Thursday, October 27, 2022

Houston Hotel Lobby

 One Christmas vacation I decided to go to Houston for the holidays. After visiting with some relatives, I headed downtown with my camera and just wandered around, taking pictures of the urban landscape, the fountains, the sidewalks surrounded by tall buildings and the underground shopping center. 

The photo below shows the lobby of the downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel from one of the interior atrium balconies. The bank of elevators are at the top of the frame. 

This view became important later on because when I wrote my science fiction novel "The Gafferty Perspective" a few years after my visit, the final moments of the novel took place in the atrium lobby of the hotel. 

The last chapter of the novel was revised during a subsequent visit to the Houston area, where I used a typewriter in the offices of the The Woodlands community newspaper to put the finishing touches on it. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Microscope Camera

 I found a microscope camera that hooks up to a computer. Here are some photos taken with the gadget. 


Computer monitor

Cellphone screen

Edge of a dime minted in 2017

A metal ruler with a sixteenth of an inch between the marks

Bristles from a toothbrush

Contacts on an SD memory card

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Mount Cheaha

 Every so often I drive to north Alabama to take in the mountain roads and long-range high elevation vistas. While there are a number of good views and curvy roads up around Chattanooga, the best combination of those are found over on Mount Cheaha near Anniston, which features "the highest point in the state."

I find myself going back to Mount Cheaha State Park every few years, just to sit on the overlook balcony and watch the sunset. I lived near there when I was an editor for the newspaper in Pell City, and even then I would drive over to Mount Cheaha every other week to take in the scenery. It helped that the state built a lodge, a picnic grounds, a campground, a motel, and a great little restaurant with a great big window you can look out of while eating. 

Here are some photos:

The roads are steep with a lot of sharp turns, but once you get there it is worth the effort. There is even a four story stone tower at the "highest point" that you can climb up to the very top and be the highest person in the state, out of breath for sure, but still the highest person if you don't count people in aircraft. 

I went there a few weeks ago, and the place was about deserted. There were only about four people staying in the 120 room motel, the restaurant was closed due to a shortage of people to staff it, and the buildings looked a little shabbier than when I last saw them. Perhaps that was due to smaller maintenance budgets, perhaps due to the buildings getting older, or perhaps my memory of them being too forgiving since the last time I saw them. 

CovID 19 threw the state park for a loop, no doubt. Probably  not many people drive their motor homes and travel trailers up the long winding roads any longer.  I hope it will bounce back and revive. Until then, I will hold onto my memory of eating a full Thanksgiving dinner at the mountain top restaurant, looking at the fantastic view of the mountains receding in the distance, but for the same price of a meal at Shoney's down at the interstate exit.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

What To Do With Leftover Grits

 If you live in the South, you are bound to have come across the question of what to do with leftover grits. There is no such thing as cooking too much (many?) grits, since a full pot of grits cooking on the stove provides just what you want to eat that morning (night?) plus the extra benefit of having leftover grits.

Since a full pot of grits takes just as much effort to wash and clean afterwards as a half pot of grits, you may as well cook enough grits for you and the family to eat right then and there, then whatever is leftover can be put in the refrigerator. That's right, northern friends, cold grits are almost just as good as warm grits. 

Cleaning a pot out in which you have cooked grits is a real challenge. Let's just say the automatic dishwasher is next to useless in this case. Pots with cooked on grits on their insides just laugh at automatic dishwashers.

Of course, fresh warm grits taken right out of the pot are somewhat fluid (depending on how long you cooked them), and when you scoop a pile of grits onto your plate and put a pat of butter on top of it, the butter begins melting rapidly, then slides down the side of the pile of grits as it finds the path of least resistance. Soon, what's left of the pat of butter sits at the side of the pile, thinking it has escaped.

But, no, that's when you take your fork and lift the butter up and smash it back into the steaming pile of grits, giving it a slight stir. By the end of this procedure, you wind up with enough butter mixed in with the grits to make them taste more buttery than gritty. Some like it more one way than the other, but to each his own. 

But the grits that are leftover in the pot, the grits that didn't get scooped and put on the breakfast plate, these are the grits that begin an adventurous journey into the refrigerator. They are scooped up and dumped into a glass (or other suitable container), then put in the fridge to cool. Sometime later, whenever the desire for grits arises again, just take the glass out of the fridge and slide the now solidified mass of grits out of the glass onto a plate.

The path now diverges. Some people will take a fork and start prying off chucks to eat right then. Some people will attempt to pick up the whole solidified mass and try to eat it like some kind of grit popsicle. 

But my wife tells me her family would take the cylinder of cooled down grits, cut it into rounded slices, then throw those into a pan greased with bacon grease and fry those puppies. I personally have never done that, being of the group that likes to eat their leftover grits straight out of the refrigerator. Probably with a fork. At that point, however, putting butter on the cold grits does absolutely nothing. It just falls off to the side. 

And such is the fate of leftover grits. It's just another episode in the "Greatness of Grits," soon to be a major motion picture. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Screaming Yellow Zonkers to The Rescue

 When I went to college I managed to avoid taking speech class until the very last semester. It's not that I don't like speeches, I go to them often and even listen to podcast speeches once in a while. It's just that I don't give speeches. The operative word is "give." It's more like a speech has to be pried out of me.

I have made speeches in the past. People have asked me to speak and once in a million requests I agree to it. It's just not my favorite thing to do. 

Anyway, along came "speech" class and I was required, once a week, to give a speech to my fellow college students. 

My first speech was about the evolutionary miracle that is the human hand. It was mind-numbing.

I remember only one other speech, and that was the time I read the front and back of a box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. Now SYZ was some kind of popcorn snack that I was fond of at the time, and noticing that I had a speech to make the next day, it would seem appropriate (and extremely entertaining as well as convenient) to just read the quips and jokes found on a box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. 

The time came, I got up, and after a brief introduction (which was not necessary since everyone was consuming large amounts of Zonkers daily), I launched into a dramatic reading of the front and back of the box, humorous stories, puns, a zany cartoon or two. I think I threw in a side panel for a bonus. (I did not read the ingredients list. That would have been a bummer.)

But the speech was well-received, especially afterwards when I passed the box around for anyone who wanted to sample the product. 

So my suggestion is, if you find yourself pressed for a speech topic, turn to snack food. Always a hit with the crowd, especially if you pass some around at the end. 


Friday, November 12, 2021

St. Bernard Parish Bird's Eye View Map

The new pictorial cartoon map of St. Bernard Parish is finished. I was born in Chalmette, so it was kind of a personal project. I learned much about the amazing history of the parish and the dedication and endurance of its residents.

Click on the video link below to see a time-lapse video showing the colorization of the map.


Monday, November 8, 2021

Northlake Welcome Center

In a never ending quest to provide people with information about St. Tammany Parish, a few friends and I opened the Northlake Welcome Center on North Causeway Approach in the mid-1980's. It was located in a small tan brick building on the east side of the major roadway, just a few blocks from Lake Pontchartrain.

We filled it with brochure racks offering brochures and business cards of a wide variety of businesses, motels, tourist attractions, real estate agents and other items of interest to people driving off the north end of the Causeway.

The Northlake Welcome Center staff included Karen Hays, myself, and a couple of others, but as time went on, those volunteers had others things to do than wait for people to walk in the door. 

It was successful at the beginning, but as time wore on, it became seasonal and the traffic dwindled. We were asking local community supporters and businesses to advertise on a monthly basis, but it wasn't enough, so we had to close the doors on the operation. 

A few years later the St. Tammany Tourist and Convention Commission opened up a tourist information center over on La. 59 north of Interstate 12, spending a lot of money on a building of considerable architectural presence, basically a backwoods camp style structure on pilings over a swamp near Koop Drive. 

It helps if tourist welcome centers have some sort of government funding in the form of a dedicated tax base, I guess. The Northlake Welcome Center did not have that and although it was fun to do and we met a lot of great people, it was just ahead of its time. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Lifetime Achievement Award

 Well, you know you are getting old when someone gives you a lifetime achievement award. It's actually a little embarrassing. I usually try to stay in the background, behind the camera. 

Most of my life has been about interviewing other people, taking their pictures, showcasing their contributions and accomplishments. So this award is really about them, the people of St. Tammany Parish. 

I was recently recognized by the Cultural Arts Commission of St. Tammany Parish with the President's Lifetime Achievement Award for 2021. I've known Mike Cooper for years, when he was mayor of Covington, and now is Parish President. I knew (and took many photos of) his dad Ernest Cooper back in the 1970's. 

The group asked me to provide some background of my life, and when I started compiling the list of things I have done, it kept getting longer and longer. So I shortened it considerably and here is the press release they sent out about this particular award. Click on the links in boldface for more information:

From the Cultural Arts Commission Facebook page:

"Our final featured recipient before the awards event tomorrow is Ron Barthet, Lifetime Achievement President’s Arts Award.

Ron Lamar Barthet was born in New Orleans, LA, and moved to Covington, LA in 1968. After attending Southeastern Louisiana University, he became editor of the Slidell Sentry News. He was named Associate News Editor at the Covington Daily News in 1972, and the following year Ron was promoted to editor of the Mandeville Banner, the successor to the Mandeville Bantam.

During this time he became active with the newly-organized St. Tammany Historical Society and the St. Tammany Art Association. In mid-1974 Bob Landry left The St. Tammany Farmer, and Ron was called in to work there as editor.

In his spare time, he traveled across the parish, making copies of old faded photographs, in an effort to preserve them. He would present to various civic associations across the parish slide shows featuring hundreds of old pictures, as well as aerial photographs he had taken on several flights over the area.

Ron served as president of the historical society in 1977, and again in the mid-1980's, and then again in 1997. He was elected to the board of directors of the Art Association in 1975, and he was a founding member of the St. Tammany Press Club.

His work history includes magazine articles published in several regional and national magazines, and his photographic work includes wedding and family portraits, pictures for legal cases, and slide shows for tourist promotion programs. For two years in the early 1980's he hosted a daily radio interview show over WARB in Covington.

In 1984, he drew a cartoon pictorial map of downtown Covington to show where various portions of the first "Olde Towne Festival" would be held, and the map was so popular that he has now drawn more than 70 additional "bird's eye view" maps of communities across the South. He has produced maps for the annual ChefSoiree held by the Youth Service Bureau for more than 20 years.

Barthet has written several books, some science fiction, and he dabbles in poetry and songwriting, one song of which was named the “official song of Covington.” His books have spotlighted history, Cajun comedy, and imaginary festivals.

Between 2000 and 2014, he managed the St. Tammany Parish Public St. Tammany Parish Public School System's website. Now retired, he currently takes pictures and writes articles for his "Tammany Family" blog, a daily look at the people, places, history and scenic beauty of St. Tammany Parish."
-------------------- End of press release
As exhausting as all of that was above, there are a few things that I left out that deserve mentioning.
The SLU Radio Program
Jim Martel and I started the first radio program for Southeastern Louisiana University, and it was called "Campus Modulation." WTGI Hammond radio station broadcasted it once a week. We played a few songs and mostly read press releases from the college's public information office.  Now the university has its own radio station.

Audio Cassette Recordings
One of the most demanding and least paid jobs I had was with an audio recording company in Los Angeles. For just over a year in the mid-1980's, I flew around the country tape recording speeches at a variety of conventions, trade shows, professional seminars, etc. Then I would immediately duplicate the speeches on cassette tapes and sell convention attendees copies of the speech, as they were walking out of the door of the meeting. 
I went to places like Orlando, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Los Angeles, and Fairhope (AL), staying several days in each location, many times in the fanciest hotel in town where the convention was being held. That job, while enjoyable while I was doing it, required all my time and paid very little money. I worked seven days a week, seldom got home for more than a day, and there was a lot of heavy equipment cases hauling around as well as late night plane flights. I had to give the job up because I was digging myself into a financial hole.  
Volunteer Audio Work

As my expertise in audio recording expanded, I began volunteering on the weekends to do audio duplication work for the "Kid's Jamboree" television and radio show in Baton Rouge. They were expanding their ministry into the Caribbean and needed someone to take the audio tracks from prior television shows and convert them to 15 minute radio programs. That was a time consuming process, but an enjoyable one. During this time "Kid's Jamboree" bought the old Singing Waters summer camp out in Holden, La., for its own summer kids program, and for a while I was planning to move to Holden and live at the camp. That didn't happen, but now the property is owned by John Schneider of the "Dukes of Hazard" fame, who has turned it into an independent film studio.  

I also did volunteer audio work for Bethesda Cassette Library in Covington, an operation run by Bill and Marie Knight who were distributing cassette tapes of various religious teachings to their library members around the world. I helped them print up their catalog, wrote an article about them, and did some narrating on the tapes. One of the bigger projects was tape-recording an audio version of the newly-published New American Standard Bible (just the New Testament). Pronouncing some of those Biblical names was a challenge. 

For two years I did a taped interview show for WARB radio station in Covington. Each interview was about 30 minutes long, and the radio station played five minutes of it every day. Back then five minutes was a long time to listen to anything on the radio, so it worked out well. I interviewed a wide variety of people across the community, public officials, the postmaster, artists, business people, etc. 

The Video Production

In 1996 I produced a two-hour documentary on the use of pesticides in the public school system. Many people were interviewed, including several state level experts, and the legislative effort to better protect children from pesticide use was explained. Randy Perkins helped me with the video editing for this massive project, and Ellen Winchell helped provide names of individuals and organizations that would assist the effort.
In 1997, I managed the Star Theater for several months, showing movies and eating leftover popcorn. That job ended when the tornado came through downtown Covington. At the same time, I had a little sideline business, putting together websites for local businesses who wanted to have some kind of presence on the new world wide web. That business was called Net Flyer, and basically I just converted their business pamphlet / flyer into a webpage, registering a domain name for them and the like. 

For some reason, I was still interviewing people with my own video camera, even though I didn't have an outlet for the finished product. I interviewed Warren Salles of the Star Theater and Nancy Bowen-Ellzey of Bowen and Associates who talked about her firm's study of downtown Covington's business potential. Many of the things she predicted in 1997 have come to pass. I'm glad I did those interviews because now I have posted them to my St. Tammany blog.
I worked at Lakeside Camera in Mandeville during December Christmas season that year, and while that was interesting, it was a little confusing with digital cameras coming into focus and 35mm cameras fading into the background.
One of the fun things I did that year was take a bunch of pictures of the St. Patrick's Day parade through downtown Covington.  

That was also around the time I served on a committee to come up with a name for what we now call the Three Rivers Art Festival. A lot of possibilities were tossed around, but we came up with Three Rivers Art Fest and that seemed to stick. Twenty five years later, the annual event seems to have created quite a following, both in artist participants and festival goers.
I then worked at Poole Lumber Company for two years, digitizing house plans into AutoCAD files and helping them use a new software program to size engineered wood beams. When that software came into general use with homebuilders and architects, my position was phased out, and I went to work as Linda Roan's assistant at the school board office. 

Eventually I became content manager for the School System's website. One of the first things I did there was put together a webpage featuring a "photo archives" of old school and classroom photographs taken over the years.  The new position also gave me the chance to go out to the schools on a regular basis and take hundreds of pictures of events going on across the parish. I did that for 14 years.
The Blog

Now I provide content for the blog, pulling old photographs and negatives from my personal files, and taking new pictures of current events. Since Hurricane Katrina destroyed almost 3,000 of my printed photographs, this is not as easy as it used to be. Fortunately, I had 14,000 negatives and slides to go through, scan, and try to remember what they were showing.

 I thought it would be useful to compile a list of books I have written. Some of them are available in printed versions. Those are linked to the book ordering page. 

Here they are:

Reveling: science fiction about the investigation into alternate realities

 The Gafferty Perspective: science fiction about discoveries regarding alternate health

The Gafferty Momentum: science fiction about covert manipulation of time perception

Cajun Gold: comedy about a Cajun who finds 200 lbs. of gold in the woods

Tibert's Swamp Stories: comedy about Tibert the Cajun and his misadventures

The Bridges of St. Tammany: information about the history of bridges in St. Tammany Parish.

The Southern Hotel: A Covington Legacy - History of the Southern Hotel

The History of SunAn account of the history of the Village of Sun

Artists, Writers and Other Talented People of the Tammany Family

The Pictorial Maps of Ron Barthet: Collection of cartoon maps

Posters of Imaginary Festivals and ConventionsHumorous posters advertising non-existent events

Sharing Family Memories: A Guide To Interviewing and Recording

The Time When: A time travel novel about second chances

Going Knots: A coming-of-age story, 23 years after the fact. 

Folsom: Yesterday & Today A scrapbook history of Folsom with maps and photographs

Abita Springs: Collection of Articles and Photographs Over the Years

Madisonville's Vantage Point Upon History: the location of the Maritime Museum

One of my limited edition books, just for family members, was a compilation of all the pictures in the family scrapbook, scanned and placed in a book format, sent to the printer and several copies made. That way everyone in the family can look at old family pictures at their convenience.

I've also helped Don Sharp publish a couple of books, one on the History of Lacombe and the other the History of the Amite River.

A newsletter from the Louisiana Society, American Institute of Building Design, April, 2001

Thursday, August 5, 2021

A Lion Greets A New Day


A lion breaks into song... 
Click on play triangle to view video.

This video was created with the software "Crazy Talk," which enables you to take anyone's picture and give it the ability to move, talk, blink eyes, etc. Even a lion....