About LAB Louisiana Boy

After 200+ posts, an about page is finally being written. Actually this blog is nothing compared to the original intent in that it grew well beyond expectations. Seriously it reminds me of Seinfeld in that it is a blog about nothing in particular, but it there are things that anyone can like or dislike and possibly some can relate.

LAB is merely the Louisiana state abbreviation with the B added for boy. It also reminds me of one of the dog’s my Dad got well after I had moved from under his roof. Most likely someone abandoned her on the highway near his place, and she made it into his backyard. Visits to all the surrounding neighbors and fliers placed on light poles, on bulletin boards in towns, and found notices in the Hammond, Livingston Parish, and Baton Rouge newspapers resulted in a few people stopping by but nobody claiming her. He eventually named her Penny which was a name my maternal grandmother used for the majority of dogs I remember she and my grandfather having. Penny appeared during the day on the night of my grandmother’s wake. Dad was at the church when I pulled into his place after driving down from north MS where I was working on my doctorate. He left a note on his table about the dog just in case someone came looking for her. A mixed breed, she had many features of a yellow lab and was one of the friendliest and most playful puppies I ever saw. She never lost that friendly nature in the 15+ years she lived with my Dad in Livingston Parish.

Officially I’m a Professor of History with my research areas being the New South and US Political History. I’ve taught at both research universities and community colleges with administrative positions tossed in as well. In addition to the academics, I’ve worked as a legislative analyst, political consultant, lobbyist, and at all levels in specific campaigns. Those campaigns have been for candidates running as Democrats and as Republicans. The common element amongst my candidates is that I truly felt that each individual was the best person for the position. Many times my candidate and I disagreed on a number of issues or ways to get things done once in office, but we were sincere about our respective positions and shared the same long term goals of what would best help the constituents and make the area stronger. In voting, I cast my ballot for individual and never along some party line.

As a graduate student and new faculty member, my professors and colleagues once they got more familiar with me often referred to me as the boy from Louisiana. It’s because while I’m often in the world of pressed shirts, neck ties, and polished shoes: an ensemble that I used to call Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, I’m that barefooted guy in cutoff britches out in the fields of Livingston Parish who likes to take things apart, put them back together, and fix things whether it requires duct tape and WD 40, specialized tools, or just a “I gotta git-r-dun any way, any how” type of approach.

I was reared in the Hungarian Settlement between the villages of Albany and Springfield in Livingston Parish Louisiana. I attended the local Albany schools grades K to 12 with the only exception being the junior high years at Albany Springfield Junior High since both incorporated areas combined resources for the 7th and 8th grades. You can learn more about the history of the area here and here.

My maternal Grandfather and his twin brother had been born in the United States, but his family had been born in Hungary before coming to the US. My maternal Grandmother was born in Hungary and came to the US as a child and later became a US citizen.

Terminology I learned as a child influences me today in my profession with the concept of hyphenated Americans. My Grandfather considered himself 100 percent American. He had Hungarian parents and had been reared in Hungarian traditions, but he and his peers like him referred to themselves as Americans with Hungarian ancestry or parentage. On the other hand, my Grandmother and her peers referred to themselves as Hungarian-Americans in that they had been citizens of different countries. Even today I can’t tell anyone if these were actual arguments or just friendly ribbing amongst people of their generation, but the number of times I heard people like my Grandmother say that she had to take a test to become an American citizen while my Grandfather was just lucky to have been born here is perhaps higher than I can count. In classrooms I sometimes need to explain to students that I only use “hyphenated” when there are multiple countries of citizenship and otherwise use ancestry in terms of US politics or US history.

My Dad is not Hungarian, and his European ancestry roots back into France and Germany with some Native American Indian on his mother’s side. I’ve never traced his side’s genealogical roots to the stage where I can pinpoint the time frame of their US settlement because it definitely predates the Civil War and may go back to European colonization.

My paternal Grandmother died when I was a toddler, and my paternal Grandfather passed during my early elementary school days so the majority of my Grandparent generation exposure is from the maternal Hungarian side.

The common element between Grandfathers is that both were hard working individuals. My paternal Grandfather served in the military and later worked as a welder. My maternal Grandfather built the water system in the area which he sold before my birth. He spent his “retirement” days farming just as his parents had done.

My maternal Grandfather had no formal education, and his reading and writing skills in both Hungarian and English were rudimentary at best. Even with that lack of schooling, however, my Grandfather might be the most intelligent individual I have ever known even though today I often work with individuals who earned PhDs and professional degrees from Ivy League schools like Harvard and other institutions such as Duke and Johns Hopkins. I’m not exaggerating when I say that you could read my Grandfather anything and months later he could recite it back verbatim or explain it accurately in a different manner. He built many labor saving devices for his plumbing work and for use on the farm. Professors from LSU were frequent visitors to the place where they worked with my Grandfather on developing new varieties of strawberries and blackberries and disease control methods. Elected officials from local, Parish, and state level frequented the place to get my Grandfather’s opinion on a number of issues. Grandpa was a quiet man, but when he spoke people listened.

Also listening whether it was out in the field, in the hothouses, or usually sitting on an oak tree block alongside the Southeast corner of the old strawberry packing shed was the youngest grandchild, me. The things I recall, the lessons I learned, helped mold me into who I am today.

My Grandfather and his friends never had the opportunity for formal schooling, so they encouraged me. They also quizzed me daily because even without the book learning each man was highly intelligent and accomplished in their own rights. Neither my Grandparents and their friends nor my parents forced me to study, but they made it clear that school provided more opportunities for the future. Just as important, I learned that book learning was only a branch on a large tree called education.

My Dad did receive his high school diploma and even earned a few technical college credits in drafting in order to continue playing baseball just a little bit longer. Like his Dad, my Dad worked as a welder and aviation mechanic. About the time of my birth, however, he started looking for a career which had more stability and easier on the body physically. He saw an advertisement in the classified section of the newspaper for manager trainees at K&B drugstores and decided to give it a try. I believe that my Mom even had to tie Dad’s necktie for the interview since he did know how being that he had only worn a tie on a couple of occasions.

He received an opportunity and eventually worked his way up the ladder to being one of the top producing store managers in the company. He succeeded not through any book learning, but from working hard and common sense. Dad treated everyone fairly and honestly and expected that type of treatment in return. The salesmen from the various companies respected that as they knew that Dad did not play favorites and the competing companies knew that they had to perform to get their products to move. In Dad’s stores Pepsi might have a huge product display near the entrance one week with Coca Cola products limited to end caps and the shelves. The following week, however, would find the Coca Cola products featured near the store entrance. The soft drink and beer distributors built some rather unique product displays which featured arrays of point of sale materials. His K&B stores typically sold more products than the grocery store anchors of the shopping centers or the Walmarts and K-marts in town.

Combine the upbringing of the packing shed lessons, lessons learned in the K&B stores, time of the rivers and Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain with my Dad and peers, and some excellent public school teachers, and you have the foundation for a well rounded education which continued with superb undergraduate and later graduate professors. Today, everyone and everything seems to teach me something.

  • Now add in becoming a caregiver while in elementary school for my Mom who began suffering from a long term condition which resulted in dozens of surgeries and physical pain to levels which I cannot comprehend before her death just after I graduated from high school;
  • Plus my Dad who controlled diabetes with diet and exercise for approximately 20 years before requiring insulin shots and today is legally blind from the repercussions of diabetes which I often call the human equivalent of crown rot;
  • Getting married to a California born Political Scientist who specializes in Comparative Politics and International Relations who earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northern schools;
  • Her undergoing a major surgery and being hospitalized for weeks just a few months after our marriage; and
  • My undergoing my own unique health experience starting suddenly when I felt like a plane had hit the building where I was delivering a lecture about the Progressive Movement of the late 18th and early 19th century to a small class.

A plane had not hit the building, but I was unable to regain my sense of balance. Multiple MDs in Georgia, where we were working at the time, delivered multiple diagnoses ranging from stroke to diabetes to something is wrong and ultimately the “your symptoms are impossible so you are faking” conclusion.

Fortunately, my wife and I had already planned on leaving GA because even though I was about to receive tenure and she would the following year, neither of us could see spending our lives in that area. We both had multiple interviews lined up in different locations throughout the country. One of her first interviews was in Maryland not far from Washington DC, and with the uncertainty of my health we decided to move for her job offer.

Fate is interesting because almost immediately upon our arrival, I had become bedridden. The local doctors suggested multiple ear disorders but vestibular rehabilitation therapy only made things worse. For over 1 year, I could not stand without assistance and crawled along the floor with my wife’s cats, who adopted me after our marriage, escorting me when I just had to try and move. The nausea and amount of vomiting each day, every day, was unreal.

It was my wife’s research which led me to Johns Hopkins for an examination by an MD/PhD, Charley Della Santina, which ruled out all the inner and middle ear diagnoses. His test results and conclusions led to his referring me to another MD/PhD, Majid Fotuhi, a neurologist. Majid confirmed a vestibular system disruption most likely rooted in genetic factors and elevated through a perfect storm of events by not strokes but a variety of atypical migraines and affiliated conditions.

He started me on a treatment plan which still continues. I haven’t recovered fully yet, but eventually I will be better both physically and mentally than I have been at any point in my life.

Having to relearn how to walk in your 30s is not something I ever anticipated. I’d say that I’m out and about today at approximately 75 percent of normal activity for most. I write for most because for me I’d estimate that I’m doing maybe 50 percent of what I will soon be undertaking as a part of my normal life.

Many of the simple things that I unknowingly took for granted, I now cherish. I honestly don’t think I took my upbringing for granted, but I certainly understand more of what my Grandfather, his twin brother, and their peers tried to teach me. I’m more appreciative of many things.

Needless to say I have the greatest wife in the world as she stuck with me and would not let me give up. She really can’t help it because her parents are of that same make. I also have friends from the past and some who first met me when I could not walk who are the greatest. Former students who have since earned professional degrees, graduate degrees, and have embarked on highly successful careers have blessed me by becoming friends.

I thought this blog would be a place to proof some polished articles. Believe it or not most of what I write professionally is succinct yet still meticulously cited.

Instead LAB Louisianaboy has a host of topics plus a lot of lagniappe. Most are typed straight from the keyboard or spoken out into Dragon software. I reflect which can be wise. I opine which may ruffle feathers. With the punditry, however, I do try to link or provide additional source material as references to my feelings whether one agrees or disagrees.

Honestly, I should take each topic on this blog and make separate blogs. For now, however, I’m just thinking of the blog as part of my getting brain and body back functioning together at the same speed.

LAB Louisianaboy is really a blog about nothing, but within that nothing more than a few people have informed me that they discovered some tidbit or nugget which they used along their respective paths.

That’s what teaching is about. It’s not about indoctrinating. It’s being a lantern or a light to provide a glimpse of just what is out in the dark. It’s introducing tools, illustrating possibilities, and peaking interests to use existing tools, discover others available, and develop ones unimaginable to others.

It’s fascinating how different things can appear just by a change in perspective. Is one better than the other? If that’s true then that means that another can be better than the one you see as the best.

I’m just thinking that today is the first day of the rest of my life. Today I need to work on a foundation that I can build upon tomorrow or leave as a base upon which others may build if I am no longer here.

Welcome and thanks for reading another rough draft here and anything else you choose.

Take care…

 

Advertisements