Sunday, March 29, 2009

Miss Longet

It was she who affirmed in my subconscious that I wanted to someday marry a tall, beautiful brunette. Claudine Longet burst into my world in 1968, along about the middle of my stay at Abilene Christian. She was married to Andy Williams and frequently appeared on his extremely popular weekly variety show. The more I saw her, the more obsessed I was with her. Never mind that her singing voice was a joke...if you duct-taped a moose's jaw then strangled the animal, you'd pretty much would have Claudine's voice down pat. Never mind that she was married. I was around twenty years old and at that age, thinking clearly about the opposite sex didn't come easily.

I had all her albums. The songs were fantastic, until, that is, she opened her mouth. But I was willing to forgive her for her voice. My male friends were all too aware of my borderline-stalking of this lady. One day, I finished sixth out of a 100 or so in a two-mile cross-country intramural race...during final 100 yards, I was aided by the fact that my buddies brought a portable tape recorder and played my favorite Claudine hit at high volume. I'm sure the guys I beat out that day are still wondering where that moose was near the finish line.

Another time, in the dormitory, I was awakened at midnight by the soft, mellow moose calls of Mrs. Andy Williams. Naturally I got up, and like Abilene's own pied-piper, I followed the music down the hall until I found the source...a friend was playing Claudine's greatest hits, none of which, by the way, have made it to platinum yet. I listened awhile, and directly returned to bed. Once there, I was almost asleep when I felt a cold wetness touch my thigh. It was very quick, like maybe for a second, then it was over. I dismissed it and hurriedly returned to sleep, hoping to dream about Claudine. Then it happened again. An unmistakeable cold, clammy touch on my leg. I slid my hand down to where the touching seemed to be, felt a foreign object, and grabbed it. It was a frog...a frog which had been planted surreptitiously in the bed during the time I had been lured away by Ms. Longet (pronouced "lawn-zhay'" or something close). I flipped on the light with my dry hand, saw what I was holding, and screamed. I had never even touched a reptile before, let alone a stone-cold toad. My buddies were outside the room, rolling on the floor, unable to speak they were laughing so hard. Wouldn't have happened were it not for Claudine's magnetic power over me.

Sadly, the beautiful native Parisian, Ms. Longet, left Andy for a wonderfully gifted skier named Spider Sabich. And happily, I left Claudine for a wonderfully lithe, beautiful brunette named Carole. You probably know the rest of the story. Claudine, uh, shot and killed Spider because, uh, judge, the gun went off. The jury believed it and acquitted her. She married her lawyer and they still live in Aspen. Supposedly she rarely shows her face, something of a national tragedy akin to the Johnstown flood.

So, it all worked out. I could not have asked for a better, more beautiful, more spiritual mate than Carole. Plus, I've forgiven Claudine for mishandling the gun. Accidents happen, you know. My fantasy world with her was worth all the trouble it brought, frog and all.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Down is Up (again)

I've got this feeling that won't go away. It's a gnawing, ominous feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. It's analagous to watching a car on an icy road that has lost traction, pinwheeling as it heads for the inevitable crash with the innocent parked car. Of course, I'm speaking of what's going on in our nation under the "leadership" of Obama.

I think if I hear the word "trillion" again in regards to government spending, I'll self-destruct. It would seem that even Democrats who voted for this guy must hear a small, still voice in the back of their consciousness whispering warnings about foolhardy economic practices. How can a government, a government which in the old days had to justify every nickel spent, suddenly pass out blank checks ("just fill in any amount, sir!") and act like all is well?

Suppose you had a child in college who went crazy with a credit card. Would the proper punishment be to cover the ill-advised purchases, quadruple the credit line, and say, "No harm. Now go to the mall and charge to your heart's content!"?

But maybe of more concern than these financial foibles is the sinking sensation that we have a president who is clueless with regards to morality, judgment, and common sense. The details will have to wait for another blog-day, but they aren't pretty. Many were sounding the warning when the campaign was happening last fall. Many thought that Americans were being swept up by style instead of substance (which isn't surprising given the godlessness of society these days).

I sense we, as a country, are at a crossroads. We can put our collective feet down and demand an immediate end to this mind-boggling mess, or we can quietly and submissively be shoved along with the masses toward a world that has nothing in common with the America we once knew. The question is: Can enough of us be finally moved to jettison our lethargy and make our voices heard? It may involve risk and it may involve saying good-bye to a life of privacy and anonymity. But it's beginning to look like we no longer have a choice.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The 6th-graders who sit behind me on the bus have no memory of 9/11.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Missing the Point

Larry James spoke at Highland Oaks this morning. I always hate/love to hear Larry...he's got such a brilliant mind and such a rabid commitment to Jesus, but he always convicts me of the need to help society's disenfranchised people, and I don't often jump in line to help 'em.

Let's be honest here. There are reasons that when we go out to eat, we eat at Cotton Patch in Rockwall and not the McDonalds near Fair Park in South Dallas. There was a reason we left a paid-for house in Dallas and moved to almost-crime-free Rockwall, starting from scratch with a new mortgage. Associating with people on the fringe of society is something I try to avoid for the most part. It's dangerous, they can take advantage of you, and they don't smell so good.

But if Jesus had been born in Balch Springs instead of Bethlehem, and if the year of birth had been 1979 instead of 0, I think He would be seeking out these folks on a daily basis, perhaps living amongst them. And His disciples would be clocking in every day at Central Dallas Ministry, the amazing brainchild of Larry James. And, given those circumstances, would anything change in the way I live life?

I pretty much content myself with trying to help those in my circle of family and friends. I do randomly slip some cash to guys in South Dallas that I see on my school bus route, but that's a once-a-month thing. I guess what I'm saying is that I wish I were doing more for the down-and-out, that I realize of whom much has been given, much is required. Have I got the guts to do that?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

My sons and I are back from Surprise, Arizona, home of the Texas Rangers' spring training. With the exception of a personal airline ticket faux pas, the trip far exceeded our loftiest expections. The three of us want to do it again now that we know the ropes, but that will mean saving for a rainy day, a weather feature that rarely occurs in Arizona. Here are the highlights of the trip:

On Monday afternoon, the players were taking the afternoon off, so we ended up at an Arizona State Park at the foothills on the western outskirts of Phoenix. Once in the park, somehow we concluded that we should follow the suggestion on the park map and hike a mile uphill to a waterfall - on a trail that was "without barriers". I guess the boys figured it would be hilarious to see their daddy get most of the way there and then have to quit. But I perservered and had no trouble making it to the waterfall.

The problem was that there was no waterfall once we arrived at the end of the trail. Just a trickle. In retrospect, we probably should have expected this since, after all, we were in a desert. We saw cool stuff, however, including bizarrely-shaped cacti and a ominous-looking lizard sunning on a rock.

One of the goals of our trip was to make contact with Josh Hamilton, the already legendary Ranger outfielder who is as well known for his Christian witness as he is his athletic prowess. A little over three years ago, Josh was a crack-head, hanging around tattoo parlors and mobile homes belonging to folks he didn't even know. But his grandmother took him in and pushed him to turn his life over to Christ. Josh did what Granny said and now he is as effective an evangelist as anyone in Christiandom and perhaps the most coveted player in the American League.

Hamilton will sign autographs for as long as his schedule permits. We saw him do this for over 75 minutes on Sunday, standing in the sun with an equipment bag slung over one shoulder. I talked to a lucky fan yesterday who had gotten Josh's signature and found out that Hamilton not only signs his name, he writes down a favorite scripture. It goes without saying that there might not be another athlete in America who doing stuff like that in these days of anti-Christian leanings in our country.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet the guy. I could have tried to force my way through the crowds, but that would have meant being rude and stepping on little 8 year-olds.

The time with my sons was great. We laughed, we shared memories, we got serious, and we laughed some more. It was an enormous family kind of a thing. And that's another thing I noticed about spring training. Everywhere, there were families who had made the spring break pilgrimage to, as a family, see and interact with the baseball team. I saw numerous dads with their young sons having the time of their lives as they got closer to their athletic heroes than they ever will again. The important thing ain't the sports part, it's the father-son part.

So we guys vowed to "Surprise" each other again sometime. Maybe not next year, but for sure not too distant in the future.

Friday, March 13, 2009

So harried...

On Monday morning this week, I arose at 5 and went to the laptop to check the weather forecast. But the silly thing wouldn't connect to the 'net. I tried all the tricks. Nada. The whole week has been a merry-go-round with AT&T, with modems sent to replace an allegedly bad one and even a visit from one of their techs. Now, five days later, we still can't connect and further tech visits are pending.

We've been coping with this dastardly attack on our leisure time by, uh, "stealing" an unsecured signal from a house down the way. The signal is the very epitome of intermittent and this leads to head-rattling frustration. Carole and I don't cope well without our lifeline to the world. And since I leave for Arizona in a little over 24 hours, this is a bad time. I need to nail down things and I can't do it with a willy-nilly signal.

I'm also trying to avoid catching a cold, something that's proving very tough with this crazy weather. Because of my schedule the past two days, I've been out in this mess a lot. Last evening, my throat started cratering and I quickly ran to CVS and got some AirBorne (sp), a concoction designed to ward off evil germs. I quickly took a dose, then another around 3 AM. The stuff seems to work, as I didn't get worse today and actually improved a bit. I can't afford to get sick and ruin this upcoming trip.

But life is good, particularly the life of a sinner saved by grace through faith. I'll hopefully check in again from the curiously named Surprise, Arizona...with a report of how unmerciful my sons are being to me in my old age.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Just hurry...

This time of year is analagous to late May. This time of year, those in the education business grow weary of other people's kids. The things they were doing months ago were cute and funny. Now it's all just obnoxious. We need a break. Later in the school year, it'll be summer we crave. Now the break we need is Spring Break.

This particular break will be different from any I've ever experienced. As noted in a previous blog entry, I'm fulfilling a dream this year by actually going to Spring Training (has to be's that important) in Surprise, Arizona, where the Texas Rangers work out. To make it all the more palatable, my two sons are joining me. We share of love of the great game of baseball, warm weather, and acting silly. It'll be a wonderful time. I must apologize to my sports-minded daughter, Brooke. Hey, Brooke, maybe next year we can go to Stars' camp in Frisco.

We leave in a week. The three of us are expectantly counting down the days like giddy teens waiting on a Hannah Montana concert. My only concern is that my boys mercilessly make fun of me whenever we're together, always pointing out the garish mistakes and judgment lapses I've made in their presence in their 3 decades of life. I'd be getting depressed were it not for the wealth of material they've left me during the same time frame. The cool thing is that this 3-day experience should leave us with a vast storehouse of memorable tales for the next 3 decades. Now if we can just get this week to hurry by.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Late and not so great...

I had an interesting couple of events one morning last week. The first occurred at my final bus stop. It's well-publicized that my arrival/departure time at this final stop is 7:55. I very consistently arrive exactly at that time and it takes about a minute to board the students. The trouble lies with a daddy who brings his daughter and another student to the bus stop every morning in his white Escalade.

They are always late. Usually, he pulls up about the time I'm shutting the doors. I always wait for the girls to slowly get out, gather their stuff, and walk slowly to the bus. I may be smiling, but I'm frying on the inside. I have repeatedly warned the girls that they need to be on time, that it's not fair to the others to have to wait for them every morning.

This particular morning, there was no sign of the Escalade, even by 7:57. So I started to roll away. Immediately, half the girls on board started begging me to wait on the tardy ones while the other half begged me to carry on and just leave them. About that time, the Caddy appeared in the distance. Reluctantly, I stopped and waited for the girls. The Dad waved at me and grinned...I just stared at him.

That same morning, I had a field trip at Rangel, the same school where I deliver the girls every day. So I just parked the bus and waited for 9:00. Now school begins at 9, but everyone is expected to be in their first period class by 8:45, ready to go. I had a ring-side seat, watching kiddoes being rushed to the front door by frenzied-looking parents. But there were some parents and some kids who were arriving late and not showing the least bit of concern or giddyup in their step. It was as though they were expecting time to stand still while they leisurely strode up to the building. I even saw a couple of teachers arrive after 8:45 and even they showed no spark.

What my momma would have done to me had I lollygagged up to school like that, either as a student or a teacher! So I guess that it all started with my parents, this business of being on time as a way of showing respect to whomever...your teacher, your classmates, your doctor, your church, whatever. And what they drilled into me meant that while I was teaching, I did not cut a great deal of slack to those who chose to be tardy. I hope that somehow I was able to inject some standards into their gray matter where obviously a parent hadn't.

So, one day this week, in all likelihood, I'm going to finally teach Mr. Escalade something about promptness. Be there or be square, brother. Maybe when he has to drive an extra 17 miles from deep SW Dallas County to the school at Fair Park in rush-hour traffic, it'll hasten a slight behavioral change. And I bet it cures the problem. I also bet he'll call Dallas County Schools and complain that I drove away without picking up his girls even though they were almost there on time.