Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Baton Rouge Notes

Last week, I was in Baton Rouge for the American Society of Environmental History conference. Generally, a good conference. But no one wants to hear about that.

1. Baton Rouge was an interesting enough place. The downtown kind of reminded me about Albuquerque, though slightly better. Dead as a doornail during the weeknights. A few places to eat, but not much. Went to the same place twice due to general lack of choice. Friday night was more happening. That night, I saw some first rate segregation. There was two clubs across the street from one another. The first was a frat club, or at least lots of frat looking people, which if my years in Tennessee taught me anything it's that lots of people look like Greeks, whether they are or not. That club--100% white. The club across the street, which had an interesting Ancient Greek facade thing going on, 100% black. Amazing. Of course, anyone who says it would be different in the North is lying.

2. Damn, those people love the fried food. I think I ate enough fried food to last me a year. It was a lot like New Mexican food in some ways. It can be really great or really awful and you have no idea which it will be when you enter the restaurant. I had some great food and some utter garbage. But a lot of fried food. Also, that is about the least vegetarian-friendly place I've ever been. I had to eat fish because every place I went literally had zero vegetarian options.

3. One thing I find interesting about river cities like Baton Rouge is that strip of industrialized but presently inactive land along the water. I find these spaces fascinating. You can also see much of this on the bus from the Newark airport to New York City. You know the pollution there is really bad. There's garbage everywhere. God knows what kind of cancers you'll get hanging out there. And Baton Rouge is the Cancer Capital of America so it's doubly true there. But those spaces also allow for tons of birds, plants, and reptiles. I walked along this bike path between downtown and LSU. I ran into a patch of trees along the river with a little path toward the river. I expected to find a dead body out there. But damn if there weren't a ton of birds, including a lot of things that I'd never seen before. Really cool. There's something interesting to say about these spaces, but I'm not sure what yet.

4. The conference had the most absurd room for a panel I have ever seen. A friend of mine gave a paper. To get to the room, you had to walk out of the main hotel, down a long hotel toward the river. At the river was a casino (has to be floating in Louisiana). The whole hall was full of casino crap. Just before the casino was a restaurant. You walked through the restaurant to what looked like (and in fact was) a service elevator. You took the elevator up (down was to the service area). On the 3rd floor, you reached the conference room, which actually had a nice speakeasy feel to it. But what an absurd spot for it.

5. Abita beer is really good. I wish I could get it here.