Saturday, June 25, 2005

Going Fishin'

Just after the summer soltice, it seems appropriate to take a break. Posting will be light for the next several weeks. Recharge the batteries, and all that.

Update: Doh! I never posted this before turning off the machine. Oh well, the batteries are recharged!

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 Friday, June 24, 2005

Wide Awake

Wide awake, staring at my pillow in the dark. The ceiling fan buzzes, going 'round and 'round. The air conditioner blows cool air at the bed.

Wide awake, feeling guilty about leaving Trudy and Ben and the pets and their gifts and their cards out of my story -- the gifts and cards that brought tears to my eyes.

Wide awake, wishing that I'd tended to the backyard better, certain that it will be a jungle in two weeks' time. Wishing that I'd watered the front yard deeper, hoping that it will still be there after the brutal sun has had its way.

Wide awake, thinking about the Supreme Court and eminent domain and whether the city fathers might decide that this is a good place for a mall someday.

Wide awake, with echoes of Senator Durbin's courageous words on the floor of the Senate and of his blubbering backtracking several days later.

What good is it to go to bed at a decent hour when in the wee hours of the morning I end up finding myself wide awake?

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 Thursday, June 23, 2005

Father's Day, The End

No! No! You've done enough, already.

Enough of what?

Of the Father's Day stuff. I mean, like, give me a break!

I don't think so.

So there was the running in the morning, and the breakfast, and the canoeing on the lake. What could come next?

Smoothies! Fruit smoothies, that's what came next. We thought perhaps we'd enjoy an ice cream cone, but I realized that I had no cash and Sandy's is unlikely to take plastic. So we headed home.

But on the way home, we passed a Thundercloud.

Want a smoothie? I asked.

Sure! he said.

He got The Blues. I got ... I don't know, I got something very juicy and refreshing and thick and cold. We sat outside and watched the traffic drive by and the people come and go. And we sipped on our smoothies.

Running. Breakfast. Canoeing. Smoothies. Very nice. Now is that the end of your story?

No. Sit down.

And then, get this. Then we drove home, and I took a nap. I mean it was Father's Day. And we got up early and ran. So I was tired. And hot. So I took a nap. I figured I could do that on Father's Day.

And after the nap came the concert. We drove back to the lake in the early evening and met Steve at Zilker Park, where we had canoed just a few hours before. And we set out chairs on the hill under the limbs of the Live Oaks and Cedar Elms.

A breeze came up the hill and cooled us off. The children ran up and down, making joyful noise. People tried to keep their dogs still. Other people tried to keep their toddlers still. The Municipal Band played marches. The piccolos came out in front for the grand finale, Stars and Stripes Forever.

Oh for heaven's sake.

No. Wait until you hear the last part.

The last part? You promise?

And after the music was gone. After most of the crowd had left. After that, we got in the car and went down the street to Sandy's. We went to Sandy's, the Austin home of frozen custard, and we had cones and shakes.

Eggs for breakfast.
Fruit smoothies.
A nap.
A concert in the park.
And frozen custard from Sandy's.

That's what my Father's Day was made of.

And now I've finished my story.


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 Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Father's Day Canoeing

Wanna rent a canoe? I asked.

We had just eaten breakfast and were wondering what we were going to do next.

Sure, he said.

So we walked down the hill and hopped in the car and paid the $3.00 to park at Zilker Park. We walked past the playscape where I used to bring him on my weekends in Austin. We walked down the stairs to where the water comes falling over the dam at Barton Springs.

Take number 62, they told us.

In minutes, we shoved off into the clear, greenish water of the creek.

We went by ducklings. We went by turtles warming themselves in the sun. We zigzagged across the creek as it got wider and deeper and approached Town Lake. And then as we went out into the lake, we turned and went upstream.

We went by wood ducks. We went by swans, giving them a wide berth since they had young ones with them. We went by fallen trees just submerged under the surface. We went in and out of shadow and sun.

We passed the cypress trees the tower over the southern shore. We passed Turk's Caps blooming in the undergrowth. We weaved in and out, ducking our heads and pushing aside the branches that swept the surface of the water.

He paddled. And I paddled. He set his paddle in his lap and watched the scene go by. And I kept paddling.

A family canoed by going the other direction.

I want to do what they're doing, Dad! I heard a boy say. He was pointing to us. I want to go under the trees.

No kidding, so did I! I wanted to go canoeing with my boy on a sunny day on the cool waters of the lake in the shade of the cypress trees on Father's Day.

And I got my wish before the day was half done.

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 Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Father's Day Breakfast

The last mile felt good. My legs and my lungs finally seemed to be working together, and it actually felt possible to run fast. Fast is a relative term, of course, but it felt fast to me. It's been a long time since I felt fast.

Will I stop at the end of the dirt trail? I asked myself. Will I stop at the overpass column? Will I stop at the concrete circle? It's a little game I play with myself to keep me running until the end.

I decided to run to the concrete circle. When I got there, Ben was sitting in the stretching area waiting and smiling. I winked at him and headed to the drinking fountain and the shower, where I dowsed my head and my shoes that were covered in trail dirt. Then I sat down next to him.

Have a little trouble-bubble? he asked, implying that he expected me earlier.

No, I said. I'm just slow.


I took another swig of the Gatorade that he had fetched from the car.

We sat for a while, he and I, watching the runners come and go. The serious runners were gone by now, but there were plenty of others. We enjoyed the cool breeze that periodically came up the hill from the lake.

I would have sat there longer, but Ben began to agitate for breakfast. So we walked up the hill past the car, across Lake Austin Boulevard and put our names on the list for breakfast at Magnolia Cafe. And although the list was shockingly long, before you know it we had a booth by the window and were eating eggs and sausage and potatoes and...

Oh what a way to have breakfast on Father's Day.

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 Monday, June 20, 2005

Father's Day Morning

We got up in the morning and made our way out to the car and down to the lake. It can be pleasant there on weekend mornings, even when the day ahead promises to climb unbearably high. It can be pleasant, provided you get out there early enough.

I vaguely remember opening my eyes when the glow of day was just starting to shine thru the curtains. And I clearly remember turning over and going back to sleep. Suffice it to say that we didn't get out there terribly early. And when we did get there, Ben discovered he had left his helmet at home.

So riding his bike while I ran was out.

He looked over at me from the passenger's seat with a look on his face like that he would have ten years ago when he'd lost some toy and wanted me to find it. But I didn't have much magic in me.

You can run part of the way with me, I said.

He didn't say anything.

Or you can just hang out here.

Crowds of runners were milling around the stretching area -- serious runners with serious faces and serious legs. Some were already finishing the appointed rounds, dripping in sweat, although it was only in the mid-70s.

I'll run three miles, he said.

So with the cool of the day beginning to slip away and the sun beginning to beat down on the open places on the running trails, we got a drink, I dowsed my head under the shower, and we started across the bridge, our strides matching each other in perfect synchrony.

Not a bad way to start a Father's Day.

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 Saturday, June 18, 2005


Last week, there was water in the rain barrels, but I spent the last of it on the lantana that guard the mailbox in the sun all day. So yesterday I ran the sprinkler, and now I turn it on again.

I move the sprinkler to a new spot so that its two foot circle might soak the roots of some grass and the Monterey Oak and the Blackfoot daisies. Then I turn to go back inside.

There before me, a large, broken branch lies on the ground, having fallen from the Ash tree last night. I missed it on the way out, but there is no missing it now. It lies across the Rosemary with its purplish-white blossoms. It lies on top of the Skullcap with its pinkish-red blossoms. And it has crushed my Texas Persimmon.

A pang shoots thru my heart.

I walk over to the branch and lift it off the Rosemary. I lift it off the Skullcap. I lift rather than pull, hoping that the Persimmon might somehow still be there underneath. But I don't hold on to any hope.

With a grunt of disgust, I heave the Ash branch away. And lo, the Persimmon rises up, but its head has been severed. Only a ripped scar remains where it used to climb two feet further skyward.

I look over my shoulder at the Ash branch with a scowl. A shadow passes over my heart. Inside the belly of that beast, I imagine, is part of the Persimmon that I have nurtured for so long.

The Persimmon is alive, but they grow so very slowly. It will take a long time to heal. It will be a long time before it becomes the handsome tree that Texas Persimmons can be.

I sit on the bench in the cool morning air and hang my head.

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 Friday, June 17, 2005

Near and Far

In the distance I saw a tower standing golden in the sun. The light of day was fading, and the rays of it were lighting up the clouds and the tops of a lone Oak far across the field.

Closer at hand, a narrow lane turned northward shouldered by green grass. And just a stone's throw away from me, another Oak, this one already abandoned by the evening light, was casting shadows inward. Night was gradually gathering among its leaves.

A line of Queen Anne's lace standing at the margins of the field separated the far-away from the close-at-hand.

I marveled at the distant tower and the rose-hued clouds and the Oak trees near and far. And then I gazed up the northward leading lane and decided that it was time to go.

Motivation: A photo by the writing man.

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 Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What Good Would It Do?

What good would it do to call your Senators? They can't even come to support the Senate apology for never having outlawed lynching.

What good would it do to call your Representative? He hails from San Antonio in a district that reaches up from the south and steals a slice of Austin so that it can be safely watered down.

What good would it do for a Muslim in Israel to ask his government to do the right thing? What good would it do for a Kurd in Turkey to do the same? Or a Chinese farmer?

You are not oppressed, that is true.

But it would do no good for you to call your legislators, for their gaze is focused elsewhere. Like it or not, in this day, in this state, your voice has no significance.

Be happy with what you have.

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Carrying This Passport

Rick Segal reflects on the fact so many senators failed to sign on to the resolution apologizing for the historical unwillingness of the United States Senate to speak up in opposition to lynching. And he reflects on the state of being an American in the world today.

Segal/Hard to Be An American: Today it's hard to carry this passport.

Note: The list of cosponsors of this resolution that was brought up for non-countable vote in late hours is evidently growing. It's virtually impossible to find a mainstream media discussion of who has formally joined the list. They seem to be too busy trumpeting the congratulatory news of the apology rather than looking into who didn't sign on and why. Still, evidently some senators are getting enough pressure after the fact that they're adding their names after the fact.

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 Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Words of The Singing Man

Grass on the green.
Flowers in the sun.
Sunset on the water.
Cool breeze blowing.

Be wary of the words of the singing man, of the fragrance of his melodies. Look beyond the grass and the sunsets and the flowers in the breeze. And see the darkness on the other side.

Rape as justice in Pakistan.
Bulldozed townships as payback in Zimbabwe.
A wall zigzagging thru Palestine.
A vortex in Iraq that is cracking open the gates of hell.

Burning forests in Brazil.
Dried up lake beds in the steppes.
Smoke-choked cities teeming with miserable masses.
Logging roads thru the wilderness.

Lies that masquerade as journalism.
Lies that masquerade as policy.
Lies that masquerade as science.
Money that masquerades as freedom.

Sometimes he takes off those rose colored glasses. He just doesn't sing about it very much.

Who could? Who would listen? Who cares?

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 Monday, June 13, 2005

People and Faces

If you go down along the trails often enough, you start to see people and faces (and dogs) you recognize. For example, from yesterday and today:

  • Greek-looking, grandmotherly woman stretching by the bridge.
  • Groovy guy and his unleashed muppet-looking, bell-bottom-legged dog.
  • Pinky, the woman who always wears pinks as she walks around the lake.
  • Dog trainer lady, who entrances dogs into behaving well if for only a brief time.
  • Skinny woman, who is always running hard and alone.
  • Tall smirking man, who runs hard but doesn't run fast and whose smirk is mostly smile.
  • Big burly guy, who looks like a mayor of some large, midwestern city.
  • Old shuffling man, who always wears a bandana and moves slower than molasses but is out there almost every day.
  • Well-dressed smoking man, who sits with his bagged possessions on the benches along the trail.
  • And of course, the fair and industrious Trudy, without whom a run around those trails is far harder to do.

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 Sunday, June 12, 2005

These Summer Days

We went to the lake again today -- Trudy, Guinness the dog, and I. We waited until the sun was low and the shadows were beginning to stretch across the trail and the temperatures began to drop.

As I ran off in the direction of the pedestrian bridge, the two of them went the other way, to sit on the bench where we sat last week in the late afternoon. It's a good spot to sit, if the bench is free, especially on a day like this when a breeze comes across the water.

I imagine they sat there listening to the footsteps of the runners going by on the trail behind them, and the lapping of the water at the Cypress roots by the shore. I imagine the air felt good as it blew in their hair. And I can see the shimmering green of the afternoon sun lighting up the leaves overhead as it descended into the hills.

Seventy-five minutes later, I came around from the other direction. A smile was on Trudy's face, and Guinness was pulling on his leash to run the last bit with me.

It won't be long, Trudy said later, and the days will be getting shorter.

These summer days are made for running, if you can get over the heat. You can have a full day and still run in the late afternoon without the sun going down too soon.

Yes, these summer days are made for running. But there are only ten more of them left.

How on earth is that possible!?

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Ice-Tea at Dinner

Just moments ago it was too noisy in here. Trudy sat on the floor looking at photos from years-gone-by -- commenting on some, laughing at some, passing a few around.

Get your dad to look at this, she would tell Ben. And he would paraphrase what she had told him to say. And I would just keep typing on my keyboard.

He sat on the floor, too: rolling sometimes on his back, sometimes on his front, always with the dog close at hand. When he wasn't talking with her about the photos, he was whispering into the dog's ear undoubtedly some secret he had meant to share while he was out of town.

Just moments ago it was noisy, with her and him and the dog. But she retreated to bed. Then he did, too. And now it is silent: no wife, no photos, no boy, no dog.

It is silent. They are sleeping. My eyes are wide-opened. And I think I missed the party.

I knew that ice-tea at dinner wasn't a good idea.

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 Saturday, June 11, 2005

Tree Books

1. Saturday with Ronnie

We sat at the dining room table -- Ronnie, Trudy, and I. He was organizing photos on his PowerBook. She was surfing on her iBook. I was unplugged, reading a book. Each of us was deeply absorbed in the matters before us.

The room was silent. Then Ronnie looked up and over at me and at the book I was reading: The Life of an Oak -- An Intimate Portrait, by Glenn Keator.

I don't think, he said, that in my entire life it would have occurred to me to pick up that book, much less read it. And he pointed out what a contrast it seemed: what I do by day, and what I read at night.

Trudy looked up smiling, and her eyes sparkled.

2. A Week Later with Manish

On the way back from lunch, I told Gregg and Manish something about the book I had been reading: Trees of Central Texas -- A Field Guide, by Robert A. Vines.

I explained how it was a bit too technical for me, describing in scientific terminology the twig and leaf shapes and the nature of the flowers and fruit. But I shared with them how I love moving thru the book family by family (Podocarpaceae, Pinaceae, Taxodiaceae,...), just reading the closing remarks on each species and variant.

Later that day, as Manish and I started off on a run around the lake (runs during which we frequently decompress on software issues encountered during the day), he confessed, I didn't want to say anything at lunch, but that book sounded so boring!

I laughed out loud, being reminded of Ronnie's comments just a few days earlier.

And when we met Trudy later and I told her what he had said, she laughed out loud, too.

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 Friday, June 10, 2005

The Stakes

billmon at the Whiskey Bar, talking about Howard Dean, invective, and keeping the eye on the prize:

bilmon/Howard's End: ... the stakes in this political contest keep getting higher all the time. We really are talking about the fate of the most powerful, and dangerous, nation in the world -- dangerous not so much because of things it is doing now (which are bad enough) but because of what it might do if the worst elements in the conservative coalition ever got complete control of it. Which they just might -- especially if the Democratic Party becomes completely marginalized.

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 Thursday, June 9, 2005

To Walk a Narrow Lane

Oh, to walk a narrow lane between the drooping spruce and the elms and the maple trees. Oh, to breathe the crisp alpine air while gazing out across the river, looking at the tree-clad slopes charging up from the valley where a steeple rises over the crests of the trees, marveling at the rocky crags in the distance.

I do not know what I would do if we had a TV in this house. The news from it makes me so glum that I sit here sullen even though the nearest one is across the street. When we come home from a run, tired and hungry and weak, the news of the world and the words of the day are so hard to take. It all seems about the fall in on itself.

But we do not have a TV, and I do not have to listen to those words or watch those talking heads. So I sit here and look at the pictures my brother has sent us and think, Oh, to walk a narrow lane in the cool air beneath a blue sky on a sunny day in the mountains.

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 Wednesday, June 8, 2005


family values
wave the flag
turn the corner
mission accomplished

bring 'em on

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 Tuesday, June 7, 2005

The Snarling Jaws of Kerberos

I saw the snarling jaws of Kerberos coming across the street tonite. His tongue hung out. His teeth were bared. His head was held down from his humped shoulders tracking his quarry. I turned the corner, and he followed me.

In the dark, coming home from the soccer fields, in the orange glow of the streetlight behind me, I saw the jaws of Kerberos open. But he walked with a bounce. And he panted only lightly whereas I would have expected something else. And his tail was wagging.

Oh. I must have been mistaken him. It wasn't Kerberos after all. It was just the slanted shadow of a black and tan dog named Guinness.

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 Monday, June 6, 2005

Revealing A Fundamental Truth

My job, he said. I don't care about it.

We looked at him, waiting for him to elaborate.

No, really, he said, sensing our curiosity. I'll do anything.

He made a pushing/pulling motion with his hands.

Pay me the same to mow the grass, and I will do it, he said.

From the look in his eyes and the way in which he held his head, he seemed to think that he had discovered (or at least revealed) some fundamental truth of the 21st century.

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Cole: Guantanamo, the Bill of Rights, and the Patriot Acts

Juan Cole on Guantanamo, the Bill of Rights, and the implications of the Patriot Acts:

Cole/Quran/Guantanamo: Terrorists are dirty criminals who should be tried, and if found guilty, put away for life. Terrorists are criminals. They are not non-human, and any attempt to create a category of human beings to whom the protections of the law do not apply is an attempt to undermine the Republic. It is a return of the Bill of Attainder, a feature of absolute monarchy that the Founding Fathers stood against. It is something to which even Rehnquist is opposed. ...

Guantanamo Prison should be closed because it was conceived as the beginning of the end of the American Republic.

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 Sunday, June 5, 2005

Waiting for the Early Evening Air

As the sun arcs across the sky
and its rays sneak under the green canopy
that has been shading this spot,
it makes me hot,
and it makes me sweat,
and its brightness makes me squint,
and I move to the chair four feet away,
in the shade,
in the breeze,
and I wait for the air to cool
so that we can go running
in the early evening air.

(No this isn't a poem. It's just a run-on sentence that I think is easier to read this way.)

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 Friday, June 3, 2005

Spring is Out

The spring is out of me -- no more spring-green things to say.

The bluebonnets are brown, and their seeds have sprung to far-flung places. The creek is drying up, foot by foot, day by hot day. The shade beckons in the afternoon as the sun beats down above.

The air is thick and hot outside. The city lies hidden in its miasma in the morning. And evening walks thru it leave you sweating and sapped of all strength.

The spring is out of me. Summer is here. We should go swimming on Sunday.

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