin'? See, I met this Canadian girl needs to come over and take a hot shower.." "Frank, you been drinkin' down at the store all day again?!" Click.

So Frank, Reggie and Al took me to dinner at the Route 30 truckstop and afterwards I was able to pay $6 for a very nice but not very hot shower. All three of these guys work at the Syngenta plant nearby which is a petrochemical plant that produces fertilizers and pesticides for agricultural use. I asked them what illnesses are most common among the workers there and they told me prostate cancer is number one. When I told them that my father died from exposure to asbestos all three said "mesothelioma?" in unison. I was surprised, as most people have never even heard of it. We were sitting at a booth in the restaurant drinking beer and having a grand old time when one of the waitresses told us to quiet down or take it into the bar. It seemed strange since we were the only customers there. We left and went to Lucy's for more beer. I really wish I had a good picture of Lucy's sign but this is the best I could do the next day.

At the bar we talked about what had happened at the restaurant which according to my three companions was due to the prejudiced nature of the white staff of the restaurant who were unhappy to see three black men with a white woman. In fact, when Frank told his nephew (who we ran into at Lucy's) what had happened he didn't even have to ask who had told us to quiet down. I found the whole thing interesting and asked many questions about the attitudes of both black and white locals. I asked if any of the black people would be upset to see me out with them and they all said "No, black people don't care, they're not prejudiced" and then a minute later told me that "white people are all stupid" and even though I partly agree with that statement, it might be considered a little prejudicial. Not to mention the attitudes that these three men hold towards gays and lesbians, not exactly what you might call enlightened, you know? I recorded the entire conversation if you ever want to hear it.

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