2017

Austin’s New Cathedral — The Central Library

AUSTIN — I have been waiting for this occasion for several months. One day in the spring, I was walking the Lady Bird Lake trail, on the part bordering Caesar Chavez Street across from the old Seaholm power plant, which has been reconstituted into restaurants and retail. It is now surrounded by high-rise condos. Across the street from the old building that once housed part of the plant — which retained its cool art deco signage: City of Austin Power Plant — a new contemporary building was going up. At the corner, though the building was not complete, was a sign consisting of seven metal letters...

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Advocating Leaf-Blower Free Days

We live in the land of leaf blowers. Our neighborhood is filled with trees of all varieties. That is a large part of its charm. My neighbor at the top of the hill showed up at the gym a few days ago: “Have you seen my maple tree? The leaves are stunning.” Indeed, I had noticed his maple tree. It is hard to miss on the daily walk. Its leaves have turned brilliant crimson, the color amplified when the sun is low on the horizon and shining through them. Walking this time of year is a blessing, with such an array of colors. I also love sitting on the back deck in late afternoon, reading a book...

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When A Texas Judge Banned Reporting

The media is under serious attack these days, with cries of “fake news” flying whenever a story is printed with which someone prominent does not agree. It has been a pretty effective tactic since there actually is a lot of fake news out there. The local newspaper on Sunday publishes a wrap-up of the most prominent fake news stories that circulated in the prior week. At least so far, nobody is being threatened with fines and even jail for reporting the news. I think the present occupant of the Oval Office would bring back the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, th ough I doubt he actually...

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Writing A Book, Bird by Bird

For several years, a small black-and-white photograph has been propped on the easel on my desk. Henry B. Fox is seated in front of his manual typewriter in the converted smokehouse that served as his office. Nearly six years ago, I decided to write a biography of Fox, the Circleville Philosopher. He published a humor column in country newspapers for a half-century and wrote three novels as well. At long last, I am finished with this phase of the project. Work and life kept getting in the way, but the book — 85,000 words, including a chunk of Fox’s best work at the end — is complete, edited...

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It Has Been A Rye Experience

We have a small patch of yard in front — about 20 feet by 30 feet — surrounded by mature azaleas and towering trees. The patch was scraggly grass and moss when we bought the house 5 ½ years ago. Over the years it deteriorated into largely dirt. Moles invaded, turning the soil spongy. So I buttonholed a landscape architect working next door and asked his advice on what would work best. “Plant San Augustine,” he said. “It will last at least a few years.” Since we plan to put the house up for sale and downsize fairly soon, that sounded like a plan. I hired two teenagers to scrape off the scrub...

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Houston Deserved This Championship

Four years ago, I sat in the outfield grandstand of Minute Maid Park and watched the Red Sox demolish a miserable Houston team that would go on to lose 111 games that season — its third-straight year of losing more than 100 games. The tickets were cheap, and there appeared to be more Red Sox fans around me than Astros backers. The “Lastros” were lustily booed by their “fans” that night and at many succeeding games. The Red Sox would go on to win their third World Series in nine years. But the Houston front office had a plan to rebuild this team, and close followers of baseball noticed....

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Pier Dog and the Corpus Christi Bay

He came to Corpus just this weekend It was good to see him here He said he finally gave up drinking Then he ordered me a beer — Robert Earl Keen CORPUS CHRISTI — The announcer at the Texas Jazz Festival asked if there was anyone from Port Aransas in the crowd, at one of the four stages of this event now in its 58th year. The crowd applauded when a couple stood up — yet one more reminder that Hurricane Harvey’s destructive winds and rain are a recent memory, and recovery continues. Still, on this night, several thousand folks of all ages and heritages gathered to listen to some...

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Visting Old Friends in San Augustine

I walked across the street to say hello to Dan Fussell, longtime owner of the dealership, which has been in his family for more than seven decades. I haven’t seen Dan in 30 years. Our friendly reunion would be one of several in this little town where I ran The Rambler newspaper from 1982 to 1987 — my first publishing job. It is where I started this weekly habit of writing columns. Joe and I have known each other for 35 years but have never met in person. He was editor of the Texas Observer in 1982, when I wrote a few pieces for that Austin-based magazine. He has had a distinguished career...

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Record Your Story For Posterity at Story Corps

For 14 years, StoryCorps has collected the oral histories of ordinary people across the country — recording a wide swath of Americans from all walks of life. It has published five books. Its recordings are housed in the Smithsonian Institution. As its core principals state, StoryCorps treats participants, no matter their background, with dignity, care and respect. Red River Radio listeners enjoy the segments, just before my modest pieces air on Friday mornings on Red River Radio (redriverradio.org, or 89.9 FM in the Longview area, 88.9 in the Lufkin-Nacogdoches area. As a journalist for more...

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Nosebleed Leads to Emergency Landing

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — The palm trees outside the emergency room were well-lit by the parking lot lights at 1:30 a.m., while an orange harvest half-moon hung over the downtown skyline. I was waiting for a cab in the sultry Florida night. The airliner on which I had been a passenger had long left the tarmac, after it touched down to discharge me more than three hours earlier. Some of its passengers likely missed their connections thanks to me. Everyone went without refreshments. I feel badly about that, but it could not be helped. A massive nosebleed erupted about an hour into the flight. I stayed...

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