Friday, February 24, 2017

You only get what you give


Bert and Rania Ghani at 24 Hour Fitness

For some time now, it has been on my mind to not only be more productive, but to make a mark on those I come in contact with. Yea, I know what you're thinking. You think I want to put a knot on the head of all those people who need to go back to driving school, right? Yes and no. Just yesterday if seemed like every looney with a car was on the road and my bride and I had made an emergency trip to the gym to pick up cake Rania Ghani had left for us in the refrigerator and we forgot about it.

We hopped in my Jeep and made the three mile drive over and back and I swear we witnessed at least ten acts of aggravated ignorant driving - but that's not what I want to discuss with you today. As much satisfaction as I get from bumping my gums and pounding the steering wheel of my 4X4, it's time to make some corrections. Seriously with all that hot air, all I'm doing is amping up my blood pressure.

I asked this question to 20 of my BFF's (best friends forever) and this is their reply. It is a list that you can print and then challenge yourself to accomplish.

1. Write in cursive so that I don't lose that skill. 2. Don't forget to look at things with childlike wonder. See shapes in the clouds. 3. I should read the bible daily so that I can continue to grow in God's word. Strive to live a life that is pleasing to God. 4. Adopt the Boy Scout philosophy of doing a good deed everyday. 5. Do the crossword puzzle in the paper, read more books and help with the housework. 6. Hold hands with your sweetie or your grandchild every day, or give out hugs to those you genuinely care for. Physical touch keeps you connected to humanity.

7. Daily prayer/meditation time. It keeps you connected to the Creator, and closer to His vision and purpose for your life. 8. Learn something new everyday, a new recipe, or a word. 9. Prepare for "Zombies". Take Self Defense classes. Hone a skill like carpentry. Build bird houses or lawn furniture. Learn to weld. Build metal yard art, lawn furniture. 10 Never look down on anyone, unless you are stopping to help them up. 11. Audit a class, take up art or photography, learn a foreign language.

12. Learn to play an instrument. 13. Random acts of kindness to total strangers. Give give and give. 14. Master writing with your non-dominant hand. Does interesting things to your brain. 15. Pick one thing no matter how small to be grateful for. Be grateful for the little things. They are often the most important. 16. talk to a minimum of 5 people a day, no matter what happens. Old people, young people, neighbors, hot girls at the gym. Engage everyone. Welcome them into your life via conversation with zero expectation of where it goes. Be authentic in your exchange. welcome the good.

17. Keep your list of items posted where you can see it and try to complete your list. 18. Thank a Veteran by picking up their tab if you see them in a restaurant or coffee shop. Get to know your neighbors. Donate an hour to read to children at your local library during storybook time. 19. Think in terms less about yourself...And more of others. 20. Pick up the police officer's lunch tab.

I look at this list of suggestions and nowhere do I see anyone suggesting that we get angry over the way someone violates the rules of the road.  Rats!  I guess I will have to change my evil ways. This week I was closing my spin class at the NASA location and I challenged the class to do an unselfish act of kindness over the next week and I saw it on their faces that a little reminder to do good is a salve for the soul. Sure we all know to do good, but sometimes our fellow citizens do not invoke that response in us. That's why we need lists like the one above and gentle reminders that you only get what you give. What goes around, surely comes around and like the Beatles said; "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make".

Now that we have a plan, what say we put it into action?
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Friday, February 17, 2017

What is more fun than people?

Mr. Melvin Roark in all his wonderful glory.


My friend Melvin Roark invited me to meet a most interesting man the other day.  His name is Lowell Herrington and he’s 97 years young this past Valentine’s Day. Afterward he told Melvin that I was his birthday present. I got a good laugh out of that and replied that he must like cheap dates.

Lowell is a wealth of information about Baytown, as he moved to Pelly in 1929, if I remember correctly. For those readers who don’t know, Pelly, Goose Creek, and Baytown consolidated in 1948, as the city of Baytown. The old city hall of Pelly still stands on West Main Street and the old Goose Creek jail is north of there on North Main.

He talked about Hog Island and how one fellow would swim out into the ship channel and stay out there, only coming in when a ship came by, There was a huge pavilion on Evergreen Road that I never heard of that was very active. He told me how much everyone walked back during the Depression and how scarce food was, except for the veggies everyone grew.

He remembers Reno’s barber shop on SH-146 and Marshall’s bait and tackle. Reno was my father-in-law and his real name was Willard Reneau. He was a humble fiddle-playing man and called himself Reno, because he thought people would have trouble pronouncing his name. Imagine that, these days. He asked me if Reno had worked for a barber named Broome and I said he did.

Lowell’s mind is as sharp as a younger man and he told me his family all smoked and drank a bit of alcohol, but he never took a hankering to it and he looks like a man of 70 and well preserved at that.

He remembered the German soldiers interned out on SH-146 close to the Pinehurst subdivision somewhere and I had heard this numerous times through other people. His beautiful bride Barbara made us coffee and served delicious pastries and we chatted for a couple of hours. I asked him if he remembered the hundreds of oil derricks and all those that were way up on Goose Creek and he sure did. I don’t think most Baytownians know that there at one time they stood everywhere on the creek. By 1975 when I photographed the expansion of SH-146 at Tabb’s Bay, most of them in the bay were already gone also.

The same goes for the Tabbs Bay Causeway.  I bet one out a 500 people here would get a blank look if you asked them about it. It’s gone now too, like the almost 40 people who have passed away on Lowell’s street. Again and again, he mentioned how much the city has changed since 1929 and how he helped a man catch a runaway horse and then ride it across the town, which then was mostly dirt.

Lowell told us about quarter horse races on Morrell Street and I couldn’t get a mental picture of how that could be. He said it was a big attraction. We talked about the Baytown Historic Café and he knew all about the building and the ones that are no longer there. He said they really need better lighting so people could study the photos. The café building was named after the owner. It was the same name as one of two brothers who would swim out in the ship channel. I should have taken notes, but we were just chatting and drinking coffee.

Lowell still does yard work, unless his son sneaks over and does it while they are at church and his place is neat as a pin. He has a Hispanic neighbor family who barbecues quite often and they always bring down a couple of plates. He and his bride seem a perfect fit and they are happy. I think they’ve been married about 35 years and both lost their first spouse. He used to repair small motors and maybe still does and he informed me that it was just a hobby and although he often times had a back-log, he never charged for labor.  Again, imagine that these days.

I have known another fellow since I was a mid-teen, named Alan Dempsey.  Alan is a Pentecostal preacher’s kid and back in high school, a real ladies man and fist-fighter – but he is also one of the nicest kindest people I’ve ever met. His favorite saying for years has been, “What’s more fun than people?”  Meeting this 97 year old man and his bride prove Alan’s point.

Lowell and his mate are rare jewels and folks should take note of the example they have set. I know they left an indelible mark on me.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Muscles, Yard Work, and Honey-Do’s



We are a couple weeks into the new year and things are really shaping up. The trees are budding out; grass is beginning to grow, and my bride is itching for me to do massive amounts of yard work on our half acre of heavily landscaped homestead. Never mind that she’s a certified Texas Master Gardener – this is man’s work honey!

I used to go out and do yard work for six straight hours and it was just sweat, not aches and pains. Now I sweat at the gym for hours each day and it appears my muscles are only good for the gym! Yard work is hard I tell you! Heckfire, I can hardly open the plastic bag inside a box of Wheaties… I mean Cheerios. We all know what will happen to you if you eat Wheaties every day.

Try opening the lid on a Power-Ade or Gator-Ade bottle with out a Stillson wrench!  Did I just call a pipe wrench a Stillson wrench? Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe it’s just because I am getting old! My daughter Melody is a hair stylist at the Rat’s Nest and cuts my hair. The other day she cut it and when I got home, the top looked like I had been on an episode of Scare Tactics.  The hair was sticking straight up, so in my elderly wisdom, I trimmed it off in the bathroom sink.

When I leaned forward, I realized why she did it. Now I look like Larry Fine of the Three Stooges!  Whoop whoop whoop!  When did all this hair go bye bye? I don’t know!  I feel like Melvin Roark’s twin brother, but that is not a bad thing, is it? By the way, how does Jim Finley keep his gorgeous youthful looks? I think he’s been nipping at that fountain old Ponce was looking for.

Last year I trimmed on my photinia and ligustrum bushes 3 times and I swear; now it would take a field-grade pogo stick to cut them back. Any day now my bride is going to start pointing this chore out and I am smart enough to just trim them back before she informs me the 10th time. Now it’s not like I don’t have the yard equipment or anything – or the knowledge on how exactly to go about it, because I have all the bases covered. I just don’t want to do it. I would rather go to the gym and work on my gym muscles so I can appear I am awesome.

That out building I paid to have remodeled sure looks nice. It is just a shame that the doors they made are heavier than the hinges and now I can’t lock the shed. My bride faithfully reminds me of this every three days and after numerous calls to have them promise to fix it.  I am simply going to do it myself… in a few days!

I just took a peek outside. My 25 foot tall “Dwarf” Chinese holly is heavy with red fruit.  In all the years past this meant Spring is here and any second now I expect the tree to be covered with Cedar Waxwing birds on their way south. It is a sight to see and hundreds of them will clean that tree in a day or less. The down side is that I will be cutting my yard for every three days and those danged shrubs will sprout like they are being hand-fed by the Jolly Green Giant!

Don’t get me started on bark much. Okay, thanks a lot just remember that you started it. I cannot haul in enough bags of bark mulch to satisfy my Bride’s desire to cover every square inch of plant beds with 3 inches of mulch. This means at least two dump trucks of mulch will be dumped in my driveway for me to shovel up and wheelbarrow to the back and side yards and my dad-blamed yellow plastic wheelbarrow rusted out over the last 6 months. Of course a man without a usable wheelbarrow is all but useless to most good female overseers, so I’ll have to buy a new one.

I would rather just repair computers in the sterile environment of my man cave, famously known as the Orbiting Command Ship Central or work on my gym muscles, but NOOOO, I have to do yard work!

Get ready for the spring pysch… here it comes!

Who am I kidding? I love yard work. It’s great exercise and everything always looks so nice afterward. I like to bag my yard, as it always looks so clean and neat, but mulching is better for it. Heckfire, I might even throw down some 15-5-10 fertilizer for my St. Augustine. Now that I think about it, it ain’t so bad. I’ll start on it tomorrow.

Friday, February 03, 2017

There’s a monster on the loose



I’ve made the comment numerous times before about how I always compare the current times to the turbulent 1960’s and how there has been no real comparison of civil unrest, but that is no longer the case.  We are living a time depicted in the words of the Steppenwolf song – Monster and its scary for most of us. What should be exciting and enthusiastic times is now like the whole world is sliding into the abyss.

The liberal-minded people are no longer liberally minded when it comes to being tolerant of anything other than their personal agendas. They are violent and unpredictable and highly intolerant on anything once deemed cautious and conservative.  They have always accused conservatives of being violent gun-toting rednecks and now they are that very genre, except for the guns and I suspect that is what we will face next.

Almost anything conservative is now under attack by them and violently so. This is going on in every civilized major city on earth. The victim mentality is pervasive to the point that they simply feel justified in doing whatever they want including rape, robbery, destruction of personal property and using the F, P, and C words at major televised gatherings. Every stage is now a place where anyone of semi-fame uses it for political tirades.

“The spirit was freedom and justice and its keepers seemed generous and kind. Its leaders were supposed to serve the country, but now they won't pay it no mind. Cause the people grew fat and got lazy. Now their vote is a meaningless joke. They babble about law and order, but it's all just an echo of what they've been told.”

Yea, there’s a monster on the lose and many of us feel like it is going to roil over into total anarchy unless reasoning citizens all over the world want to live like there has been a pandemic that sets us back 200 years. I can easily imagine a world like the one depicted in the Mad Max movies, but do I want to live like that? No electricity, no potable water, no stability and safety, and no food? No and not just no, but heck to the no.

With the way things are going right now, it appears 50% of this nation would rather see the new President fail and the country collapse than make a semblance of working to make it better. I know the people who voted against him won’t think so harshly when they can suddenly go to work because he created job opportunities. It’s hard to speak bad about someone who does good things for you.

“The cities have turned into jungles and corruption is stranglin' the land. The police force is watching the people and the people just can't understand. We don't know how to mind our own business 'cause the whole world's got to be just like us. Now we are fighting a war over there. No matter who's the winner we can't pay the cost.”

Many of the elaborate changes Trump is enacting are either reversals of Obama executive orders, or simply enforcing existing laws, but is it possible people would rather go berserk with rage than do a little fact checking? Talk about fake news. Angry citizens have their heads buried so deeply in their own prejudices that anything can set them off.

The crux of the truth here is that 90% of the earth’s population just wants to live in safety and peace without being overly controlled by any government, but you have religious instigators, actors, athletes, and power-driven politicians who keep everyone stirred up. People just want food and shelter and a sense of hope for the future and all these demonstrations and belly-aching is having the opposite effect they desire. Now there is speculation that Lady Gaga is going to use Super Bowl halftime to project an anti-Trump campaign.

It makes me sick to my stomach and I would feel the same thing if it was Toby Keith or Lee Greenwood going all anti-Obama 4 years ago.  The election is said and done.  Accept it and move on. Wouldn’t it be something if everyone would actually work together to make this country an even better place to live? Whining and crying and beating up people who voted differently than you is not only sad, but it is assault and probably battery.

"America, where are you now? Don't you care about your sons and daughters? Don't you know we need you now? We can't fight alone against the monster."

Quotations are from Steppenwolf’s The Monster.
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I'm not distracted, I just can't remember.

Our country has been clobbered with a pandemic and it's not caused by mosquitoes, terrorists, or a childish Asian communist with ...