Jeb versus the Clinton woman: Monarchy versus cronyocracy

This morning I discussed by email with my expatriate friend Paul the news that Jeb Bush is “actively exploring” a run for president in the 2016 election. My Tokyo-based “J” School friend, who teaches English there, pondered the wording of this news as if we really think it is news.

 “I suppose ‘explore’ might be sitting around drinking beer and thinking about it. ‘Actively explore’ might be sitting around drinking beer and paying Karl Rove to think about it,” said Paul.

To which I might reply, were Paul, Sir Paul of the Beatles: I am the egg man, they are the egg man. I am the walrus, goo goo goo joob … Ah but alas I am not an egg man, though I was an egg boy, one time, selling eggs from laying hens and yard hens. Also, Paul is not Sir Paul. But it is important as to how concepts are presented when you aren’t just another joob running for president. Because three Bushes are directly related to a bird in the hand. The next thing you know, you’ve got a damned monarchy, which I pointed out to Paul. His reply:

 “We probably should do it because then we could have Dukes and royal babies and shit like that — CNN would like that. The irony would be that the ‘King’ would eventually lose power and be a ceremonial inbred figurehead mostly attending charity balls, playing golf, and pardoning turkeys on holidays while trying to keep his daughters’ topless vacation pictures out of the press.

 “I’m good with all this,” concluded my friend, signing as “Paul the Serf.”

It’s certainly an interesting way to look at it. Will we fight another revolution if Jeb I or Bush III or whatever we would call him, wins a presidency?

Or, perhaps, we can just go ahead and elect a Clinton wife in the less than royal manner of the Texas Fergusons — a.k.a. “Ma and Pa Ferguson.

Oh but Ma was humane. Many say “crooked as a barrel of snakes.” She was good about getting folks out of the slammer in Huntsville. My Dad once told me a story about a less than savory cast of cousins, one of whom was in Huntsville. Pop said this unsavory cousin’s mother hitchhiked all the way from San Augustine to Austin — 232 miles one-way — to see Ma and get her boy, our cousin, out of prison. Our cousin’s mother, also a cousin, was successful and perhaps even stopped off in Huntsville on the way back and picked up her boy before returning to the red clay, pine-covered hills of San Augustine County.

So with Republicans one gets royalty and with Democrats the result is cronyocracy? Things are never that easy. But three Bushes? One at a time was certainly not so great where George I upchucked on the leader of Japan and George II was swayed into igniting another world war in the Middle East. Yes, the House of Bush, it bothers me plenty.



Nine years, 2,600 posts and then, there is the Houston Texans

When I began writing this little blog almost 10 years ago I never thought I would still be writing it 10 years later. I certainly never imagined I would write 2,600 posts. I never really knew what to think.

I know I wanted to make my living as a freelance writer. I tried it for awhile but that tech writing stuff which just kept me barely afloat financially was not what I had in mind. There was a period in which I slept in my truck. A lot of that was health problems. It’s all documented. Perhaps I should look back upon it from time to time. Finally, I got a better than average part-time job money-wise. But I developed a few health-related issues which has made it hard for me to function, particularly now that I work 32 hours every week.

Meanwhile, I also became a regional vice president of my union local, for which I am not paid. Every now and then I get to take a trip somewhere on union business and might come out ahead in per diem. But, hey, I get to help my fellow bargaining unit employee.

More and more I find that I need to get off my ass and get something published, even if it is for something that might pay only a few bucks. That and I need to get a book underway. I’ve thought about it for so long. Even if it is a collection of posts and columns I wrote through the years. It is for my writing that I have published this blog. I have tried my best over the nine-plus years to write something here every day. I was once disciplined enough to do so. A load of life has slowed me down.

What is it they say about good intentions? Maybe it’s better than bad intentions.

I had planned to write about football today. Specifically, I had planned to write as to the danger involved in life as a Houston Texans quarterback. It was sad yesterday when Houston played Indianapolis. Houston actually held, with not quite as much steam from possible MVP, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, Indy by a touchdown. The Texans third-string QB Tom Savage came in after previous starter Ryan Fitzpatrick broke his tibia in the second quarter. Fitzpatrick, who has seen more NFL teams than the Zebra corps (the referees) had started the first nine games for the Texans this season until he was benched by first year Head Coach Bill O’Brien. In came Ryan Mallett, who backed up Tom Brady. You know the guy, who never seemed to miss a day’s work in his storied career with the Patriots. Mallett started two games and injured his pectoral muscle. Savage came in and hurt his knee toward the final minutes.

Perhaps Houston should have hired another QB named Ryan or hired the Ryan family (Buddy, Rex and Rob) as coaches. It looks as if Houston favorite Case Keenum, former U of H Cougar QB and a damn good one, may come in to replace the wrecked Houston quarterback squad. I’m sure that makes Texans punter Shane Lechler, former Texas Aggies punter, kicker and emergency QB happy. Just how good Keenum might be returning as a quarterback, well see his preseason attempts.

Houston Chronicle columnist Jerome Solomon pretty well predicted before the first draft pick the pickle the Texans would find themselves. Many sports talking heads on radio felt this year’s QB class in the NFL draft was an abysmal one. That is even considering Johnny Football Manziel who finally started yesterday also, for the Cleveland Browns. He probably stunk worse than Savage. Nonetheless, the Texans desperately needed a hotshot quarterback, Solomon and many others said earlier in the pre-draft. The Texans had the shot at the first round, top pick and they spent their pick and their millions of bucks on Jadaveon Clowney, an outside linebacker from the South Carolina Gamecocks. Clowney played four games this season and received a “microfracture” of his knee.

Oh well. NFL guys make a butt-load of money for doing whatever it is on the field or whatever it is they are supposed to do but cannot do because of injury. I was on injured reserve earlier in the year with a torn meniscus from a fall. Got the surgery, the physical therapy. My knee still hurts. It doesn’t bend like it used to and swells up somewhat ugly. I feel your pain. Well, your knee pain, at least.

What was I talking about earlier? It doesn’t matter. Just putting the words together feels okay. I have accomplished my deed for the day.

Finding Jesus at the taqueria

Just looking at the news headline on my local daily’s Website I have to say that I wasn’t totally disappointed to find the headline:

 “Texas man sees Jesus Christ on a tortilla”

Perhaps it would be more appropriate, depending on where one was located, to say “Texas hombre ve a Jesucristo en una tortilla.” That is just one translation. Apt? Correcto? At least the story had a humorous lead:

 “Holy, holy, holy. Pass the guacamole.”

It seems that someone is always finding Jesus in some foodstuff. If one looks closely at the tortilla pictured in the linked story one might believe the irregularity does resemble Jesus. Or maybe the Zig Zag man.

Christmas-time being the time millions of Christians celebrate as the birth of Jesus of Nazareth so would it seem an appropriate time for people to find images of Him on tortillas, toast, screen doors and so forth. The many visions people have of Jesus and his associates and relatives, make sense considering how many different beliefs people attribute to him.

Some, forgive me, jackasses, such as those commentators on Fox News always seem to believe there is a “War on Christmas.” Actually, they mean that it is their opinion that a war exists between government paired with those secular suckers versus those who believe in some narrow — narrow by millions and millions though still narrow looking at the world at large — construct of of Christianity.

But in reality, people find Jesus in a tortilla here, a plate of grits there and perhaps here, there and everywhere. So who is stopping Jesus? The Supreme Court? That Kenyan boy who is president? There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of Jesus or “Hey-soos” either one, at least in the minds of those who believe in Him, and however they believe him. So those of you who worry Christmas is under attack, just go to your local taqueria, get you a plate of something good and make sure you order some hot tortillas. Perhaps if you stare long enough — and perhaps drink some stout margaritas — you too might find a sacred figure in your tortillas.

A Christmas test

Okay. Here is one of those tests, almost like a list except you don’t have to flip through it time after time.

Since everyone is hopped up on Christmas and mistletoe, I thought I would quiz you on Christmas randomness or Random Christmasness. Or something or the other. Don’t be fooled though. Some of these questions may have nothing to do about Christmas. You can see the answers at the bottom of the page.

1. Donner:

a. Sometimes is mistaken for Alfred Packer.

b. Is a reindeer who comes from the North Pole pulling a sleigh.

c. Is part of the name “Donner and Blitzen,” which is a Christmastime beverage featuring reindeer milk and grain alcohol.

d. Was the name of a TV detective show starring James Garner.

2. While Shepherd’s … :

a. Is the beginning of an old Christmas Carol named “While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks By Night.”

b. Is how an old Irish folk song about laundry done by shepherds around Christmas bonfires that begins: “While shepherds washed their socks at night … ”

c. ” … beauty was incredible her acting skills left the audience puzzled,” proclaimed an early review by The New York Times of Cybil Shepherd’s film work in “The Last Picture Show.”

d. ” … dogs barked pa-rum-pa-pum-pum ” is a line from “The Little Drummer Boy.”

3. “Grandma got run over by a … ” goes an obnoxious Christmas-season tune.

a. Freight Train

b. Black Friday shopper

c.  Tank Driven By GI Joe

d. Reindeer

4. “Don we now our gay apparel.”

a. Is a gay pick up line at Santa’s Place, a Manhattan bar.

b. Is a line from “Deck the Halls.”

c. Is said at the opening of the Gay Alliance of San Francisco.

d. Was used by Fruit of the Loom during their “Happy Undies” campaign.

5. Santa Claus:

a. Sees you when you’re sleeping.

b. He knows when you’re awake.

c. He knows if you’ve been bad or good.

d. So be good for goodness sake, all of the above.

6. The War on Christmas:

a. Is a farce exhibited by the conservatives.

b. Was fought in Flanders fields.

c. Is a Christmas toy battle put on by combatants of Mattel Toys.

d. Uses uranium shells.

7. “I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus” is a song that implies:

a. Momma is cheating on their Daddy.

b. Momma is delusional and probably her kids are as well.

c. Santa Claus is really Daddy because Momma is kissing him.

d. The children are thankful that Momma isn’t kissing reindeer.

8. “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style:”

a. “In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas.”

b. “All the thugs are stealing our Christmas presents.”

c. “Come tomorrow we’ll be cleaning the crap once again.”

d. “In the air there’s a feeling of tear gas.”

9. Christmas time comes but once … :

a. The money’s gone.

b. A millennium.

c. A week.

d. A year.

10.  The popular Christmas song released in Spanish in 1970 by Puerto Rican singer José Feliciano is named:

a. “Feliz Navidad’

b, “Feliz el Gato.”

c. “Feliz dos tequilas.”

d. “Feliz Feliciano.”

Answers: 1) b. 2) a. 3)d. 4)b. 5)d. 6)a. 7)c. 8)a. 9)d. 10) a.



A young man and his cup of coffee

Some of the traveling for my part-time gig involves staying in hotels. And recently I have become enamored with the one-cup coffee makers often found in my room.

Such machines have been sold for some time but have really caught on, despite what ultimately becomes a steep price for one cup of coffee at a time. The Keurig “K-Cup” is not just a brewer but a coffee “brewing system.” Green coffee beans are packed into the plastic container and brewed as a cup of Joe once overrun with hot water. That it is such labeled as a system no doubt contributes to it $100-plus price tags.

The one-cup machines I have frequently used when in hotels contain a packet or pouch that can be laid into the brewing holder and water is poured into a reservoir inside the brewer.

Since I frequent stores as part of my job I have been looking for one-cup brewers. Alas, I had only found those cheaper than $80 to $100-something until yesterday.

Inside a store that I am forbidden to identify I found a Kitchen Selective brewer for $16. With tax it came up one penny shy of $17.

The feature in the model I bought is its reusable, so-called “permanent,” filter along with a white ceramic mug. I just now brewed my first cup and it tasted good, though I probably could have put a bit more Folgers grounds into the filter. I will see how the machine holds up and note the quality of my cup of Joe.

Now, I probably could have woven into what I have just written, an anecdote, maybe two, of my tale of a cup of Joe. But unfortunately, for whom I’m not certain, I am writing this in the middle of laundry. That will come off as a flimsy excuse once you finish reading this, but a flimsy excuse is better than no excuse at all.

In the Navy — Clap for a cup of Joe

My post-high school days were spent in the service of the United States Navy. I may need not, but will mention that this was in the final days of the Vietnam War. By final, I mean the peace accords had been signed, the draft was no more and the finale was the fall of Saigon (and the remainder of what was South Vietnam) to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a.k.a. the North, or the “commies.” The latter took place about nine months after I enlisted but the closest I got to Vietnam was several hundred miles away while transiting the South China Sea enroute to the Philppines.

Today, I normally drink about two cups of coffee a day, though I usually partake of a cup of iced tea at lunch and take it with me. The tea gets watered down sometime and usually doesn’t provide much of a caffeine blast. Likewise, that all is about the sum of my total caffeine intake.

That wasn’t the case during the days I spent in the Navy.

I used to drank coffee like a fiend and did so pretty much for about 30 years. Somewhere down the line. I decided about two cups were all I needed of the stuff.

Now coffee, like getting s**tfaced and chasing women, were pretty much ground into Navy culture. Pardon the pun. That was at least the case of the male-dominated society during my tour from 1974-1977. The Navy even explained why coffee was an important part of the life and culture on film while I was in Boot Camp at Great Lakes, Ill. The training film I saw was named “A Cup of Joe.”

It was such a long time ago when I saw the film that I remember few details. Whether it mentioned the long-standing tale that the slang for a cup of Joe came from the name of a long ago Secretary of the Navy I don’t remember. That secretary the Hon, Josephus Daniels, a tee-teetotaler under President Wilson,  banned drinking alcoholic beverages onboard the ships — yes, sailors could actually drinks a bit onboard in the olden days — with his infamous General Order 99. Thus coffee allegedly became the beverage of choice due to this prohibition.

No proof exists that the slang a Cup of Joe, actually came from Daniels.

I told my friend Warren this story around the time we were semi-roommates. Semi meaning Warren worked as a mud logger on an offshore oil rig and came in after a week on the job. He thought the whole Navy film and the phrase concerning coffee were hilarious concepts. I suppose the word Joe was what led us into another discussion.

Cartoon cussing in college course

My friend Waldo, who by then had his Master’s and was making “do-dads from the woods,” had suggested before I started college that I take some courses that might be of interest as well as fun rather than taking all required ones which might have left me burned out.

I followed his advice. One such course I took during my first semester was a Psychology course on Human Sexuality. Yes, the good old college “sex class.” This was edgy for many students, mainly the ones who had recently left their neat little suburban lives outside Houston and Dallas.

In addition to learning all one needs to know about sex and more we had an optional class one day which was taught by our late, great Professor Dr. Wayne Wilson. The class was on profanity. This specifically dealt with sexually-explicit words. I found it quite eye-opening as this funny-looking cartoon character on film showed tons of dirty slang words and phrases. One must remember, I had been a sailor not too terribly long from the sea. It being legendary how sailors cursed, I thought I had heard it all. Alas, I had not.

One of the words I found funny was “Old Joe,” which was given as slang for “the clap,” a.k.a. gonorrhea. I looked at several online dictionaries today and have seen a few definitions that said Old Joe could be a catch-all slang for sexually-transmitted disease. But it was explained in that Psychology course by a little cartoon man on film — with the dirtiest mouth I have ever witnessed, I might add — as clap.

Of course, adding Old Joe as slang for the clap following a Navy sea story on a cup of Joe, had my friend Warren rolling with laughter. He would amuse us when stopping at the 7-11, asking “Care for a cup o’ Old Joe.?” To which I replied, “I think not.”

I suppose you had to be there.

Look out Beaumont! Clash of the Little People

An odd-but-colorful flyer hung from the driver’s window on my work car, catching my eye, yesterday. On occasion an area strip club, or perhaps “fabric-free entertainment” to be more politically correct, is found on car windows in our parking lot. However, this was a bit too odd for me, especially after only one cup of coffee.

The ad said: “Hulk Hogan’s Live Midget Wrestling.” Think about that for a minute. The event is scheduled for Friday at Jaguars, a site on Fannett Road here in Beaumont which during better days (my better days specifically speaking) was known as “Lady Long Legs.” LLL was a country-western joint that came around during the “Urban Cowboy” days of the late 70s and early 80s. It was a place I visited when I came to town, a good place to find some young cowgirls, who I must admit looked pretty good in their tight jeans and whatever else it was they were wearing.

The long and short of it. Wrestler Hulk Hogan brings dwarfs to late night match in Beaumont "gentleman's club.'

The long and short of it. Wrestler Hulk Hogan brings dwarfs to late night match in Beaumont “gentleman’s club.’

Today, Jaguars is one a number of Fabric Free places owned by the publicly traded RCI Holdings, parent company of Rick’s Cabaret. And it must be a place that does some good bidness, as they say here in Texas, especially considering some kind of weirdness as the “Hulkster” is bringing for $20 pre-sale and $25 at the door. The event starts at 11 p.m., by which time I hope to be knocking out the Zzzzzzzs.

Now, I probably heard at one time or the other of such a fine “sport” as midget wrestling. The term brings to mind those times when I once was going strong around closing time after a night full of longneck bottles of beer with a few shots of “tee-kill-ya” in between. Otherwise I don’t think I ever heard of midget wrestling. I do remember hearing of midget tossing, which consisted of tossing a little person wearing little Velco suits up against a Velcro wall. For more reasons than one, it is a targeted activity of dwarf advocacy groups. More on midget v. dwarf shortly.

The activity scheduled in our fair town this Friday is an event of the MCW which stands for “Micro Championship Wrestling,” an organization former World Wrestling Entertainment’s Hogan promotes.

An advocacy group called Little People of America does not care  for midget wrestling. The group doesn’t even like the word “midget.” Midget is the “M-word” to the African American’s “N-word.” The organization explains:

“In some circles, a midget is the term used for a proportionate dwarf. However, the term has fallen into disfavor and is considered offensive by most people of short stature. The term dates back to 1865, the height of the “freak show” era, and was generally applied only to short-statured persons who were displayed for public amusement, which is why it is considered so unacceptable today.

 “Such terms as dwarf, little person, LP, and person of short stature are all acceptable, but most people would rather be referred to by their name than by a label.”

Some folks get right upset when they are faced with what they consider political correctness. Most of the same crowd are unaware of the hurt a name, even one as common as a dwarf or “retard,” can cause.

I never really though about some of the terms used being slurs to some while not to others. I would say I probably grew up hearing somewhat more the word “midget” to “dwarf.” Although, thanks to Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” dwarf is hardly an alien word. And in certain contexts, both words seem ill-fitting. How would “Snow White and the Seven Midgets” sound? Or how about a “dwarf submarine?”

Apparently, the men and women who — I suppose — travel around with Hulk Hogan to do some midget wrestling are not all that put off by the M-word. But could you just imagine how offensive the concept of “retarded wrestling” would sound?

There are plenty of reasons why I don’t plan to attend the match of the “vertically challenged” — I wonder why that term isn’t used? The time is too late. I feel kind of creepy, a 59-year-old guy going to a strip club. I didn’t when I was younger though. Twenty-five dollars or even $20 is way too much for me to pay to watch something stupid. I can watch the Fox News for free.

And I suppose it is exploitative watching an event that is primarily based on the person’s genetic markers that make him or her a certain size. Although, one sees this genetic reality in other sports, such as those who are college and NBA hoops stars.

It is an odd world in which we live. Thankfully, we don’t always have to pay to see its oddities. We also, less and less, think what was once odd is not so much these days.

Duck fishing, women biking may return to Ferguson

By the looks of its city Website, Ferguson, Mo., appears a rather pleasant place to live or visit.

Two static pictures bookend the top of the site. One shows a drawing or picture of a fishing rod apparently cast out into the water. A duck is pictured just below it. It is uncertain as to whether the duck is giving the invisible angler moral support or whether the person is fishing for ducks. Over on the right bookend is a rather cute young lady riding a bicycle. She wears modest shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt. The shirt is sometimes called a “wife-beater” when worn by men but since a woman is wearing it, maybe it is a “husband-beater” or “boyfriend-beater.” Maybe T-shirt is safe.

Several pictures in the middle of the Ferguson page fade in and out. They include some historic railroad cabooses and a picture of the city fire department’s only ladder truck spraying a stream of water on a couple of kids in T-shirts and shorts, presumably during a summer day. Perhaps given the rioting along with several businesses burned down over the last couple of nights, the ladder truck photo is maybe the most unfortunate of the Web pictures.

Of course, one can probably find many signs and pictures or symbols of where the infamous occurred.

I recently stayed in Dallas for a week of meetings which meant a drive from our hotel off the Stemmons Freeway to downtown near the Convention Center —  the latter now named for former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison — and back. The route took us under the triple underpass past Dealey Plaza. It was under that triple underpass where the presidential limousine carrying John F. Kennedy sped through after he was shot and was pronounced dead a short time later on Nov. 22, 1963.

Dealey Plaza, Dallas. Grassy Knoll, Texas School Book Depository, top right. Wikimedia Commons

Dealey Plaza, Dallas. Grassy Knoll, Texas School Book Depository, top right. Wikimedia Commons

A colleague of ours from Colorado rode with us on those days to our meeting in downtown Dallas. This associate told us he had never either been to Dallas nor seen the site where Kennedy was assassinated. He found the site fascinating and even professed it to be on his “bucket list” of sites to visit before he met his end.

One particular topic of discussion on the way back to our hotel was while driving in front of the old Texas School Book Depository where alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald worked and fired the rifle that killed Kennedy. Elm Street, which ran in front of the famous book building and on which JFK rode when he was shot was marked with a couple of  “Xs,”  painted where the bullets fired from the sixth floor of the depository building.

I have been to Dallas many times. I even lived in two different suburbs for short periods of time. I have also been downtown to the assassination site on more than one occasion. I did not remember the Xs being there.

Apparently, the Xs have been painted on the street for years and the city would remove them, both for street work and from keeping tourists who would dodge traffic for a picture near the X from ending with the same ultimate fate as Kennedy. My colleagues and I had a discussion about the Xs and I found several stories including this one from the paper of record in Big D.

The police shooting of Mike Brown and all the unrest it has spawned will never match the infamy as that of what happened in Dallas 51 years ago this month. But some recognition will always remain in Ferguson for those who appreciate even the biggest warts on our American history. Most cities with former black eyes even Waco, Texas, — despite, boosters of that Central Texas city still point out, the onetime Branch Davidian compound is 12 miles northeast of Waco — ultimately come to grips with their past. And while these dark times are not particularly celebrated, they do become a rightful place in local and sometimes even national history.

What Ferguson — in the landing path of Lambert International Airport — will become someday is hard to guess. Perhaps just as soon that all the discord came to town after the police shooting of Mike Brown, so will it eventually disappear. Then may once more people may fish with ducks, or for them, and cute women wearing sleeveless Ts will roam the suburban St. Louis landscape.

Awaiting on the Ferguson grand jury. All at prime time.

For three months a St. Louis County grand jury has looked at the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by suburban Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. For more than an hour, CNN has trumpeted its “Breaking News” banner, with its anchors saying that an announcement was imminent as to the decision of that grand jury. One correspondent says an announcement may come in two hours while Wolf Blitzer says a statement by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will say something to the media at any time.

When? For God’s sake. All the delay does is just heighten the tension.

A message on my phone by CNN says that the decision will be announced at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

On the other hand, this case is both explosive and tiring. It’s all about race. All the time. I’m sorry. So many feel they have the moral high ground when it comes to a race, specifically, their race. Red and yellow, black and white.

“Mostly say hooray for our side,” as Stephen Stills wrote in the 1967 Buffalo Springfield protest song, “For What It’s Worth.” Despite the song’s timeliness, it was written about the response from youth to a Los Angeles city edict that restricted activity at a  complaint-ridden club which young people saw as a civil rights infringement.

Gov. Jay Nixon, the Democratic governor of Missouri, is now speaking to the media on how the police and National Guard are preparing for the announcement on the grand jury report.

The governor called for “Peace, respect and restraint.”

“The world will be watching us,” said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, at the news conference about the upcoming announcement.

More than two hours since I started watching, waiting to find out the Ferguson grand jury details, this continues.

Holy smokes, a big show before the big show.


84th Texas Lege must think guns need their full attention

Texas is a wonderful place. If you don’t believe it, just ask a Texan. Personally, I think The Lone Star state is a great one. I’ve lived for brief times elsewhere. For instance, I lived in Mississippi for 2 and a half years when I was stationed there in the Navy. I served aboard a warship for a year after that. No one ever pulled a gun on me and said I had to live in Texas. It was a decision that I made alone.

So bunches of Texans, myself included, will attest to the greatness of our home state. Thus, it baffles me how one of the most prominent topics shaping up for the biennial session of the Texas Legislature appears to be firearms — guns. That is guns both long and short, concealed or unconcealed, worn either on the inside or outside by both citizen and official, and even packed by paramedics and volunteer firefighters.

Looking at the early bills filed today — the 84th Legislature begins Jan. 1, 2015 — I found no less than 10 bills filed in the House and one in the Senate seeking much more freedom for those who carry guns. Now if you happen to think of Texas, one of the things that comes to mind is guns. Texans love their guns. So one might wonder how much freedom do Texans want when it comes to firearms?

Texas has had a concealed carry law for almost 20 years. The legislation — signed into law by then-Gov. George W. Bush — had a number of restrictions with it such as where handguns could and could not be carried. So-called “long guns,” such as rifles and shotguns” had no statewide prohibition as to how and when they were carried into the open.

Almost seven years ago an amendment to the gun laws almost silently became effective as to how, when and where handguns could be toted. The state had long had a “traveling rule” saying guns could be carried by unlicensed individuals if they happened to travel through several counties. This became expanded considerably with the 2007 amendment. People could now travel from their home and back with a handgun as long as it is concealed. No license needed. The person carrying had only to have the gun hidden from plain view and they could not belong to a criminal enterprise. “Okay, I don’t have a gun anywhere that you can see. I’m also not a member of the Bloods, I swear.”

Discontent by some gun enthusiasts over the carry law for long weapons heated up this year in Texas. Here in Beaumont, where I live, is one of the places where demonstrations were held by people walking down the streets carrying their rifles, along with their kids slinging rifles, in the open.

It seems now the debate over how Texans carry weapons — either concealed or not concealed — has come full circle.

A push for openly carrying handguns has arisen and a black Republican lawmaker from East Texas has filed bills which would allow open carrying of pistols. Rep. James White, a former Army infantry officer and teacher from rural Tyler County, has filed HB 164 which changes the concealed carry law to include carrying a handgun openly.

North Central Texan Rep. Jonathan Strickland, a former community college student and pest control salesman who describes himself as a “Conservative Republican,” helps neatly trim the legal edges of both open and concealed debate. His HB 195 would abolish the offense of “Unlawfully Carrying a Weapon.” This would apparently also include legalizing illegal knives and clubs.

The pre-filed bills also broaden the places and circumstances where weapons may be carried. A curious bill filled by freshman Republican Rep. Ken King, an oil and gas service owner from the Panhandle-South Plains area, allows open carry by some of those issued concealed carry permits such as retired law enforcement officers. The bill adds, however, the authority for handguns to be allowed for “certain emergency services personnel” who operate within a county with less than 50,000 people.

Now I am not certain what King’s bill, HB 353, means. Is he talking of allowing volunteer EMS and fire personnel in counties with less than 50,000 to carry pistols openly? With some quick figures I put together using the U.S. Census database, I would estimate that about we are talking about 80 percent of the 254 Texas counties. That would include a lot of armed volunteer firefighters and EMS folks.

What is wrong with arming volunteer firefighters? That is partly a question that has hovered over the fire service for many years. The question has gone back at least for a half-century or more, back to the days when Southern firefighters were shown on national TV news turning their hoses on those protesting civil rights. This may also have caused injuries or even death for those “firemen” who later tried to extinguish the too many blazes set during the race riots of the late 1960s across the U.S.

Many larger, professional, fire departments later recognized the danger of their being used as a tool of the police. This especially was true once firefighters became the most logical choice for delivering emergency medical services. Here is an example I was given while training as a rookie firefighter. Let’s say you have a medical call. It turns out there is a patient overdosing on heroin or another drug. The EMT needs information about what the patient was doing prior to the emergency to properly treat and maybe save the person. If the patient could say anything, upon seeing an armed medic, he might not disclose that he ran up a bunch of junk in his veins. Such a scenario also is used in the battle over fire departments and so-called “public safety agencies.” The latter are cross-trained as cops and do all three jobs as cop, EMT and firefighter. Some places it works. Others it fails.

I know the zealots want zero restrictions on guns. No regulation whatsoever are wanted. As much as I enjoy target shooting with both long guns and pistols, I believe moderation in all things. I say that now, but I mean it with weapons. I once thought handguns that were openly carried was the way to go. I no longer think so. I think too many complications are in the way of that working. The bills advocating open carry and these other bills filed for 2015 in Texas, they need watching, closely.

To shoot or not to shoot. Vaccines aren’t always a quandry.

Last week I finally got the shingles vaccination that I had waited several years to receive. I know how old and pathetic I must sound. Still, my father and a brother both had shingles when they were alive. It sounded like a living hell.

I had the chickenpox as a young man and so I was a supposed walking target for shingles.

Around 1-in-3 will develop shingles in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

 “Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles; even children can get shingles,” says the CDC. “However the risk of shingles increases as you get older. About half of all cases occur in men and women 60 years old or older.”

The same virus that causes chickenpox — varicella zoster virus — causes shingles. If I had a supposition, I would suppose that the 60-year-plus age when shingles tend to occur most was a reason that the Veterans Affairs people told me I had to wait until age 60 to receive the shingles vaccine. Then one day, when I was 58 years old or so, I saw a sign in the VA and later one in a pharmacy that said one could get the vaccine at age 55. So I scheduled a shot but later had to cancel it because I was having arthroscopic knee surgery. That finally went on by and about two weeks ago I had a flu shot. It was followed a week later by the shingles vaccine.

I know that a lot of younger folks with kids are against vaccines, worrying that vaccinations may cause all kinds of maladies, like congenital autism, diabetes or multiple sclerosis. Whether these younger parents actually knew folks who suffered diseases some of the 20th century vaccines prevented — like polio, even seemingly benign diseases that could cause death such as measles — I don’t know.

I suppose it would be a fair question to ask why chickenpox was not knocked out by some shot? Well actually, there is now a vaccine as the government licensed one in 1995. Chickenpox, for most people, is a walk in the park considering the other childhood diseases most of us growing up in the 60s suffered such as German measles (rubella), the red measles (Rubeola) or the mumps. The latter, a disease of the salivary glands were always scary-sounding to us little boys because of its seldom ability to “go down,” meaning it could cause testicular atrophy leading to sterility. Of course, it was even scarier when you didn’t know what the hell people were talking about!

When I was a small fry I got all of those shots one needed. Of course, they hurt like hell. I am convinced that people who gave shots to kids for anything at all either didn’t know how to give it so it would not hurt, or else they were taking their day-to-day frustrations out on us little ones rather than on a swig of Jesus in a jar.

I had shots for everything when I was in the Navy. I swear some of the diseases must have been made up. I felt a little peaked after some of the shots. A few of the vaccines I received were given with some kind of gun. The only vaccine that made me really ill was for Yellow Fever. I spent the night shaking with chills in the dispensary at Boot Camp. For some reason, the corpsmen put me in an ice-cold shower. Ta-da! it didn’t work.

There may have been some environmental reasons behind some of the medical problems I have today: Type 2 diabetes, palsy, whatever that’s causing my lower back problems. I don’t know, as a people we tend to think something singular causes everything. I have had some exposure to some questionable substances and I’m not talking about the ones that makes objects appear closer than they really are. I was exposed to a place where leaking barrels of Agent Orange were stored. The old late 1940s destroyers on which I rode for a year was stuffed full of asbestos. And maybe I am wrong, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if those old buildings I worked in for about two decades that held printing machines and massive amounts of ink and chemical were a formula for a “sick building.”

I don’t know but I can tell you I never had diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, smallpox or Yellow fever. Those kind of things would have ruined your day, for sure.