Chapter Six: “Peace, Love, and Crawfish” – Page 2

The first year in Louisiana was very good. Brenda and I celebrated Louisiana culture and fully experienced the smorgasbord of different food that was now available to us. Our favorite dish was boiled crawfish, seasoned in a mixture of Cajun salt and spices that would make your lips and mouth delightfully burn red hot. There’s nothing quite as satisfying and empowering as bellying up to a newspaper-coated table with 10 to 15 other people, drinking keg draft beer, and devouring 100 pounds of heavily seasoned crawfish. We learned the art and science of peeling crawfish Louisiana-style and were even taught how to properly suck the heads for the fat deposit in the carcass.

While we were renting an apartment in Lafayette, I was busy at the University getting my personal library and office together. The University was good enough to buy me a brand-new Pentium computer, with all of the bells and whistles necessary to build a rich multimedia experience for my editorship with the online American Communication Journal. The faculty even welcomed me with a surprise crawfish boil, and the welcome mat had been laid out. I searched through the University warehouse for furniture for my office and selected the things that I thought would work well in the room. Burke Hawthorne Hall at the University of Louisiana was the home of the Communication Department, and right outside my window was a Cypress Lake filled with alligators and goldfish. This was what is called a mid-major school, where all of the sports teams play Division I schedules but the institution is not the flagship University of the state. However, it was a gargantuan leap from the University of Arkansas at Monticello out in the cow fields. Dr. Barefield gave me my teaching schedule for the Fall of 1998, and I prepared my syllabuses with precision. Our online Journal was gaining notoriety throughout the academic enterprise, and I was becoming a very popular person among the higher ranks of academe. It was a good time, and my wife Brenda had secured a kindergarten teaching position in Lafayette. We were both employed, my son was in daycare, and our mother-in-law constantly visited us because she enjoyed Louisiana food and religion — Catholicism runs deep in Louisiana.

The other faculty that were gathered in the communication department was pretty high quality, too. We had Dr. Bill Davie in mass communication broadcasting had his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. We also had Dr. Michael Maher from the University of Texas at Austin, who was known for his public relations studies on information dissemination in environmental campaigns. And we had Dr. Janet Bridges who hailed from Michigan State University and was a quantitative statistical hound that studied differences in gender. Most of the faculty were well known throughout the discipline of communication. It was a quality B+ school, with a quality B+ faculty which included me now. During our first year in Lafayette, Brenda and I spent a lot of time in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends, looking at the real estate market in Lafayette. Our salaries were no match for the real estate market. Because of the high-paying salaries for petroleum engineers and oil and gas staff, we came to the realization that while we were being well-compensated compared to Arkansas, we had fallen into another economic trap. There was no way that we could save money for a down payment on a new home, and we were at the point of putting down some roots and starting a family. It was time to get more serious about work. It was time to get more serious about money. And it was time to get more serious about earning tenure and promotion at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. These were good times, but they were also very serious times.

My close personal friend Michael Calvin McGee at the University of Iowa said that he was sorry that I didn’t come to Iowa, but wish me well in Louisiana. Steve Smith up at the University of Arkansas and I continued talking on a daily basis, and we engineered, promoted, and marketed the American Communication Journal to become the premier property online for communication research. As a result, during this time, the American Communication Association surpassed the membership of 5000 people online. With a little bit of disruptive thinking, we had successfully transitioned a completely worthless name into a thriving, breathing, actual property online which people work tirelessly interested in. And from 1998 to 2000, the Journal grew in stature and impact throughout academe while the World Wide Web and Internet continued to march forward — exploding multimedia properties throughout the online arena, radically transforming news, entertainment, information gathering, library science, and just about anything and everything that relied upon information from paper to computer-mediated communication. And there I was, the University’s expert on the Internet. In fact, Wadsworth publishers sought me out to write the definitive book on the Internet and all of its communication properties for its textbook publishing group. My first year at the University was spent getting the Journal ready for quarterly publication in completing my textbook contract with Wadsworth, which might have the potential to generate significant income so that we could buy a house.

With my mother-in-law visiting us so regularly, we had a lot of help in the house with watching my son. So, Brenda and I could dedicate more time toward our professional careers. One day, while we were riding around Youngsville, Louisiana in the minivan we came across a neighborhood known as Copperfield. This neighborhood had community tennis courts, a wonderful swimming pool, and there were well-decorated gardens and park benches distributed throughout the neighborhood. We dreamed we could get a house there. Then we saw a four-bedroom three-bath house on Copperfield Drive, and the price was affordable. My mother-in-law promised us $10,000 as a down deposit for the home, and we made an offer on the house for $142,000 which was accepted by the seller. We were so excited. It was our very first home. And finally, after years and years of hard work and dedication, we had secured the home we had always dreamed of in an area that was quite respectable and had outstanding food. We bought the house, signed the mortgage, moved into the house, and began our second year in Louisiana. Times were good.

With work and home efforts combined, I was spending anywhere between 16 to 18 hours a day online. Not that this is unusual for an academic, mind you; however new websites and new coding techniques were coming out on a daily basis. You could say that I had entered a fugue, or, some sort of version of digital delirium, because whenever I was away from the computer I could see imprints and patterns in my mind of raw HTML computer code. And JavaScript. And cascading style sheets. Amazon. Dell. Yahoo. Google. America Online. My seriousness had worked me into a digital frenzy, and I slowly started breaking away from actual reality with my virtual habits. Rationality started taking on different perceptions. And with the work that I was doing on the textbook, I was completely maxed out on my publication schedule and agenda. It wasn’t for lack of effort, that’s for sure. But the tsunami of digital information that we were all experiencing had everyone shocked, stunned, and confused. This was a new medium in communication, and it was literally reinventing itself every single day with new developments and new products. I was sitting in the catbird seat professionally because whenever somebody thought of the web, they naturally thought of me.

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