Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dreams, Fact or Fiction?

I must admit, I don't put a lot of credence in dreams, but occasionally; I have one that sticks with me and makes me wonder if there was more to it than a nighttime matinee.

Last week I had a curious dream that seemed very real. In it, I was hiking along with my 2 dogs (I only have one dog) when a medium sized brown dog attacked me. It came straight for me, with ears pulled back, teeth bared and the hair standing up on its back. It happened so fast, my 2 dogs did not respond.

I realized immediately it planned to viciously injure me, so reaching down, I grabbed a handful of the fluffy soil I was standing in and threw it straight into the eyes of the attacking dog. I remember doing it twice in rapid succession. This had a straightaway effect, by stopping the dog in its tracks.

I immediately felt satisfaction, having bested the dog using superior strategy and technique, but my victory was short-lived when I looked at the defeated dog and saw it in a helpless state.
Its ears were hanging down and its eyes and muzzle were packed with dirt. It was thoroughly defeated and humbled. My elation turned to guilt and sympathy as I recognized the poor dog was defeated and without my help, destined to fall prey and die.

The last thing I remember in this dream was looking around for a source of water to wash the dirt from the poor things eyes and taking it on as another friend.

What do you think of this dream and do you also have dreams that appear to be out of the ordinary?

I asked this pair of questions on a number of mailing lists and forums and a fellow Baytonian suggested the website www.dreammoods.com . On this site, I read: "To dream that you are being attacked by an animal is a warning to be careful with those around you. Take notice on who you know in your waking life that shares and exhibit the same qualities of the animal that attacked you in your dream."

Other interpretations, suggestions and comments from friends follow.

· I think it says a lot about you as a person. You do what you have to do in order to protect yourself. But, it doesn't mean you are proud of hurting others and still feel compassion for all life. One could draw a connection from this to Joe Horn. (Not that it's what it means to you).

· It sounds like a parable to me. The medium brown dog represents the immigrant element and you are torn between neutralizing the problem with a legal approach and the hurt it might cause those illegal aliens who are just trying to make a living and don't really understand the law of the US. I believe that Jesus uses parables because they reflect the parable nature of our dream life thereby communicating with both the conscious and the unconscious. Just a theory I came up with years ago when I noticed that dreams have a fable like symbolism. Perhaps it is representative of a conflict in your mind period. What it shows is that you are going to solve a problem and then deal with painful fallout later.

· Your two dogs are two people close to you. An outsider threatened your safety. Going into survival mode, you used something to neutralize the threat and attack their weakest area, but you are not sure if the threat is/was real. Now, in hopes of gaining another friend, you feel the need to mend a possible wrong doing on your part.

· Interesting dream, I often have dreams that come true. There have been many instances in my life where I have dreamed about certain events regarding family, or my life and they have come to pass. Some of them are warnings and some of them are good things about the future. I don't believe every dream I dream is a message but I have learned to distinguish the difference. Usually dreams that stick with you and you can't seem to shake it off are usually ones that are significant.

In summation, I have no idea what this dream has to do with reality, if anything, but it was interesting and not the run of the mill "bean" dream, so I thought I would pass it along.


Happy New Year to all in 2008! This year is almost history.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Examining personal beliefs

Last week, in response to my sister's question, "Tell me what you don't believe", I pounded out a rather lengthy list. Here we are, a couple of days before Christmas and if there is one time in the year that I should put a positive foot forward, it's the Christmas season.

I believe that anyone who causes me to examine my beliefs is doing me a favor. Too many times in the past I allowed myself to be swayed by an "expert", only to find out down the line that by doing this, I put my own judgment in neutral.

I believe the average person of any country does not want their government interfering in their lives any more than is absolutely necessary, but want to be free to pursue a happy and meaningful existence, unhindered by over-regulation.

I believe a personal experience with Jesus Christ is something only those who have experienced can fathom. Folks who spend a great deal of energy trying to disprove the existence of God, will most likely come to a place in their life where they call out to him for mercy.

I believe men and women can only enjoy a monogamous relationship if both work at it daily. When both do their part, marriage is heaven on earth. It is a partnership of the most intimate kind and requires daily maintenance and a copious amount of patience.

I believe we as the decision making older generation, need to push for less general education in our schools and more technical vocational options. With three High schools, one of them should turn out students with practical money making trade skills, allowing them to move directly into the work force, or go on to college.

I believe if I were given a chance to go back in time and relive or change something in my past, I would decline the offer. I try to live each day as a learning experience and do my best to not repeat mistakes and wrong choices. I've made a lot of mistakes, but what has happened has happened.

I believe one of the wildest things I've ever heard of was my friend Kester Coleman being tricked into thinking he had won millions of dollars in the Texas Lottery. He was so convinced that he was on his way out of the Plant, when my coworkers finally had to tell him. KC is amongst the chosen few, who know what it feels like to win the lottery.

I believe I saw a little girl looking at Santa Claus at the company Christmas Party and her eyes said it all – there is Santa – right…THERE! By the look of wonder on her face, I was able to return to my own days of innocence.

I believe my sister and brothers are all successful because my strict mother made us pay room and board when we got jobs as teenagers – one third of our bring home pay and this contributed to the welfare of the family. All of us learned a strong work ethic and to this day are gainfully employed or retired. Thanks, Mom! I didn't understand it then, but you were right.

I believe that every person in a position of authority should spend a day as often as necessary, using a shovel in the hot sun. This is to help them remember what real work feels like and what the person on the bottom experiences. Attending countless meetings and calling that "work", makes for a mighty thin soup and I base this observation on personal experience.

I believe that for every policeman, schoolteacher, Boy Scout leader and preacher who does wrong and violates the honor of their profession, there are hundreds of good ones toiling silently and without recognition. It's time we recognized the good ones and restore trust in these fine professional endeavors.

I believe inside every person is the desire to do the right thing. A kind word of encouragement, a favor or a boost, a pat on the back or a helping hand is our gift to them and does more for a person than simply throwing money their way. However, I also believe anything worth having is worth working for.

I believe our community is and will be only as good as we make it. This next year is our chance to make a difference. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sorry, but I don’t believe that.

My wife tells me I am the kind of person who doesn’t go out of their way to make people feel comfortable. I thought I was simply stating what I believe to be logic, but she knows me better than almost anyone else, including moi. At the recent Texas Avenue Christmas parade, the lady in front of me saw our new city manager and commented to a friend that he she heard he wasn’t well liked. I butted in with my 2 cents and stated I liked him because he was a strong leader and Baytown needs a leader with backbone.

She turned and asked who exactly I was and I told her I was Baytown Bert. She said "Oh" and then went on to say she only said what she did because she had read about the city manager on the online forum Baytown Talk and some folks weren’t happy about the police thing and the way the new city manager handled it. My alarmed and shy bride was once again subjected to my aggressive public behavior and this justified her observation.

However, it all ended peacefully and after chatting with her husband, who turned out to be an old friend from my ARCO Chemical days, we turned our attention to the parade. I would like to say his name is Bob Hoskins, but I wouldn’t want to embarrass his beautiful and kind wife.

A couple days ago, my sister Connie, who is an engineer on the Motiva refinery expansion in Port Arthur challenged me to list a few things I don’t believe in, on or about. I responded in my typical fashion of pounding the keyboard until my inspiration dries up, so without further ado, here it is.

-----

I don't believe the Virgin Mary will ever appear on the side of a building. Or in a sandwich, or anywhere and if someone tells me she has, I’ll forever put a question mark on them.

I don't believe in Capitalism without a conscience. I love to sell stuff and give folks a good deal to boot, but I also give a lot of stuff away, especially if I think the person needs a boost. Whenever I find I have more than I can use of anything, I start figuring out ways to give some of it away.

I don't believe in following the crowd, unless it is my decision. I guess I am simply a rebel and I have an innate distrust of almost everything initially. I have found that I am very good company when I go alone.

I don't believe in neglecting pets. I love dogs and I’ll pet cats, if they behave. I talk to dogs and they understand me. They can sense that I am a dog lover. Dogs are pack animals and don’t understand being left alone for long periods of time.

I don't believe in obsessing over sports. Call me unpatriotic and Un-American, but I have better things to do than memorize sports numbers, stats and player history. The whole industry is over-blown and out of control in my opinion.

I don't believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. If I want something, I do the required educational research BEFORE I jump into it and get what I want the first time. I don’t window shop period, so I avoid unnecessary temptation.

I don't believe in being mean to women because they are women. I tend to see all women as ladies until they act otherwise. I do believe in being equally mean to men, women and children when they violate my personal space. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt until they prove their true nature.

I don't believe there is any food that beats bacon for intrinsic flavor. Bacon is the food of the gods and just about enhances anything it touches. I’m wondering when they will make Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla with chocolate-dipped bacon bits.

I don't believe marijuana is the devil drug it’s made out to be. I sincerely think the crackdown on pot has done nothing but facilitate the importation of easier to conceal drugs like cocaine and heroin and the theft of pharmaceuticals, increased violence and inflated street prices. Plus it has filled our prisons and court dockets to the point where violent criminals are released.

I don't believe Hollywood entertainment can beat God's handiwork for personal gratification. The television is a blight that needs to be self-regulated into small doses, if not turned off altogether. Aside from the poor selection of quality programs, the constant bombardment of advertisement for items we don’t need, but have come to desire makes the television a poor substitute for almost anything found in the great outdoors.

I don't believe that I could find a better mate than my wife. My lady compliments my life in every way. When I am harsh, she is gentle. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how good she is for me.

I don't believe in living each day at work, wishing I was somewhere else. Long ago I accepted the simple fact that "work" was not play and I was going to spend a large part of my life at work, so I learned to enjoy myself at work and when it is quitting time, I simply shift gears.

I don't believe we Americans really understand how to live a quality life. Here in America, it is all about money, the accumulation of money and all the stuff a person can buy. The accumulation of vast amounts of worldly possessions supposedly equals happiness and quality of living. We are fed a steady diet of commercials to keep us wanting more until we truly believe the H2 Hummer or the winning of the lottery equals Nirvana. I don’t believe it.

I don't believe looking at dead people in caskets is the best way to remember them. When I do go to a funeral, I do not look at the person in the casket. I don’t want to remember them that way and I’ve asked to be cremated, so folks won’t see the shell I used to live in.

I don't believe the present times compare to the turbulent 60's. I was a teenager beginning in mid-1965 and this country was at war, on the verge of civil collapse, the shooting of political leaders and peace activists, the Communist Red scare and the open embracement of the drug culture. Nope, the 60’s were something I do not believe I want to repeat.

I don't believe a young man can be lonelier than a G.I. stationed far from home at Christmas time. I spent four Christmas’ away from home as an Airman and I can say from experience, it is a sad, sad time.

I don't believe a person can do more to prepare for their future than read books. Books! Give me a book and I will travel back in time, or into the future. I will survive long years as a POW, or be marooned on a desert island. I will tour the world with a rock band, or explore a hidden jungle. And in doing so, I will excite the part of my brain that will help me live a richer life.

I don't believe there is a higher calling than a combat medic. My longtime friend Don Trumps, the son of a Pentecostal Preacher and a man of faith himself, went to Vietnam as a C.O. (Conscientious Objector) combat medic and served his country without carrying a weapon. His stories of personal sacrifice, danger and saving lives in the jungles of Nam under the harshest of circumstances make my trials and tribulations seem silly and self-pitying in comparison.

I don't believe in compromising my income through gambling. For every honest person with a dollar, there appears to be three people scheming to take it away. Is there any rational person who thinks Las Vegas is ran by anyone other than organized crime? I work for every cent I make and have no visions of getting something the easy way.

And last, I don't believe in running over animals on the road if I can safely avoid them. I get no satisfaction by killing a living animal while driving my car. One time I saw four dead raccoons in the road. A mom and 3 babies – all were dead. It saddened me.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Jury Duty – Panel 13 – Part Deux!

As you may recall, last week I answered the honorable request of my host county (Harris) and was assembled with other dignified citizens for a panel of prospective jurors. I humbly submit the conclusion.

"Panel 13 – to your feet"! The flat-topped-coifed Marine-looking bailiff bellowed! I found this quite impressive, especially since the woman was only about five feet tall. I know I was the first to jump to my feet. She assembled us in formation and I am happy to say that I was obviously the only one of panel 13 with military experience. While the others beboppered along - out of step I might add, I marched ramrod straight, hitting the heel down hard and in step with Sgt. Flattop. It was a proud moment for me and I did not allow myself to be distracted. I was marching for justice! An old boot camp cadence slipped into my conscience and I occupied myself with the comforting words "hup toop treep fo, hup toop treep fo"!

Down, down and down we went into the mildewy Houston tunnel system where we passed thousands of less important people. I was this close to yelling "Out of our way! Potential jurors coming through!" but once again my military training took over and I held my tongue. It was a truly righteous act of self-control and dignified to the "enth degree". The righteous feeling returned and I felt my face redden, as I counted... "hup toop treep fo".

We were escorted into the courtroom and I couldn't help but notice the awe which the court reporter, bailiff and a covey of lawyers exhibited at our grand entrance. "It's the potential jurors!" I heard some nobody whisper. Once again I was humbled and yes, I broke into a grin. It was "our moment" and I could not imagine a better place on earth.

Abruptly we were introduced to the lawyer teams and something called "Voir dire". In American speak, this is the process by which prospective jurors are questioned about their backgrounds and potential biases before being invited to sit on a jury.

One of the attorneys looked at our summons cards and addressed my fellow potential juror – the Professor. "Mr. Johnson, how are you this morning"? "Huh? – fine I guess". "Mr. Johnson, what exactly do you do for a living"? "Uh, I drive a port-a-can vacuum truck". ("What tha?" I thought!). "This case also involves a truck driver, Mr. Johnson. Do you think you can be a fair, unbiased and impartial juror"? "Uh, like you mean I can – do what"? "Can you as a juror, give this man a fair trial, even though you also drive a truck"? "Uh, like, uh, yea, I guess". "Thank you – I like this one Judge".

Next, attention was turned to the lady who I had pegged for a NASA astronaut. "Good morning – oops – Good afternoon Ms. Koliganowskioffoven! Did I say that right? What do you do for a living Ma'am"? "Hee hee hee – I am telemarketing instructor for the Billy Mays Television Commercial Institute". "Very good! Ms. Koliganowskioffoven, this case involves a telephone and a possible misuse of said communication device and do you think you can be a fair, unbiased and impartial juror"? "He hee heeeee! Wha"? "Can you, as a juror, give this man a fair trial, even though he might have used a phone for the wrong purposes"? "He hee heeeee! Wha"? "I'll take this one, Judge".

"Mr. Marshall is it? Good morning"! "Good morning counselor, it's a beautiful day". "Mr. Marshall – can I call you Baytown Bert"? I nodded. "Tell us a little about yourself sir"? "I've been a Process Operator for a large Petrochemical Company here on the Gulf Coast for the last 30 years. I also write a weekly column for the Baytown Sun and operate 6 mailing lists and 22 websites. I'm a Vietnam Veteran who was honorably discharged after serving his country. I have been married to the same woman for 30 years and have 2 children who support themselves".

Imagine my confusion as I walked the 14 blocks back to my car.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Harris County Jury Duty – Panel 13!

A few years ago I was invited to be part of the Harris County Court system on Congress Avenue in Houston, as a possible juror candidate! I was obviously (or evidentially) selected for my noticeable integrity, past evidence of sound judgment and proved logic. I still savor the spike of adrenaline (accompanied by a metallic taste in my mouth) I received when I saw the official envelope. Jury duty? Me? Wow! Cool beans!

"They've evidentially heard of me", I shouted to my bride. "I'm among the distinguished," I boasted. I picked up the phone and called my near as the real thing-lawyer brother Bruno. "Well, I've been summoned," I told him "and I'm going to serve – if they will let me"! He coughed a bit and begged off saying he was in the middle of something (much to my chagrin and need for self-important confirmation), but I know how it is and as I hung up I could hear the Simpson's playing in the background.

I felt pretty smug driving into Houston that great and event-filled day and even as I drove up and down close to a hundred different (maybe) streets, looking for the jury building, the feeling of superiority only grew stronger. I didn't mind parking 14 blocks from my destination and cramming a fiver into the money slot of the unattended parking lot – I was on a mission from God, by golly! I was a juror candidate and I felt invincible. I just knew the various bums, hobos, vagabonds and street urchins recognized it too - for I had "the look".

No one was going to mess with me in this big bayou city and I sallied forth from the lot to the jury building with a swagger reminiscent of the old west (or the oil field of Goose Creek and Pelly).

Upon arrival, I was a little bit taken aback by the other characters who filed into the Juror selection room, but my confidence level was hitting triple digits by this time and being an extremely patient man, I hunkered down to await the call to separate myself from this motley bunch of rabble-rousers. The thought crossed my mind (as I settled into a chair with my back to the wall) that it was as if a pirate ship had unloaded in front of the building and if I wasn't a bit of a world traveler and a past scalawag myself, I might have been a tad alarmed in this dubious company. Not to worry though, my time here was fleeting. I was sure of that.

A policeman came in and called us all to attention (I was this close to saluting, but held off, being a man of control and all). In came the judge, all "robed-up", as someone correctly observed) and we took our seats. We were given an official "juror's handbook", which was a one-page sheet of paper with a lot of "if you do this, we will Taser you" wording on in and I chortled with a loud snort (which didn't even get a second look from my neighboring riffraff), because I figured correctly that the sheeple needed a stern warning. "It's how they control them", I thought.

The judge, a portly looking lady of maybe 25 years of age and evidentially a bastion of judicial knowledge, explained in simple language how honored we all were (what tha?) to have answered the summons and we would now be reseated in order, according to our selection number (I have to be honest with you now and say I was a little perturbed at this new development, but being the solid citizen that I am, I obediently stood against the wall to await my new place in the chute).

I bounded into my new temporary seating place with the others of my group and danged if I didn't notice that the 30 or so of us, weren't the cream of the crop after all! Well, let me tell you, I was back in the game! My faith in the system was restored and I looked around and squirmed like a toddler in a toy aisle. "We must be onto something important"! "Let's see", I thought, "doctor, lawyer, chemist, philosopher, professor – she's a NASA astronaut! I'm in sound company"! The bailiff called us panel thirteen – a highly auspicious number and I could feel the open admiration of our fellow pirate-filled panels as they gave us the once over.

"Panel 13 – to your feet"!

(to be continued)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lindsey Z. Wilcox – Still at Sea – Final Part

Once more I sat down with World War II Veteran, Sailor and Baytown hero, Lindsey “Zeb” Wilcox. He is a survivor of the USS Indianapolis tragedy, a local hero of mine and one of the folks legends are made of. Without further ado, I continue his unique story. “880 men died, 317 survived and 79 remain with us and only 7 are Texans”.



“About midnight I was relieved of duty and made my way to the deck to lay down, when there was a tremendous explosion and fire came out of the forward starboard and port passageways, extending half the distance of the quarterdeck. We had been hit by 2 Japanese torpedoes and the ship was listing badly, so I grabbed my life jacket and literally stepped off the side of the ship into the water. I quickly swam about 50 feet away and donned my “Mae West” jacket. The ship, all 615 feet of her, sank within 15 minutes of being hit”.

“I saw a life raft and got inside and those of us who were unhurt began giving up our place in the raft to all the injured sailors and Marines. I found a “floater net” and grabbed onto it to conserve energy. We all voiced concern about our situation and whether an SOS was sent out. The sharks began appearing – they were 6-7 feet long and gray. We had a lot of wounded, folks with broken limbs and burns. We prayed that God would give us strength to get through this ordeal and our lives played out before us, but the most important thing I did was tell myself I was a survivor – then it was okay – I knew I would survive”.

“The first day was not too bad. We had about a 150 men on the 2 life rafts and several floater nets, but day two was a different story. Men started hallucinating, seeing islands and airplanes, giving everyone false hope. Some got into fights thinking the others were the enemy. A few went underwater and claimed they ate chow or drank fresh water. We started losing men and below us we could see sharks everywhere. By day three, men were losing their minds. Drinking salt water does this to people and they would become combative, swim off and sink – then the sharks would get them”.

“But on day four, I was awakened when a couple of sharks pulled me underwater. I came up fighting to face two gray sharks staring at me. Both were 10 to 12 feet in length and about 10 feet away from me. I think they were trying to see if I was dead so they could eat me, but I told them “You don’t bother me and I won’t bother you”. I realized I had floated away from the group and they were nowhere in sight, but about this time, I saw them in the distance on the far side of the sharks, so I swam between the sharks and they followed me all the way to my friends”.

“On day 5, we were finally rescued at 0400, August 3, 1945 by the crew of the USS Bassett. My group was taken to the hospital in Samar, a province in the Philippines for 2 weeks and then sent to Guam. The war was over and we came back to the States. I was honorably discharged when I turned 21, at the Naval Air Station, New Orleans, Louisiana. I moved back to Dequincy to be with my wife and finish my apprenticeship with the railroad. I’ve never regretted my time in the US Navy or my time on the USS Indianapolis – Still at Sea.

Authors note: I asked Mr. Wilcox if he had suffered nightmares and he said “I had many many nightmares and they were always of the two gray sharks staring at me, but I haven’t had one now in over a year”. Mr. Wilcox is 82 years old and God bless his soul.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Making a mark on history

By Barrett Goldsmith Baytown Sun Published November 20, 2007

The Bayland Park boat ramp will soon be the site of a pair of historical markers honoring Baytown’s past, and organizers hope it will be the prelude to a renewed sense of historical appreciation in the community.

The Harris County Historical Commission worked with local resident Bert Marshall and other area history buffs to create a marker honoring the Confederate Naval Works at Goose Creek, a naval shipyard that produced warships during the Civil War. The marker was purchased entirely from a donation by Bayer Material Sciences.

Marshall said he was excited to do the research on the shipyard and make a contribution to Baytown’s historical landscape. The HCHC approached Marshall in March of 2006, and Marshall had already been looking into the history of the shipyard.

“I don’t think people realize there was such an involvement in this area with the Civil War,” Marshall said. “They built the little schooners that could go into shallow waters. Six ships were built right there. Goose Creek has a lot of history, and we’re gradually developing that so people can take pride in the area.”

Brothers Thomas and John Chubb created the Chubbs Shipyard in 1854, and answered the call of duty to convert it into a naval shipping yard. The brothers continued to manufacture ships for the government and private mariners until selling the land in 1869, and it later became part of the Goose Creek oil fields.

The parks department is also planning to relocate the existing marker for the Bayland Orphanage, also at Bayland Park. The school was chartered in 1866 and at one point housed 250 orphans, and the board of trustees included prominent citizens of the day. Before the turn of the 20th Century, however, the school was moved to Houston, then to Bellaire, where it became the Bayland Home for Boys.

Parks director Scott Johnson said the marker’s current location is not in an ideal spot, facing as it does an abandoned parking lot. He and the historical commission believe it will be more prominent next to the shipyard marker near the boat ramp. The signs will likely be placed sometime in the next few weeks, Johnson said.

“Baytown is strategically located with the oil fields and the naval yards, and we’re not far from the San Jacinto battleground,” Johnson said. “A lot of things have happened in our neck of the woods that have been important to Texas. Any historical spot needs to be recognized or else another generation comes and goes and nobody will know what took place.”

The HCHC will host a formal dedication of the site sometime in the spring of 2008, likely March, said commission secretary Trevia Wooster-Beverly. Her middle name is no coincidence, as she is a former resident of the Wooster subdivision in Baytown. A graduate of Lee High School, Beverly said

“I’ve been concerned for a while that there are a number of markers that should be in Baytown,” Beverly said. “Maybe this will be the catalyst for getting people interested in some of those things. This is a phase of the Civil War that happened right here in Baytown, and very few people know about it. There’s a lot of history in this county that has not been told. We’re volunteers, but the pay is good when we see something historical noted.”

More information on the naval shipyard is available at www.ourbaytown.com. Beverly said anyone with additional questions on the orphanage could contact the historical commission at 713-864-6862.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lindsey Z. Wilcox – Still at Sea - Part Two


This week I sat down once again with World War II Veteran and Sailor, Lindsey “Zeb” Wilcox. He’s a survivor of the USS Indianapolis tragedy, a true war hero of the best kind and one of the folks legends are made of. Without further ado, I will continue his unique story. 880 men died, 317 survived and 79 remain with us.

“The railroad work taught me skills early on and I never went without a job. I bid on an opening in my hometown of Dequincy, Louisiana in 1941 as a Roundhouse Clerk, which was the fellow that worked on the turnaround or roundtable for locomotives, but lost it to another fellow who was also promised the job. I was taken in by the Master Machinist even though I had no family connections and was accepted for 65 cents an hour pay. I entered the program in 1941 and was able to complete it after the war in 1948”.

“After 6 months, I was given a raise of a half cent an hour. Back then I paid $5 per month full hospital insurance too. I worked 6 days/48 hours a week and learned the trade at work and through lessons I received in the mail. One day in the shop, we heard the whistle blow, which meant to stop work. The tool room had a radio and we heard President Roosevelt talking about Pearl Harbor and just like that, we were at war. We were shocked a bit, but after a minute, we went back to work. We thought it wouldn’t affect us and it was Washington’s business”.

“We were aware of trouble in the Far East and Europe, but didn’t think much about it, but times in America changed anyway and when I turned 17, I enlisted in the US Navy in New Orleans on what was called a “Kiddie Cruise”. At that time, if you were under 18, your initial enlistment could only last until you reached 21 years of age. I boarded a train for San Diego and after 5 long days in a seat-only car, locked at both ends to prevent us from wandering around, we brand new sailors arrived for boot camp in the US Navy. I was in group 42-692 and for 8 long weeks we ate awful food and faced real mean drill instructors”.

“My instructors were all first class teachers though and we learned our jobs well. From there I went to trade school in San Francisco Bay at the Samuel Gompers building where I learned to be a Tool and Die maker. While in San Francisco we had Life Saving classes where we jumped off a 20 foot platform into the water wearing our “Mae West” life preservers, which had a 72 hour buoyancy lifespan. I didn’t think we would ever need that training and anyway, I could swim like a fish, from back when I was first thrown in over my head by my first cousin, Louise Ross. I got where I could swim across Lake Worth up in Ft. Worth, while Louise rowed a boat beside me”.

“I was finally assigned to the USS Indianapolis. I was 18 and a Fireman 1st class, but I got sick with what was called “cat fever”, which was nothing but being ran down and the standard treatment was 2 aspirin. They wouldn’t let me board ship and it sailed, so they sent me by train to Bremerton, Washington. Another locked train car full of sailors with no sleeping quarters and a long trip. We played cards and told a lot of jokes and stories to pass the time and we had meal tickets so we could eat. My job in Bremerton was fire-watch on old cargo ships being converted to small Carriers. I had a key and I walked all over the ship, putting the key in clocks to show I was checking things”.

“About 3 weeks into this, I was sent up to Dutch Harbor, in Unalaska, Alaska to an old encampment the Army built called “tent city” and it was on top of a mountain, up a road about 5 miles. You could see the tops of the clouds up there and we 80 or so sailors split into 2 work groups and went down the mountain to do general work while we waited for our ship to arrive. If you missed the truck returning to camp, you had to walk up, so we didn’t miss it. Next, we were sent to Kiska. Kiska is an island in the Rat Islands group of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska – no mans land. You could see Russia from there”.

“American P-38’s and P-51 Mustangs landed on corrugated steel runways there, as the whole island was nothing but volcanic ash. I worked food service for about a week and then the USS Indianapolis arrived and I shipped out for – San Francisco! Our great Portland-class heavy cruiser saw many engagements over the next 2 years and carried the first atomic bomb to be used in combat to Tinian Island on July 26, 1945. We were in the Philippine Sea when attacked at 00:14 on July 30, 1945 by a Japanese submarine, (but that story will have to wait until next week).

Next: Ship sinks and we are afloat…with sharks everywhere.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lindsey Z. Wilcox – Still at Sea


This week I sat down with World War II Veteran and Sailor, Lindsey “Zeb” Wilcox and I must say he is bright-eyed and full of enthusiasm. He’s a striking-looking man with wide shoulders and I reckon he was no one to truck with, back in the day. As a survivor of the USS Indianapolis tragedy, he’s certainly earned his place in history and the many books written about the sad event. In short, he’s a true war hero of the best kind and one of the folks legends are made of. He’s made of the fiber Baytonians love to brag about and he represents all that is good about our city, state and country.

Today’s article will be part one of three or more parts chronicling his life and the four hellish days he and his fellow Sailors and Marines endured, floating in the Philippine Sea after Japanese Submarine I-58 hit their Heavy Cruiser with 2 “fish” or torpedoes. The sinking of his ship is noted as “the worst single at-sea loss of life in the history of the U.S. Navy” and he lived through it all to tell us his story.

The truth of the USS Indianapolis account was relatively unknown and kept mum until 1974 when the movie “Jaws” brought it to the public eye and this event, according to Mr. Wilcox allowed the survivors a chance to reunite and bring a sort of healing to their ranks. His memory is crystal clear and he is a walking encyclopedia of events, not to mention he is a thoroughly delightful man.

The USS Indianapolis, after many engagements, was dispatched “at high speed to Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands, carrying the component parts and uranium projectile of the atomic bomb "Little Boy" which was soon to be dropped on Hiroshima”, and delivered successfully, setting US Navy speed records.

On July 30, 1945, while cruising at 17 knots towards Leyte, Philippines, the USS Indianapolis Heavy Cruiser, designated CA-35 and the flagship of Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance commanding the U.S. 5th Fleet, was sunk by two Japanese torpedoes, in less than 12 minutes. Two SOS signals were sent out, but through a tragic series of miscommunication, no one was aware of the sinking, or came immediately to their rescue.

So, that is the background of the ship and the war which made him a hero and now onto his story. “I was born in Dequincy, Louisiana. I was 16 when I graduated from Dequincy high school, which had only 11 grades at the time. The draft was in full effect as this was 1941 and some of my classmates, who were 19 and 20, were drafted even though they were in school. We knew about trouble in Europe and the Philippines, but we really didn’t think it would involve our country”.

“I got a job in Baytown, Texas, while visiting my aunt, working for the Missouri Pacific railroad off of Harbor Street at the old depot. My job was a porter/trucker, which was sort of like a handyman/janitor and a freight man. I did a lot of cleaning work and I remember one particular day, we iced-down fish in a barrel for transport to a far away place”.

“At times, we would see as many as 50 Interurban electric cars a day on their circuit runs and I would ride a car to work and back to my aunt’s house, next to the Trophy barbershop. I remember from her house to SH-146, Texas Avenue was a gravel road. I was 16 and since all young people were working jobs, I was as secure as anyone. My folks didn’t worry; I was on my own”.

“About this time, I was bumped out of my union job by someone with more seniority and I bid on a job down close to Baton Rouge, a place on the Mississippi River called Anchorage. My job there was a Yard Clerk and since I didn’t know anyone, I stayed at a place called “the Beanery”, which offered room and board for $1.50 per day. My job was to check every RR car to make sure it had a seal on the door and since a giant RR switch yard is a scary place at night with hobos and all, sometimes it was a bit of a challenge. All I was given was a flashlight. If we caught a hobo, we would turn them over to the RR “Dicks” or detectives and we did catch a few”.

“The Beanery was a lively place and when we slept, the RR tracks were almost within arms length and when a train came through, it shook you almost senseless. The food was good though and later that place became a factory of sorts. They also processed sugar cane in the area. It was very loud there”.

“In Anchorage, there was a giant switch yard and RR cars would be ferried across the Mississippi River on a giant paddle wheel boat with two train-tracks laid on the deck. It would hold about 16 cars and since the river rose and fell with the tides, there was a pontoon bridge set up to hoist or lower train cars onto the paddle wheel. It was a sight to see. There were 4 or 5 old WWI Russian Steam engines set up with teams of men to operate them and they would move cars onto the boat for crossing. They were expert”.

Next: Transferring to Dequincy and entering the US Navy.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Little Stupidity Goes a Long Way

“Stupid people should seek out other stupid people and restrict their communication to those individuals”. I first became aware of this bit of advice a number of years ago and regrettably, I get daily reinforcements of its simple wisdom. I don’t think it should become law though, but if somehow the message could get out, it sure would make conversation a lot easier for those of us who have taken the time to get an education and learn social graces.

In my formative years, my Dad, who was and is a great man in my eyes gave me continuous instruction concerning this very subject and unless he’s mellowed considerably without my knowledge, will not tolerate stupidity in any form.

So, what exactly is stupidity, especially in the context of my initial quote? Stupidity implies that the attributed party is not mentally retarded but rather is willfully ignorant and/or unintelligent, and displays poor use of judgment or insensitivity to nuances.

Being stupid does not mean a person has a low I.Q., or is mentally challenged in any way, as opposed to being an imbecile, a moron, or an idiot; terms used of old to denote levels of mental dementia. Sadly, these terms have lost their original meaning and are used carelessly in common conversation and truthfully, have lost all meaning. Folks will call someone an idiot for some reason and it means absolutely nothing. “George Bush is an idiot”. “My teacher is an idiot”. “That idiot kid of mine”! “My boss is an idiot”!

What stupid verbal garbage and total waste of audio bandwidth. An idiot is traditionally defined as the severest form of retardation, so is that what they are trying to communicate – I think not. The word stupid is a much better fit.

Stupid people reveal themselves by asserting uninformed strong opinions. They broadcast their stupidity by refusing to become educated on real facts and social graces. They go even further by publishing stupid and ignorant statements on public forums and get angry if anyone questions their “facts”. Their opinions and biased remarks are the result of inbred and rebellious anti-social tendencies and most of the time lack common courtesies necessary for social interaction. They charge in, where a reasonable and educated person would fear to tread.

They spew nonsense into conversation and social exchanges with crude insulting remarks, as if everyone is privy to their misinformation and in agreement, not having a clue that the group gets the impression their words and thoughts are uncouth and uncivilized. Many times they reveal themselves as stupid by delighting in base and vulgar talk, as if everyone were equally amused by its decadence. They pose questions which have no solution and demand an answer.

Unfortunately, those of us who read and post responses on the online local forums come in close contact with these stupid people every day. They have no sense of right or wrong, or social grace. An example is someone posts the loss of a loved one and the stupid poster replies that they were trashy and needed to die anyway. Fully half of the Forum agrees the person who died had their share of problems, but only the socially challenged stupid poster would ever voice it.

Our society has a way of dealing with people who regularly vomit caustic social intercourse – we ostracize and label them…and avoid them. The online Forums and Boards, as they are called, offer these stupid people a clown’s mask by hiding their identity. No one knows who they really are, so the stupid anti-social person feels free to insult anything and everything with impunity.

I am all for protecting the identity of honest posters by allowing anonymous log-in monikers, as it encourages the free exchange of information, but like all such liberties we enjoy, someone is going misuse it and this brings up another great quote:

“Freedom of speech might better serve the welfare of its citizenry if restricted to those individuals who understand and adhere to its limits”.

That last quote, like the first, is mine and I officially enter them, tongue planted firmly in my cheek, for your consideration. Can we get them added to a list of rules somewhere? It sure would make conversation (conversating in today’s vernacular) and the exchange of ideas a lot more pleasant.

The sad sad sad reality is the very people I am writing about, for the most part, are not reading this column. They couldn’t care less, so they will continue on, as before, spreading worthless, senseless and hurtful tripe; their paths strewn with victims and verbal litter.

My younger brother, T.J. Bustem once told me something I will never forget and it was after I complained about something hurtful I had read in an online forum. “Don’t waste your time on stupid people”.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Alive and Kicking She Is: Ms. Myrtle McDaniel


It was my pleasure recently to spend an hour or so with long time area resident Myrtle McDaniel. We sat outside Green Acres of Baytown Nursing Home on Beaumont Street and enjoyed the warm sunshine, cool temperatures and low humidity chatting like old friends.

Ms. McDaniel is 88 years young and came to Baytown when she was just a child. Her father retired from Humble Oil after 44 years service. Her mind is sharp as a tack and we talked about old times, laughing like two little kids.

For the last many years, McNair has been her home and we both knew Tyree White, now passed on. “Tyree was a BBQ cooking fool” I said and she laughed and said he sure was. While we chatted, her in her wheelchair and me on the large oversized rocker, everyone who passed by had a kind word for her and she a “Hey, baby”! I asked if she knew of Granny Adcock out in Highlands and of course, she knew who she is. Granny, like Ms. Myrtle are local treasures.

She told me this has been her home area all her life and she loves the area. She told me she knows so many people by “face”, but she can’t keep track of their names “but I know their faces alrighty”.

She has a son in Houston who comes often and takes her with him for a visit. She loves baseball and basketball, but “football gives me the shakes. It just looks like they are tryin’ to hurt each other”.

I pulled out a partially opened package of sunflower seeds and asked if she minded if I ate some while I waited for my bride to visit her mother, “Ms. Verna”, as the staff know her and Ms. McDaniel, said “No, it’s alright. I’m chewin’ backer”. Sure enough, she pulled out a box of Prince Albert pipe tobacco and showed it to me. I, being an old ex-tobacco fiend from way back (and quite the brown leaf brand expert) commented that Prince Albert was pipe tobacco, not chewing tobacco.

She said it was and she acquired a taste for it when she was only nine. “Backer” was something she just took a hankering to and she said she’s never had a bit of trouble (or worms) since day one. Her Dad was a Chesterfield cigarette smoker and had a nasty cough, but her Mom chewed the “backer” and was just fine.

I told her I began my nefarious romance with the brown leaf when I was seven and we shared a good laugh. She’s a thoroughly delightful soul and said at her age; folks ought to realize that a few “little old” vices shouldn’t be looked down on. Take for instance the fact that there are few combinations in life as good as a baseball game with your friends and family and some “backer and beer – or what I call B and B”. She still enjoys an occasional can of Budweiser. “Not no Bud-Light, or any of that stuff – the real thing”.

“Now don’t get me wrong, I chew a lot of gum and even sunflower seeds, so I don’t overdo the Prince Albert”. At this time, I gave her my unopened bag of sunflower seeds.

I’m looking forward to our next visit. With her popularity, I might have to take a number.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Full/Self-Service and “Consume-while-Shopping”

Is there a store in Baytown that has more checkers working, than Food Town on North Main? High five to the manager of this store for "getting it"! Customer service will draw customers every time, but large business owners time and time again neglect the customer by offering self-service “fast” lanes.

Food Town on North Main usually has checkers standing in front of the line waiting on customers. And get this – they are friendly! Compare this to Wal-Mart or either Kroger location and it's easy to see why I shop at this particular Food Town.

I don't want to scan my own groceries while a cashier watches either. I don’t care if this is the wave of the future. I like the old way. I’ve had the obviously rebellious thought on more than one occasion of sending a bill to Kroger’s or Wal-Mart for my services, even if it would only pay minimum wages and no employee benefits.

How in the world is scanning my own groceries an upgrade in customer service? The conventional wisdom is it allows the store to pay less money to employees and pass that savings on to the customer. Right – and that email from Nigeria about winning the Lotto is real too. I don’t believe or trust either one.

We citizens should take a look at the self-serve gas stations as an example. It’s downright difficult to find a station with an attendant. Here you are in a suit or business attire and you’re pumping gas into your car, grit, smell and all. Hooray for self-service! Pass the hand-cleaner please! What? No hand-cleaner either?

Back at the
Food Town store on North Main, I was talking to a checker/cashier – a friendly lady of about fifty or so. We’ve exchanged pleasantries many times and I asked her if I should lift the bottled water out of my cart like the sign says: “All items must be taken from the cart”. She said no, she had the number memorized. She told me this rule was put in place to offset theft.
She went on to tell me how people will hide stuff in the lower portion of the cart and do their dead-level best to distract her and other checkers into missing it. Silly me, I thought that is stealing, but I guess some people do not see it that way for some dishonest reason. Her real pet peeve is what I am going to call “consume-while-shopping”. Whole families walk through the store mooching, munching and chomping on eatables while they slowly browse the store, according to this lady.

By the time they finally arrive at the cash register, the family of criminal grazers is well-sated and the store is littered with empty bags, boxes and fruit skins/pits. Many times a child will still have the empty food wrapper in their grubby little mitts and on more than one occasion, the parent has asked the cashier to toss the empty container in their trash can. My cashier told me she loves “popping” them, by scanning the package or counting the banana skins after they have consumed the contents, much to their surprise.

Honest shoppers occasionally will nibble, or let their children nibble on Animal Crackers, or sip a Coke while shopping, but they make sure the item is scanned and this has traditionally been acceptable behavior. If it keeps them in the store longer and they buy more items, I suspect Store Managers do not mind at all.

I’ve seen this dishonest “consume-while-shopping” phenomenon with my own two fuzzy eyeballs and I’ve noticed half-empty containers on shelves around the store. In my blissfully honest state of consumer ignorance, I presumed it was one of the late-night stocker’s snack fest, accidentally left behind, due to graveyard stupor. I now realize it was left by a thief - a child thief, learning from their parent-thief, or a mature parent thief, who has no concept of true honesty.

This parent-thief is perpetuating dishonest behavior by allowing their children to eat as they shop, consuming goods without eventually paying for them. They might as well be teaching their kids to hide the food in their pockets and walk out of the store.

This is simply shop-lifting via the stomach and let’s be totally honest here; it is condoned by some parents, thus giving it wholesale-approval. Another striking example of dishonest aberrational behavior is changing a baby’s diaper in the store, using available stock and yes, this happens also, as crazy as it sounds. If the Store Manager wants to save money, instead of offering self-serve lines, crack down on “consume-while-shopping” thieves instead.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep shopping at the
Food Town on North Main and pay for everything I decide to put in the basket. I just hope the idea of “consuming” toilet paper never becomes popular with these thief consumers.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dedicated to Those Who Serve

This Thursday, October 25th, my son, Sgt. Nick Marshall will be honorably discharged from the United States Army after five and a half years of continuous and honorable duty. It’s been a long haul for him and all those who love and support our son.

He has represented his Country, Baytown, his family and his friends well. He is every parent’s son or daughter, who left home with little real direction, but comes home experienced, mature and full of positive goals.

Like his father and both grandfathers and great grandfathers before him, aunts, uncles and cousins, Nick has endured long lonely extended periods away from the comforts of civilization as we know it. He’s been hot, cold, dirty, exhausted, mad, laughed uncontrollably, hungry, sleepy, determined and has shared the camaraderie only G.I.’s experience when war rages around them.

My Dad rode a motorcycle through the dirt and garbage-strewn streets of Egypt, throwing handfuls of small coins to the begging children of post-WWII Cairo, as an occupation forces Sailor. He admonished me, as a new USAF Airman to walk past the first bar I came to and see the country instead, which I did. He has been all over the world through his tour in the U.S. Navy and came home a productive citizen, to raise a family.

During the Vietnam War, I hung from the side of an over-crowded bus as it sped helter-skelter through the crowded roads around Takhli, Thailand; one foot on the door step and one foot hanging out in open space. The only thing between me and the ditch was one hand on an open window and bit of daring gusto. I was living large.

Nick drove or rode seventy long and dangerous missions through the IED-laden roads of the Sunni Triangle, covered in bone-tingling sweat, adrenaline, Kevlar, Copenhagen snuff and Redbull energy drinks…and suffered wounds from one of many explosions that blew hot fire and smoke on his vehicle (I later learned).

He, like so many brave and selfless soldiers and Marines, put their Country ahead of their own goals and faced the dangers inherent in that calling.

Our stories are just a handful of what millions of American men and women have endured and experienced over our Country’s short history. The military has been the platform for adventure and escape, new beginnings and sadly, tragedy and grief. For my Dad, I and so many others, the military afforded us a lifetime of great memories and adventure, mixed in with the discomforts. For Nick and others who experienced combat, maybe some good will perchance come of it and if the memories of the ugliness of war resurface, hopefully they will come to terms with it.

I especially pray for the family and friends of PFC Wesley Riggs and others who lost loved ones to the horrors of war. Their memories of the military experience are forever overshadowed with the loss of their loved ones. Their loved ones did not die in vain.

My son, like so many other young men and women who join the Armed Services, has grown up. His five and a half years of extreme living will benefit him in the game of life, in ways he has yet to realize. The year he spent in South Korea with its ice cold winters and drab weather will all be worth it later in life, as he exhibits patience beyond what is normal for his peer group. He told me one time that Korea was so bad that “even the Koreans are trying to leave”.

When someone on college campus complains of how this isn’t what they deserve, Nick can look back at the more than 600 hours of night escort duty he pulled in the deserts of Kuwait and chuckle.

The two bitter winters I spent in central Montana, walking the half mile to work each morning, because all the cars were too frozen to start, have helped me to shrug off minor discomforts in later life. The tropical heat and voracious insects of Central Thailand have hardened me against “little” bugs we have in Texas and our heat? It’s not bad at all, trust me.

The extreme poverty my Dad experienced first hand in the Mediterranean region after World War Two, have served him well over his life, as he put simple living ahead of gathering worldly goods. He always took his family to see nature, through hiking, fishing and camping, instead of man-made recreation. I didn’t understand it as a kid, but as an adult I realized what treasures we experienced instead of the pre-canned fodder other kids relate to.

So, if that son or daughter suddenly makes up their mind to forgo college and enlist, hope and pray for them – they might just be on a road to maturity that is the best life can offer.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

“Live like a King – Dine like a Pauper”

I read on CNN's web site that “Foreclosure filings across the U.S. nearly doubled last month compared with September 2006, as financially strapped homeowners already behind on mortgage payments defaulted on their loans or came closer to losing their homes to foreclosure”.

Back in 1980, anxious to move upward and provide my bride with a new home, I began the process of buying a house in a brand new subdivision here in Baytown. I sought the advice of my Pastor, the late L. S. Marcus. I laid out what I planned to do and how much it would cost me and he listened patiently. Being a Veteran, I could move in for only a buck. I really wanted the house and I had all but made the decision when I paid him a visit.

Much to my disappointment, he advised against the purchase and told me something I’ve never forgotten and it has been the basis for many a financial decision since. “If you buy this house, you will live like a king, but dine like a pauper”. I sat and stared, pleading with my eyes, but in my heart, I knew this house was not in my future. He was right and we both knew it.

I casually argued that both my wife and I had good jobs and we could make the note. He countered that if something happened to my job, or my wife’s, it would make things very difficult in our household and went on to tell me about how financial strain wrecks more marriages than infidelity.

I told him I was soon to get a raise on my job. He laughed and countered with a truth I hadn’t factored in. We wanted to start a family. Our bills were soon to escalate. He told me we could make the choice now of living a bit lower on the social ladder which would free us to pursue a richer life.

My wife and I wanted what was already becoming a rarity – a traditional American family, where dad brought home the bacon and mom was always there for the kiddos. He knew it and we knew it. A big new home with a big new house note and at this time, the banks had introduced escalating payments, something that turned out to be very bad for the average homeowner.

I left his office in a somber mood. My dream of a big new home was a poor choice and I guess I knew it before I sought counseling. I am forever in debt to Pastor Marcus for telling me what I needed, instead of telling me what I wanted to hear.

My bride and I went on to buy an old wood-frame house on piers in Wooster, instead of that nice new brick house in the shiny new subdivision. We lived and dined well, even when Reaganomics caused a lay-off and a slowdown in chemical plant work. We raised 2 children in that house, made many thousands of dollars in improvements as the money steadily came in through my labors and my bride and I enjoyed the traditional American family we so wanted.

We lived on Ashby Street for 12 years and when the time was right, we moved to another established neighborhood, instead of buying into a brand spanking new one, with a brand new wallet-slapping mortgage. Once again, we made the choice to live a bit below, so we could live a bit above.

It’s the old story of the tortoise and the hare and we are the tortoise. I’ve watched as people spend with abandon, owning just about anything they could possibly purchase and at times, I’ve wondered what the quality of my life would be if I had succumbed to that philosophy. Four-wheel drive ATV’s with $3000 worth of extras, $45,000 cars and trucks, $150,000-200,000 homes, $10,000 whitetail deer leases in South Texas and well, the list is endless.

I wish I had known Granny Adcox of Highlands back then to get her advice, but I bet she would have told me the same thing as Pastor Marcus.

I told a young friend of mine that life is not about how much stuff you can accumulate. He replied “I thought that was the meaning of life, I mean, what else is there”? I’ve learned over time that less is more and that the abundance of worldly goods has little to do with happiness and comfort and it all goes back to that day in the office of Pastor Marcus.

Friday, October 12, 2007

City ratcheting up anti-crime efforts

By Barrett Goldsmith Baytown Sun
Published October 12, 2007

City manager Garry Brumback said law enforcement has ramped up its efforts over the 45 days and that those efforts are paying off in fewer crimes. Brumback said citizens would soon see the difference.

“There has definitely been a change, but perception is a lag indicator,” Brumback said. “We need to get people better information, and we’re working on that.”

Brumback met Wednesday night with organizers of the Baytown Concerned Citizens. Also attending were Mayor Stephen DonCarlos and Police Chief Byron Jones.

The group was formed to help coordinate with the city and neighborhood watch programs to make citizens more aware of crime issues and come up with solutions to make Baytown safer. More than 700 people are now members of BCC’s web site, www.hotpursuit.com, which includes a message board discussing crime and interactive maps showing the location of crimes in the city, as well as a searchable database.

Bert Marshall presented a list of concerns brought up at a meeting at El Toro in July and a subsequent meeting last month at the Baytown Community Center to check on the progress of the Baytown Police Department and the City of Baytown and see how those concerns were being addressed.

One of the major items of discussion was safety at San Jacinto Mall and in shopping areas along Garth Road. Capt. Keith Dougherty, head of patrol for BPD, said patrols have been increased in the area, including specially commissioned four-wheelers and regular patrol cars. Chief Jones said during the holiday shopping season, an officer would be assigned Garth Road duty to monitor the increased traffic.

In addition, Mayor DonCarlos said the city is now working with local businesses to discuss ways to improve security. DonCarlos said the city also said many apartment complexes in the city are improperly lighted, leading to an environment more conducive to crime.

“The city is working on making sure apartment complexes are meeting lighting standards,” DonCarlos said. “And they need a certain amount of security. But I’m not at all convinced that all apartment complexes have adequate lighting.”

Marshall also said people are worried about the city’s enforcement of youth curfew violations. Jones said the city has written 50 tickets for curfew violations this year, though police officers often simply warn violators, and Dougherty said some juveniles are arrested for other charges if they are stopped on suspicion of being in violation.

“Curfew is just another tool we use to make Baytown safer,” Jones said. “It gives us the ability to question a kid who’s out at 2 a.m. if there’s no reason for a 13-year-old to be out that late.”

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Using the Internet to prove what we want to believe

“Ten years ago, renowned Swedish scientist Dr. Celsius Fahrenheit, took a kayak trip to the Antarctic land mass, to study flora and fauna for PETA. The air trip was a bust, as all he found was flotsam- jetsam plants and that, in abundance, as the red tide was in. Bagging up what he could, he was able to trade it to the Inuit Eskimos for Atwater Prairie chickens, which are raised as a cash crop.

“If only we had been in the Arctic, where little Emperor penguin-itos are in abundance we could have harvested a number of the tasty “chickens” for food, but instead, we were forced to subsist on polar bear liver, as it is the only safe part of the polar bear for humans”.

Antarctica is the second largest continent in all three hemispheres and is expanding every year, by about 4000 miles due to Global warming, which Al Gore discovered. Hugo Chavez, of the Bolivian government, owns most of the expanding land mass, and is causing a world-wide outrage, by introducing logging. Mr. Chavez is planning on selling lead-based lumber to North Korea, against international sanctions.

Starbucks beat everyone to the punch by opening up a series of coffee “mosques” in what is now a thriving community of Argentine loggers, known as “Gauchas”, on the southern peninsula. The local loggers are known for their Gaucho pants and pointy-toed boots with large spurs, known in Sanskrit as “roofies”.

Okay – all that you have read in the preceding four paragraphs is urban myth, or rather misinformation, as none of it is true or even happened. All the keywords appear somewhere on the Internet and could be used to qualify and prove a “fact”. I love the seemingly infinite amount of information the Internet search engines put at my fingertips, but I learned early on, that it pays to double check what we read, with what is actually true.

Look at the Internet this way. Suppose you go to the Sterling Library and approach the reference desk. The research Librarian directs you to the non-fiction section so you can check facts, but warns you that half of the information is false and it is up to you to cross-reference everything.

That sums up the Internet and the sooner we realize it, the quicker you can move from website to website with confidence. Many web sites sell the modern day equivalent of “Snake Oil”, just like the traveling buckboard salesman of days past. By the time you realize you’ve been taken to the cleaners (both financially and intellectually), you can’t even trace where they went.

Here is a surefire way to get in trouble when searching for facts on the Internet. Start by trying to prove what you believe to be fact. Many times we want to believe something to the point that we pass up the truth and happily grab onto something that reason and logic would warn us was bogus. It is a far safer approach to do the opposite, which is of course, try to disprove the fact.

Anytime someone sends you a “known fact” story, before you hit the “forward” button in your email program, go to www.snopes.com and do a keyword search to find out if it is true. This is the famous “Urban legend” debunking web site and very handy when searching for truth.

I guess I am a skeptic and a stickler for facts and everyone isn’t as concerned about passing on accurate information as me and I have noticed that there is a lot less “forwarded” myth material than there was five years ago, which tells me folks are getting the message.

Now, back to the first four paragraphs; there are a at least 50 false “facts” in this story and one of them is so wrong, if taken literally and as advice in a survivor situation, would kill a human. Your assignment, Mr. Phelps, if you decide to take it, is to disavow the story and see how many of the false “facts” you can find.

Note: Although polar bear meat is safe to eat when cooked, if you were to eat a polar bear’s liver, you would die of vitamin A poisoning. As a carnivore which feeds largely upon fish-eating carnivores, the polar bear ingests large amounts of vitamin A, which is stored in its liver and in the past, humans have been poisoned by eating the livers of polar bears.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What is the price of Tranquility?

A friend of mine has raised the question of whether the plan to enforce the smoking ban will take police away from what they feel is real crime-fighting duties.

Please don’t think I am condescending or attempting to force-feed anyone. I am simply responding with what I feel is the voice of reason and in doing so, I am laying it out to consider the alternative, which is non-enforcement.

The city has new leadership and with our existing leaders, they are going to attempt to enforce statutes, laws and ordinances. This is a good thing, but it is touch and go and time will tell if they make the right decisions and set their priorities correctly. Garry Brumback said as much in Friday’s article about the Lakeview apartments. Our city is way overdue for solid leadership and enforcement of codes, that anything they offer at this point should be viewed as welcome.

There is going to be growing pains involved in enforcing the laws and we as citizens must be patient, as has been stated over and over, while the new city manager puts plans into action. I’ve been communicating with Mr. Brumback and he has been very open and accessible. We have an understanding and since I’ve been accused of being his lackey, I’ll add this note and then let it drop.

Before I submitted last weeks article to the Baytown Sun, I sent it to Mr. Brumback. I told him he had my full support and I wouldn’t second guess him or be critical while he worked out a plan to get us on track. I also explained that my support could go the opposite direction, if down the road it became evident that he no longer served the city and its citizens. He told me he didn’t expect anything less and he would try to do his dead level best to represent us.

Like a good meal being prepared, we as citizens can not pick every decision apart while it’s being prepared, but wait for the final serving. I’m willing to wait.

The smoking ordinance will be enforced. It has to be. Personally, I would love to see the sign ordinance, building codes and landscaping ordinances enforced and the items I've noted here:

…but if and when they do, I imagine someone will start trying to rally the citizens against it and use about 20 reasons why it shouldn't be done.

Civic leaders, movers and shakers who have credibility and integrity should use their influence for the overall good of this city and not raise partisan objections about law enforcement priorities while a plan is being executed. I hold myself to the same standard and I am just one guy with a keyboard – not anyone special or privileged.

Recently, I’ve been in communication with Ray Wilson and Hilda Martinez about our responsibility as local writers when it comes to our circles of influence. I’m bold and direct and I probably have been too assertive and offensive at one point or another, but so far their response has been positive. They, like me, see this as their town of choice and want what is best for Baytown.

Given my druthers, I would write about the Grito Festival or the butterfly count I attended last weekend. I could use my valuable writing space to muse over my current fascination with the differences in the ruby-throat hummingbird and the rufous variety and how they are territorial and expend enormous amounts of energy to defend a hummingbird feeder.

I’m convalescing from surgery and daily I’ve been sitting on my back porch watching the variety of migrating birds. I’ve taken the opportunity to study the changing of the leaves on my many trees and the subtlety of colors. The beautiful blue skies and fluffy white cumulonimbus clouds that have floated through have been nothing short of majestic.

Yesterday evening, my bride of 30 years stood beside one of our hummingbird feeders as one by one, a “hummer” flew in next to her and fed on the sugary liquid we prepared. It was a small thing and brought us both joy and I was once again reminded that the very reason we could sit in peace and enjoy this sight, was because of the stability of our city.

I listened to sounds of my neighborhood. I’ve been doing this more and more and if you haven’t tried it, it is nothing short of an education. Here in the back of Chaparral Village, with 70 acres of undeveloped land behind me, I have a unique mixture of sounds and the only way to truly appreciate them is to turn off the radio and sit quietly…and listen …and listen.

What I hear is the sound of peace and tranquility. Various birds offer up squeaks, squawks, coos and song. The train horn in the distance, the occasional fire truck or emergency vehicle, the wind through the trees, distant thunder, the passing boom box of a passing teen, a car door, a child’s voice, dogs barking, a diesel truck, the sudden frantic helicopter wing beating of the rufous hummingbird…and then relative silence…all to be repeated.

I like what I am hearing and feeling. It’s the sound of a city working towards peace and order. It’s the sound of security and tranquility. It’s the sound of the city I love.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Hellfighter Returns to Baytown

The last time Baytown Texas saw someone determined to fight hell with their fists was 1968 and that man was John Wayne. Go on down to Rooster’s on Texas Avenue and eat a Rooster Burger and you can still see evidence of his work here. There’s even a life-size cutout of the Duke, just so folks don’t forget.

If what we citizens are seeing continues, Mr. Lowell Cox will need to clear a wall to make room for the legacy our new city manager Garry Brumback will create. I liked the man the first time I shook his hand and I figure myself a pretty good judge of character.

Mr. Brumback came into my view a little over a month ago and almost immediately there was opposition to his appointment from a certain sector – that sector appears to have a lot of complaints about everything. It seems one outspoken fellow in this here town is convinced Mr. Brumback is not the man for the job. Well, time will tell, but I was and am, willing to give the man a fair shake.

I’m reminded of a story I read years ago and involved a small western town in the late 1800’s. In this town, a vile element had inserted itself into a position of control and the good citizens felt threatened by the lawlessness. They had a town meeting and decided the best course of action was to hire a man who would take control of the bad guys and win their town back.

Initially, there was opposition to hiring this man because he was considered a warrior and had a history of getting down and dirty when it was crunch time. Some viewed him as crude and unqualified, others thought him unrefined and a few saw him as a possible trouble maker himself. Finally it was decided that the town was under siege and it would take someone with heavy warfare expertise to secure the citizens safety and with this mindset, they hired the gunfighter.

The story went on to detail how the warrior cleaned up the town using no nonsense tactics and restored peace and safety to the community. When the threat was removed and the bad guys were gone, the sector who had initially objected to hiring the gunfighter cranked up a hubbub again, citing the warrior as the new threat. Eventually the man who had brought security to the little town was dismissed because he was now viewed as the primary threat.

Baytown is under siege and has been for a long time. We hard-working Baytonians are ready for someone to cut through the bull and grab this crime-steer by the horns. We want real decision making on Cedar Bayou, Texas Avenue and the future of this city. We want leadership. We don’t care who did or who didn’t do what. We simply want it fixed.

When Garry Brumback heard we citizens were having what could be viewed as a rogue meeting, he flew from Florida to attend. He wasn’t intimidated by us. He actually ran towards the fight and that impressed me, because our city is in a fight and we need a warrior to double-fist up for us. We need a hero.

The Colonel, as I call him, was a commander in the Army. He comes to a city under siege with a lot of proven leadership. I like what I see so far. He isn’t abrasive and he is very personable, but I know a warrior when I see one. His no nonsense approach to dealing with the Lakeview Terrace Apartment complex makes me want to stand up and do a one man human wave! Bam-bam-bam!

If there is one thing I hate and I mean to tell you, I really hate it, it’s the current American business paradigm that we need to have meetings and meetings ad nauseum to finally make a simple obvious decision. It frustrates me to the point of screaming.

Being a logical thinker, I am an avid proponent of Occam's razor, which is a principal which states “All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the right one”. George Patton was guilty of this kind of decision making and there’s a good chance if he would have been loosed to do what he wanted, we would have annexed Europe about 60 years ago, instead of attempting to placate them.

I say we back our new city manager and watch as he busts the chops of every criminal and city slacker until this town gets on track. Then…we don’t turn on him, like that old western town did to the man they hired.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Brumback’s frontal assault is going to make some very vocal critics and enemies before this city gets on track, but I don’t plan to be one of them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

City threatens to shut down Lakeview Apts.

By Barrett Goldsmith Baytown Sun
Published September 21, 2007

Residents of the Lakeview Terrace apartment complex on Northwood could be forced to relocate next week because of delinquent utility bills by the owners of the property, Baytown city manager Garry Brumback said Thursday.

The owners of the property, ISH and Company based in Montreal, currently owe the city nearly $62,000. The city notified the leasing agent for the property Sept. 4 that the complex owed $31,614, and did not receive payment. The complex is now delinquent on its current bills of about $26,000, and has been assessed a late fee of about $4,000.

If the owners or the leasing agent fail to pay the amount in full, water to the complex will be cut off Tuesday. After that point, the apartments will be declared inhospitable and residents will have 24 hours to leave their apartments. The water service will not be restored until payment is received.

“The property owner is packing up and has no intentions of paying anything,” Brumback said. “We don’t want to punish the occupants, but we’re going to continue to move forward on the bad behavior.”

The city has been aggressively moving on the Lakeview Terrace apartments over the past few weeks after an inspection Sept. 5 showed the uninhabited portion in the back crumbling and in a state of abject neglect. The complex was cited for a series of health violations that have been partially addressed, but city officials believe the deeper problems at the complex will require more forceful action.

On Oct. 1, the city will go before the Urban Rehabilitation Standards Review Board to recommend demolishing the abandoned part of the building. If the board accepts the recommendation, Brumback said the city would demolish the property and place a lien for the cost on the ownership.

“In my mind, this is a reflection of bad property management and bad property ownership,” Brumback said. “This is just one other example of what we’re not looking for in this city.”

The Baytown Police Department has also been part of the effort to clean up the apartment and others around and along Northwood. The area has been ground zero for violence and illegal drugs in Baytown for months, and police have stationed officers there on a regular basis to curb the rampant crime.

Door hangers were placed on apartments throughout the complex Thursday, informing residents of the possible fate of their homes.

The city is recommending that residents who could be displaced by the water cutoff contact one of the social service and housing agencies in the area, including the Baytown Housing Authority, the Associated Catholic Charities, the Houston Housing Authority, the Pasadena Housing Authority, Bay Area Homeless Services, the Texas Department of Human Services or Harris County Community Development and Social Services.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Love thy neighbor, as thyself…in Baytown?

The good citizens of this old oil town, long known for their independent and self-reliant spirit are beginning to make a change in how they watch out for each other. I’m not implying that Baytonians aren’t caring people; we just like to go our own way. In a pinch, we have always relied on each other.

Baytown is my town of choice and that’s why folks call me Baytown Bert. In fact, some of my Hispanic friends shorten my moniker and simply call me Baytown.

Yesterday, I spent an hour walking part of my 500 home subdivision encouraging my neighbors to band together against criminal activity when it rears its ugly head. Our plan is to use the Neighborhood Watch system of calling police when suspicious activity appears, even if it isn’t our own house. Today and tomorrow, others will be attempting to blanket this neighborhood with flyer's. Soon we will install 30 new Neighborhood Watch signs we paid for with our neighborhood civic group monies.

Every neighborhood and apartment complex in this area needs to focus on getting a group together.

Some call it nosy neighbors, but let me say this, many of us are dual income residents and some work more than one job, so our house and driveway is vacant a good portion of the day or night – since we have many shift workers. We need all the help we can get to keep prowlers away, so nosy neighbors are welcome here.

I live in Chaparral Village, a 30+ year old section of our fine town and it is still a pretty good place to raise a family, or sit in your backyard and BBQ and watch the birds. I’m not ready to give up my half acre quite yet and I’m surely not ready to have it taken from me by someone who would rather steal, than get a job and actually work for their money.

I am basically a minimalist type person, who doesn’t run out and compulsively purchase stuff I don’t need and there is nothing wrong with folks who do – this is America after all, but the stuff I do buy – I want and I really resent having that stuff taken without my permission.

About 20 years ago, I bought my wife a high dollar Hunter Cruiser Classic beach cruiser bicycle from Delgado’s bike shop here in Baytown. I bought it to match mine, which still performs like a new one and I’ve ridden it thousands of miles. I paid over $200 for this fine bicycle, so my lady could ride with me through our neighborhood.

Gone…stolen…wasted. I can’t replace it and even though $200 is not a lot of money (it was 20 years ago), it burns me up still. Personally, I would like to get my hands on the throat of the person who stole it, but I would settle for letting the police lock them up, even if it was for one day…I just want the bike back and want it the way it was when it was stolen. The company is no longer in business, so I can’t replace it.

It’s no secret that the “Fab 4” of Baytown Concerned Citizens (BCC) are trying to enlist as many citizens, police and city workers as we can to stem and eliminate crime from Baytown, but believe it or not, many haven’t heard about our web site www.hotpursuit.com or the BCC group.

Our web site is not the end-all or the total answer. It’s a wonderful tool to educate the average citizen and a place where the average citizen can personally ask a cop a question. It’s an unprecedented resource which empowers us against crime on a local level and everyone should register and contribute. Everyone who hates crime.

What it is going to take is group involvement; groups of people in neighborhoods organizing to fight crime. Blue collar, white collar, predominantly white, black, brown or yellow areas of town can become equally active in fighting crime and that my friend is unheard of in this country.

There is no reason to not get involved. Only criminal activity and criminals specifically will be targeted. Get on board folks. This includes my friend in Highlands - Granny Adcox.

As one of the spokesman for BCC, I’ve asked our new city manager Garry Brumback, Mayor Stephen Don Carlos and chief of police Byron Jones to step up traffic enforcement. I did this openly in front of 250 Baytown citizens. It’s another step in reducing crime and it may not be popular with the average citizen.

“If you want to catch a crook, you catch them breaking the traffic laws”. That quote comes straight from me and it’s based on watching the crime report for the last 5 years. Fellow Baytonians, buckle up, don’t drink and drive, come to a complete stop before turning on red and have your insurance card up to date, because BPD is going after the crooks.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

BPD steps up patrols

By Barrett Goldsmith
Baytown Sun Published September 12, 2007

Baytonians should be seeing a heightened police presence, especially around trouble spots such as the apartment complexes along Northwood drive and Village Lane, as well as in prime shopping areas along Garth Road. The Baytown Police Department has commissioned a number of four-wheelers, acquired through grants, to patrol those shopping areas. The vehicles give police a visible presence and allow for easy maneuverability.

Capt. Roger Clifford, head of investigations, said he and patrol Capt. Keith Dougherty have been seeing the signs of increased crime and developing strategies to hit it head-on, even before others began calling attention to it. Clifford said the department is using overtime and putting officers from other bureaus onto patrol and marshaling the department’s resources to take a firmer hand.

“Our officers haven’t been able to do as much proactive police work,” Clifford said. “But now this gives them the ability to do what they want to do, which is to address these problems. It’s wonderful. Our officers are being set free to do what they swore an oath to do.”

Clifford said city manager Garry Brumback has instilled a top-down commitment to reducing crime. Brumback said he is prepared to use whatever resources are necessary to go after the criminals and make Baytown safer, and he is enlisting all city departments in the effort.

“We’ve got work to do, we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to it,” Brumback said. “ I want to create an environment that appreciates law abiding citizens but is very difficult to those who want to break the law. And I’m willing to devote all the city’s resources from various departments to that end. I’ve heard nothing but support from the mayor and Council, so if I need additional resources I will ask for them.”

Baytown Mayor Stephen DonCarlos said “keeping our citizens safe is, of course, the No. 1 priority.”

Following a Monday meeting that drew more than 200 citizens and detailed responses from city and police leaders about tackling crime in Baytown, organizers are trying to expand their membership and ensure those leaders make good on their words.

Bert Marshall, a spokesman for the Baytown Concerned Citizens, said that as BCC grows and neighborhood watch groups expand and become more active, the city brass must demonstrate its commitment to fulfilling its end of the bargain.

“The burden is on them,” Marshall said. “ It’s very friendly and supportive, but they are being held accountable. We’re not expecting overnight results, but we expect some improvement, and we’re already seeing that.”

The city videotaped Monday night’s meeting, and assistant city manager Kelvin Knauf said he would evaluate the quality of the tape to determine if it is suitable to air on Comcast Channel 16, though no air dates or times have been set.

The BCC web site, www.hotpursuit.com, includes a message board about crime in the area, a list of neighborhood watch groups and how to join or start a group, maps of where crime has taken place over the past few months, and a searchable database of those crimes by date, location, offense type and police officer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Baytown officials talk about crime concerns

Sept. 11, 2007, 12:29AM
Mayor pledges budget support for police efforts

By CAROL CHRISTIAN
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

About 200 Baytown residents turned out Monday for the second meeting of a new anti-crime group.

Baytown Concerned Citizens, which drew about 70 people to its first meeting last month, has grown largely through information posted on a Web site, www.hotpursuit.com, organizers said.

The group and its mission has had the blessing of Police Chief Byron Jones, Mayor Steve DonCarlos and City Manager Garry Brumback, who took part in Monday's meeting at the Baytown Community Center.

City manager impressed: "It is more inspirational than I have words to express having an organization like this in my new home town," said Brumback, who is in the second week of his job as city manager.

"The fact that citizens are willing to give of their time is what makes a community great."

Brumback moved to Baytown from Clearwater, Fla., where he was assistant city manager.

Jones, who said the city used to have 35 Neighborhood Watch groups in the early 1990s, said the police department has felt the loss of those crime-prevention groups.

"It takes all y'all to be our eyes and ears," Jones said. "You're going to know things happening in your neighborhood before we do."

Jones urged people to return to the days of being "nosy neighbors" to help control crime.

The mayor pledged City Hall's support for the police department but also called upon the public.

"One of the comments we got early on in this exercise was that people were concerned we were turning the problem over to citizens," DonCarlos said.

"In a way it's true, but in a different way than people thought. I can guarantee that as a City Council we're going to be sure that the police department has the resources to get the job done ... But we all have to do our part."

One of the new group's organizers, Baytown resident Bert Marshall, said those who are interested in the issue appear to be in it for the long haul.

"We're looking for a paradigm shift, where this becomes what we do — get rid of crime," Marshall said after Monday's meeting.

"We're going to start taking care of each other. We're going to chase crime out of town, and dope is going with it."

Marshall writes a blog called Baytown Bert, which has chronicled some of the city's recent crimes and the development of Baytown Concerned Citizens.

In opening Monday's meeting, Marshall said he thought the group's access to police reports on the hotpursuit.com Web site and the cooperation it has received from city officials was unprecedented.

"We're going to empower citizens to know what crime is happening in the city," he said. "It allows you to see that four houses down from you somebody broke in the other night."

Question about budget: About half of Monday's two-hour meeting was devoted to city officials answering written questions.

One person asked if it were true that the police department's budget had been frozen.

Jones said that as the fiscal year ends this month, he has had to cut back on some expenditures because of heavy maintenance costs earlier.

"From time to time, we have unusual circumstances, like a lot of wrecked cars or the air conditioning goes out," Jones said.

"The police department is a business. I'm tasked with being fiscally responsible. I have to make sure that at the end of the year, I come in under budget," the chief said.

carol.christian@chron.com

Monday, September 10, 2007

Public invited to anti-crime meeting

Public invited to anti-crime meeting
By Barrett Goldsmith Baytown Sun

Published September 10, 2007
After weeks of combing through questions and comments from Baytonians irked by increasing crime in the area, the Baytown Concerned Citizens are poised to receive some answers tonight from city officials and the Baytown Police Department.

Police Chief Byron Jones, Baytown Mayor Stephen DonCarlos and new city manager Garry Brumback will all be on hand to address citizens and answer questions culled from an August meeting at El Toro, which drew more than 70 people. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and last until 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the Baytown Community Center, 2407 Market St. The meeting was originally slated for a smaller room, but organizers to have a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 people in the new venue.

Bert Marshall, one of the group’s leaders, said he hopes to get the meeting televised on Comcast Channel 16 for local citizens who can’t attend. Marshall said the explosion of interest in the organization has been “miraculous.” The group’s Web site, www.hotpursuit.com, has more than 560 subscribers, and Marshall said more are signing on every day.

“I’ve been fooling around with Web sites and mailing lists for 15 years, and I’ve never seen this kind of growth,” Marshall said. “As we get rolling on the neighborhood watch programs, the site will accommodate all those.”

Marshall said BCC will demand honest answers from those accountable, but he said the meeting will not be about assigning blame.

“We don’t care how we got here. What we care about it how to get us out of here,” Marshall said. “If there have been problems at City Hall or the police department, we don’t care about it. We want to fix it. We’re not going for a long-term score, we just want to get the ball rolling. We’ve done it in the most civil way possible, but we really do need some answers.”

Among the issues that will be brought up include addressing hotspots such as Northwood Drive and Village Lane, as well as truck stops along Interstate 10, and whether the upcoming $82.5 million bond proposal would allow for enough resources to fight crime in the future. Other questions include how the department will continue to fill vacancies, how to get businesses involved with getting rid of crime on their properties, and how the police department might better enforce youth curfew laws.

Marshall said one of the big issues will be the eradication of illegal drugs from neighborhoods and schools. Marshall said those drugs have been at the root of much of the city’s crime troubles, and he looks forward to a time when they can be taken off the streets.

“Once we push these dope peddlers out of town, they’re going to dry up from our schools,” Marshall said. “It’s getting into the junior highs, and even younger. We’re going to get the dope out of this town. It’s going to be something amazing to behold.”

The Baytown Crime Prevention Unit will have booths set up to allow citizens to find out how they can help fight crime and make the area safer. Marshall said he encourages people from Highlands and Mont Belvieu to get involved with the group.

What, me read? Isn't that a 4 letter word?

I had an appointment this week at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center to have an echocardiogram, which by the way is an EKG ti...