The right-smart honorable Raymond E. Huffmaster, in all his over-alled glory, and me made the trip from home to Houston on Sunday, July 17, then back home on Monday after my appointment at BATCC. Debbie was not able to go, having duties with the grand-kids, and Raymond offered to take me…this time…every time…which is the superlative definition of a friend. We talked about everyone who was ever anyone in Bluegrass music and many that no one ever heard of but us, or it seems so. Some of them were much loved and are long gone. Others are still with us and are much loved and respected for their art, talent, and originality. The rest of them….well, they know who they are and if they don’t, Raymond and I certainly do. Especially Raymond, though I can’t admit to being a slacker, here, either. We both admire folks who can get our attention and keep it, particularly those who can do that just by doing what it is that they do. As we passed through Livingston Parish, Louisiana, the Myers Brothers came to mind. We declared that they were an original pair and enjoyable every time we had the honor of hearing them play. They certainly got our attention. They still have the attention of our mutual memories.
“We’ll eat our way across I-10 and back,” I laughed as I described our forthcoming trip to Raymond. I wasn’t kidding.
Interstate 10 runs from Jacksonville, Florida, to Santa Monica, California. While I cannot vouch for the eating along the way in Florida, Texas west of Houston, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, I can give it my hearty recommendation in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and East Texas. It is doubtful you can get better seafood anywhere else.
I am aware of the fine seafood in coastal California and New England. I know all about the low country boils in Georgia and South Carolina, the delightfully large and tasty blue crabs from Chesapeake Bay (though a Chesapeake oyster is nearly as awful to my pallet as one of those nasty Willow-Points from Washington. Give me a good GULF oyster, preferably an Appalachicola Bay oyster!!). Good food is everywhere. But good seafood is hard to beat along our South Coast, in that stretch along the Gulf of Mexico, particularly from Slidell, Louisiana, to Houston, Texas, where Creole and Cajun cooking rule the roost.
I looked over at the live Maine lobsters in the tank at Don’s Seafood in Hammond, Louisiana. I wondered why anyone wanted to get a Maine Lobster in Louisiana, even if it was live. I’ve had those lobsters straight from the tank, and they’re delicious. Though delicious, they are an unworthy comparison to a lobster just plucked from cold Atlantic waters off the coast of Maine. There is more than a little difference; it is exponential. One might think that a live lobster is as fresh as you can get, but the lobster loses something in the transportation and captivity, I think. Those eaten the same day they are pulled from cold water are sublimely good. So, I passed on the Lobster.
Halibut was the catch of the day for fresh fish at Pappadeaux’s in Beaumont, not locally harvested Red Snapper, Flounder, Red Drum, Black Drum, or Mahi-Mahi, also known as a dolphin for those of you who think only of Flipper when you think of dolphins. Dolphin is sold under its Hawaiian name of Mahi-Mahi, which saves fruitless explanation to animal rights activists who may not know as much as they think they do. Pappadeaux’s fresh fish of the day, the first cousin of a flounder, came all the way from Alaska, and the word fresh, when applied to seafood, may not actually mean what you think it means. Fresh does not mean it was caught and shipped from Alaska yesterday, and served up on my plate today. Fresh just means that it hasn’t been frozen, not has it yet spoiled (well I HOPE not), though its spoiling may be imminent. I passed on the catch of the day.
While I like fish (especially Salmon), seafood, to me, is all about shellfish…shrimp, scallops, oysters, crabs…and their delicately pungent richness. So I ate shrimp, crabs, soft-shell crabs, and the famous Jacked-up Oysters from Don’s, which are grilled on the half-shell with jalapenos and Pepper Jack cheese. My, oh my, they were good. I love raw oysters as much as anything I have ever eaten, but I can never eat them again in this life. My compromised immune system might be permanently overwhelmed just for a moment’s culinary pleasure, for a moment is as long as two or three (even four) dozen oysters are apt to last when set before me. Permanent death versus momentary pleasure….it no longer seems like a good trade to me. I miss them but I’m not dying for them
Landry’s Seafood in Henderson, Louisiana, is a place for tourists. Tourists may or may not know good seafood when they eat it, and Landry’s knows this. So they’ll serve you up anything that comes out of the kitchen without any conscience whatsoever. I was served a bowl of Crawfish bisque which had been scorched. Any self-respecting restaurant would have thrown it out and started over, but not Landry’s. I ate most of the bowlful, for even a scorched though not completely burnt bowl of bisque is better than no bisque at all. I ate a bowl of bisque at Pappadeaux’s that was delightful…rich, thick, delicious. The crawfish was pureed throughout the bisque, with small tails mixed in. I enjoyed every bite, thinking Landry’s could take some lessons in cooking, or more particularly, culinary pride. Then I ate a cup of bisque at Don’s in Hammond. Ol’ Don, a veteran like Pappadeaux, had the proper stuffed crawfish heads in his bisque, which is according to Hoyle even of it is not according to Landry’s or Pappadeaux’s. I could have stood a whole bowl of that. It was the best by far…rich, brown, thick, crawfish heads stuffed with goodness. It’s probably good I only had a cup, since a bowl of that richness would provide some heartburn fire a bottle of Rolaids couldn’t come close to extinguishing.
My visit with Dr. Gooday went well. I am continuing to improve with the ruxolitinib. They thought my status was remarkable, in a good way. Dr. Gooday said that just a couple of others had had as positive a response as me. Nurse Alice, with her healing hands, felt my lymph nodes, which I had previously said were much smaller, checked them in my neck, under my arms, and in my groin area, smiled the biggest smile, and declared, “They ARE much smaller!”
“You didn’t believe me?” I asked. We both laughed. I was glad I got to see her this time.
While my energy levels have improved, I am still not quite capable of negotiating two ten hour drives in two successive days. I still get very sleepy due to simply not getting enough sleep. My bad case of restless legs (RLS) has returned to its normal bad self, after having shown some improvement after I started the ruxolitinib, which is not connected in any direct way, only indirectly.
The more tired I am, the worse the RLS. Couple that with the heavy fatigue from the CLL, and the RLS can become unbearable. As my fatigue level improved, so did the RLS. Now that my CLL fatigue is under control, the RLS has returned to its regular old self, which is very fatiguing, itself. It is much better than before, however. The cycle of fatigue, RLS, no sleep, more fatigue, worse RLS, less sleep, even more fatigue, even worse RLS, finally no sleep at all, is a morosely depressing cycle. It is all significantly better, even if I am up at 2:34 this morning because my legs won’t let me sleep. Right now, they’re as still as a rabbit hidden in the middle of a pack of coyotes, knowing that if it moves, it will be a quick supper. That is only because my fingers moving over this keyboard are giving the neurons in my brain something to fire on. When I get still and try to sleep, those same neurons keep on firing, but nothing is moving. “By golly, we’ll get something to move,” they say to each other, as if my stillness were a challenge to their integrity. I’ll move. You’ll move, too, if you have RLS. You’ll either move voluntarily to relieve the creepy-crawly feeling running up and down your nerves agitated by those firing neurons, or you’ll move involuntarily, looking sort of like a zombie that has been poked by a freshly charged cattle prod. Either way, it wakes you up, or prevents you from going to sleep entirely.
40% of the people alive have some symptoms of RLS. It is not uncommon. When you have it as bad as me, it is referred to as Primary RLS. The medicines they give you for it, and I’ve tried them all, are also used to treat Parkinson’s disease, which also causes involuntary movements. Parkinson’s causes waking involuntary movements. RLS causes involuntary movements when you try to SLEEP….SLeep…sleep…slzzzzz…zzzzzZZZ AWAKE!!!. Dammit, RLS.
So there is CLL and there is RLS. One has no cure and is ultimately fatal, or fate overtakes you in some other, unrelated manner and you still have the CLL, while the latter is merely uncomfortable and unpleasant, still having no cure, and fate will overtake you while you still have the RLS.
Hmmmm! As long as I am complaining about the discomfort of RLS while eating my way across Louisiana and Texas while being treated in clinical trial with a new drug that is obliterating my CLL symptoms, I suppose I am doing well. The shifting focus of my complaints is worth noting, and it has not escaped me. In a few days, when I get on the scales, or perhaps when I get out a pair of trousers I haven’t worn in a while and they won’t begin to button, I’ll be complaining about the hazards of the unwanted side-effects of Louisiana seafood.
I doubt I’ll mention anything about the quantities of it I ate, choosing instead to list the seafood’s hazards, never mentioning, of course, the hazards of my own lack of self-discipline.
You can think what you like, but I ain’t saying a word about it.
I go back to BATCC on August 8. I’m sure they can’t wait to see me.
©2016 Mississippi Chris Sharp
Note 7/20/16 5:03pm….I laugh at myself. I-10 does not pass through Hammond, Louisiana. Hammond is the intersection of I-55 and the short-lived but well used I-12, which rubs from Slidell to Baton Rouge, sparing east-west travelers from New Orleans traffic. This also spares New Orleans. Someone should have caught me on that. 🙂