Things Not To Do
As evidenced by the lovely photos of Clear Lake I posted last week, Bridget and I had a grand mini-adventure looking around at some natural habitat recently while the other two were otherwise engaged in activity across the river in Shreveport. Two days later we discovered we had (unwittingly) disturbed an invisible chigger habitat, which is an insect not really present in my active catalog of things to worry about, having never lived in a place that presented a threat in my previous 40 years. We had bug spray on, but not enough or the right brand. Actually, there might not be enough bug spray in the world to have protected us against the stupidity of hanging out briefly at the edge of a lake in northwest Louisiana. Near trees. In the outdoors. In the summertime. Or ever.
The method in which they bite you is just too horrifying to retell. Trust me: it involves liquefying your skin. And then hanging on to you for a little bit. Then jumping off in time for you to itch 100x worse than the worst mosquito bite you've ever had. Times 30+ bites. Each.
In an effort to relieve our agony we have tried:
• cortisone cream
• calamine lotion
• witch hazel
• scotch tape
That is a lovely smell, all the tears and the ammonia and the calamine and astringent smell of witch hazel rolled up into one, while decorated like crazy people in sweaty scotch tape. So far scotch tape remains up at the top of the list for best temporary relief, however. By temporary relief we mean like 23 minutes.
Here is what I've read about avoiding chiggers:
• tape your socks to your legs with duct tape
• wear panty hose under jeans (oooh, let me jump right on that one in the 97 degree heat)
• don't go near lakes in wooded areas during little baby chigger mite season (NOTED)
• immediately take a shower after you suspect you are covered in [invisible] chiggers (uhm)
Things To Do
While I was driving to get the movers lunch the week we moved in, I heard the tail end of an interview on the radio with someone associated with the Shreveport Summer Music Festival, talking about an upcoming jazz camp in Shreveport for middle/high schoolers. I played piano in my school's jazz band from 7-12 grades, and it was always something fun and different from all the other stuff I was doing. When I got home I emailed the guy to ask if 6th grade piano players with absolutely no jazz experience were welcome, and he said sure! Since Maddie will be a middle schooler here, I asked her if she wanted to participate; she did, though she was very nearly crushed by some very intense nerves in the week before it started.
This building was one of many commissioned during the New Deal by FDR, and has the faintly communist-art feel to it that many of those buildings had. It's very, very well cared for and definitely worth visiting.
On the first day, I was a little shocked that there were only 8 kids participating. I mean, come on! We're in LOUISIANA! Home of jazz and all that? I was also a little nervous to find that Maddie was the youngest kid there. And one of only two girls, the other a vocalist in college. Erm. It was held at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, an exceedingly cool little museum in an exceedingly rough neighborhood. Nothing like driving away from your cell-phone-less 11 year old for the day under those conditions. But we did all the same.
Except for the near-nervous breakdown about not knowing how to improvise on Day 2, it ended up being a fantastic experience for her. Because there were only 8 kids, they all got a huge amount of individual and small group instruction from some first-class jazz professionals. Maddie came home excited to mess around with her music each night, and fell over when she discovered how much jazz piano music we own (her assignment was to look up some jazz pianists during the course of the week). Even though she was the youngest, she's good enough at the piano after four years that she didn't feel completely lost (save for Day 2). There was a student concert on Friday (impressive!) and a faculty concert on Saturday night (also impressive!).
Also: Bridget and I (and sometimes Gracie, who was at gym in the afternoons—Maddie had to skip gym this past week to do this) got a really big dose of Louisiana via the museum exhibits since we were there, in and out, six straight days. We learned that Blue Dog is actually from Louisiana (Ellie reminds us of Blue Dog) and I saw a cotton bale for the first time. I did not know about the ancient cultures that lived in this area, and we got to see this very cool dugout canoe that was discovered stuck in a river bank in the 1980s—the largest dugout canoe ever discovered west of the Mississippi. Bridget dreams at night of sequined Mardi Gras head gear now, I'm certain of it.
There was a SUPER COOL autograph exhibit; it's privately owned, on loan, and has a huge amount of genuine handwriting signatures, letters, and notes including Geronimo, Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and many more. By far the highlight for me.
Another benefit: when you drive back and forth into the neighboring town 8000 times you begin to know where things are in a much faster manner than you would otherwise. And between this camp and gym, I have driven to Shreveport somewhere in the vicinity of 8000 times in the last three weeks. At least it feels like it. I can almost give directions to places now, as I've also tried just about every possible route to make the drive shorter (exercise in futility). Long live the power of Maps on the iPhone!
So there you have it: avoid chiggers, sign up early for something the locals are putting on, even if you have to fill up your gas tank twice in one week.