Fifty Years Ago

I was drafted on April 9, 1968. As a graduate student and never much of an athlete, I was older than most of the other trainees in my basic training unit by six or seven years and not ready for the kind of physical exertion my DS was demanding of me. After checking in for sick call with blood in my urine around the fifth week of our eight week training period, I was hospitalized for treatment of what they thought was a kidney condition but was more likely, now I think, exertional rhabdomyolosis.

The California Democratic Primary had been held June 4. National news was not easy to come by in the William Beaumont General Hospital and I was only vaguely aware of the result of the primary and that Robert F. Kennedy had been wounded and survived an assassination attempt. There was a single television set on the ward and it was usually tuned to sports or sitcoms. We had no news the following day to help us understand how serious Kennedy’s condition was.

I was happy for Kennedy’s win as he seemed the most likely candidate to help us bring the war to an end and maybe even save me from a trip over there. By this time, most young Americans were pretty well hardened to the politics of violence but found it difficult to believe that a brother of JFK would die as he did or that it could happen just a matter of weeks after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. I had gone to bed hopeful he would survive and the war could be brought to an end.

On the morning of June 6, my new and all-too-constant friend the phlebotomist, who had come to do his daily invasion of my vein, shook me by the shoulder and said to me, “He died, you know.”

In my sleepy stupor I was confused by what he was telling me. Then he said in a very sad, quiet voice, “Bobby died this morning.”

 

Another Day of News in Sonnet Form

The day’s news was largely concerned with the evolving U.S. / North Korea summit, The president met in the Oval Office with DPRK’s former chief spy. I could not help but imagine the possibilities.  Today’s News in Sonnet Form is partly true and partly imagined, like many of the official releases issued from the White House lately.

 

News Sonnet II (Only Some Of It Imagined)

Dear Leader sends his most respected spy,
that’s me, to help assure your Twitter feed
is safe from Deep State hackers’ constant pry
to check if you’ve been compromised. Indeed,
allow insertion of this tiny card
in ancient Chinese flip phone you adore.
Your Deep State guys will find it much too hard
to intercept our plans for Singapore.
But, until then, [aside] we get to haul
in data not sent out in daily tweet –
the names and numbers, texts and every call
to baby-cakes and lady friends so sweet.
Perhaps your calls to tough guy Michael Cohen
will help us get negotiations goin’.

Today’s News in Sonnet Form

When I started this journal I intended to stay away from politics and current events. I soon realized that there was no way I would eliminate politics from my commentary. I’m afraid there isn’t much left of me if I abandon political discussion to Twitter and the cable networks.

Yesterday’s sonnet about Hurricane Harvey was fun to put together and even more fun to try to explain. Now I have decided to treat the day’s news in sonnet form. And the good thing is, I don’t have to explain. Just pick up your Washington Post, New York Times or push the buttons to go to Fox, CNN or MSNBC. Any one will do.

Continue reading “Today’s News in Sonnet Form”

Remembering Harvey

Summer approaches and a subtropical storm named Alberto has already made landfall on the northeastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico soaking Florida and Alabama.

It was late August of last year that Harvey made landfall at Rockport, Texas and dumped heavy rains to its east. Lake Jackson had 24 inches as I recall but some of the best was yet to come as Houston’s 51 inches headed downstream in our direction.  It has only been nine months. We know people in Lake Jackson who are still putting their lives and homes back in order.

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A friend’s home in Lake Jackson after Hurricane Harvey

This was what we saw when we went to visit a friend whose home had been flooded. Virtually everything they owned was piled in front of the house. But there were also about fifteen cars parked in the driveway. People from Chapelwood and The Center were there to do all they could to help with the cleanup.

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Interior of the friend’s home after the damage had been attacked by daily squadrons of friends

Continue reading “Remembering Harvey”

On a More Positive Note: Our Legacy of Hope

Growing up in Jacinto City, Texas, I was well within the urban lasso of Houston, yet I was insulated from its cultural amenities by barriers of transportation and income. Downtown Houston was a 30 to 45 minute bus ride from Jacinto City with lots of stops along the way for pickup and dropoff. We could do a few of the things that were free such as the zoo, the public parks, the art museum, and the free concerts at the Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park. But those were rare occasions and I grew up without an ear for good music, with the barest exposure to the visual arts, and no experience with drama beyond the plays I saw on our high school stage.

My participation in the arts did not improve much as an adult after moving into the city proper and having a better income of my own. This reduced the impact of the barriers of distance and income but did not eliminate them completely.

Interior of the Freeport LNG Theater in the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences
Interior of the Freeport LNG Theater, one of the venues where Brazosport Center Stages performs in The Center

Then, in 1982, we moved to an exurban area of Brazoria County – south of town, Lake Jackson. We were far enough removed from Houston that its urban amenities were virtually out of reach. For the kids in the poorer homes in our area, they were distant dreams if they were dreams at all.

But not long after arriving here, we learned that the performing and visual arts were available, affordable and a quick three mile drive down Oyster Creek Drive to the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences.

My posts have tended to dwell on the things we have done wrong politically, socially and economically and continue doing wrong. Those things form the basis of the pieces carrying the title Our Bitter Legacy. But, of course, there are some things we are doing right. The Brazosport Center for Arts and Sciences is one of them. It argues for recognition that we are also at work on our legacy of hope.

Continue reading “On a More Positive Note: Our Legacy of Hope”

IV. Our Bitter Legacy: Fear in the Classroom

Thirty-five miles northeast of where I sit this morning, ten people lie dead in mortuaries in or around Alvin and Santa Fe, Texas, victims of a teenager who had easy access to guns and potential victims. We know little about his mental state or motives. But we do know that it was senseless and preventable.

Yesterday, during the saturation news coverage from the Santa Fe High School grounds, local officials ushered our governor outside to the press area that had been set up in the school’s parking lot. Governor Abbott offered some words of comfort and some information the media had been awaiting.  And of course he offered up the requisite promise of listening sessions, town halls, round tables and such.

Then he introduced two people who had no particular reason for being there — Dan Patrick and Ted Cruz, Lt. Governor and U. S. Senator, respectively. Cruz informed us that “Texas has once again seen the face of evil” and that there have been “too damn many of these [mass shootings].” Continue reading “IV. Our Bitter Legacy: Fear in the Classroom”