Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pay Attention to Your Heart

The past week has been a week of heart issues. First, my sister was taken by ambulance to a hospital after experiencing pain that was diagnosed as arrythmia (of some sort) and had a stent inserted in one of the veins leading to her heart. Fortunately, all turned out well and she is back at home. This is the second stent she has had inserted in a relatively short period of time.

Then, my wife got word that her almost life-long heart problems (caused by a leaky valve) had progressed to the point at which it is advisable for her to have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator implanted in her chest. The reason is that she is at risk for Sudden Cardiac Arrest; the ICD would restart her heart in the event it stopped. So, she'll have the device implanted on September 22.

Two heart-related big scary deals in one week amounts to an alert that cannot be ignored.

Almost five ago, I was stunned when, at age 51, I had to undergo a double heart bypass operation. While it's no big deal to doctors and is now (and was then) routine surgery, it was a big a scary deal to me.

All these events are reminders to me that life is a fragile thing. I've allowed the memories of my own experience to diminish to the point that I have not been getting the exercise I should and have not been sticking to a heart-healthy diet. My memories have been awakened. Time for all three of us to get back on track with preventative measures so we don't leave the others to wish we had just exercized the discipline to do the right thing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Story of My Youth, In Pictures

I could not find the photo that I wanted to post...the one in which I was sitting on the beach in South Texas, surrounded by an outline of the State of Texas, crafted in sand.

But I did find enough photos to tell the story of my youth.

In this one, I was a happy young boy, obviously planning to become a lawyer or corporate CEO. Ah, yes, it was a fine time for a young man full of piss and vinegar, ready to conquer the world!
By the time I had my first grade photo taken at school, though, I had become a sullen young man, defeated by a world that wouldn't give a guy a break, even if he buttoned the top button.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Picture-Book Life

I've noticed on Facebook of late that some of my friends and acquaintences are posting photos from their younger years. There are pictures of them as toddlers, as teenagers, even as young adults, most of which were taken by proud parents who, I'm sure, wanted to show the world how cute their children were.

As I reflected on the fact that these people have a plethora of pictures from which to choose to illustrate the evolution of their lives, it occurred to me that I don't have many photos of me as a child. I attribute that paucity of pictures to my birth order. By the time I, child number six, arrived, my parents must have "gotten over" the need to show off their newest little beast. They'd done it before and had no doubt come to realize that yet another replay did not have the same thrill as it did the first time or two...or five.

So, my selection of childhood photos is meager, at best. I think the ones that are available to me were snapped by siblings who had not yet gotten bored with show and tell. I'm not looking at any of the photos as I write this, but memory tells me there's one photo of me as a 3-4 year-old sitting on the beach on Padre Island, surrounded by an outline of the State of Texas crafted out of sand. And there's another one, when I was a bit older, in which I am wearing shorts and a striped shirt and am topped off with a straw "cowboy" hat. Another one, as I recall, shows me standing next to the brother closest in age to me; we're both wearing some bizarre costumes for which I have no explanation.

The lack of parental propensity for pictures apparently did not leave any lasting psychological damage. I'm sure my neuroses and psychoses can be attributed to other causal factors other life experiences.

One day, when I'm energetic and have an hour or two to kill, I'll dig up what few photos there are and create a comprehensive photographic record of my youth, stored forever in magnetic media.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Neighborly Noise

At first, I thought it was distant thunder. Something had roused me from a relatively deep sleep, but it could have been a dream. But then I heard it again; this time, it was louder. When I heard it a third time, it sounded like metal trash cans being slammed against one another; a loud, startling noise that caused my heart to skip a beat.

I listened intently and began to hear it grow louder and louder. I jumped out of bed, threw on some shorts, a shirt, and some flip-flops, and went out to investigate.

The sounds were unmistakable now. Sheet metal being pushed and pulled and bent by someone without regard to whether it would be permanently damaged with all the movement. I looked outside the three big windows to my backyard and there, through the tiny spaces in the fence, I could see a garage light, though not clearly. And something between the light and me was moving violently, keeping perfect time to the shrieks and rumbles of the sheet-metal music.

The more I watched, the more it seemed to me that someone was tearing the sheet-metal sections of the neighbor's garage door to shreds. I glanced at the clock; it was 4:50 a.m. I don't know this particular neighbor well, this neighbor whose house is one over and separated by an alley from mine . So, rather than risk interrupting a burglary-in-progress or worse, I decided to call the police. Just as I was hanging up from talking to them, a car backed out of the garage and sped down the alley, heading away from the nearest street.

Two police cars arrived within ten minutes. I stepped into my backyard and looked toward the garage and listened. I could not hear well, but I did pick up that the old man who lives there, a reclusive old bastard who has not said a friendly word to me in the twelve years I've lived in my house, was telling a tale to the police about how he has lived there 25 years. Whatever the tale, the police left soon thereafter and did not appear to have the old man in chains as then went.

The old man's grandson (or someone I presume is his grandson) lives with him and is not reclusive like the old bastard he lives with. He is gregarious in a way that makes me uncomfortable, like he wants to befriend me so he can steal my tools and snatch my wallet. This boy reminds me of trailer-trash characters on disturbing low-life sitcoms.

The kid has driven any number of old cars during the past few years, cars that look and sound very much like they were snagged from the junkyard just before they were to have been crushed. He has no compunction about revving the engine to an old jalopy at 5:00 am or gliding up the alley at midnight as the vehicle backfires explosively.

The more I think of what I saw this morning, the more I think that what happened is this:
  • As he tried to leave for work to go to McDonald's or some such fast-food joint at 4:30 a.m., he discovered the garage door would not open.
  • So, he started trying to pry it open.
  • The more he pried, the worse it got.
  • So he started disassembling the door, metal panel by metal panel, until he was able to drive his car out of the garage.

After daylight, I'll walk back there to determine whether my theory has any potential merit. I'm not going back there now, though. The old man may be sitting in wait with a loaded shotgun to welcome his neighbors.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Slice of Life: Sushi

Slice of life from a sushi conveyor belt in Japan.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

La Flaca - Jarabe de Palo (video oficial)

Come on...just watch and listen! Jarabe de Palo will become one of your favorites!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


My wife and I ate at a Sushi/Japanese food place for lunch today, a place called C-Rolls. It was acceptable, but not stunning. My wife had a terriaki chicken box (pretty simple, plain, and self-explanatory) and I had the Ginza Roll, which consisted of several pieces. Mine was made from tuna, some sort of prepared and spicy tuna (for the filler), rice, seaweed, and finely sliced jalapenos that were appropriately "dressed" in colorful organge liquid seasoning. Mine were accompanied, of course, by wasabi and pickled ginger and sushi paraphenalia.

Nothing special about this place, I'm sorry to say, but it did make me want to take lessons on how to make sushi. And so I will.

The Near-Empty Grocery Store Dance

I got up very early this morning and for some reason decided it would be a good time to go to the grocery store, though I had no idea of what I might buy.

My wife was still fast asleep, so I crept into my closet, threw on some worn-out shorts, a button-down shirt that I did not tuck into my shorts, and a pair of flip-flops and stole away into toward nearby Kroger store.

I wasn't alone at the store, though almost so. An ebony-skinned woman wearing a bright red floor-length dress and a white headscarf appeared to be cleaning out her car in the parking lot. An older, but snappily-dressed man (ironed shorts with a stylish belt, polo shirt tucked into the shorts, and upscale leather sandals) wandered the aisles inside. A younger woman laboriously pushed her overflowing shopping cart down the frozen food section. Two store personnel ignored all of us from their positions near the front of the store.

It was interesting to be there at such an early hour, but I had no business to conduct, so I left. I wonder if I am the subject of an observation of one of the people I saw...I would like to read that blog entry.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

In a Food Rut?

Tonight's dinner resembled today's lunch. Lunch consisted of chunks of bell pepper, leftover canned pineapple chunks (remind me not to do that again), blueberries, strips of Canadian bacon, slices of extra sharp white Canadian cheddar cheese, and perhaps one or two other things I've forgotten. We took the aforementioned foodstuff to a little city park and had a picnic.

This evening, we went a bit more upscale: Humboldt Fog goat cheese, 4-year-old parmesan, more of the Canadian cheddar, some spectacular Swiss cheese, blueberries, strawberries, fresh bagette, assorted Greek olives, Bosc pear, parmesan crostini, and emerald figs. And, of course, a little red wine (followed, on my part, by a nice Sauvignon blanc). All of it was spectacular. I could do this once a week.

Allen Wayne Damron

Not long ago I posted a question about a Texas singer/songwriter named Allen Wayne Damron. Nobody offered any information about him or where to find his music, but I found it on my own by contacting Canadian River Music. The enterprise is in the process of shutting down, it appears, but they were able to sell two things I wanted: a CD entitled "Allen Wayne Damron: 35 Years--More of Not the Same," and a cassette tape (no CDs available) entitled "Allen Wayne Damron: 35 Years" (the latter being the precursor to the former.

The albums are, as the names suggest, compilations of Damron's music from a significant portion of his career, but they don't cover it all. The CD was originally copyrighted in 1983 and Damron died at his home in Terlingua, Texas at age 66 in 2005. He had a lot more music in him between those recordings and the time he died, but I don't know much about that time. In fact, I don't know much about Damron, other than what little I've learned since one of my brothers told me about seeing him play at The Camp Street Cafe and Store in Crockett, Texas a few years ago, probably not long before Damron's death. (Photo Credit: Texas Music History Online)

Damron was the same age as my oldest brother and at least the early part of his life was simliar to that of my two oldest brothers. He lived in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, like we did, and tells stories in some of his music about life along (on both sides of) the border. I found a very informative biographical sketch about him that I'd like to keep readily accessible. I didn't realize that he was one of the founders of the Kerrville Folk Festival, nor that he had performed with Lyle Lovett and Steve Fromholz on Austin City Limits. There's plenty more I did not know about the man...after all, I did even know of him until recently.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I surprised myself yesterday by guessing, correctly, that a piece of art on a blogger-friend's blog was the work of Pierre Bonnard. I did not realize, until I looked more closely at her challenge, that the art on her blog header was only a clip from the painting, not the entire thing. Yet I guessed it correctly. The only explanation as to how I managed to do that was that I had recently been looking at some of his other paintings online and, when I saw her blog header, I thought it looked similar in style to the other paintings I had seen.

When I found the blog where I'd originally seen the Bonnard works, I realized that one of them was the very piece my blogger friend had on her blog. But I did not realize it until I looked carefully, since her blog had only a snippet of the art. So, while my powers of observation apparently are sufficient to have enabled me to see the connection between art I had seen and the art on her blog, they are not sufficient to have caused me to realize that I had actually been looking at the very same painting and did not know it.

That caused me think about how "eye-witness" testimony is becoming increasingly suspect in criminal trials. In a quick search of Google, I found literally hundreds of articles, books, and investigative reports that argue that eye-witness testimony is highly fallible (e.g., The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony, Eyewitness Testimony, The Magic of the Mind, Eyewitness: How Accurate Is Visual Memory?, and Eyewitness Testimony on Trial.

While my memory of Bonnard's style of painting was sufficient to allow me to correctly (and wildly) guess that the art on my friend's blog was his, I didn't realize I'd seen the very same piece of art she used. If anyone had asked me whether I had seen that piece of art before, I would have said I had not.

Based purely on my own experience, I am even more skeptical of the reliability of eye-witness testimony. And that leaves me where? I don't know. Hell, it's only 6:15 am, how can I be expected to have logical thoughts at this hour? Leave me alone until I'm more awake and coherent.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bookussion at Lunch

I've been invited to a "book club lunch" by an advertising agency. The agency owner called me to invite me and then, after I had accepted, he delivered a book to my office in preparation for the event.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Courtesy of Joan Armatrading

I'm going to try to do more than give lip service to things that are important. At least I'll share places to learn. Feel free to join me.

Attack the Day

OK, this is much better. I went to bed extremely early last night...around 8:00 pm...and slept off my foul mood. It's about 5:00 am now and it's much better. Maybe that's all I needed. Perhaps I should start getting to bed early more often. And getting up early. Now, I go attack the day.