Café Discovery: storm riding

Random thoughts coagulate around a not-so-random natural event named Gustav.

Jim Morrison’s last song:

For some reason it popped into my head this morning.  Let’s hope the next few days are not also New Orleans’ last song…or swan song.

We delve into the Online Etymology dictionary:


An Old English word from the proto-Germanic *swanaz (cf. Old Saxon swan, Old Norse svanr, Middle Dutch swane, which became the Dutch zwaan; Old High German swan became the German Schwan), probably literally “the singing bird,” from the proto-Indo-European base *swon-/*swen- “to sing, make sound” (see sound (n.1)); thus related to the Old English geswin “melody, song” and swinsian “to make melody.”

Intermission:  Geswin…Gershwin…melody song.  Louis and Ella…on the inside.


from Porgy and Bess

In classical mythology, the swan was sacred to Apollo and to Venus. The singing of swans before death was alluded to by Chaucer (c.1374), but swan-song (1831) is a translation of the German Schwanengesang.  A black swan was proverbial for “something extremely rare or non-existent” (1398), after Juvenal [Satires, vi. 164].  Swan dive is recorded from 1898.

We also remember the swan, of course, as Hans Christian Anderson’s ugly duckling.

Now there’s a story chock full of an immense amount of meaning very carefully unhidden.

I see Morgan City on the Weather Channel.  Memory ignites.  I’ve been arrested there.  Hitchhiking along US 90 in the 60s, it was going to be a trek across the bridge over the Atchafalaya River, so Vines and I sat at a bus stop, deciding to maybe catch a ride to a better hitchhiking opportunity.  The Morgan City cops swooped down on us.  The long hair and backpacks obviously identified us as vagrants.  Well, they identified us as hippies, but vagrancy was a crime then…being  a hippie was just the reason for claiming the crime.  What did it matter that we were carrying nearly $1000 between us?  Long hair was sufficient.

We might have just gotten run out of town, like El Paso, except that when the deputies asked us for ID, Vines gave them his passport and refused their request for “better ID” than that.  So it was off to the hoosegow while police forces in all the contiguous states were asked where we had stolen the money.


Hoosegow became a synonym for jail by 1911 in the western U.S., from a mispronunciation of the Mexican Spanish juzgao “tribunal, court,” from juzgar “to judge,” used as a noun, from the Latin judicare “to judge,” which is related to judicem (see judge).

Eventually the sheriff showed up, asked who we were and what we were being charged with, asked the deputies how the hell they could arrest people for vagrancy when they were sitting at a bus stop with a half a G each.  He made them take us back to the bus stop and apologize.

We walked over the bridge before it got dark.  Don’t let the sun set on you in Morgan City has always been a motto of mine.

* * * * *

I sit, psychically huddled in the dark, waiting for stormfall, riding on the storm…


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    • Robyn on August 31, 2008 at 21:08


    • Alma on August 31, 2008 at 22:09

    Sure am glad the sheriff showed up.  

    I’m so proud to see all the love, caring, and witnessing going on in the left blogosphere, while at the same time being scared to death for what the people in the storm path will be subject to.

    My heart is with them.

    • Robyn on August 31, 2008 at 23:25

  1. …it’s one of my favorites.  On to Ethel Waters now.

    • Robyn on September 1, 2008 at 04:56

    …pops into my brain today.  Here’s Johnny:

  2. I got it sleeping rough on the streets in the rain

    I got it learning to share my peoples pain

    I got it making flowers grow in hearts of stone

    I got it ‘cos I always take thee long way home

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