“Through a Glass Darkly”: Guests force locals to see state’s sites

By BOB ANDERSON

Waitresses carrying heaping breakfast trays from the kitchen unconsciously moved in the same rhythm as the customers who filled the small dance floor.

The setting, as well as the music, shouted “Louisiana,” as religious paintings and Christian crosses clung to the walls, even behind the bar.

The intensity with which the band played was what I would expect on a Saturday night in a honky-tonk, not on a Saturday morning in a restaurant.

The same held true for the moving bodies on the dance floor.

But this was happening in Louisiana — Breaux Bridge, La. — where I expect people to make their own rules when it comes to having a good time.

I never had been to a zydeco breakfast; though it’s something my wife from Oklahoma has wanted to do.

It was somewhere I had intended to take her, but it took out-of-state guests to get me there. As I looked around, I decided others had been moved by similar circumstances.

In addition to our friends from Virginia, there were people from Wisconsin, Ireland and Belgium enjoying their eggs with boudin, crawfish etouffee and andouille grits while they drank dark roast coffee.

Admittedly talking isn’t the easiest thing to do at a zydeco breakfast, but as I met people I began to wonder if anybody other than the band and restaurant employees were from Breaux Bridge.

I did run into people I knew from Baton Rouge, but even they were there because they had out-of-state guests.

Between songs, I talked to Karla Swacker about how often we take friends from other states or countries to distinctly Louisiana places we never go to on our own.

She laughed about having worked in the State Capitol but never having gone to the top of it until she went with visitors.

For a number of years I regularly took eastern European environmental journalists on tours of some of my favorite marshes, bayous and islands — but I also took them to spots I had long meant to visit myself. Their visits gave me a good excuse.

Though I often see alligators in bayous and swamps, I don’t make special trips on commercial swamp tours to see them. The exceptions have been to take visitors whose main wish in their trips to Louisiana is to get the adrenaline rush of seeing an alligator up close.

I can’t remember ever having gone on a tour of a plantation home unless I’ve been showing an out-of-state guest around. When I’ve gone, it has been interesting to get peeks at the inside of places that I had only seen from roads.

Like most people from Louisiana, I’m proud of the state’s culture, history and environment, but don’t always take full advantage of them.

Yet, as I think about my visits to other states and countries, I realize how often people there have taken me to local landmarks and then mentioned that they had never been before.

Maybe the tendency not to visit tourist sites near us is universal.

Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to banderson@theadvocate.com.