“This is my life. I have an obligation to actualize my own happiness. That justifies the bike shop, tool store, animal rescue we are running here.” Jonathon Langlinais’ tract house; the last one on a modest street next to a drainage channel, two miles from downtown Lafayette and a few blocks south of I-10; has an unassuming exterior. But inside, the carpets have been ripped out to reveal the concrete slab, a tool cart fills half the kitchen, and bicycles hang from the living room walls and ceiling, including a vintage Schwinn circa 1930 and a 1960’s Sting Ray with banana seat and hi-rise handlebars.
The great thing about Jon, his partner Katie, and others I’ve met here, is that the Cajun prescription for actualizing your own happiness isn’t sitting in front of the tube in your Barcalounger; it’s mixing it up with others in the community. Jon and Katie spend about thirty hours a week running their pool service. “Working three days a week is great for everything but retirement.” The rest of their time is devoted to bicycle riding, advocacy, music, dogs, celebrating life and all things Cajun.
Lafayette, the Hub City, is the center of a region playfully described as Acadiana. People here share the tragedy of their roots. “The story of the Acadians was the first genocide in North America, what the British did to my people.” But they also share the festive temperament embedded in their motto, ‘Laissez les bons temps rouler!’ (Let the good times roll.)
Acadian identity is actually growing stronger. Jon’s parents spoke English as a second language and discouraged him from learning French. Today, that assimilation has reversed. John’s children attended French immersion schools. “We are tied to tradition, not just in language. We still hunt and fish; the butcherie is still the traditional killing of the pig.”
Katie moved to Lafayette from the Midwest nine years ago. Though she’s not Cajun, the dual threads of honoring history and celebrating the moment resonated with her. “I have a party streak. I’m a huge Amanda Palmer fan, and went to her show every year in Chicago. At my first Dresden Doll concert, I wore a wedding dress. Afterwards I went up to Amanda and asked her to marry me. Unfortunately, she said no. Fortunately for me, I met Jon.”
Ten years ago, Jonathan started Bike Lafayette to advocate for better cycling conditions. The City of Lafayette asked his group what they wanted so they marked up a map. The city accepted their plan, no pushback, and is implementing it as streets are repaired and replaced. “I never knew it would be so easy; all we have to do is ask.” Recently he started Bike/Walk Louisiana, a statewide advocacy group.
A few years ago, Jon made his own bicycle tour, traversing the country from north to south along a route that roughly paralleled the Mississippi River. “I biked 30 days, gained 15 pounds, and lost one shirt size.” He loved touring but was happy to return home. “This is the best people on earth in this town.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“Interesting because it’s ‘we,’ not ‘you.’ Is it ‘we’ as a community or a larger ‘we’ as a nation? I will continue to live as I have, being a good steward to the environment, focusing on family and friends.
“As a ‘we’ it’s disheartening. I spent six years in the army. I met people from all over the country. Diversity is our strength, not our challenge. It makes us stronger, but the polarization I see is a problem.” – Jon
“Hopefully we’ll wake up. And then we’ll go from there.” – Katie