Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tell Her Not To Worry

Your mother is going to worry about what you wrote

But it ended on an upbeat note.

Your mother will still worry.

But she understands this stuff. You write from the heart. Your voice speaks. She knows that.

She'll worry.

I'm a grown man. It won't be long before AARP is knocking at my door, for heaven's sake.

Tell her not to worry.

You're right. Hi, Mom! Don't worry. I'm doing fine.

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 Friday, February 23, 2007

Days Like Tuesday

Tuesday was the kind of day where waking is painful, where thinking is hard. The kind of day where dressing is a chore and sitting at home at the computer is worse. Days like Tuesday sometimes come around, but this one was bad.

I wondered, So is this how it happens? You get to a point when the sunny days are behind you, the good ole ones are gone, and just walking to the kitchen to the coffee maker to fill your cup seems like too much effort. And before long the day is done and it's time to go to bed, what's the purpose, you hardly got anything done, and already for heaven's sake it's time to go to bed and to start another day that you figure will be just like this one was, and you dread the thought of lying down. Is this how it happens?

But then they came home: Trudy and the boy.

They drove up together, and their smiles lit the room when they came in thru the front door. They pulled me away from my desk and pushed me out of the house for dinner. They took me to a coffee house where we drank tea and read and surfed in a cozy game room in the back. We went walking in the evening on a long loop around the block and the school yard.

And today, oh look at today. The sky is blue. The sun is bright. Spring is coming. The neighbor's tulips and daffodils will be flowering soon. And I found two Bluebonnets poking out of the mulch in the front yard. Feel the warm air. It's a good day to bike to the sandwich shop for lunch, a good day to get some work done.

All because they came home, Trudy and the boy, just in the nick of time on Tuesday.

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Going Home

The week went quickly. The rain of Monday gave way to some sunny days, although the Oak trees conspired all week long. And there I was on Friday evening, heading home.

The sky was clear. A pink glow was in the west as daylight began to fade. My windows were up. The radio was on. And I sat for an hour in stationary traffic flying high over the Interstate, clover-leafing from northbound lanes to westbound lanes, merging with traffic clover-leafing from southbound lanes to those same westbound lanes. And we were all sitting there for a very long time.

But the radio filled the void, and eventually the traffic started moving.

Hours later, with a clear Texas sky over me, stars glittering against the deep black night, I came back to Central Texas. LaGrange faded behind me just as BTO was takin' care of business. The Oak trees of Houston fell further behind me with every measure as I nodded my head to the music and sang along as well as you can sing along to 70s rock.

Over a hill and KNRG faded. Over another hill and KGSR came in. Just a few more hills. The radio towers in the hills west of Austin blinked in the night. The lights of the city spread out before me. A jetliner was on approach to Bergstrom in the distance.

Just a few more stop lights. Just a little more time. Soon I'd be home.

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 Monday, February 19, 2007

Yellow Rain

South of Houston the sky turned black. Rain came down in torrents. The traffic slowed. Lightning flashed in brilliant zigzags suspending time until a crack of thunder would snap and then roll into the distance.

As I pulled into Clear Lake, the black receded, and there was no lightning to be seen. Good timing, I thought, but as I was about to open my door, the deluge resumed.

My umbrella would have been no help with this. So I sat for a moment and waited.

And I sat there wondering if this was what the day was going to be, if it would ever let up, trying to remember if I'd ever been pinned down in my prior years here. Eventually the downpour lessened to a light rain.

It was as good as I could hope for, so I got out and made for Building 16.

With my pack held closely to my side, I angled my umbrella against the slanting rain. Shoulders arched. Head facing the ground. Taking care as I stepped thru the water rushing down the street.

Water yes. But it was yellow with powder floating on top. Frothy with it. The oaks pollinated early this year in Houston, just in time for this trip. Just in time for me. I remembered springs from years before when the streets would run yellow, and I knew what was in store for the coming week.

And it is only now, a week later and 200 miles away, that I am beginning to breathe again.

It's probably about time for the Austin oaks, isn't it?

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 Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cosy Sheridan

She wore Baskin-Robbins spoons for ear rings. They matched her top and sometimes hid behind her hair as she played her guitar and sang. He mostly stood by, tapping his fingers on his bass guitar and singing harmony, although sometimes he sang the lead, and the final number was his. There were three dozen or so of us sitting in the room just off the hallway watching them play and listening to them sing.

She sang about Persephone and Psyche and Iphigeneia. She sang of her grandfather's music at the head of the parade before his faculties started to leave him. She sang of memories of her mother's house. They made us cry, and they made us laugh. Their music filled the room without a microphone, and they looked into our eyes as they sang.

This was a house of music — guitars and banjos on the walls and on the floor and a piano next to where the musicians played. There were pins on a map marking the places where the hosts had been. There were photographs on the wall with many smiling faces. There were two dogs with wagging tails who wandered around greeting each one of us and thinking maybe a cracker or two might fall their way. And they opened their house to us for an evening of music up close.

Cosy Sheridan and TR Ritchie
playing at the home of Tom and Elizabeth Pittman

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 Saturday, February 10, 2007


1) Cans

I sat down before I got to the security checkpoint. As the PA system periodically announced, you can't take fluids with you, and I'd just bought a hot cup of coffee.

A woman was sitting on a couch nearby. Her case was opened, and there were cans of pop beside it. She was peeling a banana. As people walked by she tried to give her cans away. A young girl took a Coke.

I chuckled. She offered me one, too, but I had my coffee to deal with.

2) iPod

They found a spot where they could sit next to each other with the stroller out of the path. The mom carried their baby girl, who was wide-eyed and soaking up all the activity in the terminal. The dad appeared helpless and more interested in listening to his music.

The mom handed the baby to the dad and walked off. He sat her briefly on his lap and then put her into the stroller and bopped her lovingly on the nose with some little fuzzy thing.

She reached for his shiny iPod. He handed it to her, and she took it in her little hands and then pulled it to her mouth. He grabbed it back and gave her the little fuzzy thing instead.

3) Scouting

Two salesmen sat waiting for an American Airlines flight. The older of the two was sharing his disgust at Southwest Airlines and how they just give you peanuts. It evidently didn't occur to him that American charges for snacks. Then he changed the subject.

He asked his friend about Joe. Joe was ok, the other man said. The first man asked how Joe and his wife were getting along.

Is he still scouting around? the first man asked.

Oh, no, the second man said. He doesn't do that anymore.

They were both quiet for a moment. Then the first man said to the second, Joe thought a lot of you.

4) Diamonds

Four women dressed in black sat in front of the window waiting for their plane. Their flight was delayed, because the crew had been delayed on another flight. One of the women was soon getting married.

Do you want a diamond?

Of course!

How big?

As big as possible.

A lengthy conversation ensued.

5) Soldiers

Five soldiers dressed in sand-colored fatigues sat in the terminal. A sergeant had earphones and that listening-to-music look on his face. A captain was engrossed in The Economist. Another officer at the far end was talking to a woman whose brother was being called back. These five were coming home.

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 Wednesday, February 7, 2007

There They Were

There was a lot still left to do. So we ate lunch relatively quickly and then left the cafeteria to return to our conference rooms.

The Vehicle Assembly Building towered behind us against a blue sky. The green tinted building where we were meeting was across the street. A fifth floor balcony wrapped around its northeasterly corner. From there you could look out on Merritt Island and in the distance see pads 39A and 39B rising out of the wetlands.

We crossed the street, talking about protocols and packets, simulators and emulators. Rebecca was telling us about the software she works on: what it does and how it was named. And then she stopped.

Look, she said, pointing to two Ibis sunning themselves just a few feet away on the other side of a ditch. There they are, just sitting there.

We turned and looked and briefly stopped, and then we returned to our meeting.

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 Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Orange Featureless Night

Out the window, I saw the tarmac lights throwing down a flat orange glow on the wing of the plane. Puddles of dark water sat motionless on the pavement. The silhouette of a building on the far side of the terminal stood against a featureless sky.

For a moment, nothing moved. I was on the set of a play with no one else on stage. No baggage handlers. Nobody pumping jet fuel. No one doing anything.

Then in the distance, between the terminal and that distant silhouette of a building, a tram rolled by on its elevated track: two push-me/pull-you cars gliding silently in a flat featureless night, its windows shining white. If there were people inside, I did not see them.

Nothing moved except for the tram, and now the silent stage felt more like a special effects backdrop for the city-of-the-future in some sci-fi movie from the 1940s.

It made me chuckle. It made me shake my head. You tell me why.

Layover at DFW on the way to Cape Canaveral.

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 Monday, February 5, 2007

He Knew What He Was Doing

I've been away, away from this computer at least. Hence the radio silence. And upon return, the keyboard's call held no interest. I had been weaned, it seems. And it seems that I still am. My fingers don't particularly want to walk. So let me just share with you an image I had as I drove off early last week.

It was afternoon. Trudy was still at work, and the boy had returned from school just in time to see me off. My bags were packed. I was ready to go. And after double checking my scribbled list of to-dos, I went out to the car.

The boy and the dog walked outside with me. We said our goodbyes, and I got in the car. As I backed out, the boy picked up the dog, and they both watched. He smiled mischievously, and walked out into the street so that he could wave goodbye.

Years ago, when he was very young and I used to drive here on the weekends to see him, on Sunday evening (as late as possible) I would get in my car and back out into the street and drive off. And as I did, he would step out into the street and wave goodbye, standing there waving until I had gone around the corner and was out of sight.

So now, years later, as I drove off, there he was in my rear view mirror, waving goodbye. He stood there until I had gone around the corner and was out of sight. And he knew just what he was doing.

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