I paid a short visit to South Louisiana last week to attend the memorial service for Don Jory, who was my best friend Russell's father and practically a second dad to me when I was growing up.
Mr. Don was an LSU alum and a devout Tiger fan, and he told hilarious stories about his days as a student. His encouragement played a major role in my decision to attend LSU.
The final nudge came on Sept. 15, 1984, when Mr. Don took me to my first LSU football game, a 47-7 rout of Wichita State in Tiger Stadium. It was my first trip to the Baton Rouge campus, and as we drove back home that night I couldn't stop thinking that LSU was where I was meant to be.
I spent some of the trip with my family, including Mom and Dad (above).
As my twin sister Kristina discovered on her recent stop in Los Angeles, even the best West Coast seafood falls short of the average fare available in every South Louisiana town. So it's no surprise that a good bit of my time during visits to Louisiana centers on eating.
I dug into this heart-attack platter from RiverFront Louisiana Grill in Abbeville shortly after landing at the Lafayette airport, which is about an hour's drive from my hometown.
Here are some other random shots from the trip.
I call this Our Lady of the Petrol. I've seen thousands of Mary statues displayed in all sorts of strange and eccentric ways. But this was a first - the Virgin reigning over a lighted and landscaped corner of a Shop Rite gas station along the main drag in my hometown just off an Interstate 10 exit.
I wonder if customers say a Hail Mary to ward off high gas prices as they pull in to the station.
This qualifies as wall art in Louisiana. Yes, it's real, and I found it hanging in the restaurant attached to the Holiday Inn next to the gas station with the Mary shrine.
I got a nice dose of winter during the visit as temperatures dipped to the upper 20s at night, leaving a dusting of morning frost in front of my parents' house.
With LSU's latest national championship victory only a few weeks old, there still were plenty of signs of Tigermania around town. I was completely taken by this one painted on a driveway in my parents' neighborhood.
I spotted this banner hanging in the cemetery as I headed out of town. People have long claimed that the dead vote in Louisiana. Apparently, they pull for LSU too.