Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Great GaDu

I visited my daughter and her family in Austin yesterday. It was my grandson's 2nd birthday. He is learning words fast now, but he has been a little slow to talk, though he does know his numbers from 1-10 and all his letters (proud grandpa here).

Of course he knows Mommy and DaDa, and he calls my wife Mimi. We were looking at family pictures, and when asked who I was, he said "GaDu." We think this is a diminuitive for GrandDad, but who knows.

In the grand tradition of the first grandchild naming the grandparents, maybe I will become the Great GaDu. It's not Cool Mark or G-Diddy, but it's not too bad.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

So, Facebook led me to a new social network for those over 40 - Tee Bee Dee. I have joined, but there is not much to do other than join in Group discussions, but some are quite good. I did join The Writing Group (TWG) and submitted my first story, which is also posted below. I encourage those interested in writing to check it out.

My Father's Shoes


“Sam, any idea if we have black shoelaces somewhere? This one just broke.”

Eric slipped the black, cap-toed Oxford shoe off his foot and went to rummage about in his dresser for a new lace. Hidden in the corner, behind the silk handkerchief and the mostly unused bow tie, he found a package of waxed shoe strings, black.

In 1963, when Eric was 8 years old and some of television was still black and white (although his parents had splurged on a Magnavox a year earlier with his mother’s inheritance money: that was a discussion) he sat in the family living room on Saturday nights and watched Paladin and The Old Ranger and hoped he could stay up to see wrestling from the Sportatorium. His father would polish those Oxfords. Routine: light a match to melt the Kiwi polish – gingerly drop the polish lid on this intriguing flame – dip the rubbing cloth in the melted polish and spread a fine layer all over the shoe (laces out, of course) – brush the polish to a high sheen, sometimes spitting, sometimes not – buff the shoe with the lambs wool buffer. Do it again on the other shoe. Lace them up.

That routine never varied, although sometimes it would be Sunday night, not Saturday night, when church fell away from the family rituals. Once a month, black sole dressing was spread on the overly scarred edges of the sole. It took a while longer for Eric to understand how his mother covered over the scars in her soul.

Eric didn’t know how long his father had owned that pair of cap-toed Oxfords, with the small line of punches in the cap’s edge, but he did know that they were to be polished every week. For a while, Eric’s dress shoes joined those of his father in the ritual. Later, it would be Eric who would do the shoes, all the shoes, under the not-so-watchful eye of his Wooden Indian father and his nervous, quiet mother. Someone would get up from the TV for a beer now and then: first one, then the other, matching can for can.

Eric finished lacing the shoe and sat down again to slip it on, tie it up, admire his polish-work. He was going to a wedding today, the very first one he was to officiate. The shoes had an ancient look to them, but sported new leather soles. Eric didn’t know why he pulled out these old shoes to wear: he had a dozen other pairs of dress shoes more modern, more stylish, more him. “Something old, something new . . .” his mind wandered as he drove to the outdoor park where the wedding was to take place.

…something borrowed, something blue.” His mother would have been proud of his shoes that day. That was the last time Eric ever wore those shoes, and later, when he dropped them in the Goodwill box, he thought about those Saturday nights with and without his parents.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Got a New Look

Check out the new look on the blog. I have added some features, like the Video Log. I will try to change it out frequently. Also, I hope to get around to adding all those cool sites that people send me all the time, that never get collected in any one place.

I have also added commerce: click on the ads and give me mo' money!!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring Evenings

There aren't many memories I have that are more powerful than memories of spring or summer evenings where the light fades very slowly, and the breeze that kicks up at night is a welcome companion. Many of the best things I can recall are associated with just such evenings. I like the sound of the word "evening" and the connotation that this is the time when you balance out the day, you make your life "even" again. Some things I associate with late spring/early summer evenings:

  • Softball games in Grand Prairie, TX with John Shipman, Greg Nix, Mike Edwards, John Nix, Danny Rucker, John Zacharias, many others

  • UTA intramural sports - Mike Kessler on our soccer team: the only guy who knew how to play

  • Barbara Merrill's Volkswagen stalling outside my house and I hear it through an open bedroom window: Mark to the rescue

  • Watermelon fights at Amfisso apartments: swimming in the half-full pool with our clothes on

  • Sitting by Steve's pool with Dr. Steve and Dr. Karl, or any of the 4th of July parties

  • On the beach in Jacksonville with my bro

  • Coming up the 18th fairway with Ken Rystad, playing golf until you couldn't really see the ball land

  • Terilli's patio moments

  • Walking to the UTA library from Border West, or walking to the Psych Building

  • Pool parties at Mary McKinney's house

  • Sitting by my pool now with Teresa, drinking good wine and talking

  • Playing minature golf in Overton Texas with my grandparents, swatting mosquitoes and smelling the sawdust

  • Watching the sun set from the Adea offices and listening to Steve say "this is your town"

  • Most recently, drinking wine with Mary Webb and Teresa in Archer City

My life hasn't been all about motion, like some of my friends. Steve was always in motion: still is. David Casey was always in motion, though sometimes slow motion. Kevin is a motion guy: not still until the night is deep upon us does he wind down. I am not a motion guy.

It is the stopping that I remember most, and spring and summer evenings are made for stopping and looking, listening, smelling. I am not going to waste any more evenings.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Wondering and Wandering

As some of you know, I am in the throes of some kind of crisis – mid-life, meaning of my life, stagnancy vs. generavity – not sure what to name it, but basically I am 52 years old and think I ought to go ahead and do what I was meant to do, rather than what I know how to do. The only trouble is, I am not sure what I am meant to do.

So I am randomly casting about, reading things and thinking about things, and in general just trying to open up, since my tendency is to close down and try to plan outcomes, rather than let things flow. This morning, I see a video piece about some guy in Montana riding a covered wagon to California. And in the video, all these people who see him basically say, “If I wasn’t (married, tied down, committed, constrained, bound by velvet ropes, you fill in the blank) I would do the same thing. Up and go. Travel and see where it takes me.” So in my fevered state of mind, I think, “Yeah. Me too. Only how can I facilitate this? Is there an industry/website/organization devoted to helping people wander?”

Sidebar – I read somewhere that elder men in the Indian culture take journeys once they retire. They go on some form of walkabout. I think I read it in a Salman Rushdie novel. Matt Freeman (CEO of Tribal DDB) and I kid about what will happen when we go on our walkabout.

I Googled "wandering planning US" because how the hell do you search for websites about planning to go wandering (oxymoron of the highest nature).

I found this website, by a former teacher/principal/librarian and it has some stuff that was really eye-opening, but also some stuff that seemed very incongruous. I don't know quite what to make of it, except that I like the fact this guy is apparently making a living talking about thinking in a different way. Gives me hope.

The March, 2007 issue had some really interesting things to say about the value of wondering, and wandering. So I wonder if there is a way to help facilitate wandering, in the sense of helping people plan not to plan?

I would be interested to know anyone's thoughts on the topics, either personal or professional.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Archer City Road Trip

If you know Texas literature, you know Archer City. Home of Larry McMurtry, model for The Last Picture Show, icon of "the same small town in each of us."

Teresa and I visited Archer City last weekend: her suggestion. I have recently gotten on a collecting jag and decided I would try to get a copy of every McMurtry book published, preferably first edition, preferably signed. There are 40 or 41 books (depends if you include Daughters of the Tejas, credited to Ophelia Ray, but ghostwritten by Larry McMurtry). I currently have 32 first editions, 17 of them signed, and one 2nd edition signed (Texasville, which I bought in Lincoln, Nebraska when McMurtry was speaking there and had it signed to me - the only one in my collection expressly signed for me).

Teresa was pretty sure we would see McMurtry, because she works with a woman who used to live in Archer City who said he was often at the Dairy Queen. Turns out that he now spends most of his time in Tuscon, and only occasionally returns to Archer City. When he does, he doesn't stay in his large house by the golf course (see picture) but instead stays at the Lonesome Dove Inn on Main Street, where we stayed, in the Terms of Endearment room. We did get to see the Golden Globe and Oscar he and Diana Ossana won for the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. They sit on the mantle at the Lonseome Dove Inn.

The main attraction in Archer City is Booked Up!, McMurtry's famous bookstore. It is located in four buildings around the town square. In each, there are literally thousands of books (somewhere around 150,000 in total). T and I found it overwhelming to even take such collections on. We browsed for a few hours, but it was literally tiring. I think we wound up buying 7 or 8 books (including a Jospeh Heller first/first that was signed and a Review Copy of Issac Bashevis Singer's Lonely in America).

At the Lonseome Dove Inn, we met the retired diganostician and now full-time innkeeper, Mary Webb. Mary is the sister of Ceil Cleveland, a high school classmate of McMurtry's and thought to be the model for his character, Jacy Farrow, in The Last Picture Show. Turns out that while Jacy flaunted the patriarchy of the small Texas town by being promiscuous (or as promiscuous as you could get in the 1950's), Ceil flaunted it by being intellectual, free thinking, and ambitious beyond the confines of Archer City. Apparently, she and McMurtry were friendly rivals for the label "smartest kid in school."

It was fun to see places that a McMurtry-phile like me would recognize. We found out the pool hall where Sam the Lion held court was gone, but the ruins of the old theatre were still there.

The Dairy Queen, the local spot where McMurtry muses on aging in Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, one of his later books, was hopping, and Teresa had a large dipped cone, a DQ special treat.

Turns out that everywhere in town except Sonic and DQ closes at 5 p.m. on Saturday, so we had to go to Wichita Falls for dinner. McBride's Land and Cattle, where we had good steaks and a passable Shiraz.

One of the more interesting turns of events was the sleeping arrangement. We had one room at the Inn, and supposedly a band, who was playing a dance at the VFW hall that evening, was taking the rest. It turns out they only used two. We met Anna Marie, who is a singer that has some relation to (or at least knows of) Mae Axton, mother of Hoyt Axton and famous composer of Heartbreak Hotel. She was very excited to know that I knew of Mae Axton. This girl was brimming with enthusiasm: her dreams were out there for all to see and she didn't care a lick. She was singing with Dean Anderson (aka Dylan Dean), a newly found country talent who just signed with BMI. In 30 minutes, we felt like we had known her for a long time, learning of her adventures as a teeenager at the Four Seasons in Las Colinas.

When we came down from our room Sunday morning, her boots and Dean's boots were side by side in the stting room, with his cowboy hat on top. How cute.

We did go through Windthorst, an old German settlement that was the closest town to the McMurtry ranch where Larry grew up. In his book, Roads, he talks about riding on a horse with his Grandpa 9 miles in to get the mail in Windthorst. Travel was a slow process then. He also talked about the German immigrant approach to the world, sort of hyperresponsible. In his book, he tells the story of a farmer who killed himself (the prairies are very wide open and the wind blows all the time: it can be haunting), but not before he got up and milked the cow that morning.

As always, there is no such thing as a bad road trip. If you ever get the chance to drop in on Archer City, say "hello" to Mary.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

MySpace "About Me"

The human drama plays out only once for each of us. This is the actual play; there is no rehearsal. We are allotted 20,000+ days (at most), so we have to spend each one as if it is a precious resource. The best way to do that is in the company of friends and family, both new and old.

I have been a scientist, a writer, a college professor, a practicing psychologist, a salesman, a project manager, a motivational speaker, and out of work. I have lived in over 15 different residences in my life, some of them small (615 sq. ft) and some of them large (38 acres in Johnson County, Texas).

I have a Doctorate in Psychology, an almost Masters in English Lit, and the title of Right Reverend from the Universal Church (I have performed three weddings - all legal). I am pretty smart, but I have never ridden a horse.

I am more confused the older I get, because the certainty of youth gives way to the vastness of all space and time. How could anyone get their minds around everything? I learn easily, forget easily these days, and still feel overwhelmed by what is out there.

I love, in no particular order, my wife, my daughter, my stepdaughter, my grandson, my brother and his family, the way sheets feel when you first get into bed, my friends, Ratcliff Lake, slightly risky sex, rain in the summer, conversation, good wine, campfires, dogs, and books. I hope I die before I get old. I don't want to ever go to a funeral for a friend, so you bastards better keep living right!