Saturday, August 25, 2012

“Houston, Tranquility Base here…”

If you weren’t alive then, you have no idea what it was like, how thrilling it was.  I dare say it was our last National Thrill.  We’ve had other moments, some good, some bad, some great.  We’ve had moments of triumph---the death of Osama Bin Laden, for example…  Moments of despair---the Challenger, the Columbia, and of course the date that will live along with December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963…September 11, 2001.  Moments of athletic excitement---the US Hockey Team, Muhammed Ali v. Joe Frazier, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, with their own thrilling wins, Carlton Fisk’s extra-innings home run in the ‘75 Series; plus (insert name of your team here) over (insert “name” and date of your game here) (insert name of “enemy vanquished” here).  (My personal:  “7th Heaven”, Arkansas 58, Ole Miss 56, 7 Overtimes, Oxford, MS).

But absolutely nothing can even touch Man Landing on the Moon.  The entire world watched.  There were directions in the paper for taking pictures of your TV screen with your Brownie, or Instamatic, or Leica.  It was a triumph---we were smart enough to do it, by God!  We had run a daunting race and WON!  And we beat the freaking SOVIETS!!!  And those brave men were o-so-many miles away, and we all watched on TV, then went outside and looked up at the moon in awe.

And quickly forgot about them.  Apollo 11 was viewed by the entire world.  By the now-infamous Apollo 13, they couldn’t even buy time in prime time. 

Now Americans ride to the International Space Stations with the Russians, and the US Government is systematically gutting NASA.  Manned space flights are considered “out of vogue”; we’d rather send “smart” Rovers to Mars and the other places, and the remaining people who accomplished this amazing feat are passing on now.  Commercial companies are taking over space flight (can’t you just see the ads inside:  “Corns?  Try Dr. Scholl’s Amazing Corn Remover!”).

But then, it was thrilling, exciting, and wonderful to see MAN doing it.

And while there were many fantastic souls working on the ground for decades—whole careers—to put Man into Space, nobody compared with those brave men (and later women) who actually WENT, actually DID it.  Especially the first ones, like the Mercury 7, and the Gemini astronauts, and then the Apollo guys.  They were really “out there” on a limb, in unknown and very hostile territory, wearing the flag of the United States but representing us all.

“Houston,  Tranquility Base here.   The Eagle has Landed.”

May our hero Neil rest in peace, and may Light Perpetual shine upon him.


Neil Alden Armstrong, August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.





Ground Control to Major Tom

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


A couple of years ago, my lovely daughters (…) Lucy and Ethel decided to get out of the back yard (thanks, meter reader, for leaving the gate half-latched…) and go visiting in the neighborhood.  You can read that story here.

So this morning, I was late to work (now there’s an unusual concept).  They’ve got al the streets around us torn completely up (new storm drains!  No more Lake Westmere!).  It is necessary to snake around the neighborhood and make your way to one of the major arteries that is NOT Briar Forest or Kirkwood (both of which are likewise torn up).

So here I was, late, and sailing along the “other” part of my street—and there was somebody’s nice (big) dog, collared, wandering around looking lost.

I stopped, got out of the van, said, “Come here, boy!” and he bounded right over.  He was really glad to see a human.

About that time, a lady was out walking her baby; she stopped also and we held the dog while we looked at the tag.  It was a vaccination tag, and it had the number of the vet’s office.  Called the number on the smartphone.

Nice lady at the vet looked it up, and said, “Oh, my God!  The owner works here!  She’s out today, I’ll call her cell!”  She put me on hold and called, and the owner (bravely) gave me her address (couple of houses down).  Sure enough, gate wide open.  The other dog had stayed home.  We put Mr. Wanderer back in his yard and latched the gate securely.

So again, nice ladies in the Lexus who rescued my dogs back in 2010, as good old Larry Shank would have said, “Thank ya, Thank ya, Thank ya!”

Sometimes paybacks are NOT Hell!

Kharma is an interesting thing. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day 2012, Stiffel Lamps, and More Memories

On Memorial Day, it is appropriate for us to remember those who died in the service of our country.  I would say it would be a good time to also thank those who have not died, but have served our country in the Armed Forces of the United States.  Your service is appreciated, at least by me.


I never have been very good at flag pictures, for some reason they elude me.  Here are my attempts, though.  Beautiful day here in Houston!







Mother came to see me again yesterday and today in the form of her rose.  I have a table and lamp that belonged to her; she was very proud of the lamp, it was a Stiffel (which meant something to ladies of her age; I like them because they are high quality and well-designed). 

So here’s Mother’s rose and her lamp:

Mom 2

Mom 1

Yes, that is a pilsner glass.  I don’t drink much beer any more (gluten), and I threw all the bud vases away when I moved.

Re:  Stiffel lamps.

It’s always more fun when you find a bargain.  I knew the Stiffel Company had gone out of business, and I knew the things were expensive to start with.  I had no idea they had become “collectibles”, and I had no idea of the PRICES they command now.

There’s a Goodwill store up the street from me.  When I can, I like to patronize them because they do a good service and are generally regarded as a “decent” charity. 

Having broken several of my cereal/soup bowls (only 3 left…), I’ve been on a hunt for some new ones.  Yes, I could order them or go buy them new some place, but where’s the fun in that?  So, I’ve been periodically hitting the Goodwill store, hoping to find the perfect bowls (I like ‘em big and deep, not quite Jethro Bodine big, but big nonetheless). 

So I was perusing the Goodwill yesterday, and wandered back to the back of the store.  I had found a couple of pyrex mixing bowls for $1 each (always useful) (but no cereal bowls Sad smile

I kept coming back to this lamp.  I don’t need any more lamps, I have plenty.  Still, I kept looking at this particular one (it was so big it was on the floor, though it is a table lamp).  The more I looked, the more I thought, “No, that couldn’t possibly be…”.  Looked into the top of it and there was the small brass plate, proudly proclaiming “Stiffel”.  Price tag (put on with the HUGE Scotch packing tape) was $35, but it had an “X” through it.  Picked it up (Stiffels are heavy, heavy, and this thing was huge) and took it to the front.  “Does it work?”  I asked.  Shalondra (we know that is her name, it was on her name badge and she knows me at this point) plugged it in and sure  enough, it lit right up.

I asked her why the “X” through the price.  “Oh, that means it’s on sale.  It’s half off.”

So I brought home a beautiful 4 foot tall, 35 lb. Stiffel lamp for $17.50

I love a bargain! 


I looked it up.  It retailed for $399 new (Clayton Marcus sofas were $500!).  Restored (there is some slight pitting and discoloration, nothing serious but it needs to be restored before it gets worse) I could probably get more than that for it now on ebay.  My heirs will have to do that…

If you’re wondering about the chairs—the one  the left was my grandmother’s; I had it reupholstered here in Houston.  The green velvet one has a more chequered past—I was about 14 or 15 and discovered garage sales.  My Dad had not wanted me to have a TV in my room; I bought a Sony 13” portable black and white TV at a garage sale for $5.  He could have been a jerk about it, but he really couldn’t say much when I bought it with my own cash.  The green chair was another garage sale find, same time period.  It was upholstered in black needlepoint with bouquets of flowers.  The wood had been painted white and “antiqued” black.  It was hideous.  I loved it.  Paid $5 for it, too.  Dragged it home and put it in my room (ok, I swiped the station wagon for 5 minutes and went and got it before Mother noticed her car missing; it was just around the corner).  I sat in that chair for many hours watching my Sony TV. 

When we moved into our new house in Windcrest, I came home from school one day to find my chair—gone!  Foul play! 

Mother swiped it.  She had inherited the blue one in the pictures above from my grandmother (it had the original 1926 upholstery, tattered).  She took them both and had them reupholstered as you see, put them in her living room (with the new Stiffel lamps, Henredon tables, and soft lemon yellow Clayton Marcus sofa), and promptly forbade anyone from going in the room.  (In a small—very small—defense of this madness, the room had GOLD SHAG carpet, which had to be RAKED if somebody walked across it).  She was crazy about her living room; she had wanted one forever (as opposed to a den with old beat-up furniture stained with 17 years of  grape juice, Coca-Cola, baby puke, dog puke, husband sweat, etc), and since she had very humble beginnings it was a status symbol for her to have a formal living room.

Nobody ever got to sit on that furniture while she was living at home, literally.  When she went to the nursing home, I got the furniture. 

Mom, I hate to break this to you, but I have taken a nap on your Clayton Marcus sofa.  I have set a drink on your Henredon table (I used a coaster!).  The velvet chairs are dry-rotting, and the guy you hired to do them made them terribly hard and uncomfortable (when I had them, they were hideous but soft and cushy). 

I sit in that room and listen to records on my Magnavox, drinking coffee in the morning or a martini at night, and enjoy all the things Mom would never let herself (or any of the rest of us) enjoy.

(…and I drink out of the crystal glasses, and eat occasionally off the Haviland china, using the silver, and I don’t have “guest” towels that are never meant to be used—I have nice towels that I use every day…and I don’t want carpet anywhere in my home; it’s gross.  I’m going to rip out the carpet that’s in the bedrooms and stain the concrete and live on it).


Random flowers blooming today:

Hot Pink 1

Peach 1

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Open Apology…

…to the lady in the booth at the “Insta-Park” lane at Hobby Airport on May 16 at about 8:30pm---

Ma’am, I am the jerk who could not get his card to work in the machine; when you said, “It doesn’t register that you used it to come in”, I’m afraid I was rather—less than nice—to you, stating that, “I NEVER get a ticket, I ALWAYS use the Insta-Park device” (or words to that effect).

Well, today I was doing my expense account, and yes, right there amongst my receipts—was the ticket I told you I did not have.  Apparently the Insta-Park did not work and I pushed the button for the ticket.  I have no memory of this, but I go so often for business, and always do the same thing, so an aberration is not expected.

Additionally, in cases where I do have a parking ticket, I ALWAYS put those tickets on the visor, so they’ll be right there when I get ready to use them to exit.  For reasons known only to the Gods of Forgetfulness, THIS time I must’ve put it in my billfold instead of on the visor.

My sincere apologies for my behaviour.




(Note to self:  BE NICE!  Even when you think you’re right and they’re wrong!)



Hobby as I see it now^

Houston International Airport

Houston International Airport, as it was the first time I ever saw it^

(Those trees are gone, that’s all concrete now, and the parking deck completely hides the old terminal building, but there are other trees planted at the same time that are HUGE now)


I love what the architects did with Hobby; instead of demolishing the grand old 1954 terminal, with its great front fa├žade and wild recessed amoeba lighting in the ceiling, not to mention the great old terrazzo floors, they incorporated the original terminal building into basically a new terminal—with the original serving as the entry hall…

Hobby 1960


Hobby interior


Two things:  look at the 1954 picture.  See the round restaurant/observation lounge?  Now look at the 2012 picture.  See the same structure on the right?

I love the way they left the red neon, “William P. Hobby …… Airport” intact too.

It used to say Houston… I N T E R N A T I O N A L …Airport, with the “International” spelled in cursive letters around the round part; I remember that from when I was little, flying here on my first flight on a “Super Connie” (a Lockheed Super Constellation).

Ah, here’s a picture!  Complete with Super Connie!

Houston with Super Connie


Hobby is easily my favourite airport; E-Z in, E-Z out.  Except when you goof on your Inst-Park ticket.


I freely admit I swiped all these pictures from the innerwebs.  If one of them is yours and you want it removed, all you need do is email me and I will immediately do so.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day 2012



Un-retouched.  Taken yesterday, 5/12/2012. 

Last year, I took cuttings off Mother’s rose bush (that I brought from Malvern).  I’ve never been able to root rose cuttings before, but I got 3 this time.  This one bloomed—just in time for Mother’s Day.  I always think when I see this rose bloom, it’s Mother saying hello.

Hi, Mom.  I miss you.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I Don’t Care if Y’all Are Tired of My Pictures ;-)

…this is more for me than anyone…but if anyone else likes them, great!






Yeah, I know, the rose is kind of “past its prime” but it’s the first one I’ve gotten off this bush!

Bessie speaks

Lucy Speaks



Where was Ethel when these were taken?  I’d like to say that, being the well-behaved girl she is, she was not in the kitchen begging for a handout with the others.  In actuality, she was in the dining room scarfing up their dog food….

Yes, I feed my dogs in the dining room.  It’s open to the living room and directly behind my chair.  No human is going to be eating any meals in there any time soon, I eat in front of the TeeVee like everybody else in the western world….

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter 2012

It’s springtime on my patio…a Carousel of Color…








The world is a carousel of color,
Wonderful, wonderful color...

The world is a carousel of color,
History, comedy, fantasy,
There’s drama and mirth,
There’s old mother earth
With all of her secrets to see.

The world is a treasure-trove of faces,
Fabulous, faraway places.
The hopes and the fears,
The joys and the tears
Of people like you and like me.

The kingdoms of magic science,
The glorious story of art,
The world of romance,
Of music and dance,
This world where we each play a part.

The miracle of imagination,
The marvels of earth, sea and sky,
These wonders untold
Are ours to behold
In the funny world,
The sunny world,
The wonderful world of color!

--Theme of “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman

(If you want to hear it you can go here)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bluebonnets, Independence, Sewanee, and Fayetteville

It dawned on me about 3:00 Sunday afternoon that the weather outside was perfect, that the bluebonnets are supposed to at an all-time level of beauty, and that I had made no effort to do anything other than work and homelife in a long time.

So, I loaded the trusty Nikon and headed up 290 toward Brenham.  I figure, if I’m going to live in South Texas, I might as well do the South Texas thing. 

Honestly, I had done the bluebonnet thing when I lived in Texas before and hadn’t had very much success, so I wasn’t holding out too much hope.

The first (funny) thing was that, just past Prairie View, traffic on the freeway stopped.  WHY!??!  Because there was a huge line of people stopped on the shoulder AND the freeway, and all of them were up on a bank of the freeway, covered with bluebonnets and indian paintbrush.  There were 100 people on that little embankment!  Folks, folks---if you’ll go a little further and look (Google is your friend), you can find the best spot to stalk the wild bluebonnet in its natural habitat (the rolling prairie of South-Central Texas).

Turning off at Chappell Hill, I actually (for the first time in my life) secured some nice bluebonnet pictures. (click on the photo for larger size) 











All my life I’d been hearing about Baylor University’s beginnings at Independence.  Since I was so close, I decided to go see the ruins.  Not only did I see them, I got some of the better bluebonnet shots I was to get today.

Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas (with its capitol at nearby Washington-on-the-Brazos), Baylor University made it 41 years before merging with/taking over the failing Waco University.  The Waco campus was larger and (more importantly) was on the railroad—which Indpendence was not. 

The only things left of the original campus are ruins.



(It’s crooked because the plaque is crooked on the wall)







Since Independence WAS near the capitol, the President lived nearby—in fact, across the street.  Sam Houston’s house is gone now, but there’s a marker to mark the spot.  The spring house is still there, though, and there are pictures of it below.



Sam Houston drank water from this springhouse…

…and had a spectacular view of the hills, covered with bluebonnets and indian paintbrush (and today, tourists).










Who would think that a humble little wayside flower could engender the kind of love Texans have for it?


I had a great time touring around looking for bluebonnets, and I really enjoyed my trip to Independence.  The Capitol moved from Harrisburg (nee’ Houston) to Washington-on-the-Brazos to Austin (and back to Washington-on-the-Brazos when Austin proved too close to the Comanche nation for comfort).


When I moved from Texas to Tennessee, one of the things I did was tour Sewanee (the University of the South).  Sewanee is not easy to get to NOW; it was virtually impossible “back in the day”.  They have the ruins of their “first campus” and we toured them.  It’s a hike on foot up a genuinely scary mountain path.  It is out in the middle of nowhere even now, in the days of Jets and Interstates and direct-dialing Tokyo from an iphone that has more computing power than existed in the world when man first went to the moon.

I thought of that as I trolled around Independence today.  The isolation!  There’s just nothing out there; farms and cattle (which were NOT there when the school was).

I thought of Fayetteville, Arkansas, a tiny mountain hamlet when the University was founded there; about the students having to hunt their own game and slaughter their own hogs and cattle, and tend gardens for food.

How vast this country is, and how vast it must have seemed from the back of a horse or a wagon.  I marvel at the abilities and gumption of my ancestors (while bemoaning lack of same in myself).

And I bemoaned the fact that it took me a whole hour and a half to get back to Houston (when it took them days).

There was, however, 3G wireless service at the base of the old pillars at Independence—so I guess a little of the modern world encroaches from time to time.