Table of Contents

Louisiana

Birthed. I was born in 1951 in Rapides Parish Louisiana. As a kid, long after we left Louisiana, I became fixated on the parish business. Whenever I had to fill out a form that asked for my county of birth, I struck out county and wrote in parish, then Rapides. When we moved to Kenya, and it was no longer possible for my Permanent Record to be passed directly from school to school, I got to read it. It held fascinating facts, things no kid was supposed to read, like my scores on IQ tests, so popular back then. But the real zinger was reading that I had been born in Parish County Louisiana. I used to like to correct things that seemed wrong to me. It's taken most of a lifetime to learn not to. I still struggle with it internally at times, but I don't correct. More specifically, I was born on the banks of the Red River in Alexandria Louisiana. We pronounced it LOO-zee-anna up mid-state; that's how everyone I knew said it. loo-EE-zee-anna is more like the original French pronunciation, but it sounded affected to us, all lah di dah. My parents inadvertently taught me the redneck pronunciation, god bless 'em.

Crushes. It was a Sunday afternoon birth. What a considerate baby I was, for maybe the last time. They named me Jeffrey Scott Cassady, after no one in particular. Take that, genealogy. I was Scottie or Scotty at first, then Scott or J Scott. Jeffrey Scott if I was in trouble. I never liked my birth names. I did not inherit my dad's flame red hair or blue eyes. Mom's genes dominated there, thank goodness. But I did inherit his freckled fair skin that burned easily. I was thin-skinned and still am, physically and psychologically. All through childhood I idolized my dad; he was my first crush. That left me with a persistent tendency to crush on redheads. What's your excuse?

Alexander. When I chose my current name in 2004 (I have a history of changing names and accents), I chose my GGGG grandfather's first name. That's the furthest back I ever got with genealogy. Zachariah Cassady flourished in the Cheraw District of South Carolina circa 1736. I also chose a new middle name for reasons I didn't understand at the time. Dense.

Pineville. But we didn't live in Alexandria, we lived across the river in Pineville, notorious as the home of Central Louisiana State Hospital, the Louisiana looney bin, still in operation. We didn't actually live in Pineville either, although that was part of our RFD address. We lived a ways out on the Old Marksville Highway on a hobby farm my dad bought instead of a house in town when the US Forest Service moved the family from Fort Collins Colorado to Louisiana. Here's an example of his work in Louisiana where he's identified as John Thomas. My mom was particularly sensitive to this error. I can't imagine she'd read Lady Chatterly's Lover, but she did seem to have learned the slang meaning of john thomas. She also vehemently objected to the use of john for the toilet. We kids all had great fun with these sensitivities, hooligans that we were. We were kids after all.

Stevie. I was, as my mom delicately put it, an unexpected blessing. Steven Michael (they called him Stevie), died at age two a year or so before I was born. He tripped and fell, hitting his head on a rock. It was a serious injury requiring hospitalization, and I suspect he died of hospitalization. They had no intention of having another child, but my mom got pregnant anyway. She was 38. They thought that was too old to give birth in those days, but after medical consultation she went ahead with it. Or rather with me. Thanks Mom!

Spoiled brat. The circumstances of my birth had a lasting effect: I got babied and made allowances for far more than any of my siblings. I was a spoiled brat. This didn't bug my sisters Gail or Peggy; they were the ones babying me. But it bugged my brother Tim, and he would point it out: See, you got a power mower for him and I had to mow with a push mower; I knew it would happen. You bought him a motorcycle?! I'm grateful to all my siblings, especially Stevie. They broke my parents in for me; gentled them. Their oldest grandchild was only 6 years younger than me. I had something approaching grandchild status with them. They spoiled me rotten. And they got what they deserved. I was rotten to them, especially to my mom at times. Following on from that formative relationship I was rotten to my girlfriends for much of my life. I was clueless and self-absorbed. But the self I was absorbed in was also Leela, aka wisdom. Especially in Asheville before booze and pot got to me. But also ever after at certain moments. And since 2006 more and more to where now wisdom calls every shot. I live however Leela wants me to, and I do whatever she says. I was spoiled rotten to a very good end.

Chin me! When I was small Mom and I had a game we played. She would swoop in as if to kiss my belly, but instead she would put her chin on me and wag her jaw as she made a funny sound, nananana. I would dissolve in helpless laughter at her ticklings. I loved our game, and I would beg her, "Chin me, chin me!" But I inevitably got bigger and stronger, until one day I knocked her glasses off with my flailing limbs. Despite my wheedling, she drew a line under it after that. Unfortunately that game had long term fallout: it left me extremely ticklish. That later became a thorn in my side when it came to intimacy. My sweetheart would caress me lovingly and I would jump like I'd been poked with a red-hot poker. I am happy to report I finally outgrew that. OK, my love Ariel would disagree. But at least I'm not as bad as I used to be.

Trike. An old rusty tricycle triggered the earliest moment of spontaneous presence I can remember. There was a small pond near our house, probably a remnant of the meandering Red River. The river ran about three crow miles southeast of us in modern times, but the territory between the river and our hobby farm was marshy, with scattered oxbow and finger lakes. The pond was surrounded by a thicket except for a tiny beach, just big enough for me and the grownup who had kid detail that day. I loved going to the pond. I would look for tadpoles and watch the minnows and damselflies flit about, each in their medium. On the far bank of the pond lay the rusty wreck of an ancient tricycle, half submerged in mud and pond water. Some kid like me, in ancient days, had ridden that now long defuct tricycle. Looking at it jolted me with my first recognition of time, aging, and death. I was no older than two. I can still taste that moment.

Inheritance. I don't know the size of our farm, but I suspect it was around 40 acres. We had chickens, two horses (Star and Blue), and a black dog named Midnite. And a big vegetable garden, of course. One of my treats was getting to feed the chickens cracked corn. They loved cracked corn; it was their treat. When I delicately hurled it at them they raised a huge ruckus, exploding into the air and pecking madly at the dirt. Our inheritances were all in the form of real property. Tim got the 45 acres he and I planted pines on in the 1960s. I got 40 acres Dad planted to pines in the 1970s. Gail got Riverhaven. Peggy hit the jackpot: 4 lots on Captiva Island. She sold way too early, but still made out like a bandit. After my parents died I took over managing my plot. I was a good absentee tree farmer, shelling out thousands over the years for local contractors to come in and do all the chores involved in tree farming. By the time I was ready to buy a house in Seattle those trees were big enough to be graded chip-n-saw rather than just pulp. I got a check in the mail that paid for the house with some cash left over, tax free as inheritance. Thanks Dad!

Horses. I was also a fearless horseman in those days: someone would occasionally put me bareback on Blue, the gentle mare who was not blue, and lead her around the paddock while I waved my arms intrepidly. I never rode Star, who had a star-shaped forehead blaze. He was too feisty.

Stump water. Most of our farm was wooded, but there was a cleared area near the house, our pasture, to me a vast prairie that went on forever. I could see trees off in the distance, on the far side of it where everything merged into borrowed scenery, a thing I learned about while studying to be a docent at the Seattle Japanese Garden. I've taken the idea of borrowed scenery even further now. All of nature comes to me in the cool breeze that washes my face at night. There was an enormous stump in the middle of that pasture, much taller than I was. I was transfixed to find dark rainwater the color of black coffee in a little cavity in it one day. I stood for a long time looking at that dark brown water, and the rest of the world went away. To me it felt like a tiny pond fed by a magic spring that was there all the time. The dark brown color of the water seemed magic to me. For a long time I considered stump water a magic potion. This was one of my two earliest experiences of spontaneous presence. I was about three. Decades later I discovered the practical magic of dark brown water.

Bark rings. My pasture stump was big but not that big. Much later on my brother told me about coming across bark rings way back up in the woods of north Florida: the disappearing remnant of an old-growth pine felled decades ago. He said he found some twelve feet across, maybe more. There were giants in the South in those days. At least in north Florida.

Boyfriend. There was an old upright piano in the living room. I used to hide behind it when Peggy was in the living room on a properly supervised 1950s date with her boyfriend. He was a redhead like my dad. Only her boyfriend had a flame-red flattop. I was fascinated by his razor-sharp butchwaxed hairdo, and I would come up behind them as they sat properly side by side on the couch so I could get a better look. Little brothers, jeez. Peggy was so good-natured about it. It's not like they could make out. I had some kind of kid's record in red vinyl, maybe Christmas music. One time I brought my record and put it on top of his flattop. It sat there securely. He was good-natured too. He just said I prolly shouldn't do that cuz I'd gum up my record with hair wax.

Red sails. Mom played that old upright piano, and that was possibly my favorite treat of all. I'd sit beside her on the bench as she played her old favorites. Red Sails in the Sunset was one of my favorites. Seeing the familiar sheet music cover that serves as the video background takes me right back to my childhood. Years later I learned a simpler arrangement of Red Sails while I was taking piano lessons in Asheville. But I soon lost interest in playing piano. I didn't have the discipline it takes to become a real musician, an artist, although I did become proficient on the saxophone. That came in quite useful later on, opening up a whole new world for me. Also, the music I did learn via lessons in playing piano, saxophone, flute and guitar paid off big time once I got serious about partner dancing, and especially tango. Still, I'd very much like to be more of a real artist next time. That's Leela's department of course, but the little I know is encouraging.