KENTWOOD, La. - The Town of Kentwood's Road Maintenance Crew took a working vacation last week as they attended the Potholes and Potheads Conference in Poughkeepsie, New York.
The conference, which was co-sponsored by a Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the National Asphalt Pavement Association, which represents the producers of hot mix asphalt industry, was a three-day affair mixing challenging talks and lectures, provocative roundtable discussions -- and just plain fun, at least if you are a road maintenance worker.
The primary purpose of the conference was to teach municipal street maintenance people from around the country which substances mix with asphalt and ready-mix concrete -- and which don't. But Kentwood RMC's Mayson Seale said they all learned a lot more than that. The News & Musings James "Jimmy" Foster interviewed Seale just a day after the RMC crew returned.
"When writers go on vacation, they take a pad and a pencil. When photographers go on a holiday, they take a camera along. So, we thought we'd take our tools along too. Boy, we had no idea. You think its a pain when you try to get a pair of fingernail clippers through security, you ought to see the look on their faces when you put a jack hammer on that conveyor belt. They just freak, every time.
"Ralph Deaking, our supervisor, is very thorough, very organized. He's the one who filled out the application to get us a grant to go the P&PC to begin with. Anyway, he had printed out the the entire section of the TSA handbook on which stuff you can and can't carry on a airliner. He would hold it up and show it to them. Nothing in there says you can take on board a jack hammer, or a dump truck, for that matter -- not that we'd be dumb enough to do that. The overweight fees were plenty bad as it was.
"We had to change planes in Detroit. That's one dang big airport, I'll tell you that. We sure did like them people-movers though. Everybody kept saying the whole time we was there, 'We oughta put one of these on Main Street in Kentwood.'
Through the whole trip whenever somebody would ask, where you guys from, and we would say, Kentwood or Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, everybody would say, that's where Britney Spears is from, do you know Britney, what was she like, when did you know she would be famous? We had no idea she was so popular. She's just little Brit to us.
"The most fun on the trip was the competitive events they had: asphalt rolling, hole digging, and Ralph's favorite, shovel leaning. Some of those guys could roll asphalt with a Gallion 20 Ton Roller like it was filo dough. Which reminds me of another highlight, Antonin's on Ninth Street, the Greek place just down from the Wallace P. Haste Convention Center. Man, they had good baklava. Anyway, those guys from Juneau never should have gotten on that roller when they had never seen one before. We think everyone came out alright.
"Bob thought we could compete in hole digging. No way. We didn't have clue even how to start on frozen dirt. The guys from St. Paul kicked butt on that one.
"Ralph entered the shovel leaning contest, and we were sure he would do alright. But boy, oh, boy, it was tough. It was sort of like that dance marathon the Kentwood VFW holds for the AmVets every year but you had to lean on a shovel with one foot off the ground on, get this, a marble ballroom floor. Nobody lasted more than seven minutes and Ralph finished tied for fifth at three and a half.
"The funniest thing, well, it's not funny, but when we were coming out of the hotel the last day, Ralph stepped in a pothole and broke his ankle. Because of that, we didn't get back 'til Tuesday.
"Overall, the trip was a lot of work but it was a rewarding learning experience for all of us. One the main things we learned is how many colorful nicknames there are for marijuana besides grass and pot: Mary Jane, bud, The Green Guy, weed, reefer, ganja, stuff, boo-ya, chronic, herb and dope. And those guys from Juneau sure showed us why they call it dope.
"When we got back to the Hammond Municipal Airport, when we got off the plane, we all kissed the tarmac, we were so glad to be home. It's only after a trip like this that you realize that Tangipahoa may not be much, but it's a lot better than most everywhere else."
On Tuesday night at 7 pm, the RMC will host a talk, slide show and question-and-answer session about the Potholes and Potheads Conference. Refreshments will be served courtesy of Kentwood Livestock Kitchen.
Reprinted with permission from News & Musings from Tangipahoa Parish (Louisiana): The Birthplace of Britney Jean Spears
Copyright 2006 Douglas Salguod