Posts Tagged ‘Personal’

Union Station 1912

November 14, 2010

Union Station in Houston, 1912.

Last night I attended the Second Annual Knuckle Ball, the benefit that honors the late Joe Niekro in the fight against brain aneurysms. This year it was held in the great hall or rotunda of Union Station in Houston or, as it is better known today as the administrative offices of the Houston Astros and the opening face on Crawford Avenue for Minute Maid Park, home field of our National League ball club.

The place reeks with Houston history.

I thought last night, as I often do whenever I’m in that place long enough to be reminded of its full context for me as a kid who grew up in Houston: “This is where we used to come pick up Papa when he came to visit us from San Antonio.”  It was a happy memory. Papa was my grandfather on my mother’s side

If you got here early for a train back in the day, you were supposed to wait on these long wooden benches in the Great Hall until it got here. As kids though, we had to move around. We also enjoyed testing the echos of our loud calls against the hard marble walls of the place. As best I remember, nobody tried the echo trick at the Knuckle Ball last night.

Drayton McLane, Jr. and the Houston Astros have done a wonderful job of preserving an important Houston architectural structure in the way they have restored Union Station to much of its former glory. It probably looks better now than it did in the first place, when it served as Houston’s rail window on the rest of the country.

In 1928, you could take the interurban line from Union Station to the baseball games at Buff Stadium.

Long before Union Station ever became the hub of our Houston baseball world, it served as the central depot for taking people the four miles or so they needed to travel to reach the new Buffalo Stadium that first opened n Houston on April 11, 1928.

If we had a time machine cranked up and were ready to go, wouldn’t you love going back there at least once to take that same train out to the ballgame on the first Opening Day of the new ballpark? The Buffs were opening against Waco in 1928. Branch Rickey, General Manger of the Cardinals, and Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis were going to be there too.

Buff Stadium. Don’t you want to go there now? What a trip that would be! And what a great opportunity to see how Houston actually looked, smelled, and tasted back in the late halcyon days of the so-called Roaring Twenties.

I would have been tempted to also take a 1928 side trek to the Heights and check up on how a certain little 12-year old girl was doing. In 1928, that little girl would have been my future mother. Then I get to thinking harder about why mass time time travel probably never will happen, and for reasons that go way beyond the Laws of Physics governing time/space worm holes that impose certain barriers in reality that fail to dampen our theoretical attraction to the possibility. That being said, if millions of us suddenly became like a legion of time-traveling Marty McFlys, bouncing “Back to the Future,” we would probably manage to change enough destiny to assure that many us were never born, anyway. Once establishing a case for altering history and assuring our own states of non-existence in the future, we would simply disappear completely, having never existed in the first place.

I cannot believe all of that stuff now pours out of my brain on a Sunday morning after simply sitting in an historical spot for one brief evening last night. Now I need to grab some oatmeal and a firm anchor on the fact this is Sunday, November 14, 2010.

Have a peaceful and restful Sunday, everybody.

Coming Up for Air

September 12, 2010

Sacred Soil from Home Plate Area of Eagle Field, 1950.

Hello, Friends. My apologies for the little hiatus going on here, but the past two weeks have been hung up with two impossible-to-ignore facts of life. The first involved a writing project. The second was a flu-like virus that leveled me from head to heels for about a week. I am still recovering at my own pace.

It’s not over. I am about to make the road trip of my lifetime, one that will continue to take me away from my home-sweet-home Pecan Park Eagle site for about two more weeks, more or less. Our son Neal, our Hounds of Baskerville-like canines, our security system, and our good neighborhood nosey friends are guarding the castle for us, 24/7, while Norma and I drop out of sight for a little journey we’ve been ready to take for years.

More on that later.

Meanwhile, that little magic bottle in the photo is my short subject topic of the day.

The bottle is filled with soil that I dug up from the former home plate area of our sandlot heaven in Pecan Park, the place we kids renamed “Eagle Field” over a half century ago. I found the little frog figure nearby as I was digging up the dirt and just glued it on the bottle for the ride later on. It seemed appropriate. The old Eagle Field site was located so near the Japonica-Kernel Alley wide spot that we also named “Frogtown” for its once prolific population of Houston Toads.

Oh, that tarnished silver relic that’s draped over the bottle of magic dust? I found it in an old storage box recently. That’s my ID bracelet from that earlier period. It was designed to be there on me as a way of identifying my earthly remains in case any of our McCarthy Era sandlot games were unexpectedly rained out by an atomic bombing of Houston on some surprising summer afternoon. A number of us wore such items back then.

Thank God that atomic bomb thing never happened.

At any rate, all’s well now. Baseball is forever. And though I’m not, it appears, for now, I’m going to live, a while longer, after all. And the Astros youth and pitching competence crew and the mellow even-steven Mr. Mills all seem destined to floating hope for a near .500 season in spite of all our early club disasters and some sad farewells in 2010 to Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman.

Look for further word from this little corner in about a fortnight. And while we’re all waiting for the World Series and the long pause into the the 2011 baseball season to show up again as the off-season, say a little prayer for some cool autumn weather.

We could all use the refreshment.

Papa Started Out as a Cowboy

August 31, 2010

Papa Teas in his daily radio news and solitaire card station.

It’s important to remember the people we came from. At least, it is to me. And today I just have a few thoughts about one of my grandfathers, my mom’s dad – the ne “Papa” who lived in my life from the time I first opened my eyes.

Of my two grandfathers, one was always a writer and businessman. The other started out as cowboy before branching out as a jack of all trades in the lumber business, other product sales, and finally as a bureaucratic manager for the Works Progress Administration during the New Deal Era.

I never knew my Grandfather McCurdy, except for what I could know of him through his writings for the little newspaper he started and owned through his death in 1913. The Beeville Bee got its start from Will McCurdy back in May 1886 as the first newspaper in the little Texas town of Beeville, some fifty miles north of Corpus Christi.

Grandfather Willis Teas, or “Papa”, as we called him, was in my kid life forever.  He died of a stroke at age 72 in September 1955, just as I was starting my senior year in high school here in Houston. Papa had lived with us for  a while in the early 1950s, but, by the time of his death, he was continuing his retirement and living in his real home town of Floresville, Texas.

Grandmother Teas, whom we called Mama, died in 1944, I think, and Papa had lived alone in a rental first floor duplex on Hammond Avenue in San Antonio before coming to live with us for a while in 1950.

Papa Teas

Papa’s place would have made a great stage set for a play about a good man growing old. Had he been alive today, he would’ve had a computer screen sitting in front of him and been spared all the card shuffling he did daily playing solitaire. Although I have a hard time seeing Papa on Facebook, I’m sure he would have found that site too by now.

As it was, Papa’s Place centered on the right side of a little breakfast cove, where there was plenty of space for cards, coffee, pipe tobacco, ash tray, and radio news.

Papa had been pretty strict as a parent to my mom and uncles, but he was a softy in the matter o f his grandkids. Nevertheless, we still respected his strict veneer and somewhat stand-offish manner at first when we came to visit. When I was a really small kid, in the last days of World War II, I also sometimes had trouble understanding the words that Papa used.

Once, while watching Papa play cards and waiting for him to say something, I noticed that every now and then he would glance my way and then back to his hand of cards, Finally, he spoke, but I heard him say the following: “I just heard on the news that we dropped a lot of bums on Nazi Germany yesterday.”

Bums? Falling from the sky? The picture of a lot of hoboes bouncing all over the German countryside was almost too much for my kid’s brain.

“What’s so funny?” Papa asked.

When I tried to explain, he smiled too, but then he made the mistake of trying to straighten me out. “No, Billy,” he said, now leaning toward me as he spoke, “I’m talking about bums that contain explosives, the kind that blow up when they hit the ground,”

More laughter. Our conversation devolved into something like an Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First?” routine without the audience laughs and big Hollywood contract. I’m not sure we ever got it straight. He talked funny. I heard funny. It was funny. To us, at least.

Papa also always had one of those popular calendars of that day that showed a bunch of monkeys sitting around a table playing cards. “Don’t monkey with cheap roofs!” was the company’s calendar sales motto.

Papa’s place was always too dark. And it always reeked with the aroma of sweet pipe smoke. That part never bothered me, unfortunately. I could have benefitted from a little childhood allergy to tobacco smoke. Instead, I eventually got sucked into years of nicotine addiction, before my incredible late life recovery from same. I don’t blame Papa or my dad for my nicotine habituation, I think we just had it our DNA and life style patterns.

Sometimes Papa would take the train to Houston and we would pick him up at Union Station, the current site of Minute Maid Park. I remember once walking from the train platform with Papa toward the big station lobby and looking up at what seemed to me as the very high roof of Union Station. It was high enough to prompt this Q&A exchange between Papa Teas and little kid me:

Billy: “Papa, would it kill you if you fell off that very high roof?”

Papa: “The fall itself wouldn’t kill you, Billy, but that sudden stop by the sidewalk would pretty much do you in.”

We both had to laugh at that one.

Once he moved into our little house with us, Papa never felt comfortable. He missed his card-playing, pipe-smoking, coffee-drinking, news-listening station in San Antonio. By the time it all got worked out for him to live in his own little rental cottage in Floresville, near other family, he was much happier to see us, but on a less constant basis.

I still love you, Papa. As we approach the 55th anniversary of your death next month, I’ll be thinking of you even more than usual, and wishing we could talk some baseball again – even if you were a diehard San Antonio Missions fan and I was a true-blue  Houston Buffs man,

Hope you all have someone like my Papa to remember in the name of love. Those special people never really go away, do they?

Happy Father’s Day 2010!

June 20, 2010

Dad and Me - A Long Time Ago.

Because of you, Dad, … I got to grow up feeling safe and valued. … I had someone to teach me baseball from the time I could hold a ball in my hand. … I learned that I could reach pretty much any goal within my talent range that I was fully  willing to work for —  and that there were no free rides on the road to happy destiny. …. Because of you, because of your down-to-earth everyday example, I also had it affirmed for me that it is better to be kind and loving with people  than cruel and exploitative in my relations with others. …  even, and maybe even especially, when I’m fighting hard for something I believe in.

And thanks more than anything for helping me make my peace with the fact that no one in this world is perfect and that it is better to try to learn from our mistakes than it is to try to play the game of life as though mistakes were not possible.

In baseball parlance, none of us are going to catch all of the balls that are hit our way in life. The goal is to learn from the physical and mental errors we make for the sake of cutting some out and others way down on our list of things we do. Life is like a journey on Houston’s worst streets in the East End. We don’t start missing the potholes until we’ve first hit and felt a few as drivers.

On the 7th of July, it will be sixteen years since we said goodbye, Dad. Had you lived, you would he beaded toward your 100th birthday on December 23rd.

Just wanted you to know that I still miss you, but that I’m also grateful to God for the dad he gave me. You came with more gifts of wisdom by example than I could ever totally list or thank you for. Please know that I’m hanging in there, still working hard into my latter years at being the best true version of me that I can be. For me, the job of self-learning is a humbling experience. As for you – you will always be my biggest hero. That role of you in my life never changes. It just gets celebrated with greater clarity every year when Father’s Day again rolls around.

Cows and Bulls and Bluebonnets.

April 28, 2010

Cows & Bulls & Bluebonnets.

Cows and Bulls and Bluebonnets – Callin’ me back – To the land that I love.Cows and Bulls and Bluebonnets,Pullin’ me backTo South Texas.

If you’ve ever been a songwriter at heart, or simply somebody who harbored a song-bursting bone anywhere in your spiritual body, what I write about this morning will make perfect sense. If not, then just bear with me through today. I’ll try to get back to normal by tomorrow. The subject is just rolling too hard on my mind for now to let go.

I don’t quite know, for sure,  what got me started, but I’ve been writing songs for little everyday occasions for as long as I can remember. I even wrote the goodnight lullabies that we sang to our son Neal when he was a little one.

Dad, Mom, and genes may be partly or wholly responsible.

My dad was a part-time songwriter as a young man. Dad even met my mom when he heard her singing “Paper Moon” live over the radio in Beeville, Texas and then had to drop by the station to see who was singing.

Dad even once managed to get a  famous singer from the 1920s and 1930s named Rudy Vallee to sing a published number of his on the crooner’s  “coast-to-coast” radio program back in the early 30s. He had to drive all the way to New York and be a pest to Mr. Vallee to get it done, but he got it done Dad named the number “The Moon Is Here.” It was actually the only song that Dad ever published and he wrote it in collaboration with a songwriting partner from Beeville, Texas,  a fellow named Dan Lanning. After that little venture, Dad went back to trying to make a living in the real world of the Great Depression era, but he kept on singing his heart out for as long as he lived. All tolled, he was my inspiration in baseball, as a writer, and in life.

“Cows and Bulls and Bluebonnets” came to mind again for me when my wife Norma and I drove up to Chappell Hill this past weekend to have lunch and check out the last of the botanical Mohicans. We missed the deep rich flourish of full-blue bonnet fields that were there on previous weekends, but we did manage  to capture the singular glow of a few isolated holdouts on extinction as pictured here.

The sight of these reminded me of the spring of 1965, when I was still working at Tulane University, but strongly feeling the home call of Texas. All that came to light for me shaped out as  the vision of “cows and bulls and bluebonnets” and the little hum I felt all the way from my head to my toes each time I came back to Texas for an Astros game and crossed that state line on old Highway 90, heading west to Houston from the Golden Triangle area.

The song for “C&B&BB” didn’t have much of a tune, but its call was quite powerful and permanent. I still travel far and wide, but I have no desire to live anywhere else, but Houston. This place owns my heart.

I feel normal coming back right now. Let’s go, Astros! It’s  time to take Game Two of the Reds Series and keep the turnaround going strong!

Remembering Wee Willie.

March 1, 2010

Dad played CF for the 1928 St. Edward's Broncos. He loved this card I made for him a few thousand years ago.

“You’re the baby, Bill! – You’re the baby!”

One of my earliest memories trails back to the year 1939, when I was only about one and a half years old. I’m stomping around the right field wooden grandstands of the old ballpark at the Bee County Fairgrounds with my mom sitting nearby. My dad is coming to bat from the  left side of the plate and his Beeville Bee teammates are yelling encouragement to the baby on the team. Then I see Dad swinging the bat and lacing a base hit to right field. There is cheering. Then all goes to black down memory lane. That little snippet is all that remains, but it is as clear as the bad lighting of the old field back home allows it to be.

Of course, all my descriptions of what just happened came later. I didn’t know baseball from base hit back then. I just knew that people were cheering for my dad and that he had done something to make most of them happy. I saw it all happen.

Three and one half years later, on my New Years Eve fifth birthday, we would move from Beeville to the place that would become my home forever – a place called Houston – and I would learn a lot more about baseball from my dad, the Houston Buffs, and almost endless summer days on the sandlots of Houston’s East End.

Dad was first and best ever teacher. Then he got out of the way and allowed me to learn the rest of the game on my own with my summertime sandlot buddies. None of us had eager parents leaning over our shoulders or buying us things back in the day. In the East End, at least, we either inherited bats, balls, and gloves or we got little jobs to buy them over time. Uniforms, even caps, were a luxury we didn’t even dream about possessing.

One year my mom made me a Houston Buffs uniform. In fact, she steam-ironed those letters onto the front of the jersey, “Houston Buffs.” It came with a little blue cap that had four red stripes evenly descending from the button top of the cap crown.

I wore the homemade Buffs uniform at home. Even paused long enough for Mom to take a picture of me in it once. I simply wouldn’t wear it to the sandlot. None of my teammates had one and I didn’t want to be different from them. I only wanted  to be one of them, as I already was. Knowing in our hearts and minds that we were the Pecan Park Eagles was good enough for us. We didn’t need a Houston Buff uniform Christmas present to play baseball.

We once got into a turf war with the kids from Kernel Street over the use of our field on Japonica. We had even taken to using pipe guns that shot gravel (made for us by one of our adult machinist neighbors) to defend our territory. I can’t believe we took it that far, but we did.

When the war broke out, my dad came flying out of the house and put a stop to all of it. I never learned what happened to our pipe guns, or how he handled it with the neighbor who built them for us, but we never got any more “help” from the machinist after this episode. That much I know.

Dad made us all assemble on the sandlot and play out our differences in a game of baseball, Japonica versus Kernel streets. We did. And we whacked ’em pretty good. After that, we all played together on the same field with no further trouble.

I had further trouble. Dad still wailed the tar out of me at home after the game for my involvement in the production of those pipe guns, but I deserved it. How he put up with my shenanigans as well as he did, I’ll never know. I’ll just always be grateful he was there.

“You were the baby, dad. Thanks for being in my life for as long as I was privileged to have you here with me. I’m old now, but I’ll never grow too old to say thank you. You taught me much more than baseball. You taught me tough love, honesty, integrity, loyalty, and commitment.

The one thing you didn’t teach me is how to get over missing you.


January 2, 2010

2010: The Dawning of a New Day!

Happy New Year again, Dear Friends,

From smack dab in the middle of today!

At the dawning of 2010, it might be well for us

To spend a few seconds reflecting upon some ancient truths

About promises and resolutions; apologies and regrets:

We cannot capture what is yet to be

With our promises.

We cannot regain what might have been

With our regrets.

We cannot reach tomorrow faster than

The unpromising sun.

Nor can we hold onto yesterday

With our tears.

Life is always, here and now, today,

The place that empowers us with wisdom

From the past, as it prepares us for the future

With a more workable vision of what is to be.

Let us live today, not by how we simply pass the time,

But by how we put ourselves fully, heart and soul,

Each single day we wake up breathing life’s new air,

Into the loving passions of our lives over time.

Can today be enough of life for each of us?

It had better be. It is all we have and it is very large.

Today only seems small when we fail to realize

How truly big it really is.

Today is the universe of our human experience,

Where all things play out on the basis of what

We each do – and fail to do, about the stuff that matters,

Here and now – from today to forever.

Happy New Year, Friends!

December 30, 2009

Happy New Year, Everybody!

New Year’s Eve. It’s the great time in the year to be optimistic about ourselves and the world around us. And why not? Things get done by people who believe in possibility. They are never improved by pessimistic resignation to the idea that there is nothing we can do as individuals to improve our fit in the human condition.

Symbolically, we treat the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve as though it were the timegate into a better world – one that simply floated into our lives on the pendulum swing of a clock stroke. It’s here! Happy New Year! And who knows? It may be, if we are willing to live the things we so easily promise on New Year’s Eve. It will be too, if we simply take a greater responsibility for doing the things we can actually do something about, and if we are willing to learn from our mistakes along the way and settle for progress over perfection as the most realistic human result. In small consumable bites, we can get there, if “getting there”  is at all possible, and it will all unfold for us on its own timetable, one day at a time.

Pretty cool stuff.

I’m also blown away this time of the year by all the things that seem to symbolize New Year’s Eve. In words and pictures, here are the major ones that occur to me. I’m sure that others may come to mind for you. Some of my selections only come from my personal experience (see the Marx Brothers below), but most of these icons are fairly universal to our American profile of the day so many people pop open the bubbily:

Guy Lombardo was in charge of New Year's Eve from 1929 to 1976.

Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadiens played a New Year’s Eve gig over the radio from New York hotels from 1929 through 1976. Over the six decades his music touched directly, we pretty much placed the Canadian immigrant in charge of the American New Yeat’s Eve celebration. His rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” remains the one we still hear when the big crystal ball descends at Times Square in the 21st century.

Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire: "Shall we dance? Shall we ever!"

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire are my second big throwback icons from the time we dressed to the nines on New Year’s Eve and danced our way into the new year. We never performed at the the level of those two Hollywood immortals, but our hearts and hopes still soared where our feet couldn’t go.

... and all that jazz!

Can’t imagine New Year’s Eve without music. Jazz was king when the big new year’s eve celebration came alive back in the boom days of the rhe “Roarin’ Twenties”, but American classic pop, rock ‘n roll, classic, country & western, rap, and hip hop have all since found their own voices and steps to the art of singing and dancing in the new year.

~ drunk again is now a bigger sin ~

Back in the day, many New Year’s Eve partygoers simply lived to get plastered on that special night. Then they got in their cars and attempted driving home. Some people still go this route, but we’ve gotten better over the years at taking better care of ourselves and others where public drinking is concerned. People over age 30 don’t thoughtllessly throw “falling-down-drunk” parties as they once did – and those who do plan drunk nights for themselves also are better at planning designated driver assignments with othera, or for pre-arranging to stay wherever they plan to party.

"Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know." - Groucho Marx.

The Marx Brothers have long been associated with New Year’s Eve. Perhaps it’s because of all the zany party scenes that pop up in most of their movies from the 1930’s. Maybe it’s just because the boys have a unique talent for making people laugh at the self-importance of all the big egos they disrobe in their consistently anti-authoritarian movie plots. Botom Line: The boys are funny and happy on a day in which funny and happy is exactly what most people want to be.

Even an aging Joe Montana handled the Oilers during his falling apart, ragged last year at QB for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Many people spend New Year’s Eve in rapture over the playing of the last big New Year’s bowl games – or in painful memory of the Houston Oilers. These are the people who need to show more resolve in letting go of past regrets.

Dick Clark counting down another rockin' new year's eve.

He’s today’s Guy Lombardo, Dick Clark sure is, and probably Clark’s bigger than Lombardo because of television and the Internet. We thank God that Mr. Clark is back with us publicly again to bring in 2010 with the dropping of the big new crystal ball in Times Square. We shut-ins, voluntary and otherwise,  especially enjoy it.

"Should auld acquaintaince be forgot, and never brought to mind..."

The singing of auld ang syne is a must on New Year’s Eve. In case you’ve forgotten how it once sounded, here’s how the popular first verse and chorus rings forth in the phonetics of Scottish speech from the 18th century:

Shid ald akwentans bee firgot, an nivir brocht ti mynd? Shid ald akwentans bee firgot, an ald lang syn?

Fir ald lang syn, ma jo,
fir ald lang syn,
wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?"

Happy New Year, Everybody! Dance like you know what you’re doing this New Year’s Eve and kiss like you really mean it. If we all make it to midnight tomorrow night, we should first pause for a moment of gratitude and then prepare ourselves to live each coming day of 2010 with as much inner directed purpose as we can bring to the table. None of us are ever guaranteed another sunrise, let alone, another new year. No matter how old or young we are, it’s time to lean forward into tomorrow on the strength of today’s hope – and not to fall back into any old regrets we may still have about the past. Our time is now. It always is.

Every moment is a timegate to change when we wake up to the fact it is.

Happy New Year, Friends!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

December 23, 2009

We live in that home where the buffalo roam!

As we move into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, this blog will shut down for a couple of days in honor of the season, and also out of respect for the attention I need to be paying to out of town guests. We’ll be back to what passes for normal around here on Saturday, December 26th. In the meanwhile, I’d like to leave all of you dear friends and readers with my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a most safe, peaceful, and happy holiday season. My stocking-stuffer presents are these few additional “baseball-as-a-metaphor-for-life” thoughts that occur to me on this Christmas Eve eve. Hope you find some of them useful:

(1) The role of love and loyalty in friendship and marriage: They are the double play in life that we cannot win without. Take away either – and nobody survives the troublesome inning that’s coming somewhere down the line in the game.

(2) Sometime in life, usually when we are least expecting it, we are going to be faced with some kind of situation that feels like s squeeze play. We need to play the game of life all the way out with our eyes wide open, our wits totally about us, and with as much mental agility as we can bring to the possibility of a dribbler coming at us down the line with everything we’ve worked for hanging in the night air and depending on how we handle matters at a critical time. We won’t win ’em all. Nobody does. We just have to stay on our toes andd know that we’ve given everything we do our honest best effort.

(3) Much has been written to compare life with the long season of baseball, but there is a big difference that nobody seems to field. In baseball, no matter how tough the schedule is, your opponents line up to play you in serial form, one game at a time, one day at a time. In life, several foes may show up on the same day at the same hour, and you won’t be saved from any of them by a manager who watches your pitch count. You will have to take on your son’s flu, your spouse’s cancer, your own heart attack, the loss of your biggest job, other  problems with your spouse, kids, family, in-laws, and neighbors, your personal addictions, and a dead car battery that keeps you from being on time to a new job interview – and sometimes all on the same day. So how do win?

Sometimes we don’t win, at least, in terms of how we may see winning with our egos on a particular day.

All we can do is try to stay honest with ourselves and throw as hard as we can for as long as we can at the things we can do something about. We can’t do the impossible. Things are what they are. And we can only do what we can do. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.

Life is not like Baskin & Robbins, with problems coming into our lives and taking a number until we can get to them. Problems in life have a habit of coming in packs. All we can do is get better at learning to recognize which ones we can do something about and spending our energies there.

No Rollerskating Allowed in This Tree!

(4) When all is said and done, few of us who love baseball will ever abandon hope for the kind of redemption that may come our way via the “Grand Slam” in the later innings of either baseball or life. We are basically romanticists at heart and, for many of us too, our cups runneth over with magical thinking about the salvation that cracks into our lives  instantly and majestically off the wood of the bases-loaded long ball. We can always see it again in the minds-eye memory of these great moments from past games – and from these we dream all the more of it happening again, in baseball and in life. For those of us who have known this joyful experience at any level of play, the Grand Slam is always remembered and never forgotten. Never.

(5) Enjoy the love that is always trying to find its way into our lives everyday in so many forms too, folks. Like baseball, true acts of love are forever, and they are coming at us daily in new forms and through old reminders all the time. Like baseball, we just have to remember that true love never goes away.

The Chicken Shack: A Memory Jogger of the 50’s Culture..

December 10, 2009

The Chicken Shack was an East End institituion back in the 1950s. I don’t remember much about the South Main location, nor did I know that the place was a Texas chain of some sorts back in the pre-big chain era of places to eat out. People mainly ate at home during the 1950s. Restaurants, cafes, drive ins, and other kinds of away-from home eateries were all special in their own rights, and some, like our East End Chicken Shack location at the corner of Telephone and Wayside were honestly downright held close to institutional status by their favorite local patrons.

The Chicken Shack was renowned for its “chicken fried chicken.” As opposed to “chicken fried steak,” “chicken fried chicken” had that sweet and greasy chickeny flavor that so many of us artery-clogging galoots of that era preferred with our french fries and creamy apple pies. Man! It’s a wonder that any of us survived our culture of misinformation on what was good for us.

Want some real fun? Go shirtless all summer in the sun! Want to stop those mosquito bites? Run behind that neighborhood DDT spray truck and rub that foggy smelling dew into your bodies! As you do, say goodbye to the little critters! Not sure if your shoes fit? Stick those little feet in the store’s foot x-ray machine! See for yourself how much room you have inside your current shoes for your toes! Want a healthy meal when you can’t get a good one at home because Mom is too sick to cook again tonight? Come on down to the Chicken Shack! Anything on the menu should fix you up just fine with that “stick-to-your-ribs” goodness people came to expect from one of their favorite away-from-home eating places.

Of course, we avoided certain unhealthy practices back then too. Whenever we practiced baseball or football in the early and late summer, we took salt tablets and drank no water. That made a lot of sense. Only babies and mama’s boys needed water at practice when they turned blood-red in the face and started vomiting in dry heaves on the smoldering summer grass! Those of us who were ready, made it through steady!

When we awoke to the biological messages of adolescence that seemed to overnight change and drive how we thought about the opposite sex, everything in general, and fun in particular, we simply put sex out of our minds in the consoling knowledge that we could always pick it up again one day, once we were actually married to someone really gorgeous and we were only yielding to that powerful new drive for the sake of having children.

We didn’t waste time talking with adults about what we wanted to do with our lives when we grew up, nor did we talk with our parents or counselors about what was important about love and relationships between men and women. We just played ball and drove around in our cars as we also knuckled down in school, as best we could, for the sake of getting the right answers and making good grades. If we really wanted to learn about love and relationships, we listened to the lyrics from songs sung on the radio by entertainers Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Those guys were much more eloquent on the subjects of love and marriage than our parents ever dreamed of being.

We didn’t get lost in drugs either. We had beer and whisky to get us by legally without ever breaking the law. That is, as long as there was somebody around of legal age to do the actual buying for us, or we could find a merchant who could do a wink-purchase sale to honest, well-intentioned minors who were just trying to have a little fun.

We didn’t need adults to set up “self esteem building” experiences for us. We just assumed that it was up to each of us to either get something done or be written off as worthless. That seemed pretty fair to me as I look back on it now. The idea, or even the phrase “self esteem,” were neither topics nor words that even came up for discussion back in the day. It was up to each of us to either make something of our lives or else, fall by the wayside.

We must have done something right back then. Look how healthy and well adjusted so many us turned out to be.