November 21, 1963

Late November in one of my happiest years:

we wrapped ourselves in the soft thrill of friendship

not knowing how rare it was and how hollow -

for lack of it - would be the days and years ahead.



Chattering with the sophistication of underclassmen

we crossed a vacant city lot grown over with weeds,
toward the road that exited the airport.

The young president and his wife had landed and would

pass here on their way to speak in Houston.


His red hair flamed

in the late afternoon Texas sunlight. 


He waved and each of us stored the memory

of an instant as the car sped by, 

the woman at his side,
 his shining hair,
the slightest wave of his hand, 

the memory – a still photograph in each of our minds.



In less than a day, he was dead;
hit by two rifle shots. His wife was returning,

spattered with his blood
to the emptiest of homes, the White House.


Another memory – but this one with the remove

of miles and overwritten with the static snow
from our 
early technology television sets.



Those same sets had been on that morning before he died

as we searched to see if there would be news of his visit.
Maybe a camera had caught us as well
and our friends would see us so close to history.
Instead, we saw four floppy-haired singers
from Britain who were planning a visit to America. 



A few hours later, there was only the news 
that the man
on whom we had hung our hopes was dead.


Friendships that we thought were the most precious
gifts 
in our lives that day,
faded with the years.


Each of us had lives to live, purpose and gifts to give. 


The floppy-haired Brits gave us the happy crutch 

we needed to weather war and loss,
and, not least,
 the death of that soft thrill of friendship
we still had heart to feel
on November 21, 1963.

Stop the Second Guessing: Enforce the Constitution

I have heard enough of the posturing and positioning on impeachment. I don’t care if there are not enough votes to convict in the Senate. I don’t care if it infuriates the so-called base. (No one cared about my feelings when they impeached President Clinton.) I don’t care about the Democrats from marginal districts who will be called on to campaign harder and argue more passionately for what is right. Will an acquittal be taken as exoneration and inspire even more abuses of power?

It is always so easy to rationalize the lack of courage.

Making the case for impeachment should be quite simple. We see it every day. DJT has no respect for the Constitution. His oath of office is treated as if it were sworn on a copy of “The Art of the Deal”. He flouts congressional inquiries and even the laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the office he holds (usually President Obama for whom he holds a very personal grudge).

So, it’s time to get on with it, Speaker Pelosi. Put the likes of Ted Cruz and John Cornyn on the spot and see if they will, in the last analysis, do the right thing. If not, allow them to align their party for the next century with the toxic ethical swamp that DJT represents.

I can’t even call him president.

Showing Now at Brazosport Center Stages: “The Miracle Worker”

Brazosport Center Stages opened “The Miracle Worker” last weekend in the Freeport LNG Theater at the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences. As often happens with community theater productions, the cast took this one down to final rehearsals making bystanders like myself think there was no way this offering could gel, And, yet, as often happens in community theater, it did. 

“The Miracle Worker” presents the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. Helen became blind and deaf due to an illness during her infancy. Her mother remembered only one word that Helen attempted to say before she was stricken — water, or as her mother Katie Keller reported it in the play’s script, waawa.

With only primitive ability to communicate, Helen was an angry and often violent child. Her loving family did not know how to deal with her except to indulge her demands. Her behavior became an onerous burden to the lives of the Kellers, so much so, that they hired a governess to work with her when Helen was seven. 

Annie Sullivan and Helen discuss the proper use of the spoon as a dinner utensil.

The governess was Anne Sullivan. Their story is well known, especially since the 1962 film with Ann Bancroft and Patty Duke. You can still see the local production this weekend (September 20-21). 

Over to the right, at this time, you will see some photos from the invited dress rehearsal. I saw the play opening night and I can tell you that you will be rewarded with performances by some impressive new young talent and also by some of your favorite BCS veterans. More photos follow below. 

Make your reservations at: Center Ticket Box Office.

Angry, Depressed and Getting Older while Trump Wrecks Our Democracy? Try This . . . .

Today is my birthday. I have been fortunate to accompany aging with a way of staying in touch with young people. It has been a nice way to temper my anger and disappointment about the current state of American politics with a little hope for the future. I would prefer to be able to do this with regular discussions with grandchildren the way it was done when the generations were less geographically mobile.

My grandchildren, all of them, now live over a thousand — some of them two thousand — miles from us. Their periodic visits offer only limited opportunity to have the kind of conversations that would allow me to explore the world from their vantage point.

If I were to sit here in the evenings getting only the news from Washington and other parts of the deteriorating world, I would be constantly moving between depression and anger. How did our generation let this happen?

We allowed the democratic process to be manipulated in such a way that a person with no knowledge or appreciation of how our government works wound up in its most powerful position. He is objectively racist in his core, selfish and self-centered to a nauseating degree, unlearned in the basic literature of democratic enlightenment, and incompetent in the skills of governing. All that has been well covered in the news for anyone who is willing to dig a little and read beyond the superficialities of cable TV, social media, and the National Enquirer.

Continue reading “Angry, Depressed and Getting Older while Trump Wrecks Our Democracy? Try This . . . .”

Happy Birthday Brazosport Center Stages. We are 75.

Tonight is the 75th annual meeting of the membership of the community theater group now known as Brazosport Center Stages, located in Clute, TX. It began as the Little Theatre in Freeport and moved, along with a sister organization, Brazosport Music Theater, into the new Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences facility in 1976. Twenty years later, the two theater groups merged to form Brazosport Center Stages in 1996. 

Interior of the Freeport LNG Theater in the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences

Brazosport Center Stages and I were both born in 1943. We only got to know each other after our family moved to Lake Jackson from Houston in 1982. Gradually over the years we became integral parts of each other’s lives.

I have an album of old proof sheets of film photos going back to the late 1980s when I first asked DeDe Dunn if she would allow me to take some rehearsal shots of “The Nerd.” She opened the door to me and the theater folks have always since welcomed me with my camera and I have been able to store up a lot of memories over the years of our relationship.

I love theater photography. Other people take care of lighting, posing, hair, makeup, costuming, movement and all I have to do is hit the shutter button. And – surprise! – actors almost never mind standing in the light and having their picture taken. After years of having subjects turn their backs to my camera and never apologizing (mostly my children), I now had a source of interesting and enthusiastic subjects. In all the years of photographing actors at BCS I have had exactly one get angry and tell me to get the camera out of her face. She was older then than I am now. She was entitled.

You can spend as much time as you would like viewing some of the later digital files on my Flickr site. There are thousands of theater shots. I am an amateur photographer and I have learned a few things over those years. I have also spent a little on cameras, lenses and software. I hope there is some improvement in the photos as a result of my learning and investment.

But BCS has meant so much more than a place to practice my photography avocation. I have even ventured onto the stage in a few roles over the years.  I had the privilege of presenting the role of FDR, I hope with some dignity, in this Republican bastion in Annie, 2001. Then I was the somewhat shy racist, Karl Lindner, in Raisin in the Sun somewhere in the 2000s. Then I had the experience as a septuagenarian of taking a role with a large number of lines in Camping with Henry and Tom, 2013.  I felt absolute terror at every performance knowing that so many of my friends were watching. I had never even heard of flop sweat before and suddenly I was producing it in buckets. The difficulty of trying to remember and say all of Thomas Edison’s many lines in that play cured me of further attempts at acting. 

Here is Thomas Edison in “Camping with Henry and Tom” trying to rest at a camp site in the woods after Henry Ford wrecked one of his Model Ts on the way to our site. You can’t see it, but my mind is racked with misery trying to remember the list of choice hardwoods for a making a good campfire. Harding and Ford, the dolts, didn’t know much about nature and the outdoors. This photo is by Katie LeFave, a real photographer.

Yet, for all the joy I have taken from Brazosport Center Stages, I really value it most for what it contributes to our community. I have watched generations of young people move through their own activities and then out into our nation and the world to apply the things they learned about planning, communication, teamwork and how to respect themselves and others. At an early age, they were able to have friends who were adults and share peer responsibilities with them. I have seen it in my own kids and I have seen what a valuable experience theater was in their lives.

So, happy birthday Brazosport Center Stages and many happy returns. What you add to the education of our young people – and old people for that matter – makes all of us a little more civilized, reasonable and loving. I am looking forward to celebrating with you tonight and some of the friends we have shared over the last 35 years. You are a treasure in all our lives.

Astros 23, Orioles 2. Some Memories of What It’s Like to Be on the Losing End of a Game, a Season.

Hey, Astros fans.

It was 2015 and the Astros were only two seasons past losing 111 games. They were slowly pulling themselves out of the mire and working toward their glorious 2017 season. They managed to win 86 in 2015 and climb to second place in the AL West. I remember using my space on Facebook to implore my great FB following to get behind this team. Like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, they still needed us more than we needed them.

One of my pet projects in 2015 was to see if we could, through an act of collective will, get Chris Carter’s batting average to .200 before the season ended. He was such a gentleman on the field. You really wanted him to succeed. So businesslike at the plate. So stoic when he suffered another strikeout. And he suffered a lot of them. But he never threw tantrums, bashed his fist into water coolers, cursed the manager or his teammates – or even the umpire. He was a consummate gentleman. And he finished the year at .199.

So we traded him off to the Milwaukee Brewers where he feasted on National League pitching, raised his BA to a blistering .222. And led the National League in home runs with 41. And strikeouts with 206. He had perfected the strategy of closing your eyes, swinging hard and never apologizing for striking out. Sometimes you hit the ball and sometimes it went over the fence. It was good enough to earn him a contract with the legendary New York Yankees where he played one more year. Facing AL pitching once again, his BA sank to .201. He spent a year in the minors and then retired at the age of 32.

I know my FB friends were wondering whatever happened to Chris Carter. I wish I could tell you more. I can only hope he is enjoying that New York Yankee money and finding happiness in the insurance business, auto sales, or whatever line of work he took up. I will forever be a Chris Carter fan.

But I write tonight to give you my reaction to this evening’s 23-2 Astros romp over the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s are a proud franchise with some great world championship years and many Hall of Fame players memorialized in their park at Camden Yard. It was difficult to see them embarrassed with the Astros artillery jacking balls out of the park like batting practice. Their most effective pitcher turned out to be the young outfielder-utility player they brought in to pitch the ninth inning. Why waste another arm? As it turned out he fooled a few Astros batters with his 51 mph fast ball. When you face ML pitching all the time, slo-pitch softball just isn’t your game. Well, that worked until the young Yordan Alvarez came to the plate and figured out his rhythm. He added one more home run to his evening’s total of three and took the score to the game final of 23-2.

By the time it was over, most of the fans in Camden Yard were cheering for the Astros to tack on some more runs. It could only make an Orioles comeback in the bottom of the ninth all the more exciting. Of course, that did not happen.

As I watched it, I couldn’t help but remember those sad days when the Astros were losing over a hundred a year. I could feel a lot of sympathy for the Orioles and their fans. It was especially difficult to see them bashed so mercilessly after the president spent the better part of a week of his executive time dumping on the city. If Baltimore is a disgusting, rodent infested mess then it wasn’t at all apparent from inside the park. The team conducted itself with pride, excellent comportment and dignity. Well, except for that time the pitcher came close to taking Correa’s head off with a high heater.

How well we know that three or four years from now, they could mobilize some key draft picks into another Baltimore world championship. And, then, we will be glad that it was the Commander in Chief giving them locker room quotes and not the Astros players.