Shreveport, Louisana has never been on my bucket list of 'must-visit-before-I-die' places, but it should have been. It was a spontaneous whim that brought me to this culturally overloaded historic city last week where I found myself smack-dab in the midst of something called the 'Mud-Bug Madness Festival.' Apparently folks around those parts refer to crawfish as mudbugs, and obviously, those same folks believe mudbugs are meant to be eaten...with an ample dose of, what else, Louisana Hot Sauce.
I have dined on crawfish, or mudbugs, or what we called crawdads when we were kids. As long as you remove that little poop-vein, crawfish are fine eating. With crawfish in every imaginable form and fashion available at the Mud-Bug Madness Festival, I had every intention of devouring a few of the little critters, but my first stop was at a concession stand hawking alligator sausage gyros. Admit it...you'd have to try alligator sausage, too, right?
While those crawfish enchiladas at the next booth looked amazingly delicious, there is just something manly about scarfing down alligator sausage. Throughout the night I sampled foods I couldn't even pronounce, all-the-while fully intending to round it all off with crawfish. And believe it or not, I just never got around to it. I was having too much fun!
Music and festivals go hand in hand and two stages offered an awesome sampling of local musicians dishing out music as hot as that Louisana Hot Sauce. My group of revelers finally settled at a table, listening to some pretty little lady wearing a peach colored dress, accessorized tastefully with a fiddle resting on her shoulder. As I sipped on that one beer I had allowed myself to indulge in and grazed on something I couldn't even pronounce, she sawed that fiddle into a foot-stomping rendition of 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia.' And that's when it hit me...
I was having fun! I had inadvertently let my hair down, what hair I have left. It was something I'd not allowed myself to do for some time. The last time I had this feeling sweep through me was on some beach on Padre Island, and that was some years ago. Yeah, I dunno...I'm just twisted a bit differently than most.
I am a driven, goal-oriented, focused person. Throughout my life, my primary goals have been survival...not to starve and to keep my nose to the grindstone so I can pay the bills. I have been cursed with an old-fashioned work ethic. Cursed with a mindset that 'fun' is simply not in the budget. Nickles and dimes still mean a lot to me, and you can't even fathom how much twenty dollars is to an old goat like me. Sweat beads on my forehead and my heart pounds inside my chest whenever I lay a five dollar tip on the table of some diner. It's from years of scraping to get by. It is perhaps my biggest curse.
I've not missed a meal since those 'young and dumb' days back when I first set out on my own. There were times back then when I flicked the piss-ants off a stale saltine cracker and diligently scraped the last spoonful of peanut butter from the bottom of a jar. I learned the hard way that hunger is real. I learned to survive. I learned that a dollar is a whole lot when you don't have one.
So, fun has always been on a back burner for me. Fun costs money and I might need that money someday for a box of saltines and a jar of peanut butter. I can't shake the curse. I am not financially successful by many peoples' standards, but I do better than some. The house is bought and paid for, as is the old pickup. I have very few bills compared to most of you. I have free health insurance for the rest of my life and someday when I wise up and retire from a job I've clung to for over twenty years, I'll have a respectable retirement check. But still, I scrape for every nickel and dime I can.
But, as the old country song says, you'll never read on a tombstone, 'I wish I'd spent more time at work.' I am at a threshold in my life. I yearn for the enjoyment that life has to offer. I'll need counseling to achieve it. Lucky for me, my daughter wants to major in phycology in college. Did you know colleges don't take nickles and dimes...or twenties, for that matter? That is my final financial hurdle.
Shreveport, you found a place in my heart. I will come back. I have to...I never got to sample your crawfish cuisine. But there is more I wish to do. I want to catch enormous sun perch in an Alabama lake. I intend to experience mardi gras in New Orleans. I just have to walk on the beach in Myrtle Beach. I yearn to see the lights of Vegas. I dream of sitting on the porch of some cabin in Colorado and watching the sunrise.
I wish to bury that serious side of me so deep that it'll never rise to the surface again. I want to laugh until my belly hurts. I have a burning passion for experiencing all that life has been saving for me all these years. I crave the notion of irrepressible impulsiveness and the adventure of unpredictability. I desire to break the curse of frugalness, with an unbridled freedom to toss nickels and dimes into any fountain I happen upon with nary a fleeting thought. Seriously...I just want to have fun!