2017

I’ll Never Wear a Speedo Again

Summer officially arrived this week. Finally, our swimming pool is at a perfect temperature. Every afternoon after work, I jump in to swim a couple of laps. This started about a month ago, when the water was Barton Springs Pool cold, which meant I jumped toward the ladder so I could extricate myself quickly. Now the water is just right. By July, likely it will be bathtub lukewarm. I will continue to swim, determined to, if not get my money’s worth, at least get some physical compensation for the amount of money this pools costs to maintain. Buying a house with a swimming pool was the second-happiest...

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Jumping On A Box Not Just For Kids

In a few months I will turn 62, which means I will be eligible to draw Social Security. I have no idea how that happened so quickly — time is whooshing by at warp speed. I don’t plan to begin receiving a monthly check then, since it would be greatly reduced. Barring unforeseen financial reversals, I plan to wait until I can receive the full take — at 66 years, two months. And, of course, if I croak I will not be receiving a check, but my Beautiful Mystery Companion will until she turns 65. I find all this faintly ridiculous. I take note of this age milestone because a few days ago I achieved...

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Shimmering Bicycles Below Austin’s Skyline

AUSTIN — Walking the Lady Bird Lake Trail while in ATX is a required activity, and we invariably stay at a hotel near the trail for easy access. My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I enjoy studying the wide variety of dogs loping along with their owners. “Look, there’s a Great Pyrenees!” “Did you see that sweet beagle?” And so it goes. The snippets of conversation one hears can be fascinating as well: folks talking about failing relationships, their bosses, a party last night. I once had the notion to set up a parabolic microphone along the trail and record these snatches and turn them...

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Powerless, Sort Of, For Three Days

I am writing this on my laptop on the deck, which vibrates gently because of the small generator that has been running nearly nonstop for three days. The only time the generator is not running is when it runs out of gas. When the generator is not running, we have no electricity. One of the fiercest storms I can recall since returning to Longview more than nine years ago swept through Sunday afternoon, just 30 minutes after my oldest daughter, Kasey, arrived for a visit from Florida. The power went out at the peak of the storm, and we sat in twilight behind the large picture windows in the living...

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A Beloved Troubadour Dies

I was born here and I'll die here against my will I know it looks like I'm moving but I'm standing still Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from Don't even hear the murmur of a prayer It's not dark yet, but it's getting there — “Not Dark Yet,” Sung by Jimmy LaFave, Written by Bob Dylan

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On Satire and Fake News

I started reading fake news as a kid, saving the money I earned shoveling snow to buy Mad magazine with its “What Me, Worry?” mascot Alfred E. Neuman. His gap-toothed clueless smile, freckled nose and jug ears in various personas graced most every cover. Inside, the content included the type of satire that appealed to kids who had a bit of knowledge of current affairs. From there, I graduated to National Lampoon, which contained more sophisticated satire, some of which was indisputably tasteless. The magazine had to apologize for a fake Volkswagen Beetle ad, which played off a real ad claiming...

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Troop 201 Turns 100

We gathered on the grounds of the venerable Boy Scout cabin of Troop 201, at Teague Park in Longview on a gorgeous cool Saturday in early May. Several hundred former Scouts and supporters milled about, preparing to celebrate the troop’s centennial and open a time capsule buried 50 years ago. As we stood in line to fill up on Bodacious Barbecue and the trimmings, vaguely familiar faces walked by, most wearing name tags. These were men with whom I went camping, on hikes, and spent weeks at Camp Pirtle, run back then by my grandfather. He was field director for the East Texas Area Council. Practically...

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Some Mystery Plants in Our Garden

As I previously mentioned, for the first time in nearly three decades I have planted a vegetable garden on a piece of land behind where I hold my day job. Unlike at our house, this garden gets great sunshine, has a water sprinkler easily accessible and was already tilled by another charity next door that has a much larger plot. Its director generously gave me a 12-foot by 12-foot piece. So on a Sunday afternoon in early April, when it was obvious freezing weather would not return, I headed to the Big Box Store to purchase vegetables. I bought two varieties of tomatoes — Best Boy and cherry...

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Painting Signs Once Was a Craft

I designed and ordered a metal sign this week for Thrive360, the nonprofit at which I spend most days. It is for a building on our campus that will house our after-school program in the fall. Using Adobe InDesign, I created the sign using the same proportions of the sign being replaced. Then I emailed it for a quote and proof to a local sign company. The fellow there will use his computer to create decals to be placed upon a piece of aluminum. Likely, the sign can be completed in an hour or less. My dad, if he were alive, would be shaking his head. He was a sign painter for 30 years, until...

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It is Indeed a Taxing Process

Tax Day recently passed. I beat the deadline by a couple weeks. That is because I had money coming back. If I had owed Uncle Sam additional taxes, our return would have gone in on April 18. No sense giving the government part of our hard-earned dough any sooner than necessary. One news story says one-third of taxpayers — 50 million — file on the last day. Except for a couple of years back in the late 1970s — when I didn’t know better and paid someone to do returns that were laughably simple to fill out — I have always filled out my own returns. Over the years, the tax code has gotten...

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