Crawfish, My Rss (Part I)

I went to “Crawfish Fest 5: Taste of Louisiana” in Clinton Square on Saturday. It was overcast and breezy, which wasn’t very pleasant. On Salina Street, at the entrance to Clinton Square, the first thing I came to was a tent that was selling tickets for the food. You couldn’t pay cash; you had to buy tickets. Well, hum, how about that? So I buy five dollars’ worth of tickets, not knowing what I’m going to want to eat.

The second thing I came to was half the booths for the festival. They were up on the grassy area behind a curb on the west side of the square. They were, in fact, completely inaccessible to wheelchairs. How about that? The downtown summer festivals attract more people in wheelchairs than any other event I attend in the course of a year. People who are disabled like outdoor festivals—and the City of Syracuse does not plan for us. Syracuse, you will be getting a call.

So I keep traveling and the next thing I see are four police officers standing on the corner talking to each other. They are wearing black shirts, black pants, black shoes, black belts and black gun holsters. (“The Blackshirts were Fascist paramilitary groups in Italy . . .”) The only color is the yellow on the handle of the Taser gun. There’s an attraction for you.

Then I come to a booth that is selling some kind of pastry. The program says you can get a sample of anything for $1, so I sample this. Some nice fat ladies are rolling out yeast dough, cutting it in squares, deep-fat frying it and serving it up sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar, and it is good. I could go for about twenty of these, but don’t. Just because I’ve given up my vegan diet doesn’t mean I’ve lost all sense of what is healthy. ( )

At this point the sun comes out, which is really, really nice. Hey, this is Syracuse and we’re jonesing for sunshine. Then I turn and see another corner which also has four police officers standing in a group talking to each other. Okay, Chief Fowler, you and I need to have a chat. The Syracuse Police Department has a very bad image in this community. We do not like police officers. Here and now, in this, the first festival of the summer, you have a chance to do something about that.

Direct your officers that unless they are involved in police business that is occurring in the present moment, they are not to speak to each other; they are to walk alone. A solitary police officer, hanging out in the public square, is approachable. I do not, personally, know a single human being who will talk to “the police” if two or more are standing together, but most people I know would chat up any police officer who is standing alone. If you want us to treat you as nice, helpful human beings then you must let us get to know you as such. Be askable. And get rid of the black shirts; go green.

It is now time to contend with the main reason for this festival: the crawfish. Ew-w-w! I wheel up to the table and order a sample, which is two, served in a paper box. They are disgusting—but I have never let a little thing like total grossness scare me off, even if they are laying there with their eyes bugged out and their legs sticking all over the place. They look totally ready to climb out of the box and walk across my hand. EW-W-W!!

So I look at the lady behind the table and ask, “Can you tell me how to eat these things?”

“No,” she says.

Uh, okay . . . not exactly working on customer relations skills are we?

So I turn to the two guys waiting next to me and ask if they know how to do this. The first guy says, “Not me. I’m a virgin here.”

The second says, “Yeah. You twist the tail off then sort of squeeze it and suck out the meat.”

By then the “no” woman has gotten a young man from the boiling pit in the back and he is telling me, “Twist the head off—.” Okay, heads or tails, which is it? I withdraw to a distance where I can have a little privacy as I make a fool of myself, and twist and squeeze and suck. What I get for this effort is one bite of meat that is cold and too highly seasoned for my tolerance, but, okay: I’ve done it. I’ve eaten two crawfish. Now I want some real food, so . . . (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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4 Responses to Crawfish, My Rss (Part I)

  1. Kate says:

    Definitely call the City’s event coordinator-

  2. Cathi Carol says:

    Two, three, or four police officers talking together ARE working. And two, three, or four police officers talking together ARE approachable.

    The police don’t mind being approached to say, “Thank you for your service” or “Hey, do you know so-and-so on the police force, say hi for me”, or “There’s a stick up down there.”

    Get over your fear and be nice to them, and they’ll be nice to you. Actually, this works for every kind of person.

    More appreciation for these hard working public servants who put their lives on the line every day (which most people are too frightened to do), who get attacked and yelled at just for doing their jobs (which doesn’t happen to other workers very much), and less prejudice and hatred would go a long way toward repairing community relations, I suspect.

    Let’s not make life worse by abusing the police. Communites can’t survive without them.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      On what grounds do you make the statement that “Two, three, or four police officers talking together ARE working?” How do you know? What makes you think you know better than I? Where do you live and what is your experience? You are defending the uniform; I am diss-ing the people wearing the uniform.

      I am not a fearful person, as you certainly know from reading my blogs. What I am is experienced. I moved to Syracuse in 1966. Since then, I have been mugged, harassed, burglurized, and in other ways needed police to do their job. Not once have they been helpful, considerate or effective.

      During one six-year period I lived in two different suburbs of Syracuse. In each one, I found the police to be friendly, courteous and helpful.

      I’m guessing that you do not live in a city. Further, you have judged me without knowing my circumstances, and without substantiating your comments with any facts–said judgment being pretty offensive to me. What you have written is an uninformed fiction that has nothing to do with the reality of where I live. There’s more than 3,000 miles between sodden Upstate New York and sunny California.

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