“Radical hospitality is not a new concept, it is old as time.” This was Todd Whatley speaking at a bar in Alexandria, Louisiana. We were at Finnegan’s Wake, an Irish Pub set in the heart of a series of vacant shops in downtown. Our first round of drinks were bought by a man named Tom. Tom had just opened up a store outside of town that specialized in refurbishing guns. Our second round was bought by the Finnegan’s Wake co-owner Scott, who also brought over two pizzas and a box of army rations, including 100 laxative gums. The other co-owner, Garrick, is a part-time mechanic at the local bike shop.
Our third round of drinks was bought by Todd and his partner Cayla. It was around this third drink that Todd, community organizer and gardener of 60+ plots around mid-Louisiana, headman for Todd Whately and the Frontmen, and active advocate of radical hospitality, opened up to his philosophy on treating folks in a damn good way.
“Do you need a plane ticket? Can I get you somewhere? Can I give you the keys to my house while you’re here? What do you need? Tell me. Tell me so I can be there for you. Let me be the best host I can be, and therefore be the best person I can be. Tell me so I can help you and help myself in the process.”
A pretty gnarly concept of hosting. A genuine look on how to put up our group of six. Todd and Cayla gave us the keys. They showed us around town. We got to meet Eddie, who recently appeared on NPR concerning his Main Street Buddha Garden. We drank beer around a table and told stories. It was a relaxing, go with the flow kind of night, one of those evenings that happen in an organic, fresh green bud kind of way. Those nights that manifest, bloom, then dissolve into sleep.
I guess that everyone has a different slant on radical hospitality. Todd and Cayla didn’t really clean up their house for us, something that other hosts might consider unacceptable hosting behavior. There were dishes in the sink and crumbs in the comforter. Whatever. They were themselves for us—there was no show to put on. It was just another night, and we were a part of their existence. It was as if Keys to Freeze was no inconvenience … rather another weave in the fabric of their town.
Louisiana has been one revolving door of practicing radical hospitalians. I’ve felt loved, and welcomed, and faced with the genial, genuine faces of strangers interested in our journey. This is a state that cares. It’s batshit crazy, to be sure, and not the most forward thinking population—some exceptions noted, Todd and Cayla and Eddie wonderful examples—but there have been some of the most excitable and fun-loving people I have ever met roaming these small towns and defunct gas stations and littered highways in our road north to Shreveport.
Whatever happens when we head west to Texas on the 27th will be, but I will remember this concept of radical hospitality and pay it forward down the line.
Photo Brady Lawrence