Category Archives: Birthday – June 15

A Few Reflections on the Passing of Days

I have been working a lot on a novel about the life of Jesus Christ. You can see parts of that novel here, here and here.  I have also struggled with the vast wear and tear on my body and have lost a friend who was my most continuous non familial relationship since childhood. Dr. David Link Silar’s funeral was the Saturday before my Monday birthday. In addition I buried another friend that day. We will get to some prosaic concerns I had that day and every other day and yet politics matter enough that I made it to the Acadiana Press Club Forum that birthday when I turned fifty-one. The issues of the last legislative session matter a great deal to me.

Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills leafs through the budget...

Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills leafs through the budget…

But amid my fully preoccupied and not very smooth and easy life the shooting of a pastor who was also a state senator in South Carolina and many members of his Bible study. Nine people have died of the incident so far. Dylan Roof may be executed for it in time.  I did an earlier post linking to material relevant to this tragic outcome of an act of racial and political violence. But this is a post about my own since of things in the world being filled with reports of this man’s acts. It is about my life at the same time.

The truth of the last few months has been comparable to the years that have preceded those months in as much as I have almost always been very much on the side of things which notes and declares how wrongly the world was arranged on a variety of matters. But I think real change has also occurred in my life. That change is connected to change in the larger world but not so very directly and intensely as in the lives of some people.

I’m in the mode of just falling apart this month it seems. I’m not at all surprised as that is a kind of predictable and more or less cyclical consequence of the life I have lived as well as the world in which I have lived it. I have had many times when I was under the limits of my body or of other resources and was required to step back and slow down.

The truth is that there are reasons as diverse as my returning foot problems, the loss of an old friend Dr. David Link Silar and the assault on my life by a relatively large number of relatively minor physical and financial stresses. I’m blogging now after letting my blog slip or not.

I have been dealing with a large fallen tree limb in the lawn tthat I take care of normally. It has been an evolving process with lots of ancillary problems. Generally my life is always plagued with ancillary problems.

The orange tree panted and nurtured on the new house site on old family land.

The orange tree panted and nurtured on the new house site on old family land.

There are lots of stresses on the plants but it is my own life which is most stressed by the relationships and interpersonal situations that form the context of even my own now very limited life and work. I have dealt with the fallen tree in the context of wearing ankle and foot braces. I have done it in the context of a damaged chainsaw that I have not yet used at all and an axe that I have used. I have dealt with it in the context of having a trailer driver start driving off while the twenty five foot spread branch system was still hooked both into the trailer and into my hands — the jolt strained my back for a while. I took some of the pictures of the main limb and the branches I had cut in a driving rain that interfered with my schedule.

Fallen limb cleared of branches by me with my axe.

Fallen limb cleared of branches by me with my axe.

I struggled to move the cleared branches across the lawn at the time when they would damage the lawn the least. The rain poured down again just after I got the branches into a pile beside the driveway. As I have stated earlier this picture was taken in the pouring rain.

Pile of cleared branches in a heavy rain lit by the sun.

Pile of cleared branches in a heavy rain lit by the sun.

In addition the lawn has a fairly large wildlife population. I protect in one way or another the toads, non-venomous snakes, squirrels and other creatures. But I have had to kill a lot of pit vipers at close range with blades while I worked. That has also been a source of stress. I mind it less than most would but it affects me.


Vipers jaws protrude from the smooth and even sides...

Vipers jaws protrude from the smooth and even sides…

In addition to all of this I have been distracted from the Louisiana budget and marijuana issues of the last legislative session which mattered to me a great deal. I did attend an Acadiana Press Club Forum on my birthday. I was glad I did but Dylann Roof’s fatal shooting of nine people in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church in South Carolina overshadowed those political issues. I still think that those issues matter a great deal.

Congratulating Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills on reforming Marijuana law...

picture taken on my camera by Richard Mergist Congratulating Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills on reforming Marijuana law…

What comes next in the gubernatorial and senatorial elections matters and should be covered in this blog. The terrorist attack by a young man claiming that he is inspired by the Confederate ideals clearly demands that I confront his interpretation of a symbol that I respect. I did so briefly in my last post and will do so again. I have also stated that this tragedy occurred in a context of widespread racial political violence in contemporary American life.

Sad and troubled days will be the norm for a while at least….

The seal of the Confederacy ties the Lost Cause to the Revolution and the past long before that war.

The seal of the Confederacy ties the Lost Cause to the Revolution and the past long before that war.


Justin “Jess” Spiehler Jr. Dies

Lent begins with mourning in this house. Justin “Jess Spiehler” husband of Jacquelyn Spiehler , father of Jason Spiehler who in turn is the father of my two nieces and a nephew listed here in this sentence  and his siblings has deceased. Jess was the grandfather of Alyse E. Spiehler who is on my Facebook list still for those finding this  from that source and my niece  and godchild Anika Spiehler who once was on the list and nephew Soren Spiehler who are both siblings of Alyse and children of my sister Sarah Summers Granger and they found out this Mardi Gras that their beloved grandfather had died suddenly. I knew him far better than many people I had more reason to know despite the fact that we spent less time together than might nearly have been the case. We did share some number of long conversations over many years. Of course his life began a good while before mine did and mine had been going on quite q while before we met.

Jess, as he was known to most was born on June 18, 1939 in New Orleans, and I was born on June 15, 1964 in Crowley.  We are both native sons of Louisiana and always had that in common although we never really discussed the closeness of our birthdays in any way whatever. A believer in Catholic education and otherwise in educational institutions Jess graduated from St. Aloysius High School in 1957. He went on to complete a degree in Petroleum Engineering at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, graduating at the top of his class. While there he was attached to the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps although he did not go that route in his career as far as I understand. He and my sister Sarah had that achievement of Baccalaureate excellence at LSU in common and we discussed the topic and also his love of engineering and his sense of being empowered by the degree and all it meant to him.  While at LSU he met Jacquelyn Claire Remy,  whom he married on September 2, 1961. Miss Jackie was as one would know the center point and solid home support for his life of activity. They had a gracious home together for many years and Jess liked to talk about what it took to build it on occasion.

It was the engineering in the oilfield which followed the  graduation from LSU which paid for the home, charities and hobbies. Jess went to work  for California Oil Company (now Chevron) and later for Signal Oil & Gas and Damson Oil and he kept working. In 1974 he moved to Lafayette, Louisiana to co-found Stokes & Spiehler and enjoyed a long and prosperous career. He felt he made a difference and the craftsman evident in much of his life was evident in his recollections of his career as well. It was something he crafted with his wife on one side and colleagues on the other. In addition he felt that he created modest but definable contributions to the development of the industry over his career. I did not always take the time that would have been needed to grasp the exact nature of a refinement of technique he felt he had contributed but I could see he had measured such things.

He was a man of noted achievement in business as and seemed to be well respected in the technical crafts and professions which underlay his businesses. He poured forth additional skill into fine woodworking and was notably present at family events at the educational institutions where his descendants excelled with his gracious wife. Further he raised funds for Family Missions Company in formal and informal ways. accompanied my brother to his handicapped Cursillo and was devoted to prison ministry. Mr. Spiehler also was an avid and accomplished outdoorsman.

Jess Spiehler had  a sense of real satisfaction derived from pursuing a varied and highly successful career in an industry which is vital to the State of Louisiana, the Acadiana region and the Gulf Coast. He was truly steeped in its expertise, way of doing business and in the battle scars and callouses that can only come from years laboring in the intricacies of keeping things going in the oilfield. The link to his company follows and concludes this part of his obituary.

An obituary and guestbook will be available at this link:

It is an odd but noteworthy fact that I lost many pictures several times and there were a few years I seldom had a camera. But despite all that I simply did not really end up with any printable photographs of Mr. Spiehler when it came time post this. I looked for a while and was surprised. I don;t know if I ever asked him to pose. If not then it is partly because of respect for him at the given moment and yet I regret it. During my peak period for photographing family events he was ill and less often present but that would not have prevented a few pictures with his wife and grandchildren. That is the nature or life’s uncertainties.


The vigil and funeral of Mr. Spiehler were very dignified and elegant events without being in any way overblown and meaningful tribute was paid to his role in family, his work in nursing homes, his activity in St. Pius X Church Parish and the rosary was led by his brothers in the Knights of Columbus. This  is in addition to the professional connections, the Kairos Prison Ministry and other achievements alluded to in this post earlier on.

Anniversary: This Blog One Year Old

Well folks, this blog is one year old on August 18, 2010 .  That is in itself some kind of achievement. However, it also possible to see some progress compared to the cold start of a year ago.  I am not sure where exactly I am going to do this year but I have had the chance to get some things done this year.  To see the conveniently provided WordPress starting mark for this blog you may go to this link.


I have come closest to ordinary journalism in covering the BP Transocean rig explosion and the BP-Macondo Oil Leak as ongoing stories. Though I did so in my own way of optimizing how a  blog of this personal nature might best cover a story. Of course there was advocacy in this coverage as well.

I also had a bit  of regular journalistic coverage in dealing with the Healthcare Reform Bill, NASA’s moon missions searching for water and the death of some children recently. In addition to that I have done some obituaries in the style of my own blog. These have been occasioned by the death of Bobby Charles Guidry, William Charles Summers, Revis Sirmon and Ardley Hebert since this blog began. There has also been a retrospective obituary on my grandmother Beverlee Hollier Gremillion who died two months before this blog began.

I have also set up over fifty permanent pages. These pages deal with my life and themes that interest me. It is also true that many of the posts are truly personal in nature and deal with the mundane events of my life.

Quite a few categories get left out even if I mention space and Christianity and history in this sentence. I have various features and pages to help readers sort out what else is going on in this blog. However, the great risk and commitment of the blog is that here I advocate for royalist political change in America and draw upon Acadian royalist traditions as the principal source for this change.

Well, whoever you are I hope you read and return to read again…

BP Oil Spill,7 Questions & 2 Proposals Going Forward

Breaking News Since this Morning when this was Posted: Numerous reports confirm that BP agreed in a closed session at the White House to put $20 billion in an escrow account to pay victims claims. This is of course good news if it is borne out by the facts. It is also true that it does no answer to all things which are threatened for which claims may be slow to emerge. Nonetheless, the Obama  administration and others are to be congratulated on their efforts. Ken Feinberg who administered the 9-11 settlements and has acted as the Obama pay czar is in charge. He has a talent for achieving settlements which are low but not entirely unfair. He is one of the most mysterious characters of our life times if one really examines the matter. However, KF is a very gifted man. Nothing below this paragraph was edited in this post  because of this news.   

I am going to put forward a few questions  and even fewer proposals related to and inspired by the great BP Oil Spill. Last night I commemorated the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s death and my own 46th  birthday with about 30 of my mother’s family members. I also received greetings from scores of other people. I am grateful to all who added to the occasion. There are always those one would have hoped to hear from but doesn’t, however it was most gratifying. However, it is notable that many of us were discussing the oil spill much of the time.

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On August 2, 2010 I am adding a bit more content to this already overbrudened blog.  As chance would have it I never really spent a proportional amount of writing time on my grand mother Beverlee Hollier Gremillion’s death. It was at the time of my 45th birthday and within days of my brother’s wedding in which I was involved and in addition to all of this I was sort of between wrting outlets. That opprtunity has past and I am not going to try to recapture it now. But I am going to add a note to this anniversary note deep in my past posts. On June 15, 2010 we went to a  memorial service before going to eat at Schuck’s restaurant.  My grandmother was able to run a crew of servants and part-time employees who were helping her do ten things at once.   She had relationships across class and race and income that she attended to and was involved in a sort of empire of small things with my grandfather. Their holdings included apartment complexes, rental houses, presidency of a modest port facility, presidency of a savings and loan, a few furniture stores and real estate speculation.  She could and did paint and draw and create decorative scenes and effects. I called her Mamon with an accent grave over the “o”. She sang me a little song that rhymed my name with questions about travel and adventure when I was a child.

She was a great cook and loved to feed people. She had a tremendous capacity for embarassment.  She was embarassed by ancestors who may have slept around and engangered family legitimacy of some sort. She was embarassed by ancestors who were prudish, sticklers and concerned about legitmacy and marital fidelity. She was embarassed by aristocratic ancestors who exalted themselves over their neighbors. She was embarassed by ancestors who were plain and democratic in their views and ways. She was ambarassesed by skepticism, atheism and religous fervor. She was embarassed by each of the German, French, Acadian and Anglo branches of her ancestry at one time or another.She was embarassed by Hebrew and anti-Semitic ancestors.  She was embarassed by ancestors who were Unionists and those who were confederates. She was embarassed by relatives who were chaste and religious, those who were homosexual, those who were remarrried, those who were promiscuous and those who were  faithful homebodies. Easier to undertand was one particular side of the family which in two particular generations had more than two people who in their lives both served time and were in mental institutions. Yet, she and I disagreed profoundly about the propoer strategy for not driving an entire family to crime and madness. The only person she was never embarassed of in my presence was who ever was dependent upon her because of terrible publicly known trouble deserved or not at that particular time.  But it was not wise to have too many troubles only you and she were privy to. 

She respected her artistic and business savvy mother whom we all knew had starved her of affection all her life. Her compensation had been a father who had been electrocuted when she was a young woman. The details are uncertain to me. She drank, through wild parties, smoked a great deal and had many friends who were respectable and many who bad and dangerous to know. She could be cruel and merciless and our separate struggles with Christianity were very different.

I think of her often. She was one of the great influences upon my life. I have always considered her an example of how many bad things can exist in the moemory of one person and have them still go on living.

Beverlee Hollier Gremillion was a single Louisiana life. It is hard to imagine understanding her very much at all in a quick and fleeting relationship. Everyone is different but she was different in a Louisiana way.

Remembering her reminds me of all that Ken Feinber and other have to figure out.  I will return to my text as it was at the end of this paragraph knowing I have other posts explaining how he could come to know this place netter and address the needs of those who live here.

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Proposal One:

 I would urge anyone to try to put into place some of the provisions of my rather long-standing (if evolving) proposals for Louisiana coastal policy.

I will say that proposal means a comprehensive barrier island plan, innovation, urban and flood waters redistribution and many other things. But read the post — it is not long.

Questions One through Three:

1. How quickly will the Bobby Jindal (Dutch Engineer Plan) Barrier Island enhancement plan be completed? Included in this can safe construction wastes, key jetties, grass planting and other items be included in the initial plan no matter how funded?

2. Could Federal Disaster Funds be used to pay for even a few cut in bad old oil levees in the Atchafalaya Basin which have been recognised as needed and which could increase key water control just about now and in the future?

3. Can some of the unspent Federal Stimulus monies be used to hold an emergency environmental summit on the Gulf Coast which shows cooperation with BP even if we jail, bankrupt and disgrace them (because this is a crisis calling for the carrot and the stick as well as the rest of the arsenal of options)?

Proposal Two:

When one is really on the outs in the way that I am all proposals are against ones own interest. Whatever is done it will probably hurt one’s own position in more ways than it helps one. That is the nature of being far enough out. But here is another proposal:

The Energy Minerals Indemnity Program Going Forward:

1. I propose that whether imported or produced here going forward there be  a set of surcharges on fossil fuels. All of these would be administered By a sub agency called the Energy Mineral Indemnity Program:

a. i. I propose that there be fifty cent per barrel charge for crude oil,

  ii. I propose that there be  fifty cent per cubic mile charge on all produced natural gas and a thirty cent percent per cubic   mile   charge on all flared gas.

 iii. I propose that there be fifty cent per ton charge on all coal.

 iv.In addition every single safety violation recorded by and state or federal agency would be classified as major or minor.  A major violation would trigger a contribution of $100 to the Energy Minerals Indemnity Program  and a minor violation would trigger a contribution of  $10 to the same program.

All of these charges would be in addition to all existing taxes except that it would replace the current (I believe it is eight cents per barrel) which oil companies pay into the OPA fund.     All payments would be divided in the same way.  The first 25% would go into a fund for Disaster Response for all Energy Minerals and accessible by all energy mining and moving companies. The second 35% would go into a mineral specific Disaster Response fund: an Oil Disaster Fund, a Natural Gas Disaster Fund, and a Coal Disaster Fund. Then 15 % of all funds would support a Clearinghouse Office for Species and Ecosystem Support in the EPA which would offer grants and expertise for state, local and private organizations create nature reserves, hatcheries, rescue programs, spill barriers and other infrastructure to proactively protect nature near and in the path of energy production.    The next 10% would support an Energy Whistleblower’s and Investigation Board  under the joint management of Interior and Justice Departments. Another 10% would Go to an Alternative Energy Investment Planning Office. This office would give development grants to alternate energy enterprises which would agree to offer their business for sale in a kind of venture capital auction to the fee paying energy companies first.  Very modest tax incentives would be offered in addition to this development seed money to  participating energy companies that acquired these assets.     The next 4% would be held in an escrow account earning interest in the name of each rate paying entity. The last 1% would be paid to a reinsurance pool in which all insurance companies operating in the energy sector would be required to participate. 

Accessing the 65% of the funds which have an insurance role would be done as follows.

1. A pure ten million dollar deductible would attach to every year and every incident for each payer for which they would get no cash at all. After ten million dollars they could access their administered escrow account to pay claims in a speedy manner to third parties but not to mitigate the disaster directly.

2. No funds other than administered escrow accounts would be accessible until fifty million dollars in harm for natural gas and coal and one hundred million for oil. That would be the Threshold Deductible Amount.

3. After reaching the Threshold  each payer would  co-pay 25% of costs from the threshold to one billion dollars. They would co-pay 45% from one billion to three billion dollars. They would co-pay 75% from three billion to ten billion dollars. After ten billion dollars they would be required to pay the entirety. The reinsurance program would be structured so as to require participating insurers by law to make it certain that the fund could meet its own side of these obligations. Insurers would have an incentive to push for greater safety as well.

Questions Four through Seven:

4. Will existing insurers be brought to a summit soon?

5. Will an integrated safety archives be created soon?

6. Will  states be invite to file white papers expressing long-term safety concerns?

7. Will we learn from this terrible tragedy?

BP Oil Spill and My Personal Journey as of my 46th Birthday

I am turning 46 years old this Tuesday. It will be the first birthday I have spent obsessing about an oil spill. Of course it may happen that this is not how I  spend this birthday but it will certainly be the closest I have come to spending a birthday that way. I say that having spent a great deal of time thinking about oil spills compared to the average human on the planet. But I don’t think I have ever seen a greeting card which says “On the Occasion of your Birthday Marred and Affected by an Oil Spill.” I often spend the time before a birthday reviewing the good and the bad things about life and thinking a bit about the future. This is a birthday in which that will happen but so will the continuing process of thinking about the oil spill, it is odd really. In a world of odd things and a life that has been exposed to those odd things it is still an odd way to spend a birthday.   

For me this oil spill is a sort of final catastrophe in a life in which bad memories are very numerous indeed. Yet as hot as it may get on a Louisiana summer and as much as I may not like the broiling heat that often marks the coming of my birthday– I have had good memories too and some have even happened on my birthday. I do not think there could be a lot of happiness on my birthday this year even without the spill. However, the spill certainly does not add gaiety. My maternal grandmother died last year on my birthday and this will be the first anniversary of her death. If one were to bet it would seem likely that it would be the last anniversary of her death as well as the first such anniversary that her widower, my maternal grandfather will be around for as well as being my birthday. That is not an altogether cheery milestone.  The blasting oil is just something that overshadows all the good personal reasons to be miserable that day. That is the thing about a disaster like this.  One already had enough problems without it in most cases. Life was hellish enough for many people before the Titanic hit the iceberg, the Union Carbide plant exploded in Bhopal, engineer in Long Island decided that texting and driving a train while intoxicated went well together.  I am ready to mark the day that is the anniversary of my birth. However, there is an added shadow to it.

The day before my birthday is always Flag Day. It almost always look at the United States of America  in relation to my birthday. While there are some good and noble things in this horrific uncontrolled gusher event which relate to the nation of the Star Spangled Banner, there is more horrible damage that hits at the core of needed and already endangered things. All in all this is much more of a blemish on that flag under which relatives and ancestors of mine have fought and died than it is a credit to it. Some things are just plain bad — this is one of those things. My relationship with the United States of America was already complicated and problematic. I felt no real need for another reason to be pessimistic about my homeland’s future and depressed about its present.

This is also a birthday which fall near Fathers Day. I have no children. One of my grandfathers is dead and I am estranged from my former father-in-law.  So while I always honor my dad’s day and will recognize my remaining grandfather it is a holiday that has in some ways shrunk for me over the decades. I will not go into all the reasons why. But obviously when I was newly married it would have had different associations than it does now that I am long divorced.  I do have some godchildren who often recognize the day with a card. But just as we extend holidays to godfathers and grandfathers  in this region so some of us thin of patrimony a word related to father — pater being Latin for “father” and the root of the word patrimony. The wetlands are a great part of our patrimony in Louisiana. It is something I have shared with my father and which he shared with his father and which I shared directly and alone with his father and with him and his father. I taught one of my god-daughters, my niece Anika, to fish on Grand Isle where the oil is fouling so much right now.  My father and I have plenty of reasons for our relationship not to be all joy and happiness, but the oil spill doesn’t help to brighten the occasion of Fathers Day.

So while I may end up finding some happy times on my birthday and would not have had a perfect birthday anyway the oil spill certainly does not help to make this a happier passing of the year. I think that in a small way this is an example of how the spill plays out for many other in a region already pushed and squeezed by bad economic, bad governance and bad business management. The spill just adds much more to the stress of many others than it does to me. 

Today President Obama will be back on the Gulf Coast and on my birthday tomorrow will address the nation on the Gulf of Mexico Spill of 2010. I am not saying that his address is less pertinent than the one I am linking to here. In fact the following can be criticized for not giving prominent billing to the British Petroleum Spill. The speech is long and not entirely on point but it is by Prince Charles of the House of Windsor/Battenberg who is  Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall. He has a long history of speaking and doing this to address human relations with the environment. He has no overt power to dictate national policy. I think he is a man worth listening to as we sound out this crisis.        


So I am going to be turning 46. It will be a memorable year. But I wish it would be memorable for other reasons. Probably some others nearer the water share my birthday and are having the same thoughts in more dramatic terms.