Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 for all original literary content by author(s)

30 November 2012


My best buddy in college always dated beautiful women.  One afternoon hanging at Gerry's apartment before heading off to one of our adventures, I was charmed to meet another gorgeous woman who I took to be his latest conquest, Nadine.

Nadine had just dropped by and treated me as if an old and cherished friend.  I was looking for subtle cues that I should leave the two of them alone, but none was coming.  Instead, she left an hour or so later, and I asked Gerry, "Why have you not told me about Nadine?"

"Pretty, isn't she?"

"And fun."

"Yes, but not my type."

"Exactly your type.  You mean you are not dating her?"

"No.  She has the looks, but...well, you know how if you shine a light at a deer, it will just freeeze and stand still staring into the light-- utterly baffled?"

"Yes, but Nadine didn't come off that way."

"She is not that way and that's the problem.  I want the girl who will be baffled by a  flashlight."

He was serious.

I was dating a wonderful girl so did not pursue Nadine, but saw her off and on at parties and dinners over the next few months.  Then she stopped being around.  Gerry explained that Nadine had a bad cancer and was pretty sick from the Chemo and Radiation.  He told me all her hair was gone.

That, too, was tragic as Nadine had beautiful and plentiful hair reaching thickly almost to her hips.  I said, "It will take her years to grow it back out as she had it."  I was fishing, but the fish which bit was not anything I wanted to keep.

Gerry answered, "I don't think she has years, my friend."

"Oh, no."


"Is there anything we can do?"

"No, she is taking it amazingly well.  She is fighting like Hell."  He smiled, then laughed, drew on his cigarette and said, "Last week, she psyched herself up to go out, and I went with her.  She had shaved her head so that it was shiny, and then -- you know she is artistic? -- she did this thing with glue and glitter all over her head, so that it was like sparkly gold, and purple.  Here was this bald girl and she was the hottest woman around.  She was loving the attention and danced most of the night."

We both sat, smiling, enjoying the bittersweetness of the story in silence.

Nadine died soon after that.  I never saw her without her hair, but wished I had seen her with the glitter.

She was my age at the time, twenty-three, and in college.  Her degree was progressing as she could pay for it.  Nadine worked as a cashier at a Dallas/Fort Worth area supermarket, Kroger, that degree was going to take some time.  Cashiers had little or no health insurance.

After her death, Gerry told me that she had racked-up enormous debt for her medical bills.  All through her treatment, her employer had told her not to worry.  Her paychecks kept coming, her apartment and utilities were paid, and, when she died, Kroger paid the medical bills so that her family would not have to.

There are real humans among us.  Look for them.

28 November 2012

The Memory-Box (Beauty in Discomfort)

I was in college and my girlfriend had made plans for us to go to a dinner party with one of her co-workers, Lavonne.  I had heard how mean Lavonne was for months.

Cathy said, "You know who I am talking about, right?

I said, "Yes, no one likes her, including you.  Why are we being invited, much less going?"

"It seemed really important to her, and that I bring you.  I don't think she has any friends-- I mean, if she asked me.  I was kind of on the spot, so I accepted.  I'll make it up to you."

"How does she even know about me?"

"She has heard me talking in the office about you.  This is so weird.  I never speak to her at all-- about anything-- and she just comes up and says she is having a diner party and wants me to come and to bring you."

So we went.  We were the only guests.

Lavonne served a horribly burned sauce over spaghetti, stale bread, and iced tea to us in her small apartment.  Cathy and I shared a smile after the first tastes of the meal and politely ate everything on our plates.  It was excruciating.

We were not expecting to be the only guests, and had planned to be among the first to leave, but we felt trapped.  Cathy cleverly and seamlessly brought the conversation around to the movie we were going to see that night and Lavonne stated, flatly, "You cannot leave yet."

She rose from the table, stepped to the bar which opened to the kitchen and retrieved a large hat-box, returning to the tabel with it and sat.

She opened the box and it was full of hundreds of photos of people we did not know (nor ever would).

Image from Pack Peddler's Place
For another two hours, Lavonne pulled out one picture after another, telling us all she could think about those in the picture and adding side-stories which did not form a coherent thread for us to follow.  But she narrated each old photograph (and some new), in such a way that she seemed to be getting to a point.  I was trying to follow.

"Now wait," I said, "Malcome is your Uncle, right?"

To my astonishment she answered, "No.  A cousin, but it doesn't matter if you can keep up-- I'm just going to go through these and say what I remember."

It was confusing.  She knew it was awkward, she knew she was being rude, and she did not care about that.  We were captives unless we were willing to be as rude, and we were not willing.  I was praying for the bottle of wine we had brought to be opened, but Lavonne had already told us she was Baptist and did not drink nor did she allow others to drink in her home.  For this, someone invented hip flasks, but I never have owned one.

Lavonne got to the last picture, and she was visibly tired.  She closed the box, and stood to start taking our plates to the kitchen.  She refused our help, but instead, ushered us to the door  and thanked us for coming.  Whatever Lavonne had intended, she had accomplished.

In the car, Cathy and I laughed about the awkward experience as we rehearsed the evening.  We had missed our movie and the start of the showing after that one.  It was so strange, and we could not fathom what part Lavonne thought we had played in her evening-- we certainly had no idea why we had been invited, or what possible enjoyment Lavonne might have derived from it.  We could have been complete strangers-- and practically were. 

Two weeks later...

Cathy called.

"Remember Lavonne?"

"Of course, but I am not sitting through another one of those dinners."  I was joking, but was filled with dread that was exactly what Cathy was going to tell me.

"No.  It is not like that.  Now it makes sense what she did.  Lavonne died."

"Died?!  How?"

"Cancer.  She has known for months.  She knew she only had a few weeks when we were there.  She went to the hospital the next morning."

"And so she wanted to go through her box of memories, but did not want to be alone?"

"Yes.  I feel... well, honored."

"Me too.  I also feel like a jerk."

"I did, at first.  But, she was not likeable.  She was rude, knew it, and did not care.  We are just the only people that did not turn her down.  She asked a lot of people before cornering me.  She really was desperate for company that night.   If she thought we were important to her, she would have told us what was going on.  We were not important."

"No.  But we were there; and for that, I am thankful to have served that purpose."

16 November 2012


Inside, the signs were everywhere stating not to touch the walls.

I stood at the East end inside of the structure, and while others read the bronze plaques arranged along that wall, I centered myself, crouched down, dropping to one knee and touched the floor-- pretending to be reading a plaque set at ankle height.

I then stood, facing that wall, and looked up.

I wondered who else had stood exactly there and dropped to one knee, and then raised his eyes skyward. I wished... well, I wish for a lot of things that do not seem possible.

Amazing things took place inside that building, and all the bronze plaques tell of some. I love the story-- it is part of my culture. Yet, the most amazing things that ever happened there, took place right where I dropped to touch the floor-- just a few feet from the East wall. The other story, the one without the plaques, is one of Blood poured out for many.  I remember the one, but participate in the other.

If a building could scream, she screamed in 1793.   I understand.


There is back story, also a mystery:  That holy place was my first stop on a special spiritual pilgrimage I began this morning.  I was searching for something-- an answer.

I was not yet five years old and we lived in Fort Worth.  The memory is vivid.

I woke from a sound sleep in the back of the car.  I had no recollection of being put in the car.  They must have carried me from my bed in the wee hours of the morning and headed out.

It was in whatever car the family drove before the blue Galaxy 500, and before Dad bought the 1964-and-a-half Ford Mustang.  My mother and father were there, but my big brother was not.   They hurriedly unloaded the car, and me, into a motel room in downtown San Antonio.  'Might has well had been a piece of baggage.  Something was wrong and the adults were not telling.  My mother crawled in bed, as my dad ran a quick errand.

He returned with some food and drink, crackers for me, if I recall, and a small plastic bag of silver and gold plastic medieval knights.  Period army men.  The motel room carpet was blue and green checkers of about one inch squares.  Mom slept, and I played with the army men without much interest.  I did not know why we were there, why Dad was leaving, why Mom was not talking and then sleeping.  She took a long bath at some point.

I remember being terribly afraid that my Father was leaving and he seemed afraid for me.  His fear did not add to my own, but instead, I loved the empathy.  As long as he knew, I need not struggle about it.

I remember being alone as mother slept in the bed and having those two dozen or so silver and gold plastic men, not knowing anything about medieval knights, and not knowing what to do with them.  I paired them by their kind.  Gold and silver knights with a sword slashing in this pile, Gold and silver knights with bows in that pile.  I worried that I would be bored-- and being bored is the most intolerable situation for me.  I could not read yet, there was no TV, and my brother was, inexplicably, absent.  I had twenty four or so plastic men, and the options seemed quite limited.  I was worried.

Eventually, mother was up, dressed, and ready to go.  We left the motel room-- it had to have been a motel because the door opened to the outside, but not to a parking lot.  Mom was stressed.  I just knew-- but I did not know why she was stressed.

We crossed a street.  And the sun was very, very bright.  It beat down on us with tremendous heat.  There were large display windows along that block where we had crossed, in one or two of them, beautiful scale replicas of circus wagons.  I thought they were trains.  I thought they were trains for two reasons.  First, I had never seen or heard of a circus wagon.  Second, small model displays in downtown window displays, for me, had always been of one of the two major categories:  Train set displays, and everything else.  That second category was the mundane kind and included mannequins wearing clothing, scarfs, purses, suits, shoes, watches and so on.  Only the first category had any value.

My nose to the glass as I marveled at the details of the models had mother's interest.  She pointed out that, rather than trains they were circus wagons, and told me that I did know about circus wagons, because that was what the box of Animal Crackers were supposed to look like.  I never realized that, and remember studying a box when we returned to Fort Worth.  She was right.

She stepped inside a recessed entry door and we went inside a dark little room with a glass case to the right and a hall way off to the left rear of that little room.  I had been to toy stores, and glass counters is where they had model trains.  This one did not have model trains in it.  The bald man sitting behind the counter was friendly toward my Mom but not to me.  I imagine she got a lot of that -- but that is an adult thinking, not a four year old.

I was expecting a toy store, but instead was at a counter where the man was explaining admission and times.  Mother was saying something about "Maybe next time."  I was not interested in a tour of anything.  I liked the zoo but did not like the circus.  I liked animals, but I did not like animals doing tricks-- and I HATED clowns.  I fully understand, at some deep intuitive level, the toy blow-up clown that's only purpose was to be punched.   Anyway, a toy store would have been alright, but I wanted my Dad.

We went to a building which had crash-bar doors and went through one.  Mom and I were in the back of the largest room I had ever seen except for in a Church.  It was filled with men in suits all facing a stage with a podium.  My Dad was speaking there.  Mom found us two seats at the back and we sat down there.  I have no idea what my Dad had said, but the men were laughing, and clapping.  My father was enjoying himself, and all those business men were enjoying him.  He finished and I filed-away that there was a whole side of my Dad I did not know about-- he was known by a lot of people and spoke in front of hundreds of complete strangers (to me) and they liked it when he did.  It was one of those "the world just got a lot bigger" moments for a child.

Dad came straight from the podium and joined Mom and me, and Mom was happy, Dad was happy, and I was relieved.  We left immediately. 

The memory, as I just recounted it, kept coming back in such vivid detail that I believe my mind wanted me to examine it more carefully-- my own self showing me something and demanding that I apply my adult mind and experiences to that childhood memory-- because there was something important that my child-self missed.

Using Google searches and Google Earth, I discovered that we had been at the Hertzberg Circus Museum, and that my father had almost certainly been speaking at the Villita Assembly Building.  Fine.  Details now supplied, now what?

I have mulled it all over, and come up with little of use.

This morning, I drove to San Antonio, stopped by the Alamo, and then walked to where the Hertzberg Circus Museum had been-- hoping for something which would make sense-- a jogged memory, a new piece of the puzzle to work with, sudden inspiration simply by being in the place?  Nothing.  I walked for over two hours.    Nothing.  But I did my spiritual duty: I pursued meaning and understanding.

Maybe it will still come.

14 November 2012

Secret Austin, Texas, Directions

The sun was square this morning.

Driving up MoPac* at dawn, the big red ball of the Sun rose in a narrow slit between two layers of clouds. As I glanced again, the same horizontal slit appeared between two downtown skyscrapers, causing a vertical slit of the same dimension. Thus, I witnessed the Sun rise as a square.

* "MoPac" is Austinite code for "Loop 1" (which is not a loop) so our directions make no sense to visitors. We have many other secret directions:

* "The Drag" means Guadalupe, between MLK and 29th.  All other stretches of Guadalupe are called Guadalupe (a barely audible, hard g, and no "aye" on the end-- (G)uad-a-loop).
* We have have a 1st Street-- and it intersects 2nd, 3rd, 4th... through 18th street.  The real 1st Street takes us townees place we go-- they are not for you.  What you think is 1st Street is César Chávez.  Which ever way you pronounce it, we will pronounce it the other way.

* We may call 26th Street "26th" whether it is marked as "Dean Keaton" or "Manor" (which is not pronounced in any way you could guess).
* We all know that "North Loop" is 53rd-- and that it is not a loop (and North Loop crosses Burnet, which is not pronounced in any way you could guess).
* When we say "take the 38th and a Half street exit," we refer to what is marked as 35th Street.
* There is an apparent rip in the space-time continuum along 35th and 38th streets.  In that region, 35 and 38th (which we call 38th 1/2 Street for reasons of our own) are one in the same, while 36th, 37th and their halves simply do not seem to exist.   A few have tried to follow 35th Street only to find they are really on 34th.  Likewise, in places you can turn on 38th 1/2 Street only to find you are on 38th (and no 100ths) Street. 
* We may tell you to take 38th and a Half and then turn on Burnet, but only we know it is marked "Medical."
* "Koenig" (Kay'-neg, sometimes Coy'-nig) when we refer to parts of 290, Allandale, Northland and FM 2222.
* We say "Capital of Texas Highway" for "Loop 360" (which is, as you may now have guessed, not a loop) -- unless speaking among ourselves, when we call it "360."
* They had to close Mueller Airport, because everyone mispronounced it (its Miller), and move it to ABIA (which we all call "Bergstrom"-- because we are mean).
* To go from 4th Street to 38th Street on Pleasant Valley, go north on Pleasant Valley, turn straight on Chestnut, then, at your first opportunity, turn straight on Cherrywood. We will call it which ever one we feel like calling it in the moment.
* So, you are taking 290 from IH-35 to Oak Hill? We can give you direction on how to do that, with several exits, and we will not once mention 290, but we will mention "Ben White" -- good luck with that.
* We say "Ben White" or "Ed Bluestien" but only because there are no signs using those words.
* On some (and I'm not telling which) entrances to MoPac, you have to turn right to go left, and turn left to go right.  There are signs, but those signs are only visible when you have committed to the (wrong) lane.  No one will let you over, because no one let us over-- it is how we learned so it will be how you learn.
* Headed to the Formula 1 Race?  You are going to take Highway 71, of course.  But we do not call Highway 71 that.  What we call it depends on where we are... and our mood.
* If you hear on the radio that the "Upper Deck is shut-down," you will have, at most, 4.2 seconds to choose the correct lane before you are committed-- and you will choose the wrong one because we do not give visitors so much as a hint as to how to know which lanes go "upper" and which go "lower."
* When someone needs to take a specific numbered street exit from IH-35, we do not tell them which lane to be in, we say to "use the upper (or lower) deck" -- depending upon which street.  We know what it means, but you won't.

* Because it makes perfect sense to visitors, we sometimes refer to the non-existent "19th Street."  There never has been a 19th Street and there never will be.  No signs make mention of it-- but we do.
* There are no east-west freeways in Austin, so to go east or west you will use one of the five (5!) north-south freeways.  Because everyone is either going north, east, south or west, the north-south freeways are always packed; and so it is that we always complain that we need more north-south freeways.  Got it?
* There are exactly two (2) major thoroughfares in Austin upon which the lights are timed to facilitate the flow of traffic.  On all other roads, the traffic lights are timed to impede the flow of traffic.  Only about three dozen townees know the two good streets, and we are sworn to secrecy.
* Remember, if you are on anything in Austin with the word "Loop" in it, and miss your exist, you will NOT return to it-- instead, you will end up in either Mexico or Oklahoma.

* All directions given to tourists may be intended to direct you to Oklahoma or Mexico.
* Yeah, sure, 6th Street is THE hot spot-- and ALL the great local bands play there.  Do not even think of going anywhere else as 80,000 drunk college kids can't be wrong.  The townees only avoid it because we want to make sure the tourists can enjoy an authentic Austin experience during their brief time with us.

This roller coaster ride we've been on's nearly at an end,
I bought my ticket with me tears and that's all I'm gonna spend...

The morning Sun was shining like a red rubber cube.

10 November 2012

I have pretty much ruled-out that cat explanation. This leaves....

I live an odd and occasionally mystical life.  I do not attempt to apply mystical meaning to the prosaic, but neither do I attempt to force a mundane explanation onto the unusual.

I lived among them for just less than two years.

I lived among them for just less than two years.

When I was home, and many of them away, their kids played with my kids and they called me the "block Dad." When I was away and they saw my wife was not coping, there was no gossip and no blame, only action; and so they came and gathered her and my kids and kept them safe until I returned. Sunset meant the men sat in each other's driveways sipping an after-dinner beer and telling stories with the dogs and kids playing on the lawns. If someone's car broke down, tools and handbooks appeared from all over until it ran again.

Help was always subtle. The movie "Saving Private Ryan" was in theaters back then. Red's wife stops me on the sidewalk to say, "Red is determined to see that movie, but he is not sure how he is going to take it. I only mention it so you can keep an eye on him. He might be struggling for a few days." She told no one else. Red did fine, reliving some of his stories with me the next few days, and stopping short and leaving the rest untold when his eyes teared up, but he was himself.

That was the only real community I have ever known. We took care of each other and valued each other. We had to, because it was our community and moreover it was right. I often think how that ought to be describing the Church. I never wore their uniform, but they treated me and my family as if I was one of them, and I am thankful.

Happy birthday to the United States Marine Corps.

WCG+ 11-Nov-2012

07 November 2012

Aggie Tradition

From today's presentation at College Station honoring my grandfather (who died when I was an infant).

I am not an Aggie, but when Aggies talk about "tradition" -- that the university remembers and honors their own so long after-- it means something... something important.

Plaque presented to my family and me in honor of my grandfather, the first Texas A&M PhD recipient.

The reference to heroism was an act he made saving a boy's life that was recognized by the Carnegie Medal of Heroism. This award provided money to be used for his education. My grandfather wisely selected Texas A&M and continued his education.
WCG+ 7-Nov-2012

God versus Country

This nation is not, nor has it ever been, the Promised Land. I reject "manifest destiny" concept of the US. My faith neither legislates to others, nor does it allow itself to be legislated by others-- it is utterly divorced from the world and its ways.

I think one of the best things that can happen for the faithful-- is to hear a resounding NO! from the world and the worldly. The true faithful are set apart from that world. We live in it as strangers, and so we let the world have its ways-- and God will have His ways, for us-- and for those who seek Him. Whether we like it or not: Ours is the better portion-- the spiritual, mostly unseen, in this life.

If we truly live as enemies to the world, then we are the hunted and not the hunters. We are behind enemy lines and with few resources, tend to our neighbor, but not to his government. I hope most American faithful begin to see this truth-- because then our faith becomes something truly powerful in its intimacy with the Most High God, and no longer mixed with positioning based upon worldly matters, but on how one seeks, and is found by, God.

– WCG+ 7-Nov-12

01 November 2012

What will NOT be discussed in any political campaign

Yeah. That. (and I was the at-home-Dad). Anyone outraged besides me?
"...The results showed that in 60% of the cases, the father had filed for enforcement of his access rights within six months of the initial court orders. However, despite repeated filings, within five years, 90% of those fathers all had lost all contact with their children..."

History - In 1988, in opposition of an amendment to the Revised Child Support Enforcement Act, member of in Congress got a funding bill passed to have the US Dept. of Health & Human Services conduct a 50-state study to show that fathers wanted no relationship with their children following a divorce. They were opposing an amendment that would establish a $10 million grant to the states to set up "Expedited Procedures To Enforce Court Ordered Access Rights".

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WCG+ 1-Nov-2012