2011

Please, Do Not Send in The Clowns

I began reading Stephen King’s latest novel, “11/22/63” over Christmas break, having requested and received it as a gift from Abbie, my youngest daughter. I have not read anything by King in years after a phase in the 1990s plowing through “The Stand,” “It” and others in short order — often scaring myself past sleeping soundly. King belongs to the genre of writing that a colleague terms “booger tales.” I don’t know where my coworker came up with the phrase, which refers to books or movies designed to scare the bejeebers out of the reader or viewer. But it stuck. I assiduously...

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Yard-Art Santas and Paperboys

My favorite Christmas card each season doesn’t come from a store. It is a photograph, printed on 4x6 paper, of a yard-art Santa Claus somewhere in East Texas. The photograph is invariably, wonderfully weird. For nearly two decades, by my count, O. Rufus Lovett has been distributing these photographs to his friends and colleagues. Someday I will gather them up from the various boxes where they are stashed and frame them into a single display. Rufus and I have been friends for nearly a quarter-century. We met when I spent a year at Kilgore College as yearbook adviser and college photographer....

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Blessed Rain, And Landmarks on Road Home

I sat in my office this morning and gazed out the window at a rare sight. Rain came down in gentle sheets. The live oak trees across the avenue seemed to be smiling. So was I. For the first time in the six months working on campus, I had to use my oversized comic-strip umbrella to walk from the parking garage to the office. Hours earlier, in the pre-dawn darkness I happily got soaked on my morning walk. Perhaps the drought is over. We can only hope and pray that the experts predicting a second year of cracked earth and barren pastures are wrong. For now, gray skies and a soaking rain are a treasure...

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With Blackbirds on the Wires, He Dances Alone

My commute to work is no longer arduous, for which I’m grateful. However, much of it capably vies with similar stretches in Texas metropolises — for the ugliest urban landscape not yet declared an EPA Superfund site. I will put far North Lamar Boulevard up against any ugly roadway in Texas. Its unrelenting parade of failing strip centers, garish signs, tilting utility poles and potholed parking lots has little to recommend it aesthetically. Pawnshops abut Indian restaurants, which nudge up against auto parts stores, which share a wall with a wig salon, next door to a discoteca. And so forth,...

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Black Fridays and Blue Laws

 “So this is Christmas, and what have you done,” — John Lennon. Indeed. Black Friday recently passed with multiple violent incidents, including a woman pepper-spraying people in order to forge ahead in line to buy a heavily discounted Xbox gaming device. A West Virginia man died after collapsing in a Target. Frenzied shoppers stampeded past the man as he lay on the floor. Elsewhere, folks got in a tussle over $2 waffle makers. Across the country, people began lining up on Monday for openings of big-box retailers with limited offers of big bargains. Spending several days in the elements...

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Thirty Things I’m Thankful For

One of the Facebook diversions floating around lately is “30 Things For Which You Are Thankful.” Being grateful for one’s blessings is critical to happiness, so I am happy to provide my own modest list. Just don’t ask me to join Farmville or any of those other silly FB games. (For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, in this case ignorance is, if not bliss, at least the wiser route.) So here goes. I am thankful for: • My bride of five-and-a-half months, Julie, newest daughter Abbie, and my two “grown” daughters, Kasey and Mere. I am constantly astounded that...

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Old Darkroom Sparks Memories

I visited an old photo darkroom recently. It hasn’t been used in at least a decade, maybe longer. Digital cameras began replacing film in the early 1990s, as newspapers and other print media figured out it was a way to both save money and speed up the process of producing a photograph. At the small daily newspaper where I worked in East Texas, we plunked down $20,000 in 1992 or ’93 for our first Nikon digital camera. A similar model today might cost $500 at most. An entire generation of photographers has arrived, never knowing the thrill of watching a print come to life in a tray of smelly...

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The War Comes Home to Our Family

I met Cody Norris a couple of times at holiday gatherings of my wife’s extended family, most of whom live in Northeast Texas. He was tall and thin, clearly in shape. Cody was my sister-in-law’s nephew who grew up in the Houston area and clearly loved the chance to spend time in the country. For simplicity’s sake he was simply considered him one of the cousins. Cody usually showed up with his dad at the East Texas farm that serves as the outside gathering spot when the weather is tolerable. These throw-downs invariably involve a fish fry, a bonfire if there is even a hint of chill in the air,...

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On Firewood and Fried Catfish

The first fire of the season was exceedingly modest, just one fat log buttressed by a couple of sticks of kindling in my BMC’s fireplace in East Texas, fired up with the natural-gas pipe starter in a quick attempt to warm up the living room before we headed to church. More than anything, it was our announcement that summer had at last been banished, and autumn was finally in the house, a tardy arrival but still welcomed. We have been pining for cool  weather for many months. Who hasn’t of those who survived this Summer From Hades? We spent most of Saturday  trekking through Northeast Texas,...

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It Was a Moving Experience

My move from the City Where All The Houses Look Somewhat Alike (aka the Town With No Downtown) into North Austin is finally complete, about seven weeks after it began. It truly is less trouble to move cross-country than cross-town. One must pack up everything and ensure that it all goes on the big truck when moving a significant distance. Cross-town moves involve, at least for me, a few dozen trips pulling my utility trailer, climaxed by hiring movers to haul the heavy stuff. I probably spent $100 on tolls hauling my stuff down Hwy. 183A. I itemized the other day, during a moment of idleness,...

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