Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving week, 2009.

Man, I'm pooped. i should have gotten a substitute to come in this morning down in Florence and slept in. We had a busy week, from Wednesday on. It was go, go, go, but it was fun!

It started with Denise and I driving up to D/FtW airport Wednesday night to pick up her 15 year old grandson Bryce. She was flying him in so that we could spend some time with him and take him to the big Gun Show in Dallas on Saturday.

Little did he know, I'd gotten us all tickets to see the Cowboys play the Raiders on Thanksgiving day. None of us had been to the new stadium, and Bryce had never been to a pro game before, so Denise though it would be a cool thing to spring on the boy. I was game, so I looked up the tickets on Stubhub and got the best ones I could without spending an insane amount of money. Well, insane is a relative term here.

Thing is, I wanted to bust out with the tickets as soon as we picked the boy up, but Denise wanted to stretch it out until the last possible minute. So we went down to Dallas, got into the room and then drove over to the West End to eat. We, got up the next morning and drove over to Ft. Worth to have breakfast and visit my buddy Jim. Between the three of us we concocted an elaborate story about how we were all gonna go back to Plano and check out the old Wax Museum.

We got in the car and drove over, with Jim playing with his new GPS system as I drove. The GPS system led us up off of I-30 right next to Rangers Stadium. We drove down by it, looking out at the shiny new Cowboy Stadium across the parking lot. I said something about doing a U-turn and heading back to the highway... "or (pulling four tickets out of my pocket), would you rather go to the game?"

He was surprised, and very happy. Well, I think he was. He really doesn't talk much. His fingers can text message at 900 MPH, but he's a bit verbally challenged. You know, teenagers! But the was happy. Anyway, I know Denise was, and that's the real reason why I did it all.

I parked in the $40 lot, put on my old school jersey (any of you remember old number 32?), lit a cigar and we all started to walk down to the new stadium.

Getting there, I was moved to see they'd put up a big bronze statue to old Tom Landry. This guy was a fixture in my imagination as a kid. Lots of folks were standing around the statue, or having their pictures taken in front of it. I almost wanted to go up and rub his foot.

We got up to the open end of the stadium and I asked Bryce if he wanted to get a souvenir. He tentatively walked over to the tent and picked out a jersey for himself. I stood there, waiting for him to choose something, and found myself a goofy hat the wear. I love goofy hats. You should have seen Denise's face when she ( a HUGE green bay Packers fan) saw her grandson wearing a Cowboy's jersey, and when she saw me in that hat. It was priceless. I told her "This makes up for that friggin' yella cheese hat you have!"

The boy chose well, choosing DeMarcus Ware. I told Denise the boy'd stepped over to the DARK SIDE. It was hilarious!

We got in and were all stunned with the size and scope of the place. We looked around a bit, plunked down a fist full of coin for popcorn and drinks, and then found our seats. They turned out to be pretty good ones.

When the game got going, the boys played their usual game, futzing around and missing opportunities to score again and again. It was a miracle that the Raiders sucked to the extent they did, or the Cowboys would have been in trouble.

Eventually, the boys scored a few touchdowns, so that they were ahead by a decent margin by the time the half-time show began.

I must say, the half-time show was amazing, even though it was all oriented towards the opposite side of the stadium. The entertainment always plays to the visiting team, I suppose. We were on the Cowboys side of the field, but we could still see everything clearly on the amazingly cool monitor that hangs from the roof.

I tell ya, that monitor is cool. Some people think it's a distraction, but I found it very pleasing. it was like having a huge wide screen TV to watch along with the live action.

Now and then, as the Cowboys would get ready to try to score, Bryce would jump up and cheer them. This gave his Nana fits, and led to more than a few dirty looks in my direction.

Once or twice, I even got the snake fangs and a hiss. All in good fun through. All in good fun.

In the end, the Cowboys won the game. It actually looked like they were starting to put things together in the end, completing passes, the Defense keeping the Raiders from making any headway. I worry about their future though, with teams like the Giants, the Saints, the Chargers and the Eagles on the schedule. It could get very ugly before it's all over. Ugly!

Throughout the game, we were plagued by one little flaw. The seating chart I saw at stubhub didn't say anything about this ledge we'd be sitting under. It didn't obscure our view of the game, but it did force us to crook our necks a bit to see the monitor. Mostly it just kept us from clearly hearing any of the announcements! There were speakers there. You can see one in the top left hand corner of this shot. But they must not have been turned on. It didn't ruin the experience for us though. We'll just know not to get seats in row 15 of the second level. Row 10 or 11 maybe.

In the end, we walked out and back up to the car. I drove back over to Jim's house in Ft. Worth and then we relaxed and visited with his wife Terry. She'd had to work that day, which was why Jim was free to go to the game with us. We all enjoyed a few bowls of his spicy tater soup, which he'd been slow brewing when we got there for breakfast, and then we got back in the car and headed for Killeen.

In the next post, we'll talk about how I took Bryce up to Gatesville Friday morning to shoot guns with my buddies Dave and Joe. Then we'll talk about the massive feast at my mom's place, where the womenfolk had been putting together a late Thanksgiving feed while the men were off shootin'. And isn't that the way it should be? Cheers!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

That poor bastard!

What a dumbass! Well, here's hopin' ol' Leon's gotten over those few little boo boos. And here's hopin' today's Thanksgiving game is a good one, and that the Cowboys remember ol' Leon and straiten the hell up. Their season only gets harder from here.

Yea, we're goin' to the game today. First time we'll be in the cool new stadium. I have four tickets... Section 203, row 15, seats 15 to 18. My buddy Jim from Ft. Worth is goin' with us. It should be fun. I didn't say anything about it in the last post because I didn't want Bryce to read it and find out. It's a surprise.

By now, we're wakin' up in the hotel in Dallas and he's still clueless. We plan to drive over to Arlington and meet Jim for breakfast. After that we'll drive over to "show him the stadium." We'll get there drive up, point to it and then produce the tickets. He plays on his high school team in Kentucky, but he's never been to a pro game, so it should be memorable.

Anyway, here's hopin' it all goes well. You guys have a wonderful holiday and we'll talk when this one's over. Cheers!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What we're gonna be up to this week.

This week is gonna be fun. Not only is it a short week, with three days, Wednesday through Friday off for Thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving day is my mom's 82nd birthday. There'll be flowers and presents forthcoming, and she'll probably cook a bunch of great food, but we're not gonna be able to spend much time there.

Wednesday night, Denise's 15 year old grandson Bryce is flying into D/FtW airport. He's gonna spend a few days with us.

Denise and I will drive up there that night and get him. We'll spend the night in Dallas, piddle around up there Thursday afternoon and then drive back home to spend some time with Mom.

Friday morning, the plan is to take Bryce up to Gatesville and let him shoot some guns with my old buddy Dave. I think he'd enjoy that. I'll take my AR, and an AK, and then my new Garand. And Dave can let him shoot one of his Civil War Muskets. He should get a real kick (no pun intended) out of all that.

We'll have a great dinner that evening and then spend Friday night here at my house. Then Saturday morning we'll all drive back up to Dallas and go to the huge Gun Show at Market Hall. He's been wanting to go to a Gun Show with me for a few years, and we've promised him that this one would be cool. The Market Hall shows are always huge, so he should enjoy himself.

We'll spend much of the morning at the show, and then we'll take him to see some of the sights around town. Maybe we'll go over to the West End and do the 6th floor again. In the end, we'll spend the night in Dallas and then take him up to the airport for his return flight Sunday afternoon.

For fun, I sent his mom and email a while back. Email said something like "So, since his Nanna is probably not gonna pony up for a nice little concealable pistol for the boy, how much money are you gonna be sending with him when he flies into Dallas?"

It had the desired effect. We got a call the next morning from her, with Bryce in the background cheerin'. She was laughin', sayin' she wasn't sending any money and there'd be no pistols. I laughed my ass off. These folks already think I'm crazy. It can't hurt to drive the point home any more.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bits of wisdom.

Y'all know that I teach college classes at the Prison in San Saba. Some of the classes they teach out there are designed to try to motivate the "offenders," er, criminals, inmates (ya know, losers) to walk a strait road when they get out and... Well, basically, stay the hell out of jail. It's hit and miss. Supposedly, the more education they get, the less likely they are to come back.

For the most part the classes are like traffic school. The offenders have to complete the classes before they get out of prison. My buddy Ellis teaches one called "Changes", and a few other folks teach a few others. They're totally different from the college classes I teach. More like high school, or, like I said, traffic school. It's all about getting them to think about how and why they got locked up. The choices and behaviors that got them where they are.

Anyway, when I teach my evening classes there Monday and Wednesday nights, I use one of the bigger, nicer rooms that houses one of these special classes during the day. The teacher usually has some motivational quote up on the board for the offenders to read and think about. This last Wednesday evening, I came into class and looked up on the board and this is what it read:

"When a door closes, look for an open window... But it may take a while to feel the breeze."

The author was anonymous.

Of course, I fully understood the meaning behind the words. You know, "don't let anything stand in your way. If you fail at something, pick yourself up and try again. It may take a while, but you will succeed if you keep trying... etc, etc, etc."

But I laughed when I read it. Maybe I'm just a twisted bastard, but I thought I saw something else in there. I went out to point out the message to my buddy John, the guard there at the jail. We both thought the same thing. "Hey, is she tryin' to teach them how to break and enter, or maybe how to escape?"

A while later, while I was lecturing about the Cold War, which will inevitably bring back memories from my life growing up in the Air Force in the 1960s and '70s, I saw another inscription on the teachers day time schedule planner. It's one of those paper desk top planners that also serves as a writing pad, where you peal off a month when it's over and the squares are big enough to write stuff in.

This one hit home. It said "A fathers love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible." The author was someone named Garrety.

Yea, that's deep stuff. It set me off thinking about a lot of things. Things you've heard before around here.

You know, Dad and I had an interesting relationship. It was negative and adversarial through most of my youth, but then it grew into a more loving one as both of us got older and I decided to forget about a lot of things. I say "decided", because that's just what happened. I remember the time very well.

I was going through a lot of shit then, mulling over lots of things that seemed to have derailed my life in one way or another. At some point, back in the late 1980s, I just got sick of it all. The resentment was becoming a crutch that I used to explain away my own faults. I guess I just got sick of it, and I decided to try to put it behind me and be positive.

Just about then, one of those windows opened for me and my life changed. I'd piddled around for over a year after getting my Masters Degree, unable to get a teaching job. Then, in March of 1990, I got a call from someone here in Killeen. Central Texas College needed someone to go out on a Navy ship and teach two classes. One was US History and the other was an Introduction to Political Science.

I thought about it for about 24 hours and then said HELL YES! As I said, I walked through that door and my life changed forever. I haven't looked back since. Not too much anyway. And it was amazing to me, how much my relationship with my father warmed when I got a real job and started to move my life forward. I actually started to feel like he respected me for the very first time in my life. That made it much easier to forget the old days.

That's what I was thinking about when I read that inscription. I felt that old tinge of regret. What if my father had been the friend to me in my early years that he became so much later in my life? What if I'd been able to feel something like that respect and approval in those early days?

That feeling of love and respect from your father is so important. It allows a child to feel confident in their own mind and respect themselves, even with all the troubles every kids has to face. Your father is super human when you're little. If he obviously doesn't think very much of you, or doesn't seem to care what you do, then how can you possibly grow up to have any confidence in yourself?

That's they way it was between dad and I, but none of that matters now. He's gone, and all those issues are dust. He's no longer with me on those Friday evenings at the Chinese place or the ball game, but he'll always be running around in my imagination, and in my heart.

I miss him terribly. I can't go out to the cemetery and visit his plot without balling like a baby, so I don't go there very often. I prefer to imagine him here with me now, still watching me as I move my life forward and enjoy the success that I've worked towards for these twenty some-odd years.

In the end, he knew how I felt. He knew it before he died, and that's the only thing that matters now.

Postscript: Well, there was a funny end to the message on the white board. The folks out there found my little sticky note on the board and the shit hit the fan. I put a not up there sayin' "You tryin' to encourage folks to break out?" They thought an offender had left it, and spent hours this mornin' tryin' to find out who'd done it. Then it hit them that I'd left it, and everyone started to get the joke. By the time I got there today they were all laughin' and tellin' me about it. It was hilarious.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My buddy Glenn sent me an email a few days ago, asking for my support.

The email read "My brother was the quarter back on the best team in six man (empirically measured of course) in the late 1960s. Back then, 6 man only went to Region. They won their region and then my brother went on to be the QB at the All Star 6 Man football game that Spring."

Glenn grew up out in West Texas, where communities are small and they don't usually have enough boys to put up an eleven man team. So six-man football is the only kind of football available to many of those kids. But in a state that lives and breathes high school and college football, six-man is the bastard child of team sports. So I think it's really cool that the University Interscholastic League is finally tryin' to give some of these guys some credit.

The UIL was created by The University of Texas at Austin in 1909 to provide leadership and guidance to high school debate, theatre and athletic teachers and programs around the state. Since then it's grown into the largest organization of its kind in the world. You can read more of their history here.

Did I say bastard child? Try to find a picture of a six-man team on the UIL web site. I couldn't, and I scrolled through a lot of pictures. Lots of my kids in Florence participate in debate, theatre and sports events with the organization today, so I knew what it was, but not the full scope of it's history and activities.

Currently, as a part of their Centennial celebration, the UIL is sponsoring a poll to decide who should be listed as the all time best players in a range of high school sports in the state. Some of the voting is closed, but you can still click over and vote for the best six-man football team for the state of Texas.

The poll is set up at their web site, here, and it asks you to chose a hand full of players for what they'll call the All-Century Six-Man Football Team.

Anyway, if you're of a mind to, click on the link, scroll down and vote for Larry Kueck. And vote for anyone else you know, or maybe some folks you don't know. But please do vote for Larry. It'd be cool if he made it to the All-Century Team. Glenn thanks you for your support. Cheers!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Enchanted Rock.

It was time again to head down to Enchanted Rock, to gather with my friends for our annual pilgrimage.

This time, as we drove up to the camp sites, we saw this deer, at least a twelve pointer, and a few does, followed by one fawn. He was a little sucker, but those horns were amazing.

Jim and his brother had reserved two sites, so we took the one that was unoccupied and I set up the tent.

I believe in my comfort, so there's no sparing the details when we're car camping. That's a nice, thick new air mattress, a down duvet, a blanket and sheet set over that, and then a sheet and down comforter (in the green flannel cover) over all of that.

After I got the camp set up, we all piled into our car and headed to Fredericksburg, where we ate dinner. Denise and I took Jim, his daughter and another camper to the Auslander. We all enjoyed the fried mushrooms, their wide beer selection, and their wonderful variety of dinner items. The others had a mix of German and American food, while I went for my favorite bacon cheese burger. The others were also amused when I ordered the huge, 34 oz. mug of Pauliner. It was fillin'!

The next morning, Denise and I slept in. The others are always up earlier than I am on a camping trip. I guess I sleep too well, wrapped up in all that comfort.

After fixing Denise her mornings milk coffee, I set out to make breakfast. We had bacon frying in one skillet and eggs going in the other.

After mixing the crunched up bacon with the eggs and sprinkling some grated cheese on top, we used the big skillet to heat up out tortillas.

The result was a breakfast burrito to die for. Wonderful stuff, particularly on a camp-out.

After cleaning up, and with Denise declining to go (she had some gastrointestinal issues, and couldn't stray far from the bathroom), I went over to the Donovan camp site and waited for the group to head out and up the mountain.

Pretty soon we were off, heading out on the trail that winds through the camp sites and up to the big trail.

You can see the peak of the big rock up there in the far distance.

That was our destination. We've all be coming here for years, and we always make this Saturday morning pilgrimage.

After a long, tiring walk, we all made it up to the top of the rock, and then we spent some time resting and enjoying the views. That's a view of the smaller of the two big domes, and seen from the top of ER.

When I say "resting," I mean resting! That GI issue 2 quart collapsible canteen makes a great pillow.

This is the USGS marker, set down at the tallest point on the rock. I think it's a bout 400 feet.

And here's the traditional group picture. A few of the climbers had to turn back, and there were no little kids on the trip this time. In years past, I'd lay down and hold the dogs while the parents followed the little kids into the caves on the North side of the big rock (not caves, really, but close). Now though, it's a short rest on top, and then we all headed back down again.

We came down the main trail, which took up past the old gazebo by the road. This time there was a guy there selling t-shirts for the group Friends of Enchanted Rock, which does a lot of work to maintain the trails and protect the site for future generations. I think we all ended up getting shirts and thinking we should donate some money to the group.

After getting back to camp and cleaning up, the decision was made to play a game of Trivial Pursuit. I'd never played before, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. My team won, at least partly because I was on it. I got to answer at least a few questions before they were finished asking the question. Who is the Japanese Golfer who has won more...? Asao Aoki! Damn, they'd say. I'm like a Ringer, I'd reply. What was the protest movement in Poland that...? Solidarity! Damn! Yep, ringer.

Late Saturday night, after cooking steaks, beans, hot dogs, fried potatoes and cheese burgers, many of us headed up from the camp and reclined back on some flat rocks to watch for shooting stars. It was a moonless night, so the stars were filling the night sky and the shooting stars were flashing by pretty frequently.

I set my camera up on a rock and tried to get some good star shots. This is one of the better ones.

Sunday, with the clouds in the sky threatening rain, we cancelled plans to climb more rocks and broke camp to head for home. On the way back, passing through the little town of Kempner, we noticed their new war memorial, just dedicated, along the North side of 190. It's a beautiful little spot. Check it out some time, if you're on your way through central Texas.

If you want to see more of these shots, click on this link. Cheers!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remember that chain mail?

Well, he's makin' progress. Check out these little vids I took Wednesday morning.

He's carryin' it all around in that plastic coffee can. Handy as hell.

Of course, his girlfriend had to try it on. I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Birthday festivities.

As you may know, my wowman and I share a birthday. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out, a few weeks into the relationship. The last few years, we've even gone out, on our own, and ended up picking out the exact same birthday cards for one another. Hilarious. I was tellin' her the other day, havin' the same birthday makes the day somethin' like Christmas. We get cards and presents for one another and hide them, and then spring them on one another the morning of.

We exchanged presents Sunday morning, then enjoyed a lazy morning. Then I started working on my AC/DC pictures, getting them finished, and Denise started cleaning up the house. My mom and cousin were supposed to drive over from Temple around 1PM, and then we were all going to drive down to Austin for a great meal at Pappasito's.

You know women. They can't let anyone see that the house has been lived in. Hey, I helped. I think I took the vacuum cleaner out and put it back. I may have taken some garbage out. I don't know. It's all a blurr.

My cousin Trish is visiting my mom from up north. One of those cold states, like Michigan. She's Bob's sister... You know, my cousin in Pennsylvania. Yea, Yankees. What can ya do?

She's a peach. We get along really well. She and Bob are like siblings to my sister and I, since we all share the military upbringing, and all the traveling. They were about the only relatives we felt we could really relate to as we were growing up.

Anyway, the plans changed. They usually do. I'm used to it. A woman's prerogative. My women are REALLY good at that shit (Denise is the exception). Mom decided that she'd rather I drove over there to get them. Probably didn't want to drive in the fog and rain. I understood. So, Denise and I relaxed. She Could take her time getting ready and I could finish posting those concert pictures. By the way, check them out.

In the end, we made it to Temple by about 1:20, and were soon on the road to the big feed. As we walked out through the kitchen to the garage, Mom asked me if I wanted to see my cake. She always bakes me a big chocolate cake for my birthday. I said "Yea!", and then she smiled and stepped over by the oven and held up the box. "What? Damn!" they all laughed. Apparently, she'd been to pooped to drive, or bake, so that'll have to wait.

Anyway, Mom was lookin' sharp Sunday afternoon. It's always good to see her get a little dressed up. I don't look forward to the day when she stops caring how she looks. But all of my women were lookin' good.

She and Denise ordered their usual... A top Shelf Margarita for Mom and a Strawberry one for Denise. Trish had a big coffee with Bailey's, and I had a chilled glass of Shiner Bock. We killed off about a basket and a half of chips and dip, and a big bowl of their queso, with the spicy ground beef mixed in. Mmmm, good!

Mom ordered herself a Taco dinner, with an order of Brochette Shrimp on the side.

Trish and Denise ordered the same Chicken Enchilada dinner, with Trish ordering two enchiladas and Denice getting three.

I ordered the Rico plate, with two fajita enchiladas, one chicken and one beef.

Along with mine, I also had a side order of Brochette Shrimp.

All the dinners came with rice and beans. It was all wonderful. I mean, do I have to tell you that?

After dinner, we all piled back into Mom's car and I drove us back to Temple. We hung around Mom's place for a while, enjoying an after-dinner tipple. Chateau Monet, chilled in the freezer. Then, with Mom asleep on her bed, and Trish upstairs on the phone with her husband, Denise and I decided to head home.

Once back home, we relaxed in front of the TV, and spent the rest of the evening watching the Cowboys beat the Eagles. I enjoyed the HELL out of that, but Denise didn't. She's a Packers Fan, and always enjoys rooting for whatever imp of Satan the Cowboys are being vexed by in a given week. We also surfed through PBS now and then, to watch a cool British show on Masterpiece Contemporary.

Anyway, that was our birthday. It was fun. Cheers!

Orlando, Part Two.

Like I said, there was a LOT of drinking, and a few cigars burned there at the Tiki bar.

Thankfully, the cloud cover was such that I could swim and lounge around without having to worry too much about getting burned. The Brits weren't too happy about that. Sun worshipers, from a cold, wet, wind swept wasteland (Huh?), but it was cool to me.

I swam, which mostly means frolicking like a seal, or floating like a dead whale in the deep end, when I wasn't sitting in the shade, drinking and smoking cigars.

At one point, I even took a short nap in the sun. No ill effects were felt. Dodged a bullet there.

The second morning, as we were looking out the window of the condo, I noticed some folks looking and pointing out into the pond by our place.

There are a lot of drainage ponds around there, with decent sized concrete drainage pipes going from one pond to another.

Occasionally, one of these little dudes crawls through one of those pipes and takes up residence in one of these drainage ponds. I'd wager this one was about a foot and a half long. Maybe two feet. The condo security guy told us that when they get big, they call the animal control folks and they get relocated to the everglades. That's why they have netting around the "beach," where condo guests can swim in the lake by the pool. It's like shark netting... Only the sharks can't crawl over it! So, I stick to the pool.

Saturday night, Denise and my last night before our flight back to Texas, we all piled into the van we'd rented at the airport and drove off to have a great dinner together.

We had to wait about a half hour for a big table, but it was cool and nice outside. Denise's brother took the picture. Told me that he'd sue me if I posted his picture. Witness protection program, fer sure.

The Longhorn Steakhouse was a cool spot. Yea, we went on vacation from Texas to Florida and look where we chose to eat. But it was great, and I loved the head over the bar and the Texas vibe. Way cooler that what you get at Texas Roadhouse.

I got Mick, Denise's brother's father-in-law, to try a Blue Moon. He was wondering why there's a slice of orange in his beer. These Brits are serious drinkers, which means they spend a lot of time drinking swill like Guinness. I'm just sayin'. Eventually he admitted it was growin' on him.

I had a great steak and baked potato, with some sort of whiskey sauce on it...

And I also splurged on a nice lobster tail, slathered in butter. Yea, it was good.

Denise had a similar steak, and also loved the special whiskey sauce. We all had a great time, and then shared a little dessert. I gave the waitress a signal early, tellin' her to be sure and bring me the check. When she did, Denise's brother didn't like it, but That's cool. He needs to let someone else pay for stuff now and then. And besides, it was our turn. He'd paid for breakfast.

In the end, we all piled into the van and headed back to the condo. Once there, we brought out presents to celebrate Denise's sister-in-law's birthday. The drinks flowed, and we all had a great time.

The next morning, Denise and I drove our van back to the airport, turned it in, and then enjoyed some uneventful flights back to Austin. We stopped at Pappasito's on the way home and shared a big plate of fajitas. In the end, we got home with plenty of time to relax and get ready for the work week.

Well, that's it. Seems like ages now since we were by the pool. Next year will come though, and we'll do it all again. Cheers!