Current Littourati Map

Neil Gaiman's
American Gods

Click on Image for Current Map

Littourari Cartography
  • On the Road
    On the Road
    by Jack Kerouac
  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America
    Blue Highways: A Journey into America
    by William Least Heat-Moon

Search Littourati
Enjoy Littourati? Recommend it!


Littourati is powered by
Powered by Squarespace


Get a hit of these blue crystal bath salts, created by Albuquerque's Great Face and Body, based on the smash TV series Breaking Bad.  Or learn about other Bathing Bad products.  You'll feel so dirty while you get so clean.  Guaranteed to help you get high...on life.

Go here to get Bathing Bad bath products!

Entries in Cajun music (2)


Blue Highways: Lafayette, Louisiana

Unfolding the Map

Click on Thumbnail for MapTrying to find Cajun music at night in rural Louisiana, we end up with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) in a bar listening to chanky chank, watching a guy play the bones, talking with a Minnesotan, and finally finishing the night with some beer and gumbo.  Not a bad day, if you ask me.  Where does this take place?  Near Lafayette (pronounced Laugh-yet), Louisiana.  Click on the map thumbnail to locate Lafayette, and listen to some good Cajun music while you read - I've included a link to a Cajun internet station down below.

Book Quote

"Then a red glow like a campfire.  A beer sign.  Hearty music rolled out the open door of a small tavern, and a scent of simmering hot peppers steamed from the stovepipe chimney.  I'd found Tee's.  Inside, under dim halos of yellow bug lights, an accordion (the heart of a Cajun band), a fiddle, guitar, and ting-a-ling (triangle) cranked out chanky-chank.  The accordionist introduced the numbers as songs of amour or joie and the patrons cheered; but when he announced un chanson de marriage, they booed him.  Many times he cried out the Cajun motto, Laissez les bons temps rouler!"

Blue Highways: Part 3, Chapter 10

Downtown Lafayette, Louisiana. Click on photo to go to its site on

Lafayette, Louisiana

I am cheating a little bit on this post.  I'm really combining two stops that LHM made near Lafayette into one.  If I were to map it most correctly, I would probably first highlight his first stop at a bar in Lafayette where he has a Dixie Beer and asks where he can hear some "chanky-chank," or Cajun music.  His second stop was then a rural bar named Tee's where he finds the music he is looking for.

However, I am not going to do this in two separate stops because I cannot find Tee's - perhaps the bar has closed down in the intervening 30 years.  There is a Tee's Lounge in Sunset, Louisiana about halfway between Opelousas and Lafayette, but that would have involved LHM going back in the same direction, and its location doesn't really make sense because it is right off the freeway, and LHM clearly is following a bartender's vague directions , trying to find Tee's in the dark on rural roads.  So, since I don't really know, I'm not going to speculate and be wrong.

"I wound about, crossing three identical bridges or crossing one bridge three times.  I gave up and tried to find my way back to town and couldn't do that either."

Having lived both in Texas and Louisiana, I often found that the best places for live music often lay in rural, out of the way places.  I can remember trying to find a dancehall in Texas once.  We drove and drove through the dark rural roads and, like LHM, accidentally stumbled upon the place when it seemed like the best thing to do would be to just give up.  But once we got there, it was an amazing experience.  Cheap but good beer, and a wonderful time dancing to great music.  These places just seem to materialize out of thin air - like Brigadoon, Avalon, or any otherworldly place - just when you need them to be there.  And, almost as if they belong to another dimension, if you don't pay attention to how you got there, you may never find your way back again.  They seem to exist at the end of time, where pleasant people and fine music mix in a heady ambience so much so that you lose track of time and place, and like the mythical drug of the Lotus Eaters, you may never want to come back.

And the music you will find in these types of backwater dance halls is amazing, about as authentic as any you'll find anywhere.  In Louisiana, you can look for Cajun and Zydeco bands like Beausoleil, Bruce Daigrepont, Buckwheat Zydeco, Wayne Toups and Zydecajun, Dwayne Dopsie, name it.  These are bands that will make you dance, literally, because you won't be able to stop from moving  your feet.  If you are a woman, you will often be politely steered around the room by a Cajun guy in a fast Cajun two-step or waltz, and chances are you won't get to sit down all night.

And if you are lucky, you get a little of what Louisianans call "lagniappe."  Lagniappe is just a little something extra added onto whatever you already have.  For instance, if you went to a bakery to get a dozen donuts, and the baker decided to throw in a thirteenth free, that extra donut is lagniappe.  LHM describes his experience of lagniappe, though he doesn't label it as such probably because nobody used the term around him:

"....Everybody went home.  The barmaid watched us wearily.  "Okay," she said, "come on back for some hot stuff.

"Is this where we find out why they call themselves 'Coonasses'?"  I said, and we laughed again, holding on to each other.

"All right, boys.  Settle down."  She led us not to a bedroom but to a large concrete-floor kitchen with an old picnic table under a yellow flourescent tube.  We sat and a young Cajun named Michael passed a long loaf of French bread.  The woman put two bowls in the oil cloth and ladled up gumbo.  Now, I've eaten my share of gumbo, but never had I tasted anything like that gumbo:  the oysters were fresh and fat, the shrimp succulent, the spiced sausage meaty, okra sweet, rice soft, and the roux - the essence - the roux was right.  We could almost stand our spoons on end in it."

Such stories, to me, are the essence of Louisiana and the graciousness and generosity of the people I found there.  In New Orleans, especially around Mardi Gras, you can walk down the street and complete strangers will invite you into their house to a party or to share in their meal.  It isn't just "letting the good times roll."  That in itself would be special enough.  No, the extra specialness that I found in Louisiana consisted of that lagniappe that appeared unexpectedly, without warning.  The memories of those that, on a whim, invite you to participate in something extra and magical - those are the memories that we carry with us.  LHM finishes that passage with this wonderful tableau about eating gumbo after hours in Tee's:

"The woman disappeared, so we ate gumbo and dipped bread and no one talked.  A gray cat hopped on the bench between Seipel and me to watch eat bite of both bowls we ate.  Across the room, a fat, buffy mouse moved over the stove top and browsed for drippings from the big pot.  The cat eyed it every so often but made no move away from our bowls.  Seipel said, "I've enjoyed the hell out of tonight," and he laid out a small shrimp for the cat.  Nothing more got spoken.  We all went at the gumbo, each of us, Minnesotan, Cajun, cat, mouse, Missourian."

All quotes in this entry from Blue Highways: Part 3, Chapter 10 

If you want to know more about Lafayette

The Advertiser (newspaper)
Lafayette Conventions and Visitors Bureau
Lafayette Independent Weekly (alternative newspaper)
Road Food America list of Lafayette restaurants
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Wikipedia: Lafayette

Next up: Breaux Bridge, Louisiana


Blue Highways: Ville Platte, Louisiana

Unfolding the Map

Click on Thumbnail for MapWe cross into Louisiana with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) on his journey across the U.S. almost 30 years ago.  I'm sure that the rural communities of the area have changed since then.  For the better? You decide as we explore disappearing cultures.  To see where Ville Platte is located, click on the map thumbnail at right.  And go out and get some Cajun food to excite your humors!

Book Quote

"I switched on the radio and turned the dial.  Somewhere between a shill for a drive-up savings and loan and one for salvation, I found a raucous music, part bluegrass fiddle, part Texas guitar, part Highland concertina.  Cajun voices sang an old, flattened French, part English, part undecipherable."

Blue Highways: Part 3, Chapter 9

Building in Ville Platte, Louisiana. Click on the photo to go to host site.

Ville Platte, Louisiana

I remember the second time my wife and I drove into Louisiana.  The first time we drove into Louisiana was to make a trip to New Orleans from San Antonio, where we were living at the time.  We had three friends with us and conversation with them took up the leisure time in the car.  But the second time, it was just me and her.  We were heading to Breaux Bridge (which was visited by LHM and will be covered in a future post).  Near Breaux Bridge, we were meeting some friends who were living in in the Midwest and we were going camping out in the swamp along a bayou.

So, with just us in the car on a six-seven hour trip, we had time to listen to the radio.  And it was there, in the middle of Cajun country, that we heard a DJ speaking in that patois known as Cajun French.  My wife, who had French lessons in high school and could recognize a lot of words, listened for a moment and then said "That is unlike any French that I've ever heard - I can hardly recognize a word."  To me, it sounded like French as if spoken by a person out of the American South or perhaps Texas - with a kind of twang.

We had heard Cajun music before.  I was introduced to the high energy accordion, fiddle, bass and drums with the distinctive rhythm when I lived in Milwaukee, but it wasn't until driving through Louisiana on the interstate and truly listening to the radio did I hear the dialect in its full glory.

Later, when I lived in New Orleans, Cajun was still a novelty.  New Orleans is not really a Cajun town, even though you might think it is.  Rather, New Orleans is a Creole and immigrant town and the food and music reflect this.  Jazz, blues and creole cuisine were the norm, not Cajun music, though you could find Cajun music around town.  Tipitina's on Napoleon Avenue had Fais Do Do's on Saturday, I think, where you could go dance to Cajun music.  The patois you were most likely to hear was something called "Yat," which when I first heard it sounded almost like a New York, Brooklyn accent.  But it wasn't.  In fact, I grew to love the Yat way of speaking.  So I didn't hear Cajun spoken often, except on Sunday afternoons.  The independent local radio station, the wonderful WWOZ, had a DJ on Sunday afternoons named Johnny.  Johnny was a Cajun and played Cajun music, and he had a great Cajun tone.  Lot's of "Oooooooh - weeeee's."  He'd play something he liked, and he would belt out "Johnny like dat!"  I understood that Johnny lived across Lake Pontchartrain and would commute in to the station, but I wasn't really sure if that was a rumor or not.

However, Cajun did permeate my life.  We have good friends with whom we still stay in New Orleans, and Brenda is from a small town down in Cajun country - St. Rose.  You could hear her accent in her speech, and when I met her father who was a tried and true unwatered-down Cajun, you had to strain to hear him because he talked softly but it was a sweet and melodic Cajun lilt.  In New Orleans, Cajun cooking could be found in the backyards where occasionally, you could participate in a crawfish boil, where a picnic table is covered with butcher paper and then a steaming pile of crawfish, seasoned in crawfish or crab boil, with corn and potatoes mixed in, is dumped on the butcher paper.  Everyone gathers around with their Abita Ambers and dig in, mouth burning from the seasoning as we "pinched dem tails and sucked dem heads."  There has never been anything in my experience quite like it.

As LHM alludes to later in this chapter, Cajun culture is coming under assault on all sides.  The bayous and wetlands that provided them with a way of life are disappearing, first human activities like dredging and building shipping channels for extracting oil out of the area.  Extraction activities led to the massive BP oil spill, which damaged wetlands, killed the animals living there, and hurt shrimp and oyster industries that provide many Cajuns with a livelihood.  Such activities also weaken the natural defenses against natural disasters, as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed.  I once heard a statistic that a football field of wetland disappears from Louisiana's coastline each hour.  The one time I went on an airboat ride, the person who took us on the tour said that areas where he used to hunt and fish have vanished so that he does not recognize them any more.

Numerous analyses post-Katrina and the oil spill have talked about fragility of Louisiana wetlands.  Less focus has been given to the potential loss of a unique culture that depends upon those wetlands.  The Cajun culture and way of life should be treasured and protected, not left to die in the name of progress and energy efficiency.  As for me, I look forward to going back to Louisiana in March where I hope to make myself fat on one treasure they have given us - their cuisine.

If you want to know more about Ville Platte

City of Ville Platte
Evangeline Parish Tourism
Evangeline Today (newspaper)
Wikipedia: Evangeline Parish
Wikipedia: Ville Platte

Next up: Opelousas, Louisiana