Archive for the ‘Writing & Reminiscing’ Category

My Mom’s Blog

May 14, 2017

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, in remembrance of you on this day!

Just a photo or two or three and some music to honor my Mom, that’s all.

A few notes about the music and photos. My Mom was buried in Liberty, Texas. I was able to honor her with a visit in 2015. The bird is the Varied Thrush. It represents my beautiful Mom, because I couldn’t find a good picture of her to share with you. The music is totally random but music that I thought was appropriate to express my feelings about her. The Glen Miller piece was from her era. He died in 1944. She died in 1964. Listen at your leisure to the music as I did when I was putting this together.

It was good to visit Mom's grave.

It was good to visit Mom’s grave.

Glenn Miller: Big Band (swing)
Stevie Wonder: You are the Sunshine of My Life
Norman Greenbaum: Spirit in the Sky

Varied Thrush

Lion King soundtrack: The Circle of Life
Vangelis: The Tao of Love

I miss you, Mom!

Welcome to 2017

January 7, 2017


True to form, I’m six days late getting this new blog done – oh, by the way, Happy New Year!

“I’m your Uncle Ernie, and I welcome you to Tommy’s Holiday Camp . . . never mind the weather, when you come to Tommy’s, the holiday’s forever! WELCOME!!!” (excerpt from Tommy)


The Who: Tommy’s Holiday Camp

A Musical Interlude

If you have headphones, you might want to use them.

I guess the inspiration for this bit of creativity would be receiving a Christmas gift from my wife, who is a very creative gift giver – a turntable. The size of a small suitcase and portable enough to take over to family or friends’ gatherings so that we can bore them with music almost half a century old. In this box of records – vinyl LPs, what a concept – was music that I had not listened to in a long, long time, and quite a variety.

The Who: Overture, Tommy

Just to name a few oldies but goodies

Tommy was released in two versions, the original version that I’m including and a second version that was produced with the London Symphony. I didn’t find that one, although it’s probably out there. I had a lot of classical LPs in the box, including some Bach and Vivaldi played by Julian Bream and George Malcom. I put that one on when I got up this morning. Some real oddities like Firesign Theatre (Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him) and The Monkees. Actually, the Monkees aren’t an oddity, I remember taking my daughter to see them perform in Dallas, Texas in the 80’s. Also in the box are some lesser known jazz groups like Weather Report and Chick Corea and some of my favorites, a 4-record album Wings Over America (Paul McCartney) and Chicago (of course).

The Who: Pinball Wizard, Tommy

Millennials vs. Boomers Defined

The blog idea that struck me was exploring musical taste according to generations or age groups. I thought I should include music from my generation (Boomer) and also Millennials. Obviously the first problem was what music I should include. Not exactly sure why I chose to focus on Tommy for Boomer music, but it was always a favorite.

In doing some research I found a site,, just scroll down under Beyoncé to the long list of music (pardon all the ads and other distractions). Interesting to note how much “Boomer” music is listed in first 20 of the “top 500” songs.

OK, just for the record “Millennials” were born in 1982 up to 20 years or so after, “Boomers” were born 1946 to 1964.  I consider myself a Boomer (sounds cool) although technically I’m in the Greatest Generation because I was born in 1945. Those born before 1946 are referred to as the “Greatest Generation” (according to Tom Brokaw). Someone dubbed Millennials as “the next great generation”, no argument there, just ask a Millennial. Sorry for getting down in the weeds, time to get back to music and pictures.

A Few Pictures

No surprise I’m including some new Rufous-sided Towhee pictures, but also a few other bird species. The doves I don’t see that often, but they’re beautiful, as are the Flickers.

The Who: Sparks, Tommy

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You Thought I’d Forget, Eh!

OK, I was totally non-plussed to decide on my “Millennial” music, but here it is. I found a couple of versions of Rachel Platten’s song, “Fight Song” and decided I liked the acoustic version better.  I think you’ll like the music no matter  how old you are.

Rachel Slatten: Fight Song

A Pictorial and a Musical Finish

One long song by The Who and one photo of my son and I looking west, think of it (symbolically) as a sunset. By the way, there are absolutely no political reasons for my choosing the last Tommy song.

The Who: We’re Not Gonna Take It, Tommy

Dad and Son

A quote to start the new year:

Bill Vaughn
“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”

Click here for more BrainyQuotes to pick and choose from.

What Happened at Crystal City? (Part II)

May 9, 2016

Gospodor Monument

Note about the pictures and the music: One of the structures in the monument represents the Holocaust, which seemed to be an appropriate photo for this blog. Please Google Gospodor Monument for more information. The picture in Part I, if you’re still curious about it, will eventually be explained. I guess I’ve always had The Police song on my favorites list, and one day while I was swimming laps I decided it was a good choice for this blog. Did I hear someone say “what an understatement”!
The Police: Every Breath You Take

Introduction to Part II

Giving the appropriate credits and attributions is always a necessary part of what I write about in my blog. Without good sources for information and inspiration, the creation process would be much harder if not impossible. One of my sources is a book by Jan Jarboe Russell, The Train to Crystal City, published in 2015 by Scribners, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. I will annotate any direct quotes with her name in this and any succeeding installments. Other credits will be included as needed.

The Five W’s and the H

I highly recommend Jan Russell’s book. The following synopsis comes from Amazon where I bought my copy.

“During World War II, trains delivered thousands of civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, Texas. The trains carried Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants and their American-born children. The only family internment camp during the war, Crystal City was the center of a government prisoner exchange program called ‘quiet passage’. Hundreds of prisoners in Crystal City were exchanged for other more ostensibly important Americans—diplomats, businessmen, soldiers, and missionaries—behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany.”

Jan Jarboe Russell focuses on two American-born teenage girls, uncovering the details of their years spent in the camp; the struggles of their fathers; their families’ subsequent journeys to war-devastated Germany and Japan; and their years-long attempt to survive and return to the United States, transformed from incarcerated enemies to American loyalists. Their stories of day-to-day life at the camp, from the ten-foot high security fence to the armed guards, daily roll call, and censored mail, have never been told.

Combining big-picture World War II history with a little-known event in American history, The Train to Crystal City reveals the war-time hysteria against the Japanese and Germans in America, the secrets of FDR’s tactics to rescue high-profile POWs in Germany and Japan, and above all, ‘is about identity, allegiance, and home, and the difficulty of determining the loyalties that lie in individual human hearts’ (Texas Observer).”

Most of us older types and others, perhaps younger history buffs, know about the internment camps that existed during the war, on the west coast and other locations. Manzanar in California is the one that I remember. However, Crystal City was the only family internment camp during World War II. I’m including a Wikipedia link. Be sure to check it out. Wikipedia has included a very interesting map and photos. The number of locations is kind of mind-blowing.

Also, the following caption from a photo in the Wikipedia piece is interesting and ironic.

“The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was composed primarily of Japanese Americans, served with uncommon distinction in the European Theatre of World War II. Many of the U.S. soldiers serving in the unit had families who were held in concentration camp in the United States while they fought abroad.”

More to come in Part III. Read the book if you get a chance.

Two parting quotes

The first quote is off-topic but appropriate for the holiday (May 8), and the other quote is on-topic and also very good.

God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers. Rudyard Kipling
The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men. Lyndon B. Johnson


What Happened at Crystal City? (Part I)

April 25, 2016

What is It?

Journalism 101

  • What’s the hook?
  • Five W’s and the H
  • The Inverted Pyramid

As Journalism majors in college, we learned that these were the basic requirements of every good news story. The hook was what grabbed your reader’s attention and made them want to continue reading your story. The five W’s and the H were basic components of what happened – who (was involved), what (happened), where (it happened), when (it happened), why (it happened), and how (it happened). These elements weren’t always clearly defined, but they were a good starting point for a reporter who was gathering the facts. The inverted pyramid meant composing the story with the most important facts at the top, in case your reader lost interest before finishing the story.

Time Travel Back to World War II

Back in Time (from Back to the Future Soundtrack)

OK, so picture yourself as a reader of a newspaper story during World War II. Actually, as an aside, let me divert from the main point of this blog. Like many bloggers, I’m opportunistic – I see and hear something, and I get an idea for a blog. Beyond that, it’s a matter of putting it all together. Some ideas and projects obviously require more time to research and figure out, “America’s Social Ills” for example is one on my list. Also, I get ideas from people that I talk to, at the gym or other places – sometimes I think people who go to gyms (myself included) spend more time talking than working out. A classic example, is a conversation I had about Crystal City, Texas.

I was at the gym when I met Luis (not his real name), an older fellow like me. I noticed that he had a very unusual walking stick. I suppose that’s a sign of aging, my fascination with walking sticks. Anyway, I learned that he once lived in Crystal City, Texas.

Crystal City is a city in and the county seat of Zavala County, Texas. The population was 7,446 in 2013, and it has an area of about 3.6 square miles. It is 116 miles southwest of San Antonio.

Luis lived there during WWII when an internment camp was there. He was very young at the time, but the stories about the camp and the evidence of its existence remained long after it closed. He told me about it.

You’ve probably figured out the “hook” for this blog, but you’ll have to wait for the next installment to get more details about Crystal City. Trust me, you’ll find it very interesting and shocking.

December 7, 1941

December 8, 2014

It was a humbling experience, standing there looking out over Pearl Harbor where it all happened on December 7, 1941, where over 2400 American servicemen died and 1,178 were wounded. Here’s the Wikipedia link if you’re interested:

A bit of back-story on why I was there on December 7, 1996.

I had flown to Honolulu the day before with friends, actually teammates, who were all part of Team in Training that raised money for the Leukemia Society (now called Leukemia & Lymphoma Society). We all raised money and trained for weeks and weeks to run the marathon in Honolulu. For me, because I’m a runner and because my mom died of Leukemia when I was 19, it was the right thing to do. I was honoring her memory. After we checked into our hotel in Waikiki on December 6, Quentin, the runner sharing a hotel room with me and I talked it over and decided to spend our free day before the marathon at Pearl Harbor.

Every year Honolulu honors the Pearl Harbor casualties with a dockside memorial service in front of the museum. If you go there, you should go to the museum and take the tour out to the Arizona site. Along the dockside were tripods set up with a wreath and the picture and name of the honoree. There was an informal service. I don’t remember for sure, but I think there were about 20 people being honored. Then we took the launch out to the site of the U.S.S. Arizona (BB-39). Right next to the partially submerged battleship was a memorial with all the names of the Arizona servicemen who died inscribed on a stone monument. Regardless of how you feel about war and the results of war, it’s hard not to be moved by visiting Pearl Harbor.

Although running the Honolulu marathon the next day was a bit anticlimactic after the Pearl Harbor tour, everyone on the Team in Training team finished the marathon and had a great time celebrating afterwards.

Gibbs’s Rules, Rule #11

July 17, 2014

Gibbs’s Rules would be from my favorite TV show, NCIS, which like MASH did, has survived for many, many seasons. I figure that counts for something. Maybe the Gibb’s Rules (use the link below for the actual rules and what episodes they appeared in) are just my segue into doing this post. Basically, I’m trying to go public with my blog. I figure, it’s time to see what the world thinks of my writings and get some feedback, eh!

Gibbs’s rule #11 says, “When the job is done, walk away.” That has absolutely no relevance to this post, except to say – my contention is there are no rules in blogging. Why would there be? Why should there be? Look at my blog, look at anyone else’s blog. This should illustrate my point that there are no rules in blogging. Go see for yourself, the infinite variety of topics, styles, colors, bad writing, good writing, business and professional blogs, blogs about someone’s cat or dog or their boa constrictor. I used to find the blogs about pets annoying until I realized I was just as guilty given that I had eulogized my own recently departed pet, Morty. Someone close to me commented that one of my blog posts was weird or crazy, something like that. But you see, that’s my whole point. Your own blog can be weird or crazy, talk about and show pictures of your pets, dazzle people with how slick your blog is, or how good your writing is. In short, the world of blogging is without limit, which is why I love it. And besides, it’s the poor man’s self-publishing platform.

Gibbs’s Rules

Lucky Gets Lucky

March 26, 2013

Sometimes, it’s just plain luck or timing that saves the moment. That’s the way it was that sultry, summer day in the river bottoms of southeast Texas. It started out peaceful enough, just a bunch of Boy Scouts on a field trip. Many of us, as you might expect from kids growing up in a small, one-horse town where the only source of amusement was a single indoor theater, a drive-in theater, and a couple of drive-ins (more like “drive-arounds”) with carhops no less, were lovers of nature.

At one point, there was also a bowling alley, but that burned to the ground a few years after it was built.

But it was a lucky day, especially for “Lucky”, the squirrel. But I’m getting a little ahead of my story. If you’ve spent any time in the Texas woods, you know about the snakes. Yessir, enough to make any Freudian fool giggle with delight, or a person with snake phobias might just lie in bed on sleepless nights with cold beads of sweat on their brow.

Go figure how a Cottonmouth Water Moccasin weighing several pounds could climb high up in an Oak tree, nary a branch to be found close to the ground, climb into a squirrel’s nest, grab him for lunch, and bail.


That was the sound we heard or something like that. Up until that moment, we were just walking through the woods appreciating nature and horsing around. Many of us knew about the snakes in the river bottoms, although our relationships with the creatures were often punctuated by looking down the barrel of a .22 caliber rifle and pulling the trigger. As I was saying, there wasn’t much to do in Liberty, so you invented your own entertainment, often at the expense of the wildlife.

But let’s get back to Lucky who at the moment is being eaten for lunch. With part of his body already in the snake’s mouth, he was starting to get a bit anxious, given the fact that this was not his idea. Scoutmaster Bill took out his machete and ended the snake’s lunch and life by removing his head. You could almost hear a sigh of relief as we removed the living, breathing squirrel from the snake’s mouth, or more accurately removed the severed head from the squirrel.

Duly named “Lucky” the squirrel lived out his remaining years at the home of the scoutmaster.

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