Table of Contents

Louisiana

Born. I was born on December 16, 1951 in the Baptist Hospital on the banks of the Red River in Alexandria Louisiana. We pronounced it LOO-zee-anna. Loo-EE-zee-anna is the Cajun pronunciation. Sounded affected to us, well lah di dah. Now I use the Cajun pronunciation, at least most of the time, because it's more popular. I'm so fickle. My mother was Nina Fay Vermillion Cassady (always went by Fay) and my father was John Tom (not Thomas) Cassady. 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 occasionally J Scott. I never liked my birth names. I did not inherit my dad's flame red hair. Mom's brunette genes prevailed there. But I did inherit his freckled fair skin that burned easily. Mom always said I was thin-skinned. All through childhood I idolized my dad; he was my first crush. That left me with an unfortunate tendency to crush on redheads.

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.

Ft Collins to Pineville. We didn't live in Alexandria. We lived across the Red River in Pineville, home of Central Louisiana State Hospital, the Louisiana nuthouse, still in operation. We didn't actually live in Pineville either, though that was 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 to Louisiana.

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. 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 sometimes my greater self, who I really am: my 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 single shot. I have effectively become my wisdom, awake. 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 to kiss my belly, but instead put her chin on me and move her jaw as she made a funny sound, nananana. I would dissolve in helpless laughter at her tickling. I would beg her, "Chin me, chin me!" But one time I knocked her glasses off with my flailing limbs, so we had to stop. That game left me extremely ticklish, which later was 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. Thankfully I've outgrown that.

Inheritance. I don't know the size of our farm, but I suspect it was around 40 acres. Our inheritances, the four of us, were all in the form of real property. Tim got the 45 acres he and I planted pines on in the 60s. I got 40 acres that Dad had planted to pines in the 70s. Gail got Suwannee Riverhaven, and 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, and I was a good absentee tree farmer, shelling out thousands over the years for thinning, weeding, and fertilizing. 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 cash left over, tax free as inheritance. Thanks Dad!

Cracked corn. We had chickens, two horses (Star and Blue), and a black dog named Midnite. And a big vegetable garden, of course. One of my big 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 to score their delicacy.

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

Stump water. Most of our farm was wooded, but there was a cleared area, a vast prairie that went on forever. In real life it was four acre pasture. There was a big stump in the middle of the pasture, taller than my head; I was transfixed to find dark rainwater 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 with a magic spring that was there all the time. The dark brown color of the water seemed magical to me. For a long time I considered stump water a sort of magic potion. This was one of the two earliest experiences of spontaneous meditation I can remember; I was about three. Years later I discovered the practical magic of stump water in the form of cypress pond water, water that's been stained dark brown with tannins.

Secret beach. I never liked going to the beach. I burned easily. I hated the sticky, sandy feeling being at the beach left me with. I was ready to go after fifteen minutes. Everyone else wanted to stay for hours. The car ride home was nasty because my thin skin was sunburned, gritty, and irritated by the salt. Some friends in Tallahassee knew about a secret beach near Destin. They wanted to take me there. I resisted for a while then gave in. We drove along Highway 98 east of Destin and turned south toward the Gulf onto an unmarked dirt (sand) road through the pines and palmetto. The road wound around and ended next to a cypress pond full of that dark brown water. We parked and walked on trails through the palmetto scrub to the beach. The beaches along this stretch of the panhandle are quite nice, for beaches. The sand is touted as the whitest in the world. But that's not what made this beach special. We played on the beach. I got tired of it sooner than anyone else. To my surprise, my friends didn't mind heading back. When we got to the cypress pond they dove in and relaxed in the dark water. The tannic water was crystal clear, stained coffee color; the bottom was that pure white sand. Cypress pond water is mildly acidic; it washed away the sand and stickiness from the beach and soothed my tender skin, irritated by the harshly alkaline environment of the beach. Like the ads say, it restored my skin's natural acid balance. My skin felt smooth and happy after my stump water bath; I had finally found a beach I could live with.

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 12 ft across, maybe more. There were giants in the earth in those days. Only for real.

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 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.

Reincarnation. 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 old favorites. The one I remember most was Ebb Tide.

I learned a simpler arrangement of that later on, after I took piano lessons in Asheville. I could have started piano lessons way back then just by asking her to show me something more interesting to play than Chopsticks or Blue Moon. After that they would've found me piano teachers. But I didn't have the focus or discipline required to become a musician. Next time for sure.