August 2003 (2 of 3)

Kristin's big day...

The graduation was at 10:00 am; we knew that was problematic for night-owl Mom. John wanted me to be in charge of getting her there. Um, no thanks, that's way too tough a job. I called her room around 9:20, she was still in bed and wouldn't be coming. John feigned being peeved, but we all know that's Mom. No big deal. (She would catch the replay on local cable TV later.)

It seemed like this day was even hotter than the previous; we were wilting as we walked into the Coliseum for the ceremony. A surprising number of students were graduating in this off-season. Everything went well, and it was not too long. Kristin was officially a college graduate —good job! And an even bigger congrats to John & Lori for supporting her all along the way.

Waiting outside the Coliseum; The scene inside

As we left the arena, someone (who shall remain nameless) suggested we walk down the grassy hillside to avoid the crowd on the steps. Sounded good to me, so I took off my heeled sandals because it was a steep slope. Within seconds of treading on the crab grass, I felt some familiar pricks of pain. Red ants were attacking my feet. The good news was they weren't fire ants, which I'm allergic to. The bad news was they still hurt like crazy. So I'm running through a muddy dip in the grass, swiping at my feet, trying to get to concrete. The damage: six bites that would swell up and bother me the rest of the trip. Here are more graduation photos ...

The Graduate ...

and some of her fans

Passing Time in Nacogdoches

Back at the hotel we prepared for our next adventure. Kurt, Tina, the kids, Krisanne, Ronnie and I were going for a hike. Getting to the trailhead meant walking through the downtown area. So, armed with water, we set off in the middle of the day, in the middle of August, in the middle of East Texas.

No surprise: it was hot as hell. The streets of Nacodoches were deserted except for our little party. You'd think we might see a person or two on this busy graduation weekend — but not a soul. The bank sign read 99° as we passed. As we neared the trail, Peter went jogging by us. Ah, someone even crazier than us hikers.

Thankfully the Lanana Creek Trail had plenty of shade, but the heat was still draining. We spotted a big furry black & red ant — not something we wanted to mess with. OK, enough with the hike. Kurt, Tina and the kids headed back to the pool; Krisanne, Ronnie & I stopped at some antique shops in town. Some interesting places, but also empty. Here are some scenes from the hike and town ...

Abandoned theater in Nacogdoches

On the dusty trail

Time to Party

After cool-down time at the pool, we were ready for Kristin's party. Lori had rented a banquet room at the hotel and done all kinds of work on decorations, prizes, music and food preparation. There was a great buffet table with the best items (Creole) home-prepared by Lori and her mother: boiled shrimp and crawfish pies. Mmmm-mmm. Erin hasn't had much seafood in her young life, but she agreed to try a crawfish pie. In a most surprised voice, "This is good!"

Everyone got a ticket with a number for prize drawings. Young DJs had the hip-hop and rap music blaring. Ba-BOOM, Ba-Ba-Ba-BOOM. Lori, her sisters, Kristin and friends all know these line dances like the Electric Slide. They looked good as they did the moves in sync. I'm mystified by things like this: where and how do they come by this knowledge? Is it something you're born with, or are there special classes? I always feel like I'm missing something ...

Lori started drawing numbers for prizes, to the great anticipation of the kids. The first number called belonged to "Joe Carnovale!" Kurt yelled out. I've never seen Joe so excited — smiling, running back and forth from Lori to the prize table, not knowing what he was supposed to do. So cute! More party pictures here.

Our hosts (Krisanne's photo)

Us siblings

The music seemed louder & louder as the night went on, and each song sounded just like the last. Finally Krisanne went to the DJs to request something different. Still Ba-BOOM, Ba-Ba-Ba-BOOM ... John went up to ask for a specific song. More Ba-BOOM, Ba-Ba-Ba-BOOM. Then Mom went up, and within seconds she had her request:Y-M-C-A! I guess the DJs liked this variation on a theme. And that one had the joint jumping.

But the highlight was yet to come. We were all given hankerchief-like fabric squares. "What's this for?" I asked John. "You'll see," he said, "it's a New Orleans thing. You'll all be up dancing." I don't think so, I thought.

But then the music started, and a line formed. A Second Line. With Auntie Da leading the way with her purple-feathered parasol, everyone started waving their hankerchiefs and dancing along after her, the line snaking and shaking around the room. For some idea what it was like, click here. But be warned: You might have an uncontrollable urge to boogie.

I found out later from Avis what Second Line was all about. It's derived from the New Orleans-style funeral where the departed is sent to a "second line" and ushered out in style. And now it's become a regular thing at transitional events like weddings, graduations, etc. in New Orleans. Very neat and great fun!

Line dancing with the Ricard women and friends

The next morning was a frenzy of packing cars and saying goodbye. Most everyone was headed home. Kurt, Tina and the kids were continuing their vacation in San Antonio. We headed back to Houston with John and Mom, followed by Lori, Mark, Helen and her sisters. More fun to come ...

Ready to head out ...

Nice street marker in Nacogdoches

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