Sunday, May 18, 2008

BEN AND THE BEAST

My grandson Martin says that every time I visit Louisiana, I bring bad weather. On this trip to southwest Louisiana, we were caught in the middle of a monsoon while staying overnight with Martin in Covington, LA. The next morning a rainstorm, complete with tornadoes and a brilliant light show, preceded us from Covington to New Iberia, all the way across the I10 corridor from Hammond to St. Martinville. The tornadoes ravaged properties along that corridor just before we set out for New Iberia. However, the weather since my arrival has been beautiful and unusually cool, and I am home during the time that baby gardenias bloom in my yard. Also, the lattice on my patio is completely covered with cape jasmine, so the scent outside is exotic! Since last Friday, I have enjoyed a siege of birthday parties hosted by old friends and family. One day, I spent a few hours distributing copies of FLOOD ON THE RIO TECHE on Main Street of New Iberia, and gave some copies to my good friend, Janet Faulk, who is President and CEO of the local Chamber of Commerce. I also dropped several copies of this saga about New Iberia at Books Along the Teche, New Iberia’s only bookstore (a privately-owned bookstore that handles all of James Lee Burke’s novels and is right next to Dave Robicheaux’s headquarters at Victor’s Café).

Yesterday, my friend Vickie and I met Janet and her son, Ben, at Starbuck’s in Broussard, Louisiana where we sat and discussed a children’s book Ben has just finished illustrating for me. It is a picture book entitled THE BEAST BEEZLEBUFO, a poem with accompanying pictures about a devil frog whose remains were discovered in Africa. I had read about this huge frog online and immediately thought about my grandson Joel, a “frogasieur” who spends all his time outdoors looking for reptiles, primarily frogs and lizards. Ben’s whimsical illustrations for the book are delightful. I’ve known Ben since he was a baby, and he has been drawing since he could hold a pencil. He is now 22, a tall, handsome man whose artistic ideas feed my imagination, and vice versa, when we get together. Ben lives in Lafayette, Louisiana and has a strong interest in raw food preparation, as well as design and art work. He’s an avid organic gardener, loves dancing, music, literature, and calls himself a “Renegade Scholar,” and a “Roads Scholar” who likes to travel. Ben has no formal training in Art and says he’s uncontaminated by formal education. He leaves Tuesday for Patagonia, AZ to train in Raw Food Preparation and Organic Gardening for three months at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center. When he returns, he’ll set up a raw chocolate business in Lafayette. At a potluck supper before he departs for AZ, Ben plans to serve one of his special concoctions, “Third Eyes Crèam”, a dessert made with frozen bananas, raw chocolate, and goji berries. For my birthday, Ben gave me a copy of A BLUE HAND, stories about the Beatniks in India, and as this group of renegades represents my generation, I look forward to reading it. Ben has also done art work for one of Greg Guirard’s books and will continue with his illustration work as a sideline. THE BEAST BEEZLEBUFO, a one-poem picture book, will appear in the Fall, and who knows what Ben and I may jointly create next!! We’re talking about a complete volume of children’s poetry illustrated by this Renaissance man.

Will return to Sewanee this coming week, hoping that we don’t fly up The Mountain on the winds of another storm!!
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