2020

Reading “The Plague” during a pandemic

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. — Psalm 91: 1-6 A friend of more...

Read more...

Street Sweepers And Paying It Forward

As I sat in my study the other day in front of the computer screen, reading a digitized issue of the San Augustine Red-Lander from 1841, I heard a loud vehicle outside. At first I thought it was a UPS or FedEx truck. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac, so they pass by often these days making their rounds, as more of us try to stay out of stores and order online. I looked out the window and saw it wasn’t a delivery truck but rather the city’s street sweeper, making its rounds, picking up the oak clusters and pine tree noodles that carpet the pavement. The driver made a couple of rounds and soon...

Read more...

Notes While Sheltering in Place

Scenes from East Texas during the pandemic: • I reluctantly took advantage of the old folks’ early-bird special and showed up at Walmart at 6 a.m. Tuesday with a sanitizing wipe clutched in hand. My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I have sheltered in place for more than a week now. We needed some items, and the crowd is much thinner at that hour. Not empty, though. Older folks walked the aisles, some in scooters, some in masks and gloves — a few with all three. We all kept our social distance even if it meant making detours and awkward dances past the meat counters. Many of the shelves...

Read more...

Anup: A Gentle, Talented Soul Passes Away

In the midst of this pandemic that has upended all of our lives, many folks in Longview and East Texas mourned the passing of an extraordinary man who died too young and touched so many people — from the homeless to the wealthy, the well-connected to the disconnected. Anup Bandhari died on March 10, just days after he turned 40, and six months after he went into cardiac arrest and suffered an irreversible brain injury. So many lives were touched by this gentle, generous soul during his 20 years in East Texas. Anup came to America from Nepal in 2000 to study fine art, photography and the culinary...

Read more...

Sam Malone Sparked Fascination With Texas History

Recently, my Beautiful Mystery Companion asked about the time period when Texas was an independent nation – 1836 to 1845. I started spouting off key dates from memory: February 23, 1836: The siege of the Alamo begins. March 2, 1836: Texas declares independence from Mexico April 21, 1836: Texas defeats Mexican forces and captures Gen. Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto. And so forth. My BMC asked, “How do you know all these dates without looking them up?” I shrugged. Beats me; I just do. There are far more useful mental skills worth possessing that I lack, too many to enumerate...

Read more...

Morse Code: What Hath God Wrought?

I recently watched The Spy, a Netflix show set in Syria and Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. Actor Sacha Baron Cohen is embedded in Syria. Inside his apartment, he hunches over the telegraph key, tapping out messages in Morse Code that are eagerly received and transcribed at the other end. The transcribed message is quickly transported to his handlers in Israel. I’m a little hazy on the details of the series beyond that. Television shows tend to run together in my memory. So do novels. My faulty fiction memory baffles my Beautiful Mystery Companion since my recollection of historical...

Read more...

A Mysterious Bookstore

FORT WORTH – On a windy, warm winter Sunday we explored downtown Cowtown, from Sundance Square to the various stores filled with visitors, the fountain ringed with children. We turned a corner onto Throckmorton Street. A red neon sign glowed in a storefront window: BOOKS. Another sign at the front door proclaimed: Yes, We’re Open. A faded neon sign hung from the building’s corner: Barber’s Book Store: Est. 1925. Of course, we had to enter. Barber’s Book Store is said to be the oldest bookstore in the state. It has been in its current location since 1955. At 95 years old, that...

Read more...

Break Shot: Sweet Dreams & Flying Machines

My public career as a singer/musician was mercifully short. I worked at Shakey’s Pizza in high school after the Longview newspaper fired me in 1971 from my part-time photographer job, for wearing a “Sissy Farenthold for Governor” T-shirt to a press conference for her rival — and eventual winner — Dolph Briscoe. The follies of youth. I would have fired me as well. Shakey’s was an early adopter of the karaoke movement before it was even called that. The lyrics to standbys such as By The Sea were projected on a screen, while a player piano plinked the tune. Occasionally, members of the Axberg...

Read more...

You, Too, Can Ran For President — For $1,000

I didn’t make it to the New Hampshire primary after all. Four years ago, I wrote a piece vowing to visit my native state during the 2020 primary, which took place Tuesday. But life and work conspired to make that an impossibility. Maybe in 2024… After the debacle in the Iowa caucus, the first-in-the-nation primary drew plenty of interest. There is still no clear front-runner in the still-crowded race to nominate a Democratic candidate to face Trump. Former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign appears to be on life support. New Hampshire’s electorate is famously unpredictable, overwhelmingly...

Read more...

Telemarketers Are Chiming In My Ears

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I acquired a pair of hearing aids to kick off the new year, which is passing far too quickly for my tastes. Where in the heck did January slip off to? Already, the tulip trees up the street are blooming, an early sign of spring’s arrival. Before we know it, our six-month season of summer will be upon us. The hearing aids are plugged into my ears all the time, except when I’m working out, showering or sleeping. They’re tiny and largely concealed by my unruly hair. I have used this as an excuse to avoid going to the barber. These devices are Bluetooth capable,...

Read more...