Joie de Vivre: (n) a delight in being alive; carefree enjoyment of living.
They have a great atmosphere. Very welcoming staff. Live Cajun music every night. Great prices. Prejean's is also a fabulous place. And they have a full bar from which you can see and hear the bands play. If you love Cajun food and music as I do, then you will love Prejean's. I decided on the only entree that made any sense under the circumstances. Stuffed alligator tail. I am not a tremendously bold diner. (Tripe? No thank you. I brought my own stomach lining, thanks. I don't need another one.) I was made brave, however, by my surroundings, by the wonderful music being produced by the combo on stage, and by just a wee dram of Jack Daniels'. The dish was delicious. The alligator tail was firm, yet tender, white meat and the simple, fresh corn served along with it was outstanding as well. Plus, I have to admit that eating something that would eat ME if it had the chance was sort of a rush. Or, that may have been Mr. Daniels' idea. I'll have to ask him. Anyhow, my dining experiences in Lafayette were singularly outstanding and left me looking forward to a return trip.
But, as return readers will attest, my travel experiences are not limited to the table, fork and knife. The glass also plays its important role. Thursday evening at the Lafayette Hilton lounge looks like this when the bar opens at about four in the afternoon...
Pretty average stuff. Nothing, other than the very friendly staff, to write home about. Until about 10:00 in the evening. When dance night begins.
Thibodeaux, Fontainbleau, the place is buzzin'Kinfolk come to see Yvonne by the dozen
Dress in style, go hog wild, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou.
The Intrepid Dining Companion and I were relaxing having a nightcap and chatting with the waitress when she asked..."So...are y'all going to stay for dance night? It is REALLY something to see..."
How could we leave at that point? A few minutes later, the place filled with couples of every age. All dressed in nice clothes of different styles. Obviously out for a night on the town. Circa Lafayette Hilton. The disc jockey (who has a REAL name...Stan... not one like "Mixmeister S") began playing all sorts of (non-disco) dance music from swing to bayou Cajun. EVERYONE could dance. And dance well. Not the usual shuffling about you typically see. I asked if they were all in some sort of dancing club and the waitress (by then elevated to the title of "Exalted Bearer of Amber Beverages") assured us that they were just ordinary citizens out for a good time. It was a delight to watch. Couples in their teens. Couples in their eighties. Everything in between. Mixing. Mingling. Laughing. Drinking a bit. Dancing a LOT. The dance floor was full for every song. I was very thankful to be there. I did not think such a scene still existed, on this continent anyhow. I watched until the last couple left the floor. I would have paid for a ticket for the next Thursday night. It was that much fun. The E.B.O.A.B told me that people around there "just like to go out and dance and have fun". Indeed.
In his wonderful book "Time Was Soft There", Jeremy Mercer posits that certain towns tend to be populated with people who possess a diminished thirst for living while those whose passions and dreams run deeper rapidly depart for glamorous places like New York or Paris where they can find fulfillment. I immediately embraced this notion based upon places I had lived. And live. But in Lafayette, I learned that Mercer's theory is wrong, at least if universally applied. Here, in an out of the way place, seemingly economically depressed, with jobs lost or in peril for years, people speak of life as a festival, a fais do do (Cajun dance party), a feast, a concert. A celebration. And they live that way too. Here, in Lafayette, people drink deeply from the cup of life every day and they will share that cup at the drop of a hat. Even with a wandering Yankee. There is great food. A bit, or more, to drink. Friendly smiles. And, every Thursday night, the folks of Lafayette put their troubles on the shelf and they come out to dance.
Go to this place. Or find a place like it. Refill your cup. Soon.
Hank Williams. A man who knew how to dress. How to write a song. And how to point the way to very good times.