Glenn Frey checks out. So do the Eagles.

What can you say about the death of Glenn Frey?

A founder, guitarist and singer in the Eagles, Frey died Monday at age 67. I didn’t know until after Frey died, from complications of rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, that so many people hated the Eagles. It seems as if most people in my world, at least most that matter, loved or at least, liked, the band’s music. At the very least, the songs Frey and the Eagles produced was background music for most of the 1970s and 80s.

It is very difficult talking about Frey — no matter that he did better than okay as a solo musician — without talking about the Eagles. Often times the band seemed more like a modern version of a soap opera. Something like a reality show, even though I imagine during their more drug-fueled days their lives  were more of an “unreality” show.

"Glenn Frey" by Steve Alexander - originally posted to Flickr as Glenn Frey. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons . Thanks

“Glenn Frey” photo by Steve Alexander – Courtesy Creative Commons

I rediscovered the Eagles last year after seeing some You Tube videos from a concert the Eagles did in 1977, promoting their “Hotel California” album.

I don’t know how many people see music concerts today. I certainly don’t but then I am 60-freakin’ years old.

I’d say from high school up until I got out of the Navy, I went to as many concerts as I could. While stationed on the Mississippi Coast there were several prime venues nearby. I saw concerts at the Superdome, City Park and at Loyola University in New Orleans. I went to several concerts in Mobile. I saw three separate shows which were excellent at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg that were excellent: Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Review during which he was joined by Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Mick Ronson and Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. Later, I watched Jimmy Buffett, fresh from “Margaritaville” come back to the college he attended, USM. Buffet was, he told the audience, a hippie who’d hang out in the Commons with his guitar playing songs such as “Why Don’t We Get Drunk And Screw” as all the school teachers from the outback of Mississippi walked by on their way to continuing education classes.

Yes, concerts, I’ve seen a few.

I’m sure those who have seen many performances of any kind have seen musicians or bands, “phone-in” what is just another gig. These videos that I found that includes “Hotel California,” “Take It To The Limit,” and “New Kid In Town{” are incredible. That is not so much the songs are exceptional — well, “Hotel California” is — but the performances were nothing one heard on the radio, much less the AM radio I mostly had to hear during this time, nor is there much one can tell about quality listening to these songs on a bar room jukebox.

I have a couple Eagles albums on my computer and phone including “Hotel California” from the album. They are good but great Graham Crackers these videos are outstanding.

These songs also provide a soundtrack to our lives, as trite as that line sounds these days. But f**k it if you think it’s trite, or whatever you may think. There is no denying that music forms memories of the portions of our lives we choose to remember. “Johnny come lately, there’s a new kid in town,” “New Kid In Town” hit No. 1 on Billboard in January 1977. It was just one of the singles that were a hit on “Hotel.” Following were “Hotel California” and “Life In The Fast Lane.” The songs became more meaningful for me when I transferred from Gulfport, Miss., to a ship out of San Diego, by way of Long Beach.

I never went to “Hotel California” but I spent the night in some motel in San Clemente, not to see my former commander-in-chief, President Nixon, but to stay near a military town in order to get my whites cleaned. The laundry was outside what is now called Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and the cleaners had no trouble getting my dress whites ready, so I could report on my ship which was in drydock in San Pedro. I did think about “Life In The Fast Lane” as well, both the mundane of  navigating the California freeways and later that life that so many people seemed eager to find.

Regretfully, I never saw the Eagles either. And I guess with Frey gone, the group is officially kaput. I thought the group kind of gradually split up, first with bassist and group founder Randy Meisner and later lead guitarist Don Felder. The band’s inner workings are one of the most written-about for a rock group. Glenn Frey, some would say, was an arrogant bastard. Well, so aren’t a lot of folks, even some of your friends?

We close a chapter in rock history. But a family loses their loved one, and one might say a public both old and young lose a favorite band. And the band was also like a family with all its fighting and drama. Hopefully though, not now for, Glenn Frey. May he rest in peace.

 

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There is a billion-dollar lottery out there. Be prepared to win!

It’s Powerball Fever. Well, I don’t know if I’d call it that. I’m not running a temperature. But that’s what lazy local TV stations do to avoid some kind of in-depth piece that might actually report some news. I suppose one fact is often touched by these attempts to cover an interesting portion of a large, multicultural social event. That is the fact that people, lots and lots of people daydream.

You never hear this in a story about a large lottery jackpot, not even from CNN or Fox News:

TV Person: “What would you do if you won that big pot tonight?”

Geek on the Street: “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. I don’t know why I even bought it!”

Pants, severely, on fire.

No one buys a lottery ticket without a plan in the 1-in-292, 201,338 chance — those are the odds for a grand prize printed on my two $3-Powerball tickets I purchased — that they will instantly win more money than they likely have sense.

I have given good thought to this over the years. That is mainly because I have never been more than lower middle class. Of course, the IRS or VA will think you are right up there with Mr. Buffett. That’s either Warren or Jimmy.

TV Reporter: “Would you quit your job if you won?”

Geekette: “Uh, probably not. I like working where I am, stocking shelves and sweeping floors, and cleaning up baby doo.”

Please! Give me a gun, Texan! That person is definitely too stupid to live.

If you want to know my opinion — I accept Pay Pal — I feel it would be terribly irresponsible for one not to daydream a little bit. At least have a general plan if you win the lottery. Hell’s bells I have had enough time and plenty of big jackpots to think about it.

Of course, some of the media are trying to rain on our pre-lottery winnings parade with some of their stories. For instance, there is a number that has been used in the media quite extensively that says 70 percent of lottery winners end up broke. The figure comes from the National Endowment for Financial Education. I tried to find a story with that figure on their website, and was unable to do so, even though it was a pretty cursory search. And it seems as if these folks know what they are talking about. I just kind of wonder how they compiled that research. I think that would be fairly interesting. Of course, I’m a geek too.

In speaking with a few knowledgeable people, some of whom either won a lottery jackpot or have advised such winners, I have a very rudimentary plan if I wake up on Thursday only to discover that Hell has frozen over and those released from Hell will have all the ice water they can drink forever. The ice water will be flown into varied strategic spots by the United Nation’s Pig Force — no, not police cops, I’m talking pigs, four legs, big snouts, and wings. And to know that I must have won the jackpot, I will see upon opening my door to the morning sun, a sky covered in rainbows that are periodically s**t out of unicorn asses. Here is my plan.

  1. Take a day of sick leave.
  2. Have a couple of cups of coffee while continuously  and obsessively running the numbers over the “Check Your Numbers” page on the Texas Lottery Website.
  3. Once I am convinced I won this s***load of money, I will try to contact an accountant I know who had advised a jackpot winner. My acquaintance said to NEVER hire an accountant who wants a percentage of your jackpot as a fee. Find someone you trust.
  4. Hire a lawyer who specializes in financial matters. Make sure you run his background and that the attorney has good references.
  5. If the lawyer knows of a good financial adviser or one is recommended to you, take that professional into the flock.

Whatever you do, no matter how much you want to get your hands on that check, or its facsimile, take your time to assemble a trustworthy and savvy team. And you should have already placed a winning ticket in a safe deposit box after making a copy of the ticket. There is a certain period of time for claiming a winning ticket. I have no idea where you have to go to get your money, probably Austin. It certainly won’t be at Azmud’s Fast-R-Mart.

I would set a date for claiming the money and have my team concur. There would be a lot of matters that need attention. You need to figure out what in Sam Hill are you going to do with all that money. Feed the world, yeah, nice try.

I wouldn’t mind a house or two with some acreage in a scenic spot. Buy a couple of vehicles that I might need for a year or two. Investing? That is something that would really make me nervous. I don’t mind spending a dollar or two for the lottery or to win a shotgun from some local volunteer fire department trying to raise some bucks. I would even buy a fire truck for some needy department. All the while you are thinking of where this money might go — an extensive tour of Europe is okay — just giving away money to a relative or a friend outright might not be such a good move. It all depends on taxes. You can bet I’d find a way to help people, especially my friends and family. I’d just have to be wise about.

As for the job, well I will come up with some kind of story. Like, I’m going away for a while. I don’t know when I will be back. Don’t hold my job for me.

Seriously, we are talking about a big freaking amount of money, and not if just one person wins. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see quite a few hitting the big pinata. Even more players are likely to hit “smaller” million-dollar

Yeah, I know the kind of crib I want along with furniture and infotainment system. Haven’t figured out the colors yet.

Good Damn Luck! You’re going to need it.

 

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Read it and weep. Excess in justice and stupidity.

The Affluenza Kid and his Ma were captured in the Mexico Pacific resort town of Puerto Vallarta. For those unfamiliar with the case,  I’ll provide a few links. I think these news reports and commentary can do more than I in telling a tale of rich excess, and perhaps more importantly, excessive stupidity.

http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/12/affluenza_teen_mother_planned.html

http://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/fort-worth/article52037270.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/us/use-of-affluenza-didnt-begin-with-ethan-couch-case.html?_r=0

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-affluenza-ethan-couch-parents-edit-1230-20151229-story.html

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Tip-ping is NOT a country, at least at Joe’s Crab Shack

Casual dining place Joe’s Crab Shack is going where no man or woman has gone before — well, at least in recent times.

The Texas-based eatery said they are doing away with tipping. RTT News has reported that the seafood restaurant will be paying employees $12 per hour which will mean a 12-to-15 percent increase an order to offset the wage increase.

I suppose this will work out fine for the diner who normally pays Joe’s Crabs around $14 per order, according to some industry sources. But then, going out to a nice sit-down seafood dinner isn’t cheap. Seafood, especially fresh seafood, isn’t cheap.

Time will tell how well a change in such a long-held practice will add to the cost of living for restaurant workers whose livelihoods rely on tips. I would imagine it would depend on where one lives. Back in the late 1980s I worked for a lunch-crowd cafe for what was then the prevailing minimum wage of $3.35 an hour. Jeez, it didn’t even seem that much back then. In 2012 dollars for 1988, that would be $6.48 an hour, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures. Oh, and I was never tipped there. Even then with minimum wage I had to work three jobs to stay afloat in my crappy little trailer house. A friend, who lived elsewhere, let me live there for free except I had to pay rent for the lot. The best I can remember electricity, water and cable were free. It was a pretty sweet deal except for the fact I could barely hold my head above that free water.

There are, of course, true service professionals who earn a very good living in upscale restaurants one mainly find in large cities. Perhaps waiters in a smaller to mid-sized cities can make a decent living or perhaps stay afloat in college. But when you think about it $12 is not a whole s**t-pot of loot. I make $20.60 per hour, working 32 hours per week, and it isn’t a whole lot of money.

Despite my trying to sound clever with a Star Trek-style lead, Joe’s isn’t the only restaurant that doesn’t allow tips. I know at least one casual dining place where I live that has a posted policy of no tipping. The Georgia-based McAlister’s Deli, at least the one where I eat in Southeast Texas, posts the no-tipping sign,  saying the restaurant’s employees are well-paid and do not need tips.

Looking around on the ‘net, it seems like the Sonic Drive-In chain purposely keeps its policy toward gratuity on the sly. I see pages and pages where people inquire if you should tip your Sonic carhop.  What I don’t see are answers.

I know at least at one newspaper where I had worked, a local Sonic had been questioned as to whether its carhops should be tipped. The answer was no.

Part of the uncertainty about tipping in restaurants is the franchising of such places as Sonic and McAllister’s. What the corporate types tell the franchisee is not usually discussed in the open.

I have notice in the past few years, I suppose it grew along with the Recession of ’08, that everywhere one looked workers were asking for tips. This includes workers who, I would think, do not depend on tips. I have seen signs requesting tips in such places as Quiznos, where the customer stands from the time they place their order until it is completed.

So there are plenty of questions as to how well those companies who stop tipping will fare. Will it come out good for the worker? The same question can be asked for the customers and owners. For many, such policies might just seem as if they are headed into the deep, dark spaces of the universe. Then again, I may be wrong and probably a little over-dramatic.

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Thinking of clothing fit for males, chickens and dogs

The near constant drizzle that we have had for the last week, or so, it seems, has ended. It is still colder than a well-digger’s … pocket warmers. I must always qualify that remark. I am up at the top of the northern Texas coast. The temperature is 49 F with a stiff 15-mph North wind making the windchill seem about six degrees cooler. The relative humidity is 86 percent. I’m sure that adds something to the misery.

Normally, I’m a rainy-day type of guy. But sometimes enough is enough. More so especially when it is chilly.

With six pockets full of even more qualifications I fully realize I have friends across the U.S. where it is even colder. It is 33 F with a 40 percent chance of snow tonight for my friend Sally in western Massachusetts. It’s in the 20s and 30s all week with a chance of snow toward the end of the week in Anchorage, Alaska, residence of my friend Elizabeth. Still, while friends from the cold places in the states like to kid us about what we believe to be “cold” weather here in Texas, most would prefer their own cold hometowns to ours.

One plus about down South juking is you don’t have to buy a lot of different clothes. I say you don’t have to. That doesn’t mean you won’t. I find myself shopping in clothing stores for fairly inexpensive coats though I don’t know if such a creature exists during the winter months. I have a windbreaker that is acceptable for about 60 percent of cold weather. For about 20 percent I have a coat I bought back in 2005 while I was out on a reporting assignment and a big chill quickly arrived. It is a very warm coat, nothing fancy. It has a hood. When I used to walk every day no matter what, I would wear the coat and a warmup suit underneath on very cold mornings. I wore a knit cap covering my head and my ears and my hood was tied close. I used to laugh because I reminded myself of Kenny McCormick, the often-killed, insensible sounding kid from the adult cartoon “South Park.” As for the remaining cool weather wear I have a brown tan Gary Player front zip jacket. It goes with about 3/4 of my “bidness casual wear.”

But just as women seem never to have enough shoes so do I never seem to have enough clothes and especially jackets. That is ridiculous of course, I see no reason to spend tons of money on something I may only wear once or twice a year. This is not a “layers” kind of place where I live. Most of my shirts are short sleeve Polo-style shirts.

Until I began my present “part-time (32-hour/week) job” almost eight years ago, most of my pants were shorts.

I have always thought that if I won millions in the lottery that I would buy bunches of clothes. I feel it would be practical because I would definitely go on a successful diet and need to buy different sizes until I got to the “just right” size. Plus, I would travel here and there and would need different kinds of wear because of varied climates.

In reality, I need to buy a couple of pair of pants for bidness wear soon because my keys have taken a toll on the sloppy sewing from the pockets to the outside seam I always seem to encounter. Either that, or it will be me sewing them by hand.

So I am and have long been a fairly functional, low-maintenance creature, as far as clothes are concerned. Emotionally low-maintenance is another matter, or so I have been told. Oh well. Most of the time “there is no one in here except us chickens,” as the old saying goes. If I really had chickens, again, I might buy them some diapers or some Depends. Why? Why not? This is the same man who once gave his half-Doberman half-Great Dane a dickie to wear.

In other words, it don’t (sic) mean nothing.

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Republicans won Tuesday night. At least some did, while others lost big.

The national media has seemingly examined this mid-term General Election ad nauseum. Some say it is a referendum on President Obama while others believe that it was simply a matter of the turnout being limited to old white guys. Hey, I resemble that remark, since I just turned 59!

Whatever the reasoning for more “reds” than “blue,” the elections on specific issues and issue-oriented candidacy seem more difficult to grasp when one puts aside the Republican congressional majority and my entire state of Texas once again electing GOP candidates. Oil and gas did not fare particularly well, for instance.

Voters in the San Francisco Bay-area city of Richmond rejected the council candidates on which oil giant Chevron spent millions to elect. Mayoral hopeful Tom Butts whipped Chevron candidate Nat Bates by a 16-percent margin. Chevron, the city’s largest employer, is facing a lawsuit filed by Richmond over a 2012 fire — one of three in recent years — that sent about 15,000 people to local hospitals for treatment. Chevron had sought candidates who would push for a favorable outcome for the oil and gas company. The company, through PACs spent millions on billboards and mailers for Tuesday’s elections. This led one professor to tell NPR that a favorable outcome should not be expected throwing money at a “no” election.

The issue of hydraulic fracturing — at least within the city limit of Denton, Texas — was also nixed. Here, some 58.6 percent of voters in this North Central Texas north of Fort Worth chose to keep so-called “fracking” out of the city. The oil and gas industry outspent opponents by more than a half-million dollars. The city, a college town that is home to the University of North Texas, sits within the 5,000-square-mile Barnett Shale, one of the nation’s largest natural gas fields.

This election in Denton is not the last word, at least when it comes to the powerful oil and gas industry in Texas. The state’s largest petroleum-related lobby and the Texas General Land Office — headed by Republican stalwart Jerry Patterson — have filed lawsuits against the city of Denton over the election results.

Republican State Rep. Phil King of Weatherford says he also plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit such bans as the one voters enacted in Denton.

Perhaps those oil and gas interests who found themselves beat in Richmond and Denton are just a single part of the Red State folks who were not as lucky as the candidates winning Tuesday evening. Outgoing Land Commissioner Patterson, himself defeated in the Republican primary as a lieutenant governor candidate, will turn his office over to a young Hispanic fellow named George P. Bush. This Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and is grandson of President George H.W. Bush and nephew of President George W. Bush. Figure out what all that means. Or maybe, one should read it and weep.

Although one might get the idea that this writer is anti-oil and gas, such an assertion would prove wrong. I own minerals that I would love someone to drill or, even to just lease. The latter usually brings me more money than the former since I do not own vast minerals. I don’t agree large petrochemical companies such as Chevron who perhaps derives more income from overseas interests, should push around cities with their money. If they have that much freaking money, send some of it my way.

As for fracturing, there is the distinct possibility that it is causing earth tremors, particularly in areas of East Texas. That cannot be good. Neither is it good some of the unknown about what fracturing can do to underground resources such as our water. The industry needs to give a s**t first about quality of life instead of the immediate petro dollars it will receive from buyers around the world.

Perhaps I am preaching to the choir. But the distinction is that this choir members makes a little, very, very little, off oil and gas. And though my opinion means nothing to those operators who drill in my tiny mineral interests, my voice along with those in Richmond and Denton can mean a lot when we get together. It is something the oil and gas industry needs to think about. Although that is probably just a pipe dream. When industries spend millions to influence a local election outcome, that spells greed and associated with it is tank trucks full of arrogance.

 

 

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The keys to the kingdom and its burdens

This afternoon I was thinking about this old man from my childhood. Harry was the courthouse janitor and he bore a striking resemblance to the Straw Man in The Wizard of Oz.

I suppose it was for the posture as well as the hat that Harry reminded me of Straw Man. Harry was neither cheerful nor was he particularly grumpy. Perhaps weather-beaten or even life-beaten would fit as a better description of this janitor. It wouldn’t have been hard to fault Harry, in retrospect, for appearing either pissed-off or worse-for-wear. After all, he had who knows how many rooms and spaces were his to clean, including the clock tower on top of the old three-story structure as well as the courtrooms, offices and jail cells that were there during that time. Consequently, Harry had a bunch of keys.

Keys are what made me think of this old fellow. He had keys to every thing, every record, every matter and, yes, every miscreant in our county.

Our family was poor back in those days, but we were like the Rockefellers compared to old Harry. A child with less social instinct might have thought  Harry was rich from seeing all the hardware one might find in the shack which housed Harry and his family.

Why in his yard one might find washing machines, and old refrigerators, tires, probably a propeller off a B-29 from World War II, the hood from a Chevrolet that was of an indeterminate age, old transmissions, batteries and assorted odds, ends and dirt. Harry also reminded me a little of the Pigpen character in Peanuts who was always drawn in the cartoon with dirt swirling about him, kind of an opposite of a white tornado.

But no matter how filthy Harry was, and how much crap was in his yard, I was nonetheless envious of those keys. Having been all up and down the stairs of every floor of that courthouse, I knew there must have been tons of secrets that the doors and cabinets and safes held in that place.

Today I drove to Houston and back to switch to a new work car. I had a 2010 Chevy Impala exchanged for a 2014 Cruze. Of course, it had a fancier key fob than I previously possessed. Why I can even start the car remotely. But I have to surround my Cruze keys with my Toyota Tacoma keys as well as the key to my office, key to the office building/elevator, my postal box key, the keys to my storage unit, bicycle lock and a P-32 military can opener that I’ve never been able to shake from my time in the service.

I have spares, of course, so I had to  pair those off with my spare Cruze key. It has developed into quite the ordeal.

Looking back, I thought Harry the janitor must have had some wealth albeit less material than abstract. I should have recognized old Harry probably wasn’t old at all. He may have been my age or even less, though he had surely been burdened down from the life of poor white trash not to mention holder of the keys to the county castle and all it entailed.

Well, I guess thinking in such dimensions, that makes me wealthy. Guess I’ll go jingle my keys and dream of an island with some tanned bathing beauties.

 

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My mea culpa runneth over: Could I have changed DeLay-Babin history?

Ignorance seemed to sweep the state of Texas last night as all of the top right-right-wing candidates won the GOP primary for state offices. This include Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick who swept the top two offices. Fortunately, not all Tea Party candidates won the right to run in the November General Election. I speak specifically in the race to replace Rep. Steve Stockman, who gave up his office to seek the U.S. Senate seat held by John Cornyn.

Woodville dentist and former mayor Brian Babin defeated Tea Party mortgage banker Ben Streusand by a 58-42 percent margin. Streusand lives in Spring, a Houston suburb that is out of the district.

Babin lost two previous congressional races in 1996 and 1998 to original “Blue Dog Democrat” Jim Turner of Crockett. The GOP candidate for the 36th Congressional District of Texas, Babin, will face Democrat Michael Cole, a teacher at Little Cypress-Mauriceville in Orange County. A Libertarian candidate, Rodney Veatch, also will oppose the GOP and Democratic candidates.

The area in which CD 36 lies includes rural East Texas pineywoods, the area where I grew up. Longtime congressmen who served much of the area included colorful Democrats Charlie Wilson and Jack Brooks. Gerrymandering left out most of Jefferson County and adds GOP-prone areas of northern Harris County, home of Houston.

I lived in the area during the 1996-1998 Turner-Babin races and covered parts of both races for area daily newspapers. I found both men friendly and intelligent. I had been on the verge of a hot political story had I put more effort into it. “You gotta have heart,” as goes the song from “Damn Yankees.” At the particular time I didn’t have it.

I went to write about a rally for Babin at Cloeren Inc. in Orange. Pete Cloeren and his Dad had built a very successful plastics business. Unfortunately, he threw his politically-untested hands into helping finance the Babin campaign at the behest of Tom DeLay. A scheme was hatched that every Cloeren employee would donate to Babin the maximum $1,000 contribution allowed in congressional races.

DeLay was there at the rally I attended. I heard pols say that the Cloeren employees, each, all donated $1,000 of their own money in Babin’s name. I said: “Right! What bullshit.” I knew that was illegal and I knew it was about as likely as pigs flying that all the employees each gave $1,000 toward Dr. Babin’s campaign. Yet I was lazy, burned out, didn’t give a shit. Had I the time and the energy to go full force at this story as I had in later years chasing every cow pie that potentially entered the North Bosque River and the Waco city water supply, perhaps I might have changed the course of history with respect to Mr. DeLay. But I doubt it. I seriously, seriously doubt it.

In the end, well, we don’t know the end yet to the former bug killer, DeLay’s, saga. I do know from my time covering court cases that Houston appellate attorney Brian Wice — a sometimes legal talking head on TV — is still a guy I enjoyed hanging out with while awaiting a jury verdict. I say all that and add Wice is hell on wheels on appeals and he is representing Tom DeLay in “The Hammer’s” overturned conviction.

Babin and his campaign committee were fined $20,000 by the Federal Election Committee and paid $5,000 in excessive contributions. And now look at him. He’s the “Comeback Kid!”

That’s about as mea culpa as I’m going to get. I started off writing this thinking, “Well, at least we didn’t get Streusand if the GOP candidate wins in November.” But remembering my little lapse in doggedness, I feel even more that the 36th CD needs to elect Michael Cole.

 

 

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The days of grocers past

Does anyone remember the jingle: “Let’s go to Henke’s now, Henke’s now, Henke’s now … thrifty place to shop.”

Well, the song is a lot like the one you hear or may have had heard in the past that goes: “Let’s go Krogering, Krogering, Krogering … “

It’s all the same and with a reason. The giant grocer Kroger bought Houston-based Henke & Pilot chain the same year I was born, in 1955. The Henke name was no longer used beginning in 1966, or there about. Although the jingle seemed to hang on.

I suppose if you are under 30 and grew up in the U.S., most grocery stores have always been a constant. I know the grocery chains in East and Southeast Texas haven’t seemed to change much over those years. Where I live, in Beaumont, there aren’t a lot of grocery choices. There is Kroger, of course. Two larger regional chains seemed to have elbowed out any potential large competitors with the exception of Kroger. H-E-B, which was once pretty much a Central Texas chain has grown like crazy and even some of the smaller towns around here have mid-sized or small versions of its stores.

H-E-B has mega-stores in different locations in the state. Two were built when I lived in Waco. There is one humongous H-E-B in Beaumont on Dowlen Road that anchors a small strip mall. When it first opened it featured a small “Central Market,” which is the company’s gourmet grocery chain. One may find all the hipsters at the Central Market in Austin (that should be ‘Markets,’ and they are littered with ‘foodies’ in major suburbs like Plano and Southlake in the DFW area.) I will give the tres chic  H-E-B that it does have many great items one would be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Beaumont isn’t a hipster town — at least not in reality — so its H-E-B Central Market was gone and installed was a doc-in-a-box. A new, and presumably likewise large, H-E-B is now solid ground but will be coming up at the site of the old Baptist Hospital at South 11th Street and College. This is next door to the booming Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital and its surrounding medical village. This is kind of a crossroads of where Beaumont’s  mostly Black, goodly-sized Hispanic and minority White population all have to go at one time or the other. If they don’t go to Baptist they usually go up 11th to Christus St. Elizabeth or to Texas Medical Center in Houston.

Of course, the “Golden Triangle” also has an abundance of Market Basket stores. It is a chain in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana some half-century old, based in Nederland, Texas, that has seemed to do just fine.

Various other stores either went out of business or got bought out. The Brookshire Brothers chain, based in Lufkin, can be found pretty much in the Big Thicket and Deep East Texas areas. The company has also moved into areas of east Central Texas and parts of Central Texas as well.

One need not mention Wally World.

I think about some of the stores that were once here in Beaumont: Albertson’s, Gerland’s, gosh knows who else. In Nacogdoches, where I spent a great deal of my life, Safeway was once a huge, unionized store. Kroger was also unionized there. One of the first girls I dated upon first moving to Nac, I met at Safeway. Those are the kind of memories one likes to have of a grocery store instead of getting stuck in line to no end. The Safeway girl and I parted quicker than some of those lines, I would suppose. But we left amicably as she wanted to move back to Houston and I said, well, if someone wants to move to Houston then I guess I have no great opposition to it. I was fine just where I was at that time, and several other times.

Also I remember the little East Texas town from where I came. We didn’t have any of those big-named stores. Maybe a couple of years after I left a Brookshire Brothers came. It was a familiar brand because my uncle Sox retired from the company. Uncle Sox then worked part-time after retirement in a little town outside of Lufkin called Huntington. Uncle Sox worked for Boots store, named after a man called Boots. Sox and Boots. Seemed kind of proper, yet still gets a big family chuckle.

Some of the small-town stores I remember delivered. Dick’s Grocery, whom I am named for (Dick, not Grocery), used to set their fruits and vegetables out on the curb. I remember one store, owned by Ira Bean, sold a little of everything. Then there was Joe Harrell’s who we saw for smoked meats and his homemade sausage. And like family was J & J’s, the corner store, but not like in a convenience store. I remember they had a big old wheel of cheddar sitting on top of the butcher case. John & Juanita were as good of people you could find.

Man, those were the days. Well, excuse me because I have to go to Kroger’s. Have a great weekend.

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