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John Preble, This One’s for You…

Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline.
-Tao Te Ching.

Soaking the Stress Away

Soaking the Stress Away

Back in junior high, I worked for this guy out in Abita Springs. He was this crazy old guy who had bought an old gas station and started collecting things. He covered the walls and the ceilings with crap he’d found in the trash or things people left on his doorstep and called it a museum. It could be anything though: Old computer parts, driver’s licenses, paint by numbers, broken dishes. For me, it was bottles. Thousands of them.

This was my first job, and I doubt I was of legal age to be working. I must have only been like 13 and getting paid minimum wage working on the weekends and summer vacation. I remember riding my bike to work in the sweltering Louisiana summers along this old railroad bed. I’d stop at this one bridge almost every day where there were turtles and watch them catch flies. After a while they got used to seeing me pass though and they didn’t slide into the water when I passed, but just kept right on catching flies and eating them.

Abita Springs was once a fancy resort for New Orleans residents to escape the heat and yellow fever in the summers. The railroad ran from the ferry landing on the lake, all the way to the supposedly healing waters of the spring. The spring still flowed from a old fountain made from cement lions when I was a kid, and I remember old black women pushing shopping carts and filling containers. The spring doesn’t flow there and the railroad track is gone too. All that’s left is the bike path and the Brewery- they make the beer with the once famous Abita Springs water.

It was from the brewery that most of those bottles came from I think. People would drop them off by the bagful, and I’d have to sit under the sheet-metal roof of the old gas station and scrape the labels off these bottles one by one. Next, I’d have to take this steel rod and poke it into the mushy dirt, wriggle it around, to make a nice little hole, and then push to bottle neck down into the ground. The idea was to build things. Lots of things. In the end, there were pathways lined with bottles, bottle walls, bottle gardens, bottle fountains, bottles everywhere, and it just kept expanding as they continued to pile up.

I spent an entire summer working at the UCM museum for John Preble pushing stinky, dirty beer bottles into sweaty Louisiana mud. I probably only made like $200 for the whole summers after taxes. Somehow it all adds up in the end though, because here I am in France; Spring rain falling down and I am at a loss for what to do next. Wondering what I am doing here, and why. Trying to keep my head up and keep pushing forward. I should be working on the house but the weather is lousy, and I feel so stressed out and unfocused. For some reason what I end up doing instead is scraping the labels off 50 or so bottles and pushing them into the wet ground. It just seemed like the right thing to do, and at least it got my mind off the problems that had been bothering me. In the end I have to say I felt much better, even if my property value may have just plummeted.

The Damage Done...

The Damage Done...

It might not look like much, but it’s a start. I have about 1000 more bottles piled in the barn with the same destiny at some point. Maybe I’ll build an Eiffel Tower in the front yard. So, all you Abitians out there- don’t say John Preble has never taught you anything. Apparently there is some method to his madness tucked away in there somewhere… Like the whole Karate Kid zen thing, only with a dirty louisiana road side museum owner teaching white trash culture. He’s the sage of the bayou; heed his lessons well.

What's to come...

What's yet to come...

11 Comments

  1. Julianne says:

    John Preble also effected my life profoundly, by introducing me to that mythical Delta beast we call Squirrelsquatch. What a beautiful tribute to that dirty old man; I will remember your words next time I dodge his phone call.

  2. John Preble says:

    You all are all mentally ill. Please seek help asap. I mean it!! You all are all mentally it!!!! You all are all mentally ill. Please seek help asap. I mean it!! You all are all mentally it!!!! You all are all mentally ill. Please seek help asap. I mean it!! You all are all mentally it!!!! You all are all mentally ill. Please seek help asap. I mean it!! You all are all mentally it!!!! You all are all mentally ill. Please seek help asap. I mean it!! You all are all mentally it!!!! You all are all mentally ill. Please seek help asap. I mean it!! You all are all mentally it!!!! You all are all mentally ill. Please seek help asap. I mean it!! You all are all mentally it!!!! You all are all mentally ill. Please seek help asap. I mean it!! You all are all mentally it!!!!

  3. robinette says:

    i, too lived in abita springs, a stone’s throw and a creek jump from that crazy old john preble.
    my bottle border began with a quartet of wine drinking women on tuesday nights . the border meandered throught the backyard , along the monkey motel, and out the arbor we found in the trash. so what if some of those bottles were arbor mist, it all lent to the poetry of the moment. i tried to scrape the labels off, to protect the consuptive habits of some of the women, but burying them deep in the crawfish holes did that just fine.
    i beleive you worked in that garden, too, jason, to my extreme pleasure, and many more gardens that came after. still enjoying some of the frutis of your labor!
    … and hope to see you in france this fall.

  4. Andrew says:

    Dad, there’s a typo in your mentally ill copy and paste job. Or maybe you meant to say “You are all mentally it?”

  5. izzy says:

    awesome post. but…. there’s no way you worked for John when you were 13! Is there?

    1. Jason says:

      Yes! I think so… it was definitely Junior High at least. Maybe I was 14 or 15 at the most…

  6. annie says:

    UCM, Abita Beer, and crawfish holes!!!….what’s not to love about La…makes me homesick thinking about Abita….always loved taking the bike trail to the Pub…but,for some reason, the ride to Abita was always a lot easier than the ride home…

    Jason, thanks for reminding us; and John, thanks for the museum…Annie

  7. Donna says:

    Yes, I do believe he meant to say you are all mentally it. Wishing you focus and deep breaths to see you through this, Jason…..

  8. eric says:

    That seems like a great story. and a great thing to do when you are stressed and can’t get away from your problems.. as for me, i sit around and clean the house. maybe sweep the leaves off the porch or try to fix an old dilapidated surfboard. I know that the surfboard will never be finished, and the leaves will just pile up again….but maybe thats ok.

  9. KrisBelucci says:

    Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber- me!

  10. da best. Keep it going! Thank you

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