2020

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...

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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...

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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,...

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The Bones of Mickey Mantle’s Old Restaurant

The long-forgotten bones of Mickey Mantle’s Country Cookin’ Restaurant are visible here and there in a building on Highway 80 that is now part of the High Ridge Church campus. Ben Shelton, a church member who is overseeing the renovation and expansion of the building, pointed them out recently during a gray, rainy afternoon. The east side of the building contains single-pane, wood-frame exterior windows from the original restaurant, which opened in December 1968. In a few closets and less-used spaces, the original terrazzo flooring is visible, while a back room likely housed a manager’s office....

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Customer Service, Both Great and Poor

On the same evening, a few days ago, I experienced both excellent customer service and its polar opposite – lousy service based on silly rules. I’m not naming names here, since my aim is to neither denigrate an establishment nor provide a free plug. This is more an exercise in comparing and contrasting two events that occurred with a few hours of each other. When traveling to a large city, all of us have a dizzying array of choices as to where we dine or book a hotel – constrained perhaps by cost or convenience. But even within budgetary constraints, the options are practically endless....

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No More, ‘What’s That You Say?’

There is no advantage to getting older. You don’t get smarter, you don’t get wiser, you don’t get more mellow, you don’t get more kindly; nothing good happens. Your back hurts, you get more indigestion, your eyesight isn’t as good, you need a hearing aid. It’s a bad business getting old, and I would advise you not to do it if you can avoid it. It doesn’t have a romantic quality. — Woody Allen I take issue with some of Woody Allen’s assertions above. There are advantages to getting older, such as the senior discount at the movie theater, and 50-cent coffee at McDonald’s....

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My Reading List for 2019, Courtesy of Goodreads

It’s time for the annual review of books read in the previous year. I use the Goodreads app, which allows one to catalog the books finished, what I’m currently reading, and what is on the to-read list. The social-media app is owned by Amazon, which is well on its way to controlling the world. Like Facebook, one has “friends” on Goodreads, who spy your name on the list and decide to join your online book club. I welcome all but don’t spend much time searching for friends who are on Goodreads. The app’s primary function for me is to replace the handwritten list of books read, which...

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Sounds of Silence Increasingly Rare

If silence was golden, you couldn’t raise a dime. — Mose Allison That line from one of my favorite blues singers, now gone, came to mind the other day while filling up my car. As soon as I swiped my credit card and punched in the billing zip code, a small video screen built into the pump lit up. The Gasoline Pump Celebrity News began broadcasting, with a young woman seated in a television studio breathlessly telling me what famous star was getting a divorce, or getting married, or possibly both. One can’t even buy gasoline with a screen shouting at you. If it’s not celebrity “news,”...

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