Friday, September 26, 2014

The threshold of happiness



This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 015

We are taught to believe that the future holds the key to our happiness.  The future is that elusive and beautiful butterfly that is always just out of reach.  We chase it, or not, but it is always flitting about, out there in the hemisphere, the sun reflecting the many colors of its wings in our face and we comfort ourselves with the simple fact that down the road – we will find happiness.

As little kids we have already grasped the idea that when we get into Middle School, things will be better, then it comes along and the bar is raised to the High School goal line.  Becoming a 13 year old teenager came and went and we found it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, because 14 seemed to be the real place we wanted.

The Holy Grail of teendom arrives! 16!  We know when we reach that amazing pinnacle of maturity; we will find freedom in the form of a driver’s license and a shiny new Mustang convertible that daddy buys.  That position on the football team or number one chair in orchestra is good for a season, but you know in your heart that until that big something comes, you just will not experience true happiness.

Your first real romance is magical and you honestly believe you couldn’t be happier – until your cruel life deals you a horrendous blow and you sink into depression and despair feeling that nothing good can bring you back.  Lost loved ones, sickness, bullies, arguments, and friends who turn on you seem to strip you of anything resembling happiness, yet here and there, a kind word, a song on the radio, or an unexpected gift cause your happiness flame to once again flicker.  There’s hope, yes, hope of that evasive entity – happiness.

The Mustang car never materialized and you find yourself working two side jobs to pay your way through community college.  You’ve had enough bad romances that you honestly believe Mr. or Ms. Right do not exist, but you keep trying; just like you do in your classes.  Where is this Utopia you always heard was in your path?  Is this all life has to give?  When can you find Nirvana?

Things begin to accelerate and one day turns into the next, with no real anchor to help you distinguish one day from the next.  You get your Associates degree and are immediately hired on at a place you feel will make you happy, but soon learn they expect you to get your Bachelor’s degree to stay on.  Now you are working 40 to 50 hours a week and attending night classes.  You have no time for romance and the demands of your job and school keep you so occupied, you feel you are unappealing, so why bother?

On the upside, you are steadily advancing in the workplace and getting satisfactory evaluations and you are 26 years old before the first inkling of true happiness enters your consciousness.  “Happiness is a state of mind, not a location.  Happiness is the fulfillment of duties, more than a trip to Six Flags”.  You sit at your desk at the end of the day and decide what will really make you happy at this very moment is knowing that you just turned in a project you can be proud of and in about 30 minutes, you are going to enjoy a delicious salad and maybe a glass of wine, or sweet tea with real sugar.

When you get to your apartment, you are going to bathe and watch that new series you’ve become addicted to and yes, you will shut off your Smartphone and enjoy a quiet evening babying yourself because you deserve it.  It’s the end of a grueling 60 hour week, you’ve pumped out more than your share of quality work and you slide into the seat of the Mustang you recently bought and head for the house. 
You suddenly realize you are happy.

You have reached a place most people never attain.  They keep chasing the elusive butterfly of happiness, not realizing they’ve stood on the threshold all their life.  It was there all along, all they had to do was see it.  The sweet-smelling rose has always been there, awaiting your sniff, but you couldn’t see it due to your far-sightedness and the paradigm you learned by those around you.

No one or nothing can make you happy.  Happiness is a state of mind and living in that moment is the goal.  It’s your assignment at birth and there are no CliffsNotes or shortcuts.  Slow down, look around, and start living your life with purpose.  Only then my friends will you find the happiness that eludes you.

Friday, September 19, 2014

History and the Sage of Cedar Bayou



This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 014


It’s Sunday night and a cold wind out of the north sends shivers to your little five year old body as you slip into a night gown.  Your live-in nanny tucks you in, as your mother reads from the family Bible.  Your hard working dad goes out to the barn to secure it for the night and that is when you hear your fathers cry of alarm.

Violent and savage men viciously kill your dad, mom, and older brother and kidnap you and your nanny and carry you bound down into old Mexico where you are sold for little of nothing.  When the massacre of your family is discovered, a blood stained family bible is a grim reminder of the perils of living on the plain.

Sounds horrifying doesn’t it?  It is and it is Texas history.  This story took place in 1836 in Robertson County to the John Harvey family. Their daughter Ann and their servant girl lived as slaves for four years before her Alabama uncle James Talbot recovered her.  There is no mention of the fate of the servant girl.  The price the Mexicans paid the Indians for young Ann was “a few blankets”.

It is known as the Harvey Massacre and the event took place one mile west of a historic marker on Highway 6.  I stood by the marker after returning from Dinosaur Valley State Park the other day and felt real compassion for this pioneer family.  I mean it really hit me how difficult and dangerous the early settlers had it, but there is more and this shows the amazing fiber of these people.

In 1848, Ann Harvey married a man named Sanders Briggs and in 1853, they moved back to Texas – and built a home near the massacre site.  This marker is a link with our past and the Baytown area has many such markers.  In fact, there are 3 at Bayland Park alone.  I often stop when I see a marker and read every word.  I make time to do it.
Its probably no secret  I own and operate ourbaytown.com, which is a historic resource for the area.  On numerous occasions, I’ve worked with Trevia Wooster Beverly, who is a direct descendant of Quincy Wooster and her list of affiliates and positions involving history in the area is too exhaustive to list here.

Our current project, along with Mayor DonCarlos is examining the historic marker dedicated to the Sage of Cedar Bayou, John Peter Sjolander, yes, the guy Sjolander Road is named after.  This marker is at 6330 Sjolander Road and I really wonder how many people have stopped and read the marker, as it is next to a telephone pole and almost invisible.
Bayland Park Markers

On top of that, for parking, there is a grass-covered culvert which until recently was covered with a four foot high pile of tree trimmings for the last year.  The marker may need to be moved to a better location and I do believe that would be preferable to adding better parking.  I will ask a couple simple questions now.  Is this how we are going to honor this man?  Are we proud enough of our history to do better than this?

On September 20th, I’ve been invited to be the speaker at the local chapter meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  I think this group of ladies would agree that our history is very important and the moment we forget it, we will be doomed to repeat it, bad, more than good and as it turns out; I am a direct descendant of , second governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, second signer of the Mayflower Compact and a passenger of the Mayflower.

Baytown in a lot of ways is just 3 oil towns and a number of smaller communities who have been randomly shuffled like a deck of cards to homogenize us and as we grow, we may need to restructure our way of looking at things and this marker is just one of many, but its like I’ve always heard about eating an entire elephant.  You do it one bite at a time.

In my opinion the new detention Pond parking area/park on Blue Heron Parkway would be a good place to move the marker.  It is close enough to the old community of Cedar Bayou, which incidentally is listed on the old maps to be about where the Bark Park, in Jenkins Park is.  In our fast paced existence, history may not seem like a big deal to some, but to others, it is a lesson worth studying.
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Friday, September 12, 2014

Come and Take It!


This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 013

This week’s column is going to brand me as just another agent orange crazed Vietnam Veteran, or a patriot – you decide.  One way or the other, I’m going to speak my mind.

The truth is I have had just about all I can take of our government, talk show know-it-all’s, and liberal college professors explaining away or placating every radical or “victimized” group for the sake of political correctness and some mythical nice existence and cohabitation.  What am I talking about?  Look up the list of groups the CIA keeps of which they deem worthy of watching (keeping an eye on us), if you don’t believe me.

I’ll oblige you, the discriminate reader and believe me, if you are reading this, you are in the minority, as no one reads anymore:  “environmentalists; business groups; labor unions; churches; ethnic groups; political action committees or PACs; health groups; education groups; civic groups; youth groups; transportation groups; agricultural groups; veterans groups; women's groups; reform lobbies.”

In their own words about these groups, “This entry includes a listing of a country's political, social, labor, or religious organizations that are involved in politics, or that exert political pressure, but whose leaders do not stand for legislative election. International movements or organizations are generally not listed.”  In other words, we are the enemy, or might be and need to be watched closely.

Our government is watching us because we might be the enemy.  If it wasn’t true, it would be comical.

Our government and our news stations have instilled in our country a fear of everything when they are supposed to do just the opposite.  Thanks to them, we are afraid of dang near everything.  Terrorism, crime, drug cartels, Mexican gangs, contagions, child predators, traveling abroad, not having enough money in retirement, costly health insurance, hurricanes, flooding, drunk drivers, bullies, bedbugs, and thanks to shrewd marketing -  constipation.

I’m sick of it.  I say bring it on.  Let’s take ISIS or ISIL or whatever the current group of cowardly Islamic terrorists want to call themselves for example.  If they come here and are caught, let’s execute them.  Let’s don’t give the privilege of a high-priced New York lawyer and use tax payer money to let them languish themselves for five years.  Let’s stand them against the wall with their weapons and explosives and shoot them.
I am sure the government would have to hold a lottery due to the high number of Veterans and patriots willing to do the act.  What?  You think this is barbaric?  Don’t you know our history?  That Jihadist Major Nidal Malik Hasan was caught in the act of murdering his fellow soldiers yelling “Allahu Akbar” and as a US Army officer sworn in under the Uniform code of military justice should have been executed for being a traitor. 

Because he is a traitor in every sense of the definition.

When you swear the oath into US military service, you wave your Constitutional rights and are under the UCMJ.  Our country has become so screwed up that we can’t even honor military law without fear it might offend someone.

Ask ANY Veteran and they will tell you the same thing.  In military jargon, which I cannot repeat, suffice it to say it is a supreme insult to the honorably serving military.  It is as if the enemy of our country gets the protection of our government and don’t even get me started on Benghazi.  Having first Hillary Clinton, then John Kerry represent our country internationally as Secretary of State makes me absolutely nauseous and I am a Vietnam veteran with two tours.  As an American, I despise them both.

If our troops can’t count on our government to back them up – why are they serving?  I will tell you why if you don’t know.  They serve because they believe in America.  They believe we are still the greatest country on earth.  They believe somehow by serving, they can make a difference.  They can’t.  Our military in the hands of the current administration are disposable pawns and this has been proven by the President’s lack of a viable solution to withdrawal – something he promised if elected.

I am asking our government to stop trying to save the world and save America.  Stop killing our kids.  Quite meddling in everyone else’s business and begin to rebuild this country that was once great.  The Middle East will never become friends and any drunken fool can see this, so why keep killing our boys and girls over something we cannot and never will fix?

We have a porous border that leaks like a 5 gallon can after being shot with double-ought buckshot and we are chasing people all over Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria like it will make a difference?  Hogwash.  Secure our borders first, and then worry about what other countries are doing.
We are expending billions of dollars overseas and truckloads of unidentifiable people are crossing our borders everyday.  Who’s the fools now and why, with all the collective smart folks in Washington, can’t they cipher this?

Any politician who points this out is automatically branded a racist.  Hooey.  Get over it.  Crack down hard on people who flaunt gaining citizenship and use our system against us and it will suddenly not be a joke amongst them.  “Don’t go there.  They ain’t playin’ games no more!”

If Jihadists come into this country, ghost them quietly and deliberately and bury the evidence on it permanently.  No 70 virgins for them and good riddance.  Call me an extremist if you will, but I call myself a patriot.  Come and take it.
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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Junior High Sports and Vicarious Dads

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 012


At one of the 6th grade Optimist football games last Saturday, I was disturbed at the many fathers vicariously playing their son's football game, by screaming at their kid before every play and in their enthusiasm, even venturing out on the field. It was one team’s dads in particular and not only set a poor example, but amped up the feeling of stress to everyone on the sidelines. These men were barely in control at times and during one huddle, five of them ran out to high-five the players.

Each father was over-weight and possibly trying to relive their glory days, forgetting that it was stiflingly hot with high humidity and no wind. The poor coach was doing his best to get the plays to the boys, but time and time again I watched the boys move to a different location as directed by their dad’s loud bellowing.

Note to Dad's who can’t be spectators:  Shut up and let the coach call the plays. You are an embarrassment to everyone except yourself and your time has came and went.

Each child out there, including the little cheerleaders were cooking in the hot Texas sun and deserve supportive parents, who are more interested in their child's welfare and personal development, then being obnoxiously loud and letting everyone know how much knowledge old dad has about the game.
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Friday, September 05, 2014

Coffee! Give me coffee!




This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas September 5th, 2014 and this is Podcast 11

My all time favorite John Wayne line is from True Grit when he is awakened by his servant after a hard night of drinking and utters the lone word, “Coffee”.   The reason is quite simple; it is exactly what comes to mind when my eyes open each morning and the responses that follow, shows many of us share the same experience.

Facebook.  There are a lot of negatives in our minds when it comes to social networking and I agree, but I enjoy it and practice a sort of freedom on the site and am willing to accept the dangers there also.  I frequently use the network to express provocative opinion and then gather the responses.  I’m sure at times people shake their heads at what I post, but at the same time, my comments stimulate them to define what they truly believe.

Years ago, I adopted the philosophy that anyone who stimulates me to defend what I believe is actually doing me a service – and if I am flexible enough to listen and weigh out a new approach, I may learn something.  Anyway, enough about all of that, let’s talk about the fantastically energizing morning elixir, coffee.  Great god almighty, I do love my morning coffee!

Librarian extraordinaire Angie Middleton drinks “Folger's Classic Roast, with the addition of some French Vanilla AM Coffee, a tiny sprinkle of Splenda with a couple of tsps of Cremora.”

GCCISD Educator Jennifer Stephens loves “Cinnabon cinnamon roll or blueberry mountain coffee” while fellow educator Caren Miller punches sissy coffee drinkers in the nose with “Community Club dark roast...strong and black”.  Another GCCISD teacher has a much more colorful approach.  Traci Cormier likes “Venti nonfat latte with 2 sweet n lows @ 140. - or an IV hook up, whichever is quicker.   In Hawaii I drank a ton of Kona dark roast. It was the bomb.com.”

Liberty County columnist and chow-chow expert Charlie Farrar offers a Zen approach by choosing “Tasters Choice with boiling water”.  Local resident Jake Daniel is old school with his choice of “Community coffee in the percolator on the stove”, as is polymer expert Darrell Bailey who goes hardcore with “Jet fuel, straight up black!”

Armed Forces veteran’s advocate Ren Fitts doesn’t bandy words. “Jail house coffee like I drank with my uncle who was a sheriff after the pot was on all day and if it was cold he would reheat it” and neither does local hawk Barbara Pugh with her humorous contribution, “Put whipped crème vodka in it. Makes a great day off cup of coffee and the brand won't matter.”

REL reunion organizer Bev Engelhardt. “I drink hazelnut flavored coffee with hazelnut flavored creamer! Yuuummm!”  Local resident Susan McGuyer, like Bev, goes for “Starbucks w/cinnamon vanilla cream, Coffee-mate & one Stevia sweetener.”  Big time Plant operator Larry Houston joins the flavor enhancer crowd with, “My fav right now is the Green Mountain Sumatran Reserve (K-cup), with a sprinkle of Truvia and a teaspoon of honey.... and some Coffee-mate French Vanilla creamer. Otherwise it's too dang bold. I like my beer dark... my coffee, not so much.”

David Clark didn’t say what he prefers, but lowers the hammer on the sweet coffee crowd with, “Sounds like some of you have breakfast drinks more than coffee!”  After that remark, I need to confess that I drink French Market with chicory and add nothing but water.  My coffee is so black and strong, a spoon could stand on end in the middle of the cup.

My son in law Michael Sievers also brings a humorous side to coffee drinking, “I chug my coffee (day old and cold) like I am shot-gunning a beer.” And like veteran Ren Fitts, retired Master Chief JW Kern is all military with “Navy Mid-watch Coffee (Generic 20# tins) at 0745, last cup before making another two 50 cup pots. Thick & black (resembles Texas crude oil straight from the ground)”.

My two favorite responses were from first, a Georgia friend since the late 60’s Debi and second, my best man, James and they are both artists in writing about their love of coffee drinking.

Deb Hearn "Cold Brew Coffee with the Toddy coffee maker. It is better if you have acid reflux and tastes great. I usually use Newman’s Own Dark Roast Organic. You put the water & coffee in the container, set overnight, pull plug in bottom & it filters into a glass jar. You will have thick coffee.  When you want a cup you put about 1/4 cup into your coffee cup, add hot water & enjoy. You only have to make it about once a week."

James Shipp "I like mine made with mountain spring water boiled over a bed of aspen coals in an old coffee can with a fistful of coarse ground coffee. I ain't picky about the brand as long as it’s strong enough to float a horseshoe. Throw in some cold water to knock the grounds to the bottom of the can and pour it up fresh! Do this while the elk are bugling in the meadow below and you will experience heaven on earth!"

No matter what expert comes up with saying coffee is bad for you, ten more will post a paper the next day extolling it anti-oxidant contribution to the body.  I like it regardless of what the detractors may say and to them, I agree with what Clark Gable told Vivian Lee in Gone with the wind, “Frankly my dear…”

Customer service is not what it used to be

I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. ...