About fourty minutes along I-12 east of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, there's a town that is bound to capture any foreigner's attention, especially a hybrid Canuck like myself. The town is called Mandeville. Its attention-grabbing ability is simply by virtue of almost everything in it and around it being yellow. The houses, the shops, everything. Even some of the road signs there are yellow for some reason. So I pulled off I-12 to stare at the yellow and maybe find a reason for it. It did fit my mood in quite the grand way at the time; perhaps that's why I was so aware of it.
I suppose that if one were to time it, a car could zip through all of Mandeville in less than 10 minutes. Not much to see there, really, except maybe for a 20th century historian who would marvel at how the town's drugstore stands in a way that is monumentally reminiscent of the late sixties and early seventies, people hanging out in the parking lot, hair slicked back, sleeves rolled up, tootpicks in mouths, tight jeans and psychedelic dresses, red skin, innocent freckles and wonder blues, and so on. We've come a long way from sugaring the hair out of our bodies and bathing in milk.
Louisiana has three regards and three bad traits.
The regards: The bad traits:
1) Gas is cheap 1) Racism and corruption are acknowledged facts
2) The food is great 2) Crime rate is very high
3 The scenery is awesome 3) Pollution is high
Gas station store to the right. I stood there and pressed the lever. One woman and her kid came out of the store. Kid saw a bird hopping in the middle of the parking lot. "Whassat momy?," he asked. "Thass a yellow swamp warbler," she said. "Yer daddy use to huntem birds and you use to havem for lunch."
The roads of Mandeville are lined on either side with badly spaced birch trees. Pulling out of the gas station, the currents in my head went at it again, so I stopped under on of those birches. Sat under the tree and searched the clouds for a sign, a miracle, an amazing instant enlightenment that would make someone want to never let go. A whole hour and nothing came, but the bird of gas station's parking "warbled" its way to under the car then came out poopteeweeting under the birch. Funny little fella. No wonder they call him "warbler"; he wobbles so much. Anyhow, he walked up to a mushroom that I hadn't noticed under the tree. A yellow-cap mushroom on a white shaft. Never seen anything like it before. It looked like a half-lemon with some brown scratches on it. Warbler nibbled on the mushroom's hat and spontaneously keeled over. I took it as a sign, got in the car and sped the hell out of Mandeville and Louisiana and the United States altogether.
A few months later I saw a picture of that same yellow mushroom on some internet site and learned its name: Russula Claroflava, or yellow swamp russula.
This is the stuff that I thought about when Graham first told me that he had an idea for something he wanted to call Yellow Swamp.
Nothing is dead down here, just a little tired.