Columns

Sugar Sand and Fresh-Caught Bounty

SEASIDE, FLORIDA — The flag in front of the tiny post office in this tourist community is at half-staff. Two days earlier, a student at Santa Fe High School, between Houston and Galveston, killed eight students and two staff members. Once again across this country our flags are lowered, thoughts and prayers offered. I have no answers. Apparently, nobody has a solution because the carnage continues. And the flags drop again to half staff. |———| Seaside is 24 miles east of Destin, where we are staying in a spacious beachside condo generously offered to us by a friend. Seaside is quaint,...

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Spring Cleaning Underway in Earnest

THE DECK — The time had come. Pollen season had finally ended. The deluge of pine peanuts had subsided. The oak trees ceased dropping clusters. The time had come to tackle the massive wooden deck that wraps around the rear and north side of our house. By n ow, I know the drill. This is a four-day process. The deck is 1,800 square feet with long benches and railings all around — a shipload of treated pine that has to be stained every spring. The first spring after we bought the house, I got a bid from a painter. He quoted $3,000 but was nice enough to explain what needed to be done,...

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Life on The Book-Signing Tour, Minor League

For the sixth straight weekend, I’ll be on the road peddling books. On Friday night starting at 7 p.m., I’ll join two other authors at Austin’s Book People, my all-time favorite bookstore. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on by and keep me company. In case you have missed previous shameless attempts at self-promotion, the latest offering is titled, Yours Faithfully, J.A.: The Life and Writings of H.B. Fox, the Circleville Philosopher. It is a biography of one of the funniest writers I have come across. Researching and writing it has been a labor of love. If you can’t make it to Book...

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An Eye For an Eye With the Critters

It started with a startled cat and an inadvertent swipe of a clawed paw. Rosie, our smart but high-strung dog, leaped up on the ottoman on which Tot, one of our two cats, was snoozing. This startled Tot, who is normally both sweet and skittish. Rosie began yelping and whining after Tot swatted her in the eye. No doubt it stung. Rosie immediately sequestered herself on the other side of the house, propped up on a couch pillow . We soon noticed her eye was swollen nearly shut. I called the veterinarian and made an appointment for the next morning. As I got ready the next morning, I noticed...

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My Grammy Was a Fan of Bruno Sammartino

Bruno Sammartino died a few weeks back. His is not exactly a household name anymore, though his death did merit a story in The New York Times. Sammartino died at 82 in Pittsburgh on April 18. His name was well-known in our household in the 1960s, when Bruno was heavyweight champion of the World Wide Wrestling Federation for 11 years in the 1960s and 1970s — a record since unmatched. My maternal grandparents were avid wrestling fans, and we spent many Sunday afternoons watching matches on their color television, which was a novelty among the middle class 50 years ago. I didn’t own a color...

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Shopping for New Bag Proves Daunting

I am on a quest for a new shoulder-style messenger bag. It is not going well. For more than 25 years, I have used a canvas case — what is often called a messenger bag — to tote around a laptop, portfolio, books, pens, an eyeglasses repair kit, thumb drives, copies of the New Yorker and whatever else I needed. I was given the bag at a meeting of Cox editors in the early 1990s. It was sturdy, weathered well and embroidered with “Cox Newspapers” on the front. I had to have the strap repaired a few years ago, and the fellow stitched it up with brown thread for some reason. The bag and strap...

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Book Shifting and Hauling off Shelves at the Library

I have spent a lot of time moving books in my part-time job at the Margaret Estes Library on the LeTourneau University campus. The library is about to undergo a facelift this summer, getting new paint and carpet. That means shifting a bunch of books around to create sections of shelves that can be moved by a machine able to pick up nine sections at a time — but that’s the most. In a few places we had a dozen sections fastened together and three had to be disassembled and hauled off. The evening I took apart and hauled off dozens of metal shelves almost certainly will be my personal record for most...

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Savoring Spring in Texas, Pollen and All

We’re at the peak of azalea season in our neighborhood, which is ablaze in riotous blooms and covered in pollen. It lays a yellow-green carpet on cars, driveways, houses, etc. Past experience has taught me to tamper my obsessive-compulsive instinct to haul out the pressure washer and wash the pollen away — only to discover a fresh coat by the next morning. This time, I will wait until I am certain the trees are finished leafing out, no longer dropping pine peanuts, oak clusters, sweetgum balls and yellow powder before I begin an amphibious assault. The pollen is a small price to pay for the beauty...

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Fifty Years Ago, the World Turned Topsy-Turvy

Fifty years ago, on March 31, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson preempted regular programming on the three network channels to make a startling announcement. Our family gathered around our snowy black-and-white television in Allenstown, N.H., to watch. Nineteen days earlier, Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy had stunned pundits by taking nearly 42 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary against the incumbent president. Johnson “won” the Democratic primary — the first in the nation then and now — with 49.6 percent of the vote. But McCarthy’s unexpectedly strong showing was national...

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Exploring The ‘Grand Canyon of Texas’

PALO DURO CANYON -- The road to the “Grand Canyon of Texas” from nearby Canyon in the Texas Panhandle is straight as a yardstick while the terrain is so flat that the sky stretches for 180 degrees. It is windy on this late winter day as my Beautiful Mystery Companion and I make our way to the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. It is nearly always windy in the Panhandle, especially this time of year. We pay our $10 entrance fee, tape the receipt to the windshield and enter to discover, a few hundred feet down the road, a vastly different terrain. We stop at the Interpretive Center, get out, and walk...

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