UNO thoughts – from LSU to U of L and beyond.
Lots of UNO thoughts today
So, I just donated the equivalent of a couple of weeks’ worth of Iced Chai Lattes (my afternoon go-to beverage of late) to the University of New Orleans, for “Give UNO Day.” I’m right proud to do so, because I still believe in my school’s mission. Louisiana State University in New Orleans became a major part of my life when my parents returned to New Orleans from Metro Boston in 1960. For most folks, the university years are a blip on the timeline. For me, UNO is so much more.
Big Ed and LSUNO
My old man learned electronics courtesy of the United States Air Force. After defending Biloxi, Mississippi from the Chinese during the Korean War, Big Ed married his NOLA girl and took a job up in Boston, as an engineer at Raytheon. He worked on the original Hawk missile project for the Army, earning a good salary, with a house in Danvers, the Boston suburb that was the original Salem. His NOLA girl, however, didn’t adjust well to winters in New England. After making two babies, I suspect the combination of spending the days alone in that suburban house (New Englanders don’t socialize much in the snow), along with post-partum depression, momma needed to go home.
Big Ed always did anything he could for Anne. Give up the good job? Go back South? Sure. He landed a job at the then-two year old LSUNO, as manager of its Electronics shop. The College of Science had some fantastic chemists and physicists, even in those early years. They invested in a lot of electronic equipment. It made sense to repair it in-house. Big Ed hired a team to do just that.
Big Ed was an incredible teacher. He ended his time in the USAF as an E-6, teaching electronics. I’m sure he applied those skills at Raytheon. I saw him in action as I got older. It was an absolute blast to go with him to work as a kid. In a way, I had my first “job” at UNO when I was about ten, building Heathkit DC power supplies for the electronics lab daddy and his staff set up for the Physics Department. About the same time, the college invested in a DECSYSTEM 10 mainframe. Computer Science started under Physics, before branching out into an independent department in the college. Daddy kept going with computers. He bought one of the first Motorola integrated circuit learning kids available for the shop. He was always the perfect senior NCO to the officers (professors). I think he was happy with the relationship. It didn’t pay as much as being a “real” engineer, but momma worked as well, so we did OK.
I had two choices for high school. Momma taught many of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart when she was on the Education faculty at Loyola. Being an institution operated by the Society of Jesus, she knew many of the priests and brothers at Jesuit High School. I chose Elysian Fields over Carrollton and Banks. That decision process is an entirely different story that we’ll get to at some point. While LSUNO didn’t fit into that decision, the university’s influence in my life grew.
It was so much more than hitching rides home with daddy. Brother Martin High School operated in the shadow of the university. An example: In Composition II class as a sophomore, Brother Bernie piled us all onto a school bus and took us up to the Earl K. Long Library. The university’s library used Library of Congress rather than Dewey Decimal. We learned where everything was, and that resource was just twenty-five cents away for the rest of my high school years.
The Brother Martin Debate Team competed all over the metro area, but LSUNO’s tournament was special, because a number of the guys running the tournament were BMHS grads. I don’t know if my trophies from the 1974 tournament are the last items branded as LSUNO or not, but the change became official while we were competing. We were still high schoolers, but the excitement was infectious. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that I’d go to UNO at that time. Loyola University was quite appealing to me, particularly because debate-team-me harbored that desire to become a lawyer. I got accepted to both schools. My parents would have found the money to pay for Loyola, but given just how much cheaper the state school was, well, that was a no-brainer. Daddy hooked me up with a job in the Chemistry Department my freshman year. I moved on from that to selling suits at Maison Blanche. I made enough money to pay tuition for every other semester.
So, yes, I am right proud to give to my school. While many people were upset when UNO left the Louisiana State University System, becoming part of the University of Louisiana System, I was OK with it. The mission continues.
(to be continued…)
Knowing what it means to miss New Orleans isn’t about the tourist stuff.
Knowing what it means…
It’s not always about Bourbon Street and Jackson Square. In so many ways, knowing what it means to miss New Orleans isn’t all that different from how others miss home. Bostonians don’t miss their “dirty water” as much as they miss a cannoli from a bakery in the North End, or sitting out on the sidewalk at a cafe in the Back Bay. You can make a list of similar experiences all over.
What struck me after two trips to Colorado over the last two weeks was conversation. I’ve been a denizen of coffee shops since the early aughts. After two-three weeks on the road, I sat down in a local place. I listened. I wrote. I regenerated my NOLA. A friend of mine would say, my New Orleans/Gentilly/Yat speech pattern neutralized when I was away for a couple of weeks, then returned within a couple of days at home.
It’s the best way to pick up a neighborhood vibe. Go to coffee shops in different neighborhoods for contrast. The PJ’s Coffee on Canal Blvd. attracts a different crowd than the CC’s on Esplanade. The former is a nexus of whyte people from Lakeview and cops. The latter is a gathering place for black movers, shakers, and influencers. Both teach you what it means.
Coffee shops in #themetrys also contribute to the whole. Those places are angrier now. With The Former Guy out of office, his voters in Jefferson Parish aren’t happy people. That leaves a dark aura over the coffee shops. While it’s helpful for writers to experience and understand the anger, those vibes also contribute to downward mood swings.
Lakeview and Faubourg St. John are quite different from the Quarter, Marigny, and the “sliver along the river.” Many black writers bring out the less-familiar parts of the city, as they relate experiences from growing up outside the white, middle-class areas that ignored and rejected them. Go sit out at the PJ’s Coffee by Lakefront Arena. Eavesdrop on SUNO faculty and UNO students while there. You’ll find a totally different world than hanging out on Oak Street, Uptown.
Back on the road, as I return to a bit of business travel.
Return to Business Travel
I traveled to Englewood, Colorado, this week and last, to teach. These trips were the first travel for me for work since February, 2020. That trip, just before Mardi Gras, was to Columbus, Ohio. Hitachi Vantara Global Learning operated a data center there, at a partner location. So, when I taught hardware install courses for them, off to Cbus I went. In the interim, Hitachi moved the training equipment to Englewood. While there were a number of reasons for this, none of them really mattered to me. Hitachi placed a number of travel restrictions on employees because of the pandemic. Now that vaccination numbers are up, companies returned to buying new hardware. That means technical staff need training.
With travel restrictions still in place, install/configuration training presents a challenge. The field service staff prefer actually touching the hardware. This is quite logical, of course. once they pull it out of the rack and put it back in, they develop a confidence level.
Rather than simply show them photos and Powerpoint, Global Learning sent me to the data center. I set up the phone, TikTok style, then racked out the equipment. Best we can do at this time.
I booked flights on Southwest for these trips. I started looking at Delta. Social media updates on how Delta and Atlanta PD handle mask miscreants offered me confidence. Then I looked at Southwest’s fares! Not only did they offer non-stops to Denver, they were less than half Delta’s prices. I don’t mind Southwest at all. Their “Business Select” fares place me in the “elite” tier of flyers, like First Class on other airlines. Additionally, Business Select fares are fully refundable. While that is less useful now that most of my training is virtual, it’s still good to have.
Southwest didn’t play either with respect to masks. There was one plague rat on the first outbound flight. They did the “slow-chew” technique. They did pull the mask up when FAs walked by. At least they were on the other side of the aisle from me. Otherwise, everyone respected their fellow flyers.
It’s a 40ish minute drive from Denver International Airport (DEN) down to Englewood. While Denver has great light rail, the car was necessary. I didn’t rent cars in Columbus, relying instead on rideshare to and from the hotel. In Englewood, most of the hotels are on one side of I-25 and the data center stands two miles away on the other side. No leisurely walks to Short North for dinner, alas. No third glass of wine as a result.
Glad to be home
Overall, the trips worked out OK. I discovered both a Ramen place and a great Indian restaurant, as well as good pizza. The Marriott (Denver South at Park Meadows) treated me wonderfully. While MSY was a hot mess last night, the new terminal is so much better than the old airport. Three-day classes also give me some of my New Orleans routine as well.