jumpingfish
 Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Color Purple

The air was warm. The sun was periodically poking out from behind the clouds. There was a line of people standing outside the window at the coffee shop. We were sitting in the shade of a Live Oak tree on a patch of crushed granite beside the sidewalk along South Congress Avenue.

Trudy was reading the paper. The dog sat in her lap. I had a book in mine but was mostly listening the women at the table next to us.

Some of the women were young. Some were not. They all seemed very hip, which was no surprise given the part of town we were in. What caught my attention was when they started talking about their husbands. You see this crowd did not exactly seem the type that would be, how shall we say, chatting about their husbands. Nevertheless they were.

I must change the color in the bedroom, the youngest one said. It is ruining my love life. Four walls of purple makes it seem like a dungeon. Then she repeated herself, as if to make her point crystal clear, The purple is ruining my love life.

An older woman to her left then spoke. What shade of purple is it? Maybe I should try it. I need some protection.

---
Jo's Hot Coffee
South Congress Avenue
Austin TX


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 Thursday, October 27, 2005

Death of a Prisoner

There was a story on NPR by John McChesney this afternoon -- a story about the capture, abuse and murder of an Iraqi prisoner in the hands of American guards and interrogators.

We sat in silence as the work of our soldiers and agents was laid nakedly bare as is rarely done in the mainstream press these days. We were walked step by step, minute by minute thru the horror. For twenty-two minutes the story went on (an eternity in radio time), and we drove home from north to south without saying a word.

War is hell, they will tell us.

They will say this to intimidate us, to stifle us, to get us to go along. But the squelching isn't working as well as it has been. And the hypocrisy is finally being seen by Americans for what it is.

I sat behind the wheel on the verge of tears for those 22 minutes, not just because of the horror of the truth that we have known for some time, but for the shame that this is what my country has come to stand for -- this and almost nothing else.

I can only hope I was not alone.


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 Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Five Dollars for a Fan Belt

1. Giving Money to the Man

We got into the car and sat for a few minutes, trying to decide where to eat. At times like this when we're delayed by late afternoon errands, making this decision is hard. So we sat there -- Ben, Trudy and I -- trying to decide.

As we deliberated, a guy walked up. He was missing his front two teeth and was a little rumpled looking.

Excuse me, he said, trying to get our attention thru the mostly rolled up window. I rolled the window down.

The man explained how he had busted his fan belt and was $4.16 short. His car was at Pep Boys around the corner at the other end of the shopping center. He asked if we could help him out.

This isn't something I usually fall for, but he spoke clearly, his story was had a genuine sound to it, and I knew that I had a five dollar bill in my wallet. So I pulled it out and gave it to him.

Thank you, he said, but the bill slipped from his fingers and blew under the car. Shoot! he said (although it wasn't spelled like that).

The man bent over and grabbed the bill, and without saying anything else or looking back at us he walked off in the direction of Pep Boys.

2. Back of the Bus

Now it just so happened that we were headed in the same direction. We pulled out of the parking lot and merged with the traffic coming around the corner. There, within site of Pep Boys, we pulled up to a red light.

Can you see the guy? I asked. If he was going to Pep Boys to get his car, he should have been visible about then.

Sure enough, we saw him walking across the parking lot. But he was cutting diagonally across the lot, not walking toward Pep Boys.

Just then, a bus pulled up at the bus stop that was right next to us at the light. It pulled up, some people got off the bus, others got on, and the man started running.

He ran across the lot, got onto the bus, walked to the back and sat down next to the window.

And here's the thing of it, I could swear that as he sat down he looked out the window and saw us sitting next to him in the traffic. He glanced over briefly, saw our car, and quickly turned and looked the other way.


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 Monday, October 24, 2005

Goodbye Rosa

Rosa Parks passed away tonite.

More info: http://www.africanamericans.com/RosaParksResources.htm


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Breaking the Ice

In the room full of adults, there wasn't much for the kids to do. They could stand with their parents, and you know what that is like. Or they could go off on their own to a different place, but there wasn't a critical mass of them.

In a situation like that, breaking the ice can be real difficult -- at least that's what I remember.

So there we were in a room full of alumni and academics and spouses and two teenagers. They stood smiling politely at first, Ben sipping Dr. Pepper from a bottle, Carrie holding her paperback under her arm. You could see the look of dread in their eyes -- they knew the evening would be long.

After we ate, Ben came over and stood behind me. Dad, he said in a quiet voice. May I have a couple dollars?

Sure, for what?

For a game of pool, he said.

I only had one dollar, but he said that it would be fine. He took it and walked over to where Carrie was sitting.

It was noisy, with all the talking and with the country music coming from the dance hall on the other side of the wall. So I couldn't hear what he said, but I could see it.

He walked around the table and bent down just a bit when he got to her chair, and I saw him say pool. She looked up at him and smiled, and I saw her say sure!

Yep, that's just how I remember it. Breaking the ice can be real difficult.

---
Trinity University Geosciences alumni and faculty gathering
Leon Springs Dance Hall
San Antonio, TX


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 Sunday, October 23, 2005

When Geologists Wrote Their Own Software

The room was mostly empty when we got there, big round tables with no one sitting at them yet and two people getting ready to serve us barbecue.

Small groups of people were gathered together talking -- in low voices it seemed, although the country band playing in the dance hall on the other side of the wall would have made it difficult to hear even if they were speaking loudly.

After a while people whom Trudy knew began arriving. She introduced herself (it had been many years), and she introduced me. She would say her maiden name and then ours, but before she finished, their faces would light up and they'd hug as they said hello. And she'd introduce me, This is my husband, and they would smile and shake my hand warmly.

As more and more people showed up, I saw a few with name tags. And then I saw a table in the middle of the room where the pens and empty tags were -- a perfect opportunity to excuse myself and leave Trudy to her fellow alumni and professors.

There was a black sharpie on the table, which I took and wrote out three tags -- one for Trudy, one for Ben, and one for me. A gray-haired man was next to me doing the same thing, and I noticed that he was writing with his left hand.

You're left handed, too! I said.

He stood up and said something to the effect of Yes I am.

I'm a spouse, I confessed.

I don't think he heard the confessional tone in my voice. He looked at me, chuckled and said, Most of us are!

My wife is Trudy ... and I turned to point at Trudy. Before I could even complete my sentence, he said, Oh, yes! I remember Trudy.

He smiled. And then he turned back to me.

You are a spouse! So what do you do? he asked.

I told him about my years in aerospace engineering and how I moved into software development. His eyes lit up.

I spent many good years of my life doing that, he said. Back in the early days, geologists had to write the software ourselves. If I had those years back, I'd be many years younger!

This was a gathering of faculty and alumni from the Trinity University Geosciences department, and he had been a professor there after years of working in industry. We stood there at the name tag table -- he telling stories about the days when geologists wrote their own software and I smiling at the tone of anguish and telling a few modest stories of my own.

He told stories about writing assembly language and Fortran for mainframes that were nowhere compatible with each other. He told stories of adapting aerospace programs to do geoscience mapping and how sometimes the output looked more like a wing than it was supposed to. He told stories about the Univacs and the IBM 650s and the CDC mainframes.

The 6600, I said.

He looked at me with an expression of surprise. "You're right!"

That must have made an impression, because as he and his wife were getting ready to leave later that evening, he came up to Trudy to say goodnight and then looked over at me, smiled broadly, shook my hand, and spent a few more minutes telling some more stories from when geologists wrote their own software.

Me, just some spouse with a name tag on my shirt.


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Changes in the Weather

1. Lunchtime Commentary

We sat in the restaurant while waiters and waitresses hurried back and forth and customers came and went. It was a perfect people watching spot, positioned as it was at the crossroads of the traffic flow.

So this is how we spent our lunchtime: watching and commenting.

Look at that purse. Look at his teeth. Her hair is maroon. Hers is orange. He's got a preppy shirt but his shoes aren't preppy at all. Look -- they're thumb wrestling!

Did you see that!? I turned and asked Trudy. That guy had a coat.

Trudy's turned to look. The temperature was cooler than the day before when it had been in the 90s. It was pleasantly warm outside, and the heat of summer was finally gone. But this guy was wearing a coat!

And then a couple came in and sat at the table across from us. They both were carrying jackets.

What's up with that? we wondered, lamenting the loss of perspective some people seem to get when they live down here long enough.

2. Afternoon Walk

Later that day, we went for a walk. We went out the door with the dog on a leash, and a gust of wind blew across the yard, kicking golden ash leaves into a swirl. It was cooler than it had been earlier in the day -- much cooler.

Barely two steps out the door, I turned around and went back in.

I'm going to get my vest, I announced.

Trudy waited for me in the yard. But when I returned, she was looking uncertainly at the wind, which was still blowing.

Here, she said. Hold the dog. I'm going to get something warm, too.

It was in the 60s. Winter had arrived!


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 Friday, October 21, 2005

Beckoning Books

There's a book sitting on the dining room table that I picked up at a used bookstore today. There are two books on the table in the living room. In the bedroom on the floor beneath the bedside table there's a pile for five or more. And even now, there's a wall of books that beckon from the wall behind me.

When will I find the time?


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 Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Arrest Warrant

The warrant reads:

The State of Texas to any sherrif or peace officer of the State of Texas; Greetings: You are hereby commanded to arrest: Thomas Dale Delay ... charging him with the offense of criminal conspiracy [and] money laundering ≥ $100K

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Ice Cream and Chocolate

We were sitting around the table after dinner. I don't remember what we ate, but do I recall this. Ben went into the kitchen and came back with a bowl of ice cream with chocolate on top.

Even if you're not an ice cream fan or particularly enamored by chocolate, you have to admit that dark brown Hershey's running down a scoop of vanilla is a vision of loveliness. And so it was.

Ben sat down and put his ice cream on the table. Faye looked at it and smiled. She raised her hand and pointed at it.

I remember the first time I saw something like that, she said.

She looked at all of us with a smile on her face. And she told a story about sitting down at a drugstore down the street from the courthouse and watching them pour chocolate over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I had never seen anything like that, she said. She smiled again, gazing at the ice cream.

She paused. Her hand came down to the table. Then she looked down at her dessert of yogurt and flax seed. She reached for her spoon and took another bite.


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 Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Worth It

1. The Jogging Man

Today my legs had that I-ran-yesterday soreness that you get when you don't run often enough. So I walked a bit.

And as I walked and ran and walked and ran, I found myself passing and being passed by a man who was jogging slowly with a bit of a limp and a elastic support around his left knee.

He passed me on the pedestrian bridge. I passed him on the spiral ramp at the far end when I started running again. And I figured that was the last I'd see of him.

2. Kissing Trudy

With about one mile to go, I saw Trudy coming from the other way. She spotted me first, and when she caught my eye, we moved off the path and stopped to talk. We agreed to meet back at the stretching area.

Just then, the man with the knee support came jogging by again.

See you at the end, Trudy said.

Ok, I said.

We kissed. She went one way. And I went off the other.

3. That One Was Worth It

I saw the walking man ahead. He was swinging his arms, and his head was tipped down a bit as it had been when I passed him on the bridge.

As I came alongside him, I looked over. He turned his head to look back at me. (You don't look over at someone running next to you unless you've got something to say.)

What can I say? I keep getting distracted! I said.

He laughed and said, Yes, but I bet that one was worth it!

Ohhh yes.


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 Monday, October 17, 2005

Modern Friction

She was dressed in pajamas, standing at the refrigerator writing something on the whiteboard. I was still in my running clothes.

Hey, are your hands clean? she asked.

What?

I was only reaching in for a fudgesicle, what did she care if my hands were clean!?

Touch my face if your hands are clean, she said. And she turned to me with her eyes closed.

What!?

Touch my face, she said. And she closed her eyes again. I have on Modern Friction. She enunciated the last two words very clearly.

I washed my right hand (holding a fudgesicle in my left). And I touched her face.

Very nice, I said. And then after a brief delay, Now I have something to write about!

She scowled. Sadly, I don't think that's the reaction she was looking for.

Update: She reports that she didn't say she had on Modern Friction but that she used Modern Friction.


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 Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fruity

There were two computers and four internet appliances in the lab behind the glass doors on the third floor of the apartment building. As soon as we unlocked the door, there were kids sitting at most of them.

Kevin was interested in getting an email account. Kayla wanted to invent a nasty tasting recipe, with lemon juice and peanut butter. Three other boys wanted to play computer games. And a tall, handsome kid in a bright red shirt and baggy pants was looking for help tracking down a friend he knew in New Orleans.

They sat down and started their work.

Eventually Kevin gave up on Yahoo, because they wanted his mother's approval (because he was only in fifth grade and it didn't occur to him to lie about his birthday). And she had to provide a credit card to prove she was an adult, but he said she doesn't have any credit cards.

He sat back in his chair, unwrapped some candy, and threw it into his mouth.

What's that? I asked.

What!? he snapped. He must have thought I didn't want him eating candy in there.

What kind of candy is that? Starburst?

No.

It smells fruity!

His eyes widened. The two boys sharing the computer next to him immediately stopped what they were doing. They looked at him, barely turning their heads.

Fruity!?

Yeah, it smells kind of fruity.

The boys' eyes widened further. Kevin scowled and shook his head.

It's not fruity.

Clearly I had stumbled onto a taboo word. It didn't take much to figure that out.

No, no, no, I said. Fruity, as in It smells like fruit.

The two boys laughed.

Tootsie Roll, said Kevin. Strawberry Tootsie Roll.


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 Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Manly Arts

1. The Rule

Steve and Trudy and I stood on the deck while the grill sizzled and smoked. He was drinking a beer. She was drinking water. I was cooking our dinner.

Steve was telling us about the deck he added to his house -- how he knew nothing about doing it but just took it one step at a time. From the piers to the tongue-and-groove flooring to the shingles on the roof, he read books and talked to the guys at the hardware store. And he did it all himself.

I was impressed. Trudy was, too. I shook my head. Trudy smiled.

Well David doesn't really do well at those kinds of things, she said as she patted my on the shoulder.

It's true. I know it. She knows it. My whole family knows it. Where others (men and women) can learn these "manly" arts and and master them step by step, whenever I try them, they come out horribly wrong -- upside down, backwards, broken, or slightly askew.

There's no use fighting it. That's just the way it is.

(By the way, I over-cooked the sausage.)

2. The Exception to the Rule

Gregg waved me into his office. He had a new laptop but he couldn't figure out how to attach it to the security cord.

He showed me the laptop. He showed me the cord. And he explained what the instructions said. Then he showed me how every time he tried, the cord would just fall out onto the floor.

Here, let me show you the instructions, he said. They're in here somewhere, I think he said, and he handed me the laptop and cord.

He handed them to me. What? I am going to solve this problem? Certainly we've known each other long enough for him to know that I am not the man he wants to consult. Yet here I was holding his laptop and the misbehaving security cord.

I looked at the one and then at the other. I stuck the cord into the slot, pushed it down, turned 90 degrees, and turned the combination wheels. And ... what do you know, it worked!

There! I said, I got it.

What!? he said, turning back from the papers.

So it was. Decorated though my life is with failure after failure in the "manly" arts of building-and-fixing, I had successfully solved Gregg's problem. I showed him how to do it and then returned to my desk.

As I left, he said, You have no idea how much better you have made my day!


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 Friday, October 14, 2005

Sixth Graders at Halftime

The band marched out from the far side of the football field accompanied by a simple cadence. When the drums snapped to a stop, the marchers stood still, and a sea of kids (200 or so) washed onto the field from the sidelines.

Sixth graders who had been corralled by their teachers came out on the field to meet the high school marching band halfway. The band stood still, instruments at attention, white sparkling tassels waving slightly in the evening breeze, faces looking straight ahead. The sixth graders approached them and then turned to face the crowd.

Then the middle school directors and the two high school drum majors dressed in white started the sixth graders playing -- House Park Blues. It was a simple tune, and they played it well. As the directors waved their hands, those sixth graders played the blues to an almost sold-out home crowd in the stands.

And then the marching band joined them, a blast of brass to backup that simple tune. And in their maroon and black uniforms they swayed to the beat in unison, horns going left and then right.

Imagine what it must have been like for those sixth graders. Most of them only touched up their instruments for the first time in August, and here they were playing at halftime under the bright lights. Here they were playing the blues to a stadium full of standing people with a marching band in full uniform behind them backing them up and swaying to their music.

When the song was done, the drum cadence resumed. And those sixth graders moved quickly off the field as the band marched closely behind them.

Imagine what that must have been like.

---
Halftime Show at the Austin/Anderson football game
House Park
Austin, TX


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 Thursday, October 13, 2005

What They Worked For

1. Pizza

Afternoon. After school.
After cloudy skies have cleared.
The last band practice before the competition.
The kids gather near the director.

They have worked hard -- many months.
In the sun. In the rain.
In the mornings. In the afternoons.
They listen -- sitting, standing.

Dismissed. Some turn and run. Some walk.
They stream in from the parking lot.
Their mass of hunger arrives at once.

Boxes and boxes of pizzas.
Stacked in insulated packs behind the tables.
Band booster parents handing out slices.
As fast as they can serve, the slices are taken.

In only minutes the pizza is gone.
Only piles and piles of empty boxes remain.
The kids gather in groups.
A silence descends for a while as they eat.

2. Attention

Utter chaos after the food is gone.
Pushing, pulling, laughing, shouting.
Kids running and jumping. Frisbees flying.
A raucous game of four-square.

At the appointed hour, they go inside.
How did they all know it was time?
One by one, the reemerge,
Each partially dressed in maroon and black.

Hat boxes under arms.
Shiny black shoes and unbuttoned coats.
They set their instruments on the ground.
Each of them goes thru their own get-ready routine.

They organize by section.
Saxophones here. Drums there.
Squad leaders do last minute equipment checks.
The clamor is deafening.

Over the speaker: "Band! 1-2!"
"Up!" they all shout in unison.
Standing at attention, arms at their sides.
Instant. Absolute. Silence.

3. In The Parking Lot

It takes six buses and a trailer.
They leave before the sun has set.
By the time they arrive, it is dark.
They assemble in a far corner of the parking lot.

White cones of parking lot lights shine thru the mist.
Other bands in other corners load and unload.
Parents and directors stand aside.
The kids find their own ways to wait.

15 drummers in a circle, practicing riffs on the pavement.
The flag squads run thru their routines:
Magenta and purple and orange and gold.
A boy passes out the sparkling white plumes.

Five bass drums sit lined up on the ground.
Where have those guys gone?
The flutes stand in ranks running, instruments up.
Another section huddles, hands on shoulders.

The percussion pit warms up behind the stadium.
"Ok, from measure 49 -- 1, 2, 3, 4!"
(They have no music with them.)
The marchers line up at the other end of the stadium.

4. The Performance

The time arrives.

The Rebels silently march off the field
To the beat of a single-drum-stick cadence.
The Austin pit rolls out from under the stadium.
A mass of maroon and black lines up across the field.

Under the bright lights on the green field.
"Drum major, are you ready?"
He turns sharply and salutes.
And turns back around.

Arms up. Count off.
The drums. The brass. The woodwinds.
Their formations twist and turn.
The band plays, the dancers dance, the flags stream in the wind.

The lines are straight when they need to be.
The brass shines under the stadium lights.
A crisp turn of heads and instruments.
And it is over.

5. The Results.

This is what they worked so hard for. This is why they came in the mornings. This is why they stayed after school in the beastly heat. This is why the trumpets had to do pushups on the hot asphalt one afternoon.

This is why they memorized their music. This is why they worked so hard on their marching form. This is why when they call the band to attention, the kids snap to attention instantly. For this competition.

Afterwards, the band files into the stadium seats and waits for the results. The other bands have gone, or they are waiting just beyond the fences with their faces peering thru the bars to hear the results. A single block of maroon and black sits patiently and waits. Then...

Hays: Division 1. The Hays band has already left. Their buses and semi-truck trailer rolled away less than an hour ago. The crowd applauds.

Stony Point: Division 1. They are standing just beyond the fences. They scream in celebration. Their cheers spread across the parking lot in a wave of celebration as the full band learns of their results. It is hard to hear the speaker as their celebration grows louder.

Stephen F. Austin: Division 1. And behind me erupts the loudest roar I've ever heard. They all jump to their feet, shouting, screaming, hugging, smiling, waving their instruments in the air, jumping up and down. They cannot contain their glee. The do not need to. This is what they worked so hard for. This is what they hoped beyond hope for. This is why they marched their hearts out.

They could not have done any better than this.

---
UIL Class 5A Region 18 Marching Band competition
Round Rock, TX


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 Monday, October 10, 2005

Sprawl

Jim Kunstler talks about sprawl:

[Clusterfuck Nation/Calgary]: every new suburban house built, every new Target store opened, every new parking lot paved, every highway widened will be a project in the service of a living arrangement with no future. It is a true madness that beats a path to historic tragedy.

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There and Back

1. The Way There

Austin High School is only ten minutes from here as the highway flies, so Trudy was right when she shouted out the door, You have plenty of time! Once I was on the road, I no longer felt rushed.

All four lanes of the highway were empty. I turned up the stereo and opened the windows. The wind blew thru my hair. A fog was settling on the canyon. White wisps of it curled around the trees as I drove by.

I pulled up with plenty of time to spare.

2. The Way Back

I turned on the headlights. The dials on the dashboard lit up dim orange. I turned on the stereo and joined the line of cars leaving the parking lot. As we got back onto the freeway, I turned up the music.

I heard Ben say to Zack, A cassette tape! His voice sounded proud, almost boastful.

My dad has one of those in his truck, Zack said.

As I drove back thru the night, the music and the wind and the voices of the boys talking about cassette tapes and record albums washed over me.

And in no time we were home.


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 Sunday, October 9, 2005

Just Another Day

I've got this image that presents itself sometimes:

  • The power grid is down.
  • The water doesn't run.
  • No telephone.
  • No radio or TV.
  • No Internet.
  • No grocery stores.
  • No Advil or Sudafed.
  • No insulin or Androgel or Flonase.
  • No microbial soap or antibiotics.
  • No gas.
  • No cars or trucks.
  • No trains or planes.
  • No place to go.

We'll find some way to survive, won't we?

No. We won't find some way, but others will. The miserable people at the bottom of the third world will, because this post-Armageddon world will be just another day for them.


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 Friday, October 7, 2005

Tomorrow Will Be Different

Sometimes there comes upon me such a feeling that I cannot continue. Eyelids droop. Thinking slows. Fingers trip on the keyboard.

Sometimes, when the rest of the house is quiet except for the ticking clock on my desk, I find I cannot write. In the dark. By myself. Nothing to say.

And sometimes, after reading the headlines and the articles that stream into this room, I find myself unable move. Too shocked. Too ashamed. Too saddened.

When this happens, I sit in the silence and stare at my fingers and eventually go to bed.

And I hope that tomorrow will be different.


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 Wednesday, October 5, 2005

exhausted/happy/listening

exhausted
near the stage
under a tree
by the bleachers
amid the people
 
happy
in the shade
with our water
on our folding chairs
off our feet
 
listening
to each other
to the people
to the leaves
to the music

---
ACL Music Festival (Sep 2005)
Austin TX


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 Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Autumn Unfolding

Somewhere north of here, autumn is unfolding its full splendor. The yellow leaves rustle in the wind out of the west, their color reflected in the still water under a cloud-strewn sky.

But not here.

Four hours west of Austin last weekend, Trudy and I sat on the porch of a cabin looking out on the flowing rapids and the hills across the valley. The scorching heat of the week before was gone. By comparison it felt like fall had arrived.

  • We climbed the hills overlooking the Frio River valley.
  • We sat beside the water in the overhanging shade of the Cypress trees.
  • Big and little kids swung from long rope swings and splashed into the river.
  • Catfish swam slowly back and forth in the blue-green depths.
  • The cool, clear water was so inviting that we did not sit still for long.

Although our colors will never turn as autumn does up north, for three days on the Frio, we did our best to welcome it with open arms.

Come to think of it, it unfolded fairly well.


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 Monday, October 3, 2005

Brown Dog

She found us, as some dogs will. She was running on the gravel along the river following some tubers who had to walk because the river was low. We were sitting on the bank with our feet in the water, and she came up to us wagging her bob-tail and said hello. She gave Trudy kisses.

Later that evening, she saw us from far off and came dashing up the stairs to greet us again as we were sitting in front of the cabin. She said hello to me. She gave Trudy kisses.

That night, she slept most of the night outside our screen door curled up on the porch overlooking the river the river. The next day her collar and dog tags were gone. Trudy, who had been worried, became alarmed. She seemed not to belong to anyone, yet she knew the place much too well to be a visitor. I figured she belonged to the owners of the cabins. Trudy went to investigate.

"What color is she?" they asked at the store on top of the hill.

"Brown."

"Does she have a tail?"

"No. She has a cropped, bob-tail."

"Oh, that's Brown Dog," they said. "She belongs to some people near here. She doesn't like to be cooped up."

They told Trudy they'd call the owners. So Trudy returned to the cabin (with her cold Fresca and Klondike bar in hand) feeling much better, although it was dark and unlikely that the owners would come by so late.

That night, Brown Dog slept outside our door again, encouraged no doubt by the hamburger we shared with her.

In the morning she escorted us as we walked down to the river for one last swim. She dashed around Trudy and headed straight for the water. It was hot and muggy, and the water must have felt wonderful. She walked in up to her neck and kept on going, swimming to the other side.

We swam for 45 minutes or so. No one else was there. The clear water beside the ancient Cypress trees was deep and blue-green. There were dozens of catfish swimming at the bottom, sunfish in the shallower places and neon-green minnows by the shore that turned to neon-blue when you looked at them from underwater.

As we swam, Brown Dog walked in the water on the other side, watching the fish and sometimes trying to grab one. She came back across when we got out, choosing the rapids this time where she could run across instead of swimming.

And when we drove up the hill to check out, she got to the porch of the office before us. Trudy paid our bill, and she made sure that they knew that Brown Dog was still there.

As we walked out to the car. She seemed to know the routine. She came up to us and said goodbye, wagging her bob-tail uncertainly. And she gave Trudy kisses.

And then we got in the car and started our long drive home.

---
Neal's Lodges on the Rio Frio
Concan, TX


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 Saturday, October 1, 2005

In the South and North of the City

In the south of the city, the two football teams moved the ball up and down the field. They were evenly matched, and at half time the score was tied 0-0. Austin scored twice in the second half, but in the final quarter Bowie tied it up again. The bands shouted and played. The crowds screamed and cheered. In the final 3 seconds of the game, Austin scored a field goal and won the game. Their band played their fight song. The north stands went wild.

In the north of the city, a football game announcer called for a moment of silence for a Pflugerville boy who died when a car full of Connally High School band members rolled twice in the median of the interstate earlier in the day. The band was not at the stadium. But before the second quarter, they filed in and marched around the field with the drill team and the flag corps while the drums played a cadence and parents and boosters walked behind.


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