Monday, February 21, 2011

Other stuff.

Denise and I went to dinner and a movie last Friday night. Thinkin' about where we'd go, I remembered that every time we pass Old Chicago, we always say "Oh, Old Chicago. We need to check that place out." It's relatively new, having been set up in an old building that used to house a Tia's Tex Mex that never was able to make a go of it. So, we decided to head to Old Chicago and give it a try.

For drinks, I talked Denise into tryin' their Strawberry Margarita. I had another glass of the same stuff I enjoyed the last time we went to BJ's. Woodchuck Amber Hard Cider, off the tap. Denise LOVES the Strawberry margaritas she gets at Pappasito's, but had had a hard time finding a good one elsewhere. Friday night was no different. "Not enough booze" was the verdict. I offered to go get here a jigger of Tequila from the bar, but she said no. To each their own.

For dinner, I had the Chicken Alfredo and Lasagna Duo; "Oven-roasted chicken and creamy Alfredo as well as a serving of our Traditional Lasagna smothered in our fire-roasted marinara." Great stuff!

Denise decided to try the Fish and Chips; "Sam Adams beer-battered cod lightly fried and paired with salt and vinegar fries, zesty coleslaw and our tangy tartar sauce." Denise likes to try the Fish and Chips when restaurants offer it, but she usually doesn't hold out too much hope. She's persnickety as hell when it comes to traditional British fare, and says that nobody here does it right.

I've eaten British Fish and Chips once, about a decade ago, sittin' in a town square out in front of an old ruined castle somewhere up in Yorkshire. I seem to remember it being kind'a greasy, but there you go. I tried a taste of her fish Friday night and though it was pretty good, but there you go.

By the time we finished eating, it was time to head over to the theater. I'd been lookin' forward to seein' this flick for months, ever since I started seein' the previews on the net.

It's a great flick. Mostly accurate as far as the setting and the gear is concerned. It's the second flick in as many years to base it's plot around the notion that the 9th Legion marched up beyond Hadrian's Wall in the second century and was wiped out by the Picts. This notion of a "lost Legion" became a popular romantic theme in Britain in the 19th century, when the Victorians were smitten with anything about their Roman past.

There are folks today who think that the 9th did disappear somehow up north of the wall, but the best evidence seems to indicate that the Legion was actually transferred to the mainland of Europe, to Holland, or somewhere like that. What happened to it then, no one knows. Having said all that though, there's no reason why historic facts should be allowed to get in the way of a good movie plot, or even two good movie plots.

The other recent sword and sandal epic is Centurion, which came out last year, and is also an excellent flick. It's also WAY bloodier than The Eagle. You get to see ALL the heads and arms get chopped off in Centurion. There's blood flyin' everywhere. It's wonderful! The Eagle has just as much violence, but they don't show the gore. To each his own. Check 'em out. You'll like 'em.

Today, I headed over to Temple to work on Mom's bedroom ceiling fan. She'd pulled the chain out of the socket last week, and asked me to fix it. I took a few tools over this afternoon, hopin' I could take the frame off the thing and just reattach the chain and restring it through. Presto!

NOPE. The chain had broken so close to the gizmo, I couldn't reattach it.

See. You can just make out the end of the chain there, peepin' out of the little black gizmo (that's a technical term, by the way).

So, I had to go to Lowe's and get another new gizmo to replace this black one.

In the meantime, mom whipped up some of her wonderful piggies-in-a-blanket. My wages, as it were. Yep, I do work for food. Particularly mommas!

Here you see the carnage. It was really fun to bust that thing open. I used to install all our ceiling fans back when I lived with the folks. Felt like old times. Of course, the project didn't go down without a wrinkle.

As it turned out, the little black gizmo I had to replace had four wires comin' from it, but the one they had at Lowe's only had three (they had three versions at Lowe's; two with three wires, and one with two). So, it took me about three tries, three different combinations, to get the wiring right so the fan would work. I ended up leavin' one wire covered, pinned, but unattached. Now, all is well. Take a look.

You can hear mom there in the background. She's always very appreciative.

I told her as I was leavin', "If it bursts into flame, give me a call." Then, the rest of the little piggies and I went home, sayin' wee, wee, wee, and suckin' on a stogy, all the way home.

That's it. That's enough. Cheers!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The journey.

Recently I was inspired to sit down with mom and encourage her to lay out some old family history. Specifically, the long list of moves we made, from one town and base to another during Dad's long, over 30 year career in the Air Force.

My sister prompted the whole thing. She'd apparently gotten mom to lay all of this history out for her once before, but then she'd given the list too some shrink. Something to do with all the moves, from one grade school, junior high and high school to another, and the impact that she believes our gypsy life had on the choices she's made in her life. The shrink had apparently been amazed at the list and asked if he could keep it. Now, with mom getting older, sis wanted me to take the history down again before it was lost in the mists of mothers aging memory.

When sis broached the subject, the idea of getting all this history written down sparked something in me. I started getting excited to get the information for myself. So, a few weekends ago, when I went over to visit and take care of a few things for mom, I grabbed a tablet, sat her down in her chair and she proceeded to dictate the beginnings of the list to me.


Before we go into all that, let me point out the obvious. I've been absent from this place for quite a while. With my recent issues, I guess I've been left with a mix of feelings for the blog that's made me reluctant to come here. At the same time, I guess there hasn't been a hell of a lot going on in my life right now that I'm ether interested in telling everyone about, or that I feel comfortable telling everyone about. There's no tellin' who's reading it, after all.

The old FHB had gone from a very private, hidden person to one who felt comfortable pouring himself out here like his life was an opened book. It was almost an obligation. I felt I had to be straight and honest with everyone. I guess the pendulum swung from one extreme to another, with no thought for potential consequences.

Turns out that guy was a naive fool. When the roof come down on his head and his 20 year teaching career went spinning down the commode, he began relearning some valuable lessons. So I guess he's a little gun shy when it comes to revealing anything here now, but I don't know if I can help it. You can't really ever go back.

I do miss this place, and those old days. I guess I need to find a middle ground. Try to learn what to reveal, and what to hold close to the vest. I figured this list from mom could be as good an excuse as any to look back into my life and post something again. Something relatively safe. So here goes.

Thing is, the family story really begins before mom's list begins.


As some of you already know, my dad grew up on a tenant farm here in Central Texas, in a time when very few poor people had many options about what life they would grow up to lead. In those days, as in the many centuries before, one's destiny in the south was in many ways dictated by birth. Some folks were born to money and land (more land than money), and the family responsibilities that came with it. Others were born to work that land for others.

Whether you were Black or White, the life of a Sharecropper (or Tenant Farmer if you were a little better off) was one of endless toil and few other job opportunities. Having said that, being born when, where, and who he was, my dad was pretty lucky. Mom has always said he was the luckiest person she ever saw.

Growing up in the 1920s and '30s, dad had a hand full of interesting factors in his corner. For one thing, he was White. As poor as everyone was back in those days, at least a White man had a few more options when it came to education, and that could lead to a few other job opportunities. Having said that, there were a hell of a lot of white men in my dad's family who didn't have the gumption to take advantage of their opportunities. Enough said on that subject. Dad's next advantage was his family.

My grandfather (with my grandmother at left), William C. Wilson Sr., inherited from his father the sum of $200. His father had owned a lot of land in the area, and he'd set my grandfather and his brothers up as sharecroppers on that land. But my great grandmother died, and my great grandfather remarried another woman who brought an earlier son into the family. When my great grandfather died, she inherited everything, sold off all the land, settled up with her husbands family and moved to California.

My grandfather hired on as a sharecropper and spent the next 15 or 20 years farming on another man's land (one might say, so much for the advantages of being White during segregation). He farmed a few large plots of land for a Mr. Holland, for whom the local farm town is now named. My dad was born and raised on Mr. Holland's land, and had it not been for the Great Depression and the Second World War, I might have been born there too.

In those days, education was a luxury for most farm families in the south. It hardly existed at all for Blacks or Tejanos. White folks saw to that. After all, with so few opportunities out there for anyone, why not make sure that your own kind will be able to enjoy a monopoly. It was a cut-throat world back in those days, and had been for as long as anyone knew.

That was the reality of the times my dad grew up in, but even with all the advantages of being a White man in the South, my Grandfather had only made it to the seventh grade. Still, as poor as they were, he and my grandmother worked tirelessly to make sure their kids were educated. He served as a school board member in his local school district, and paid taxes to support the education of his children, and those of his neighbors.

That's dad in the middle, between his brother Sam and my grandfather, who is holding my uncle John. They're sitting in the cotton field. I love this picture.

So, growing up picking cotton, my father went to a little community school house, walking or riding a horse and tying it to a tree that still stands in the front yard of the building. He attended school there through Junior High, then transferred to Academy High School, graduating early, at the age of 16, in 1939. He started college then, sweeping up at Temple Junior College at night and working in a gas station to help pay his tuition. When the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came over the radio one evening in late '41, dad supposedly became determined to join up.

He was like so many other boys and men in that moment, pissed off and burning for revenge. But my grandfather talked him out of it. In stead he took a welding class in Waco, on the advise of an older friend, and accepted a job at a North American factory in Los Angeles. He was living in a house on the beach and working the midnight shift as a riveter on a production line in Inglewood, where they built B-25s, when the news of the Doolittle Raid broke in April of 1942. He told me once that the newspapers were full of the story one morning as he and his coworkers ended their shift.

Determined again to join the fight, dad drove home and joined the army along with a bunch of his local buddies. Long story short, during basic training, he'd qualified for pilot training, after which he was commissioned, an officer and a gentleman by act of congress. He used to tell me that he'd always wanted to learn to fly, ever since watching an old biplane fly over the house while he sat on his fathers plow (the whole US Army Air Corps was stationed at a few bases near San Antonio, only a short flight south or where dad grew up). The year he spent at Temple College is what qualified him. When he graduated from pilot training, his mother penned the eagles on his chest in a ceremony in Waco. You know she was proud.

After that, dad was sent somewhere to train on the B-26. He used to tell me that after getting his wings, he'd been given the chance to pick what kind of plane he would train on. He said he'd expressed a desire for two engines. He told me he really wanted to fly the P-38. He said they ignored all of his picks and gave him the B-26. He wasn't very happy about it, but that was the way things went during the war. After completing his training, rather than being sent to fly in combat, he was assigned the task of training other pilots on the plane.

Dad always told me he hated the B-26. He said it handled horribly, and could easily be a death trap. He used to tell a story about how he'd been given the task of training French pilots on the plane, and that one day, after a student almost crashed and killed him and everyone else on the plane, he marched into his commanders office and demanded a transfer.

Pretty ballsy I guess, and a great turn of events, because they ended up transferring him to North Carolina, where he began training on a new plane. That plane, the one that dad would always describe as his favorite, was the Douglas A-26.

Back in the 1960s, when I was a little boy, as far as I knew, my dad was just like every other dad who left home early in the morning with a briefcase and came home late, only he wore a blue uniform. He was no longer flying (he'd stopped just after I was born, after qualifying in a jet trainer), but he used to thrill me with stories about the old days, and training on the A-26. So I grew up with a love for the plane, inherited from the old man.

The A-26 was sleek, twin engine bomber/attack plane, with none of the faults of the earlier B-26. Dad said it was like drivin' a fine sports car. It was fast and agile, and had the same bomb load as a B-17. The planes evolved over time, and ended up being used in the Air Force all the way up through Vietnam. They still fly today in many private hands. If you want to see them in action, rent the movie Always.

Richard Dreyfuss is flyin' the A-26 in the movie. It actually looks like the version of the plane dad flew.

That opening scene reminds me of one of dad's old stories. Something to do with training for low level attacks by flying three abreast over a lake and sending fishermen flying into the water in a panic. He also used to laugh about flying low over farm workers and sending them flying into ditches. He was a bad boy, but those were the days, and he got away with it over and over again.

He used to tell me that when the bombs were dropped... You know, THE bombs, that he'd been on his way to the Marshall Islands, to Kwajalain, to fly his A-26C in bombing operations connected to the invasion of the Japanese home islands. Of course the bombs made that invasion unnecessary, and sent my father, in stead, to a tour of duty in occupied Germany.

While dad was there, perhaps as a response to President Truman's big offer of American aid to everyone facing Soviet aggression, Joseph Stalin tried the squeeze us out of West Berlin by shutting down the roads and rails. In the first few weeks of what's become known since as The Berlin Airlift, dad flew a C-47, with load after load of coal, until other pilots from around the world could fly their cargo planes in and take over the job. Then dad went back to his Air Traffic Control duties, where he spent the rest of his career. Thirty-two years and nine months worth.

So, back to the list. Dad by then, we're talkin' early 1949, had been sent to his next posting in Moses Lake Washington. He was a single guy, and he was havin his share of fun (he used to tell me that he and the other pilots quietly referred to the wings on their chest as "leg spreaders"). At some point along the way he'd fallen for a Generals daughter. A blond from North Carolina.

One day, three years into their engagement (yea, I don't know what that was all about ether), he came home on leave and his Aunt set him up with the woman who would be my mother. They'd known about one another for years, but mom had been just a kid when he left to go to the service. Since then she'd blossomed. They dated for two weeks, after which he went back to the blond and got his ring back. My mom said "yes" over the phone, and the rest is history.

Mom grew up in central Texas too, in a little farm town not far from where dad grew up. Her father was a farmer, and also ran the post office in their little town. Her mother worked various jobs during mom's childhood, but ultimately got a long term job at a big local hospital setting up operating rooms for surgery. She held that job for over 30 years, and was the major bread winner in the family.

That's mom's family and a few of her friends there on the right. She's sitting in the middle of the bottom row, below her mom and dad, who are standing in the back.

At some point in the 1930s, a few of mom's uncles married a few of dad's aunts, and mom and dad started running into one another at family reunions. Mom was six years younger than dad, so he didn't pay much attention to her until he came home from Germany and found out how she'd "blossomed".

Like I said, one of their Aunts, tryin' to keep mom from suffering the fate of a spinster (at the age of 19 or so) arranged for the two of them to meet again at an event in the little town of Holland. Two weeks later dad was pitching the question and going back to get that ring from that blond.

Here's where mom's list begins.

The two were married Christmas day, 1949, here in Central Texas. I think it was at a friend's house in Temple. After that, they took a week or so to drive back to Moses Lake, where they rented a house. Mom says dad was becoming more and more disillusioned with his future in the Air Force by this time. The post war military was going through a wave of downsizing, and the civilian economy was in transition. Unemployment was high, but dad thought he had a connection.

Yea, the Army Air Forces had been transformed into the United States Air Force in '47, and dad had transitioned to the new branch along with everyone else. After a year of marriage there in Moses Lake, dad decided to get out of the service. A friend there had told him that if they moved to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, he'd set dad up in the family business. So, in the summer of 1950, mom and dad moved to Fond du Lac and dad started a new job selling furnaces. But it didn't work out.

Mom says dad would go all over the place, getting people to commit to buying a furnace, but then all the sales would fall through. He was working on commission, so she thought they were broke. But dad didn't let the fact that they were broke stop him from buyin' himself a brand new, canary yellow Mercury convertible with a black leather top and interior (maybe something like the one at right).

Mom was wondering what the hell she'd gotten herself into, but she loved the car. She says now that she looked like a million bucks in that car, and dad's ego got a big boost. I asked her "Y'all were makin' car payments and he didn't have a job?" "Oh no," she said. "He didn't make payments. He just bought the car." Daym, yea, dad was pretty cool. And he was lucky. Yep, once again, Mr. Stalin' intervened in my families destiny.

After dad resigned his commission at Moses Lake, mom and dad were driving home to Bell County for a visit before the move to Wisconsin. During that road trip, the news broke that "Uncle Joe" had flipped the switch and the North Korean hordes had crossed the 37th parallel.

In the fall of 1950, after the job in Fond du Lac fizzled out, mom and dad drove back home to Texas. Living in Waco, dad got a job selling funeral plots at a big cemetery. Pretty soon, with the war forcing the government to rebuild the military, dad was called up to rejoin the service. He'd joined the reserves when he left the Air Force, and he'd since been promoted to Captain. So, on the stipulation that he would keep his reserve rank, dad drove down to San Antonio in the spring of 1951 and took the oath again.

After putting the blue uniform back on, with a HUGE sigh of relief on mom's part, dad was sent to a duty station back in North Carolina. After a few weeks, during which he found them a place to live, mom joined him there. They would stay there a year, after which dad was sent to a new station being set up in North Africa. He was in Morocco for a few months, with mom back home here in Bell County. Somehow, dad pulled a few strings and got his orders changed. In the end, after a five month separation, mom joined dad in England.

That was the fall of 1953. Mom got pregnant shortly after joining dad, and my sister was hatched there in England in October of '54 (that's mom, very pregnant with sis in '54). After two years there, Dad was transferred back to the states, to attend Air Traffic Control School in Oklahoma City for 9 months. Mom and dad came home with a new baby daughter and a red Austin-Healey sports car.

Sis had her first birthday there in Oklahoma. After that the family picked up and moved to Houston, where dad was promoted to Major, and got command of his own squadron for the first time. He was commanding the tower and the air traffic controllers, and still flying now and then, just to keep his pilots certification.

Sis turned 2 there in Houston, where the family was stationed for a little over a year and a half. Then it was back to Oklahoma City, where they bought a house for the first time. Sis had her 3rd birthday there. Then they were transferred to Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, Texas, where sis turned 4.

While there, the next-door-neighbors kid, a little girl named Priscella, made some extra money babysitting my sister. Her step father supposedly funded those babysitting fees by repeatedly loosing poker games to my dad. Dad was a shark like that, augmenting his income for years before and after my mom came along with a deck of cards and a pool cue.

Of course, it was after Priscella and her family were transferred from Austin to Germany that she met up with Elvis, and the rest is history. My family went from Austin, Texas to Montgomery, Alabama, where dad attended Command and Staff College. Sis had her 5th birthday there, and it's also where I was finally conceived.

I say "finally" because they'd been trying for a while to have another kid, but they'd had no luck. Supposedly they were beginning to think of adopting a little boy when mom got pregnant with me. There's all sorts of interesting stuff I can say about that time in Alabama, with the Civil Rights movement in full swing and some of the drama that mom and dad witnessed, but maybe that's for another post. I think my sister started school there. That's the beginning of a whole other drama.

Anyway, after Command and Staff School, the family was transferred to Kindley Air Force Base, Bermuda. The family arrived there in the summer of 1960, with mom six months pregnant with me. I was born that November. We were there for 4 years, which sounds like an incredibly long time for them to be in one place (that's the house we lived in there on the right, with mom and sis on the balcony). Dad made Lt. Colonel there, worked very hard cleaning up a squadron that was supposedly a mess, and he played a LOT of golf.

He and my sister loved it there, but my mom says she hated the place. Today she says that you couldn't drive any faster than fifteen miles per hour without risking a ticket, and the waters around the island were full of sharks. I guess she's just not into islands. Anyway, she says she learned very quickly not to tell people that she didn't enjoy the posting. She says everyone would look at her like she was crazy. I know I did when she told me.

I have a few specific memories of Bermuda. The water at the beach was VERY blue, and there was an incident that involved a little baby and the lady who drove me to nursery school. There was also the time dad came home with a puppy in his coat. Again, I'll tell those stories in another post.

By the time we moved from Bermuda, dad was ready to finish his Bachelors Degree. Remember, he'd started college at Temple Junior College, back when it was just starting out in the basement of Temple high school in 1939. It was 1964 when he finally got the chance to finish it. We briefly moved to Omaha Nebraska so he could attend classes at the University of Nebraska.

I think we were only there for 6 or 8 months. I spent most of the time playing with our dog in the basement. Coolest thing I got out of Nebraska was a yellow sweatshirt with the schools Indian mascot on it. He was marching forward with a Mohawk on his head and a tomahawk in his hand on the front, and then you saw him from the back on the back of the shirt. I loved the hell out of that shirt, inherited it from dad as soon as it fit, and wore it out by the early 1970s.

From Nebraska, the family found itself back in Oklahoma City. By then my sister was 10 yrs old and I was 4. Sis had been to about five schools by then. One for each grade. When we got back to Oklahoma, mom and dad bought a house in Midwest City, a suburb of Oklahoma city. It was a great place to live. My family has always remembered it fondly.

After a year and a half, we were transferred the Wichita Falls, Texas. Sis was the new kid in school again. I think I started Kindergarten there. I learned how to ride a bicycle there without training wheels, and I started swimming lessons there too. Dad hired some young sergeant to teach me how to swim and dive after school. It was awesome.

After another year and a half, with dad thinking about getting out of the service again (the dread of Vietnam and his questioning the chances of ever making Colonel), and mom and sis dreading yet another move (the loss of yet another set of friends), the family was transferred back to England.

In the summer of 1966, sis was 11, going on 12, and I was 5, going on 6. We arrived in England in the summer, and spent several weeks in a boarding house in London before we found a place to live. The place dad found was base housing, but it was nestled in a suburban district on the northern outskirts of London. Today, if you go out there and look for the place where we lived, as I have done, you'll find that the trains don't stop out there on the weekends. It's the sticks.

Mom and sis hated the place (that's me, one of dad's old satchels filled with school stuff in one hand, headed out the back door to the other side of the housing are to wait for the blue bus). Other officers families were living out in the community, renting houses and sending their kids to British schools. But we were living in the British equivalent of public housing, surrounded by a mix of officers and enlisted families and their kids. The vibe in the house was thick. Mom spent those 3 years suffering from the beginnings of osteoporosis, pissing and moaning about one thing or another, and sis was becoming a teenager during the blooming of the '60s counter culture and couldn't participate. Nothing else needs to be said there.

I had my own set of problems there. I think I've posted about it all before. I was 5 yrs old when we got there, so I didn't care about the house or the neighborhood. But I was big. I looked like I was about 10, and all the older kids there treated me accordingly. Nothing like having a huge kid, bigger than you are, but too young and innocent to know how to defend himself, that you can easily intimidate. Yea, I got picked on a lot, by gangs of older boys and a few girls. It was hell on wheels, but by the time we left, the summer of 1970, even Carpenders Park, England had turned into a cool place.

That's when I began to realize what sis had been going through, moving from place to place so often. I was having a great time in England by the time we left (the shot at left is from about that time). I had a bunch of friends, and there was one girl in school (3rd grade?) who was getting into the habit of whipping around in her chair and tossing her dress up at me and the other guys. No panties. She later organized a little club where we kids would go out into the woods there where we lived and play Show and Tell. I think if we'd stayed in England any longer I might have figured out a way to have a little TOO much fun with her. Or she would have!

But we didn't stick around. Summer of 1970 we moved to Kansas City Missouri. After a short transitional period when I figured out my surroundings I spent the next 3 years in total bliss, running wild in the Missouri woods. But my sister was pissed. She was getting ready to finish high school there in England when we left. Like me, she'd gone through a lot of bullying at first, but by 1970 she was increasingly in the IN crowd.

From there she was dragged to Kansas City, where she was forced to attend and all Girls Catholic school, supposedly because the commute in the morning to the nearest public high school would have been something like an hour and a half both ways. I don't know. All I know is, she wasn't happy. And if the women in a family aren't happy, NOBODY is allowed to be. It was lucky for me that I had the woods to escape to.

After 3 great years, making lots of friends and having a LOT of fun, we were told that the family was moving again. But this time we couldn't stay in the house until the transfer took place. Mom and dad had sold the house, so we moved first to a house on base. I went from running around in the woods with a bow and quiver full of arrows, to sitting in the basement in base housing and watching TV. Dad and mom told me I couldn't run around on the base with a weapon, so the bow set never made it on the moving truck. I never saw them again. I was good with that thing too. I still miss those days.

I went from going to a school up the hill from the old house, where all my friends were, to going to a Catholic school across town that was mostly filled with tough orphans. So, I was the new kid in school yet again, with friggin' Nuns this time, and another set of tough kids to torment me. Mom decided to send me there, thinkin' that maybe the Nuns could get me to pay closer attention and study. But most of the stuff I learned there had more to do with staying out of peoples way and screwing around. The funny kids who knew how to give the Nuns a hard time were always more fun to hang out with and emulate than the kids who got good grades.

Some time late in the time we lived in Missouri, we started hearing about some folks we used to know who'd made it big. No, not Priscella and Elvis. Back in England, when my sister went London Central High school on the base at West Ruislip, the base commanders son, Gerry Beckley, had a little band that used to play at the teen club on base. By 1972 we were hearing a tune on the radio called Horse With No name, and realized that the boys had cut a deal with Apple Records and had a hit in the charts. Number one in the Billboard top 100. How cool is that?

By the time we finally moved from Missouri to San Antonio it was the late summer of 1973. I was 12, and sis was in college. She'd originally gone off to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech University, but she'd flunked out after a year and was attending community college there in San Antonio. She just stopped goin' to class, she says, because the huge crowds freaked her out, but I think it was mostly because she was away from mom and dad and havin' a GREAT time. In retrospect, I don't blame her a bit.

Mom decided when we got there that I needed to go to a little private school there in town. She was convinced that I had some sort of learning disability (I now know I have A.D. H.D.) and needed special attention. It was a small school, set up in a house in an old neighborhood. It's still there now. It turned out to be a school filled with handicapped kids and kids with emotional problems and other issues, so there wasn't very much learnin' goin' on there as far as I was concerned. Like at that Catholic school, most of what I did was daydream and try to stay out of the way.

After a while, the school got a new gym teacher who was determined to get us all into the Special Olympics. When I went home and told my mom that her son was gonna be in the Special Olympics she freaked out, and before I knew it, in the middle of the 7th grade term, I was transferred to the local Junior High, Eisenhower Middle School, down the road from our house.

So there I was. I hadn't been in a regular school environment in a few years, since leaving the 5th grade. In those two years, all the other kids had changed, and I didn't know how to relate to them. I'd spent the last year or so running from emotionally disturbed kids who didn't have to capacity to control their behavior. And then I walked into an environment at Eisenhower where most of the other kids had begun to grow up. They had discovered the opposite sex, and they were HUGE into football and other team sports.

I'd never done any of that stuff (despite the little girl in England who didn't wear panties), and didn't respond well to EVERYONE in the school trying to push me into joining the team. I just wanted to find some woods and get lost. Some of them even though they could bully me into playing on their team. The whole thing amazed me. I'd learned a long time before, when faced with this sort of thing, to just retreat into my own head and ignore everything else. So that's what I did. It's good that I only had to put up with that place for half the school year. When the school year ended for the summer of '74, I couldn't get away from that place fast enough.

After being in San Antonio for about a year or so, dad finally retired from the Air Force. He'd been promoted to Full Colonel in England, just before we left, and by the time he retired he'd been put in charge of all the communications facilities at all of the air bases around San Antonio. He'd successfully avoided the war, choosing to move the family to Missouri in stead of Hawaii, which he later told me "was too close to Vietnam."

When I found out, decades later, that we'd had the chance to live in Hawaii, I asked dad what the hell he was thinking. He said that the Air Force had a reputation for sending guys from Hawaii to Vietnam, and sending their families home. So, it was better to go to Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in Kansas City, and work in that huge concrete block headquarters building, with one door in and out and no windows. And anyway, I loved it in Missouri, so I'm glad he made the decisions he made.

Shortly before they retired, mom and dad bought a house up in Ft. Worth. That's where we'd spend about the next 20 years. Sis was gone by then, livin' through her own set of dramas that I won't go into here. I was 13 or 14, moving to yet another new town, and going to yet another new school.

I endured the 8th grade at Wedgewood Middle School, at the time when Busing was in full swing. The folks they brought into our little world there in Wedgewood were not happy to be there, and they showed us that every day. There were fights all the time, and if you walked too close to one of those buses at the end of the day when you were on your way home you would probably be spit on. It was such a special time.

Unlike my sister I enjoyed the luxury of going to just one high school, Southwest High School, just up the road from our house, which I graduated from in 1979. Shortly after that, while I attended Tarrant County Junior College, mom and dad finally paid off that house we'd moved into in '74. So, did they celebrate the event by putting a bunch of extra money in the bank? Nope, we moved. Not to another town. Just to another house. Then, a year or two later, they moved again. That third house, about a mile away from the second one, was where they were living when I finally graduated from college with my Masters Degree in 1988 and started teaching on Navy ships in 1990.

About three and a half years later, with my grandmother in a nursing home here in Bell County, mom and dad decided it was time to go home. While I was away, teaching classes on a ship somewhere in the Pacific, they moved, with all my stuff too, to the house in Temple. In a sense, that where my mom and dads journey ends. Dad passed away at a hospital up the road from that house in early 2008. Mom still lives there now, and she's goin' strong.

Meanwhile, I'm livin' in a house in Killeen that I moved into in 2003. Sis is back in Oklahoma, where she's reconnecting with some of the life we lived up there long ago. Where she and I will go from here is anyone's guess. No tellin' what job I'll end up with, or where I'll have to go. The journey continues. I've suffered one hell of a derailment in the last year, but I'm determined to get the train back on the tracks somehow. I just don't know where the tracks will take me.

One thing I can say, all that movin' around in my childhood has left my sister and I with an interesting set of life skills. I think I can go anywhere and be OK. I can pick up all my crap and make a new nest anywhere. I've been doin' that all my life. But I don't make close friendships very easily. I've lost too many over the years, and put up with too much crap in situations i was tossed into, so I tend to be very wary of letting people get too close. I've gotten over some of that in the last decade or so, but the caution will probably never completely go away.

Bottom line, life is a journey, and mine is still in full swing. I thought I knew how things were gonna turn out, but now that old plan is over. Literally shit canned. So, I can ether look into the future with a dread of the unknown, or I can try to take stock of all I've learned along the way so far, bow my neck and try to see the future as a wide open adventure. I'm trying to do the latter, with the help of all those who love and support me. We'll see how it goes. Cheers.