Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way, and South Texas skies

If you drive in Houston long enough, you see a lot of things on the freeways.  Women putting on makeup, guys reading the sports page; EVERYBODY with the radio going, a cup of their favourite beverage going, and their blackberries/iphones going. 

You’ll see a bit of everything.

My new blackberry (thank you, Broadspire!) has a decent camera, and over the past week (!) I’ve taken some –interesting- photos.

I drive to and from work on the Katy Freeway (IH-10).  Since they widened it, it stands proud and strong at 20 lanes, 10 on each side.  It’s an immense span of concrete, truly amazing.  There are flyovers, HOV lanes, Toll Lanes, Managed Lanes, MainLanes, gargantuan interchanges, and a partridge in a pear tree (though the partridge is about dead due to inhalation of fumes from 219,000 vehicles a day).  It’s been featured on the show Modern Marvels, and is really a dazzling display of design, engineering, and construction expertise.

219,000 is a lotta cars.

The first three pics are from my commute this week (second is a crop from the first):

One and two:



Dude, you are going to DIE.  It’s like this:  in this picture, I’m driving a 2004 Chrysler Town and Country Minivan, clocking in at a modest 3,100 lbs of American Steel.  Note that next to him are a Chevy Tahoe (4,000), a Ford F-150 (about 4,000), and you can also see a Ford Expedition, another F-150, and a semi-trailer (80,000 lbs).  All of the aforementioned vehicles were moving at approximately 70 mph, and you’ll notice that there were merges from the left AND the right, with the merge from the flyover coming right up.  You should not be driving that scooter on the freaking Katy Freeway.



Oooooooh-KAY, you’re not going to see this every day, now are ya?  I have no idea what this car started out its life being, but now it’s covered front to back in purpley-blue carpet.  That is a steer skull as the hood ornament, and I don’t know what the shiny button things on top are (I was driving 70 mph on the Katy at the time).  Also, not sure about the coffin on the back.  Um, it appears to have stained glass windows.  Why do you need windows on your coffin?  Planning to look at the view?  I have seen some amazing things, but this one is pretty interesting.  (It’s part of the fun of Houston Art Cars, part of the wackiness that makes Houston…Houston.).


Anybody who’s ever spent any time in South Texas knows about the South Texas sky.  It really is bigger and better here, and it has its own particular look.  I love it; I didn’t realize how much I missed it living all over everywhere else.  It can be bluest blue with puffy white clouds, or it can be raining ferociously; it can be brassy with heat waves simmering; it can be brown with air pollution.

But sometimes, the Devil is beating his wife!  I’ve heard that one all my life; when it’s raining and the sun is shining, the Devil is beating his wife.  Poor thing, she’s worn out by now based on Houston alone.

I had been down to Clear Lake City (NASA Road 1, home of the Johnson Space Center) to the hospital to visit one of my staffers who is in for pneumonia (he called me today; he snuck downstairs in his little hospital gown and flippy flops, dragging his IV tree, and was leaning on his car in the parking lot smoking a cigarette or 20.  Gee, I wonder why he’s not better….).

Anyway, I’d been down to CLC to see Bill, and was coming home via the Beltway.  I called my lifelong friend Robert, and we were visiting.  I tried to describe the sky; Robert lived here many years, and knew EXACTLY what I was describing.  He misses the South Texas sky too.

After I hung up, it dawned on me that my blackberry takes pictures.  I tried to capture the beauty I was seeing.  Hope it comes through.

IMG00023 Stitch (2)-1





A Texas “Blue Norther” (first of the season)




Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is it so wrong…

…for me to rejoice at the suffering of others? Shouldn't I be so ashamed? Shouldn't I cry large tears instead?



Rebel fans, that was CLASSIC Hooty Dale Nutt right there. And y'all keep wondering why we ran him out of Arkansas. You need to remember this game, Rebels. It will haunt your dreams. You'll look back on it as the day that first cold, dreadful finger of doubt ran up and down your spine---the game where you said, "What the hell was that?" "Oh, well, they had a bad day, everybody has one now and again; they'll fix it." Except they won't. Ever. What you see is what you get with the Nuttjob.

If I were y'all, I'd lock up the female TV anchors in town with Hooty on the prowl.

South Carolina 16, Ole Miss 10.
Glorious, simply glorious.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Georgia vs. Arkansas: Oh, where, oh where has my Defense gone?



How many Arkansas and Georgia players does it take to have a Defense?  201.  100 players from each team, and one to turn on the television to watch Florida.

Hey, Willie Robinson (Arkansas) and Willie Martinez (Georgia):  The Little Sisters of the Poor called.  They want their defenses back if you’re through using them.

In a dazzling display of either a high scoring football game or a low scoring basketball game, the Georgia offense outlasted the Arkansas offense Saturday night in Fayetteville.  The Arkansas Defense was hosting the Georgia defense in a heated tiddlywinks contest in Jane, Missouri at the time, but the defenses for both teams took time out from their play to watch the game unfolding in Fayetteville on ESPN.  Meanwhile, the Referees for the game proved once again to the satisfaction of all that the Southeastern Conference leads the nation in blown officiating calls, makeup calls, out and out phantom calls, indecision, and general all-around laughability.  At least, as is so often said, the officiating was terrible on both sides.

Arkansas Defensive Coordinator Willie Robinson, meanwhile, when asked about the game, exclaimed, “Georgia?  GEORGIA!?!  I thought we were playing Missouri State!  We prepared for Missouri State!”  Uh, Willie, if you’ve not already bought a house in Fayettenam, I would stick with the apartment status.  Don’t hang anything on the walls, they charge you your deposit for those holes when you move out.

Holes---Arkansas surely had them.  One of the biggest was Middle Linebacker.  Why was there a hole there?  Because Jerry Franklin, a darn good one, was ejected from the game for pushing two players in the face mask and then bumping an official.  Fortunately, unlike the previous coaching regime, Jerry will most likely “feel the love” from Coach Bobby Petrino; stadium steps, anyone?

Holes---Arkansas’ offensive line couldn’t seem to open any for Broderick Green.   Wow, first and goal and you get stopped and have to run a pass play?  Oh, well, the same could be said for the Eli-Manning quarterbacked New York Giants Sunday night, as they accepted lovingly wrapped presents from Tony Romo to edge the Cowboys in the season opener of JerryWorld.

Oh, well, the Georgia game is in the books.  On to Tuscaloosa, where the Alabama Crimson “Tahd” awaits.  Bama is hungry, Bama fans believe they’re “back”, and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree with them.  Bama looks fierce.  We’ve won in Tuscaloosa and I’m not afraid of big, bad ‘Bama---except this year, maybe I should be.  They’re no Florida, though.  We’ve got them on the road, too.


Had a wonderful time at the tailgate party and the game.  Probably my only trip this year (me + career + finances + economic crisis = FAIL; annus horribilis continues unabated). 

Nathan and I were in downtown Houston on Friday afternoon at 4:30.  Drove to Tulsa, arrived 1:00 am, spent the night.  Saturday morning, drove to Rose, Oklahoma and dropped my little Bessie, the rescue dog, off at her forever home.  The people there are lovely and will give her a wonderful home.  We then went on to Fayetteville, tailgated with old friends, hugged everybody’s neck, had bourbon and coke, watched football (GO HUSKIES!), then walked across the street to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

I don’t know what it was, but it’s gotten a little too busy at DWRRS these days.  Sensory overload.  WAY WAY WAY TOO MANY FREAKING COMMERCIALS!!!


(Note to Long:  go to some of the other stadia and see how they do it.  It’s just not as intrusive).

After the game (exciting) and the hour getting out of the parking area, then another hour to Ft. Smith, spending the night at the Motel 6 on Rogers, then another 9 hour drive to Houston, then working all day, my brain is FRIED.  Accordingly, I’m going to stop writing and post pictures instead.




Nathan and his name on Senior Walk




Gage:  The Family 


Skinny and Minnie

DSC_0032 Thanks, Joey, for a great party!



….you just had to be there….


IMG00020 DSC_0053





DSC_0075 Stitch (2)

















Thursday, September 17, 2009


You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Jesus of Nazareth, “The Sermon on the Mount”, Matthew 5:14

I love Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

The quintessential “College Town”, Fayetteville is indeed the “City on a Hill”.  I always wonder, as I top the hill on Interstate 540 just south of the city, how much J. Frank Broyles and the Fayetteville City Council paid the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to put the road right there:  the view is breathtaking.

You come in on Interstate 40 from either Little Rock/The Rest of Arkansas, or Oklahoma/Texas/points west, and take the turn onto Interstate 540.  You are 45 minutes from Heaven on Earth.  With each breathtaking turn, each architecturally daring bridge, each beautiful valley viewed from the grand plateau of the Ozarks.

Ok, a word about The Ozarks:  for those who don’t know, the Ozarks are not really mountains.  It (they) is an eroded plateau; over millennia, water and wind have done their work on this giant flat plateau, eroding valleys and rivulets and arroyos into the land until it appears to human eyes to be “mountains”.  “Mountains” are pushed up from beneath, as were the Ouachitas just south of the Arkansas River, or pounded into place, as in the Appalachian Range or the Rockies.  The Ozarks, on the other hand, are the result of time, wind, water, and the hand of God slowly working their handiwork onto the land beneath.  They are truly “the Mountains of God”.

As you go further and further north, passing all the farms, forests, lakes and rivers, clothed in their autumnal glory, you cannot help but be moved.  I never made that trip, ever, without gasping at some gorgeous long view or beautiful individual tree or farm.  Every time I make that trip, I see something new and wondrous.

(“Autumnal Glory”—New England, Upstate New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania---y’all got NOTHING on Fayetteville, NOTHING.  And I’ve seen autumn in those places, and it is glorious, but there’s just something about a crisp, cool autumn day in the Ozarks…).

Finally, north of Greenland, you crest that final hill and there, for a shining second, framed by the Ozarks, crowning the Hill like the glittering diadem of a Monarch on her throne, is the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, with the City of Fayetteville, paying homage, arrayed around her.



Before Interstate 540, there were two ways to get to Fayetteville:  the torturous, winding US 71 (one of the 10 worst roads in America, by popular acclaim), complete with spectacular drops (don’t lose your concentration or over the side you’ll go), hairpin turns, lanes whose white stripes abut with the rocky outcrop of mountains, and 45,000 cars, all bound for Fayetteville, potentially in the beginnings of an ice/snow storm.  Or, you could always opt for the infamous Pig Trail, that torturous (did I just use “torturous” twice in one paragraph?  I did, didn’t I?) strip of pavement that starts in Ozark (the town) and winds through the mountains, twisting and turning its way up to Fayetteville.  Amazing fun in a sports car or on a motorcycle; torture in anything else.

I’ve made both those trips a million times, in ‘63 Impala Station Wagon in the “back-back” (my friend Clay Henry’s family called it the “way-back”; those old station wagons had three rows of seats; the furthest back faced the rear, and was usually inhabited by the oldest boy—a private domain, far from Dad’s correcting hand, far from annoying siblings, it was the perfect place for the 8-13 year old male.  If the movement of the ‘wagon made the boy slightly nauseous, he would never, ever tell anyone (and the foregoing does not constitute an admission of any kind; I’ve heard it happened to some boys at some times).  I’ve made that trip um, slightly inebriated, in a ‘71 Mustang Mach 1, a ‘75 Corvette, and all kinds of other conveyances. 

It was a 6 hour trip from Malvern, Arkansas to Fayetteville, Arkansas via the US Highway system, before the interstates.

Fayetteville did have an airport---Drake Field.  Flying into Drake has always been an adventure.  They did get lights, eventually, but many a flier has flown his/her airplane directly into the mountain that juts at the end of the runway.  For generations they suffered with “Scheduled Skyways”, which was –kind of- an airline that would fly you to Little Rock or Tulsa, towns with “real” airports. 

This post did not start out as a post about Fayetteville, but the above does set the stage, as it were.


When the gang of “thugs, hooligans, and plug-uglies” (so-called by the Ft. Smith newspaper) started playing football at the (relatively new) University of Arkansas, they played near the baseball diamond, which was located about where Arkansas Avenue now intersects Dickson Street.  As the sport grew in both legitimacy and popularity, the boys moved down into the ravine near campus (Campus, of course, consisted of “Old Main” alone), and the students would array themselves on “The Hill” (the side of the ravine) to watch.  The ravine, of course, became known as “Razorback Ravine”, the road going down it “Razorback Road”, and the WPA project that put formal stands in (replacing a rickety wooden grandstand) was “Razorback Stadium”.

Over the years, improvements were added:  sound, a Press Box, etc---but no lights.

The stadium consisted of two grandstands and a berm around the north end, with a big parking lot (“The Pit”) at the north end.  The first time I saw it, it looked like this:

RRS bygone days

I’ll never forget that first trip.  My Aunt Shorty and Uncle Cal, who went to all the games, took me when I was 8 years old.  I remember vividly the anticipation, the feeling of being barely able to breathe (I didn’t sleep at all the night before, period).  Driving to the Pit, parking, walking to the stadium, everyone wearing red (except those nasty people in Burnt Orange (spit), what were they doing here?  Arkansas had been doing pretty well.  I wasn’t much into football at that point; my Dad, his brother, and his two sisters were seemingly crazed about it; I had a cousin who played for Baylor (there are two sides to our family), and everybody had the bug---except me.  Until that fateful day.

It was a beautiful fall day in the Ozarks, temperatures in the 70’s in the day, down to the 50’s at night; the maples blazing away with their fiery reds and blazing yellows; the sky so blue you could see Jupiter.  The game was an afternoon affair, as all were because there were no lights.

The burnt-orange team (which led me eventually to coin the phrase, “Evil Orange Empire of the West”) looked like crap compared to my heroes in Cardinal and White; we got out to a 20-0 lead!  This was going to be easy!  Ah, but the Evil Orange, led by the wicked sorcerer Royal, came roaring back (what the hell HAPPENED to our team?  They got out in front and got overconfident) and took the lead, then added to it.  It was cold, it was getting dark, and things were looking pretty bad for Our Side, the side of Goodness and Light.  I was devastated that we were going to lose.  As the shadows lengthened, and lengthened, and then it just got plain dark, Jon Brittenum, “The Quarterbackin’ Man”, took the ball on the 20 with about four minutes left (remember, in those days, there was no such thing as a “2 minute drill”).  He deftly passed to Bobby Crockett, who always seemed to manage to be at the precise spot on the sidelines where and when the ball arrived, to run out of bounds and stop the clock; occasionally, he mixed in a run with Hurryin’ Harry Jones.  Down the field came Arkansas, and as time expired, Brittenum hurled the ball over the heads of the defenders to a sky-high Bobby Crockett in the very corner of the endzone, TOUCHDOWN ARKANSAS!!!! The noise was insane!  But wait---a FLAG.  Arkansas had to back up and try again.  42,000 people held their breath.  Brittenum sneaked it in and the referees’ hands went up and 40,000 people went stark, raving, insane (2,000 were very, very quiet).  Final score:  Arkansas 27, texass u (spit) 24  EAT SHIT AND DIE, TEXASS!!! Oh, sorry, ‘scuse me, this is a family blog and all, “Congratulations to our fine opponents from Texas, they played an outstanding game.”  BWAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA.

I had screamed myself completely hoarse; it was the first time (but not the last) I had ever done so; I would open my mouth and wheezy noises would come out.  Uncle Cal, never one to waste cash, bought me a small Cardinal colored pennant, with the seal and “Arkansas” on it; I’m looking at it on the wall in my den in Houston at age 52 as I write this.

So that was my first trip to Razorback Stadium.


The stadium was renovated several times over the years; the grandstands acquired “wings” in 1968; Astroturf appeared in 1969 for the “Great Shootout”; the berm disappeared when they built the first Broyles Field House in 1975; lights FINALLY came to Fayetteville with the addition of the upper deck in 1985; then the construction stopped for the next 15 years.  The Broyles Center received an addition in the 80’s as well, but that was about it.

I’m not going to tell the “Great Shootout” story here.  Much has been written about it, including an excellent book, “Hogs, Horns, and Nixon Coming” by Terry Frei.  Nixon choppered in and saw the game; one of the freshman Congressmen with him (who was lucky to be invited on such a trip) was the youthful George Herbert Walker Bush of Texas.  Law Student Hillary Rodham was also at the University, although I don’t know if she attended the game or not.  Arkansas alum Jerry Jones came up from El Dorado for the game.  It was “a big deal.”

In Ft. Worth, Texas, I had spent the entire week running my mouth (shocking to those who know me as the shy, retiring wallflower I am) to the Texas boys, and was devastated when we lost.

Yes, we lost.  End of story.


razorbackaerial (old)

Arkansas had one of the biggest, nicest stadiums in the Southwest Conference, which used to be about on par with the SEC.  In 1970, Arkansas’ stadia (War Memorial and Razorback) would have fit in decently with the SEC; Neyland in Knoxville, for example, seated 60,000; about the same for Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.  Alabama played most of their games at Legion Field in Birmingham; it had lights and was bigger than Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.  But while Arkansas rested on its laurels, the SEC was on a building spree.  By the time Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992, their facilities were woefully inadequate and uncompetitive.

In stepped generous benefactors, and now Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium is as modern, sophisticated, and comfortable as can be found anywhere.  When it expanded from 50,000 to 72,000 (now 76-78,000, depending), the fear was that “we’ll never sell all those tickets”.  Now, the impetus is on expanding the stadium up to a possible 92,000, on par with the “big boys” of the SEC.  With the success Bobby Petrino will bring to the program, this will be a virtual necessity.  Tickets are already scarce, and interest has never been higher.  It’s that pesky “recession” thing that’s slowing it down.




The View From My Room

There’s a lot to be proud of with DWRRS---the huge, screaming, red-clad crowds (the famous story is, a texass u (spit) assistant coach once stated that texass u (spit) should refuse to play there, since it was “like parachuting into Russia”), the lavish skyboxes, the luxurious club seating---oh, and that little television set.

Thanks to the generosity of Southwestern Bell, nee SBC, nee AT&T, Arkansas has the third largest stadium video display board in North America.  It was the largest before texass u (spit) got scoreboard-envy and built a bigger one, to be eclipsed by the grandeur in Arlington this year.  The Pigscreen TeeVee is amazing; when they first turned it on, coming in on 540 at night, you could see it all the way from the hill.  It’ll put your eyes out.



ahem.  Yes, that would be me on the PIgscreen TeeVee.

There’s the Hall of Champions, the Hall of Bowl Games, the Hall of All-Americans.  There’s the Broyles Complex with its shimmering glass reflecting the blue Ozark sky.  There’s the red border of the field, which proclaims to all that this is Razorback country.  There’s even the “Traditional GO HOGS spellout” ;-).




Still, probably my favourite part of DWRRS (besides the grandeur and the outright hostility of our crowd) is a thing that not many people notice.

Buried down there under all the upper decks and LED Ribbons and High-Def display boards and Club Seating, little old Razorback stadium is STILL THERE.  If you look closely, you can see all the additions.  The Pressbox is original; it still says “Home of the Razorbacks” just like it always did; it’s just buried under all that grandeur.

9-8-2006- 094

There’s a little piece of the berm left; as you sit in the stadium, look to the right of the Broyles Complex and there it is (look to the right of the Pigscreen in the shot above).  If you look, you can see the “wings” and then you can see the original grandstands—again, covered in splendor, but still there, a testament to the past glories of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

I can’t wait for the next thrilling game.  The next time a defensive lineman intercepts a pass and lopes down the sidelines with the entire team blocking for him and the sidelines urging his fat ass on; the next time a tight game is on the IMG_0666 (2) (2) line and some bright young man with a strong arm stands firm in the pocket in the face of an SEC defensive rush that will be playing  on Sundays next year and makes an amazing pass; a streaking receiver makes an amazing over the shoulder catch, a flying running back an amazing run, the defense stands strong on 4th and one as time expires to save the victory; the crowd goes Hog Wild, the Razorback Band plays “Arkansas Fight!” and the roar of the crowd resolves itself into one of the most famous blood cries in the illustrious history of college football.

I can’t wait until, once again, the Hog Call echoes down Razorback Ravine and off the Hills into the crisp fall Ozark air.






Pure as the dawn on the brow of thy beauty
  Watches thy soul from the mountains of God
Over the Fates of thy children departed
  Far from the land where their footsteps have trod.
Beacon of hope in the ways dreary lighted;
  Pride of our hearts that are loyal and true;
From those who adore unto one who adores us-
  Mother of Mothers, we sing unto you.