Saturday, September 29, 2012

so i was asking people about why, when it rains, whole corners are taken up by flooding that seems capable of swallowing up whole cars. the big one for me of course is flint and nineteenth, one of the worst, only a block from our house; sometimes it rains only a few inches, but this corner will have several feet of water all afternoon, with police cars standing by making sure that any car that ventures in gets towed out successfully. these are "playas" says one guy wryly. but i didn't get the reference. seemed to me a 'playa' was a beach.

turns out a 'playa' is a lake, a kind of plains lake, where water sits indefinitely, and eventually evaporates out leaving a little of whatever is left; these are called "alkaline" lakes and there are quite a few of them. turns out burning man in nevada is on a playa also. it reminds me of a geologists' rant, way back when i was researching the great texas drought of 2011, wherein he said that our problem started way back when we killed all the buffalo, because the buffalo would wallow in the low spots and make muddy areas where literally the water could enter the hard red earth, and go on down toward the water table. reason we've lost so much water from the water table, is that we've lost all the wallows, he said. i couldn't prove him wrong but i can tell you, if this water is evaporating, which is quite likely, it is definitely not going back into the water table.

but then here's another surprise. it's well known that we are on the llano estacado, the so-called escarpmented plain, the southern plain or high table that literally goes from 3000 feet in the southeast to about 5000 feet up in the northwest but at a steady incline so gentle everyone thinks it's flat as a pancake. lubbock, they say, is the biggest city on the entire plains which of course stretches all the way up to the dakotas, but that, i assume, does not take in denver which in fact is on flat ground right in front of the mountains. well anyway, there is some controversy about this word estacado, which is sometimes referred to as "staked" as if there were stakes out in the plain, but no, nobody seriously thinks there are stakes out there, or ever was. no, the more interesting theory is that it was, at one time, estancado, or stagnant, referring to the water in these shallow lakes that just gets more and more, i guess that, in derision, one could call it the llano estancado.

now there is a high school out here called estacado, so my guess is that all these variants, these insults and derisive reference, has been thought of long ago. but it's all new to me. i'm kind of into this high plains stuff, i had ancestors who came out onto the plain long ago, ended up in northeastern kansas, southeastern nebraska, council bluffs, places like that, and the plain feels ok to me, the hard wind, the dusty air, the winter chill coming on. and i can understand this flood business too, it's part of life, it's just hard to get used to, how, when it rains, everyone thinks it's glorious but you have to hold still for a few days while they sweep some of the water away.

thought maybe i'd do a thing on the playas on what i call my mirror site where i've been putting pictures that i take from our rearview mirror. one problem is that this site speaks directly to lubbock and the lines are getting blurred, that is, my personal ramble (here) and the stuff i want to say to lubbock, all somewhat similar. but the real problem here is that i'm not so much criticizing the city's drainage problem (carbondale had that too, and, i'm sure, i would be criticizing them if they tore up the whole city trying to fix it)'s more that i have a fascination with water that basically falls, and then just sits there for so long. what's up with that?

did some research on the texas pledge also. turns out they originally had everyone pledge to the flag of 1838, and nobody caught the mistake for many years; although texas had changed to its red-white-and-blue lodestar flag, here they had school kids pledging to the wrong one. and then they slipped god in there a few years back, over some protests of course, but nevertheless this texas pledge remains and has its own webpage. i guess my questions about it are these: if it's true that every school in the state of texas has its kids say this pledge, then can it be considered a representative of the general idea that the state in general asserts a lot of control over education here? how many other states have state pledges? and, finally, is there any relationship between a texas pledge and a general tendency to fly a texas flag later on, or put texas paraphernalia around, or put "secede" bumper stickers on one's car? what relationship does sanctioned state patriotism have to the state-pride movement in general?

1836-1848, was roughly the era when texas was a republic, had its own flag, flags really, since it changed, and this era started on my birthday, as it turns out, san jacinto day, when the texans won a huge battle over santa anna at san jacinto. they call them, in this kind of history, texians, but the difference or the reasons behind it are still a mystery to me. those texians apparently lost the alamo, lost it big, but remembered the alamo big when it came time to wipe out the mexicans at san jacinto and capture santa anna. santa anna was apparently weak because not only did he have a huge army, but he had a sweetheart, the yellow rose of texas, who seduced him and kept him off his guard. so, they write a song about her and this song gets a lot of play. it's a new song to me though, relatively. i hear it sometimes in a kind of confederate genre but other times as a kind of folk song.

got a bit of rain for a while there, soccer games were cancelled, i had a chance to do some research, work on a floor, hang around and drink some coffee. this rain business throws a wrench into my week, as we live on bicycles and four-foot puddles are especially bad for bicycles particularly when the trucks choose to fly through them. but, we can survive, as others do, and even enjoy the playas, maybe take some pictures. also i've found myself blatantly hypocritical about the football situation, the men's general football enthusiasm is so contagious and besides, having a big iowa state game reminds me of iowa, and their schedule in general is full of the plains boys, kansas and k-state, oklahoma, etcetera. sure basketball is safer and more fun in some ways but their basketball team is apparently at a very down time, whereas the football team seems to be riding high and the whole town with it. we'll see; some say that oklahoma, texas, and especially west virginia (????????) will kill them; we'll see. getting up for a west virginia game is another thing that unites me with my past. i can handle it; it's just football.

the other day it was busy and they sent me out for chinese food which happened to be way over by the old walmart downtown in the cool section of town where they have some ancient houses, brick streets, a bit of rebuilding. turns out they have some playas over there too, so wide i couldn't see if i could even make it through them. but, after i got the food, a huge rainbow opened up over this one building downtown. it's the building, i think, that was moved or twisted by the tornado, but they decided to leave it, because it was still stable and functional, so now it's got a bit of a twist yet it's still the highest, maybe the only high building in town. so there's this enormous rainbow and i wanted to take a picture but i had to watch where i was going and i realized, sure, they've torn down a bit of this town, they have some wide fields and red clay everywhere you go, but it really is kind of cool looking. lots of cool old houses. and then a plain, a llano, stretching out in every direction.

the grass grows a bit wild around the edges of our house; the rain has seeped in and helped things live. we hauled an old carpet out of here and treated for bugs. we think of our dog, out there somewhere, but i really miss old friends, especially music partner, religious community, work mates. not sure i can replace all these very easily. we have friends, sure, but this kind of stuff takes time. it makes me sad. i rest, listen to the traffic out our window, the ambulances in the distance. it's a city; things happen, and they keep happening. the wind brings a new cloud by, and you have to keep an eye on it; you never know what might happen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

the weather actually varies a lot; rainshowers come through and dump a few inches on the city, and when they do whole intersections become flooded, virtual oceans where even pickups shouldn’t venture but surely not me in a van, or a bicycle. even when i go around and avoid the big corner right near our house I find other corners and whole streets where you just have no idea how deep it is, just that it takes a whole block or more and doesn’t look like anything went in, and actually came out the other side.

went to get a texas driver’s license and the computers broke down, almost as soon as we got there, thus making everyone sit there with blank stares on their faces, though the workers at the place were actually a little relieved; they got part of the morning off, in essence, to do facebook or whatever. what strikes me about the driver’s license place is that it’s a true cross-section of society as we know it, at least society over sixteen, or whatever the minimum age is. country people, city people, they all pile right in there and use their cells to tell someone or other that they aren’t coming back for a while. but we left; it might have cost registering for the election but looks like we might be able to do that yet anyway; I’m not sure.

I have a whole class of american linguistics students many of whom actually read the books, do the work and enjoy learning about linguistics. this is entirely new to me; in esl we are often teaching a topic that is nothing better than pretend; it might be interesting in a side way, but nobody is in there for the topic itself. now we’re practicing with real topics, and ones that are interesting to me: why did we have the great vowel change? what is up with this word “y’all”? why did English give up with “thee” and “thy” and “thine” and switch all over to “you” which does not distinguish plural? why are the northern cities shifting their vowels even now as we speak? to me these are interesting questions, so I enjoy bringing them up, and learning more about them; I prepare for class by looking this stuff up sometimes, and that’s fun. in my other class i have international grad students struggling to be better teachers, and this puts me on more familiar ground, but then, in my last assignment, I’m a writing lab tutor, and this is really fun and educational; I get all kinds of people, from clueless freshmen to a guy who studies frog fungi and reasons for amphibian decline.

it was there this morning that a young woman law student came to get help on a paper basically justifying states’ making all kinds of restrictive voting laws. every state is different, she said, and this is their job, and as long as these restrictions don’t discriminate, yadda yadda. I almost slapped her silly; of course they discriminate, that’s the point. if you look democrat, you’re black, you’re a woman, or poor, then they find a problem with your id, or change the law so you have to get a photo id which is only available across town in business hours. it’s a systematic movement by republicans that has worked well for over ten years and won two elections although some attribute the one to the supreme court also being in their pocket. the whole thing made me furious since here she was, basically justifying highway robbery and using the legal system, legal jargon, to justify it, but my job was to help her with her writing. I walk through the valley of whatever, I bite my tongue, help her with her writing. I could see, in the end, that she was grateful I didn’t lay into her; I think she knew, on some level, that it’s not a question of voter fraud. none of these voter-restricting states have really suffered from voter fraud. Illinois maybe, but Illinois is not in question.

we live an urban lifestyle now; we live on a busy street, and it has a steady stream of bicyclists, and joggers, even at six in the morning. this was hard in particular on the most sensitive of our dogs, uma, who had a shrill bark and was especially threatened by all kinds of people in the house, ever, and just bit somebody one day, a friend of mine who is especially tall, maybe taller than she’d ever seen. I’d told her to calm down and lay off but she couldn’t. this was her doom. my wife took her in and said that uma needed a new home. things were looking bad for uma. it was especially hard on my wife, since it was her dog and she had been committed to caring for her, etc., but now was forced to admit that she couldn’t protect people and was even afraid for our seven-year-old. uma’s life was in the balance. I thought of her pretty face and the few times she’d actually look at me, and even let me pet her, toward the end, and I felt badly that I’d let it happen, or would be responsible in any way. on the other hand, the other dog was now able to come out, go for a walk, hang out in the house etc. though even the pleasure of having a real dog in the living room was dampened by knowing, another one was out there on death row.

they say the texas pledge here, I kid you not, a pledge of allegiance to the texas flag, and to the state of texas, and it’s not that big a deal partly because apparently they do it throughout the state of texas, even down in austin and san antone and all the big cities. it’s a state thing, to perpetuate its own state self-image, I guess, and you see these texas flags around and even a few bumper stickers that say “secede” – although I wonder, actually, if this is kind of a dixie rebel, a kind of racism, a kind of anti-big government local identity, or just a bit of pride in a local, regional place that is unique, different definitely from mexico to the south and the usa to the north. I’m not quite sure, more on this later. it executes people even as I write, this happens regularly, texas executes more prisoners than the other 49 combined, and there are more murders. gun homicides, in the texas prisons each year than in whole countries abroad, countries such as japan and Belgium where people just aren’t as used to killing each other as a way of life. the reason I mention it is that, in registering to vote, one becomes party to it, yes I’m a citizen of this state, so I therefore agree with the wishes of the majority as is our political agreement, and thus become a part of the state that is in essence a murderer.

you may say it’s justified, these people have after all killed someone, capital punishment is the only appropriate punishement for a horrific crime, etc. for me, it’s an impediment to voting. much as I want to slam that lever down against mitt, I don’t enjoy signing up for jury duty or in other ways becoming the hand on the electric chair switch. it’s ok to be part of a state where, basically, they believe in government hands off business, hands off the common man, but hands on the education and even hands on your heart while they say that texas pledge. there’s a lot of control of the schools, control of the roads, control of stuff, in some ways. it’s a big state, like california, lots of cities, lots of roads, lots of outlaws.

uma, however, was spared – somebody at the pet place took a liking to her beautiful face, and when the time came, and we said, we just can’t take her back, they took her. I figured that, somewhere in the state of texas, someone would take pity on a dog that basically had a good heart, but just couldn’t control her teeth. and they did. these stories sometimes come out ok.

as for voting rights, that’s an unfolding drama. I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

in 1986 we moved to korea and lived there for two years, on the very fashionable south side of seoul, south of the river, while i worked teaching english outside of town about an hour and a half away. there were many memorable experiences that came out of those two years, but in some ways the ones involving children were the most interesting. i had left a seven-year-old behind in the u.s. with her mother, but after a year i arranged to have her fly to korea with my sister and visit us. this was in some ways the most wild: people were shocked to see blond and blondish red hair, and you could tell in their looks as we went through town. similarly, they weren't used to seeing a full beard on an american face, and once i caused a traffic accident just by shccking some poor driver who was going seventy five or eighty on a six-lane bridge.

in our neighborhood there were a number of children, and they would sometimes be shooting baskets when i went out to shoot a basket or two. once one kid let his basketball go completely down the drive because he was compelled to catch mine, which was coming near him. i was surprised by his deference. at one point i learned the difference between speaking to a kid and speaking to others, and i practiced it one day with a kid who was more or less following me home. i said: are you my friend? his jaw dropped about a mile. he couldn't believe i had that much korean, even though my language was clearly limited. in general, many koreans were surprised when anyone from another culture learned much korean, but in that way they were surprised often. it was a hard language, but it was possible to learn it.

when my daughter and sister came we showed them the sights, took them out to eat, did all the cool stuff in the city, etc. but what was most memorable to me was that the neighborhood girls came over and genuinely wanted to play with her. there was no question, it was difficult for them to communicate; she learned one word, which was their word for "car". and this one was necessary because they spent much of their time playing badminton, in a crowded space between road and apartment building, and when a car came they had to warn each other of impending danger. the girls invited her home but i'm not sure we were able to take them up on it. we were on a tight schedule.

the reason i mention this time, 1986-1988, is that a new korean rapper has taken the world by storm with a new video called "gangnam-style", which is actually quite outrageous, a mixture of korean and american pop-rap-shock culture, quite entertaining. it turns out, this guy grew up in ban-po dong, went to ban-po elementary school, and this was where we lived, not more than a block from the ko-sok bus terminal in gang-nam gu. he would have been about the same age as my daughter, but at seven or eight, boys and girls don't mix much; i'm sure they never met. more likely he was the kid with the basketball, or perhaps the kid who followed me home. he was, definitely, in the neighborhood.

as an urban place, it actually had thousands of kids; i'd occasionally see ban-po elementary, with all its kids in uniforms, and the fact was, though there were millions of kids, there weren't many foreigners around. people reached out to make friends with us. one flower merchant in the basement market of the ko-sok terminal was especially friendly and invited me out to his house out in the city one night where we and his friends ate barbecue and sang the evening away; this was not unusual as a gesture of hospitality. i came to love ban-po dong though the buses had a certain diesel smell especially at this time of year, the high holiday, when all 12 million of seoul's people head out for their ancestral homelands out in the countryside. my first son was born there, in ban-po dong, in those very apartments, and though we'd left before he was even one, i think it left a mark on him. to this day he loves the strong smell of good korean food.

i'm not sure what my daughter remembers - the badminton, for sure, but more likely the feeling of having dad as far away as a dad could possibly be. there wasn't much i could do about that, except hope we would never be as far separated as we were, again.

"kangnam-style" is irreverent, funky, as my youngest says, "inappropriate" - and he didn't even watch more than about thirty seconds of it. i wanted him to see the unusual dance style, because he's a dancer - but he wasn't going for it. i couldn't vouch that gang-nam always had that style - but it did have a uniqueness, a special feeling to it that i kept forever. i like it that this guy comes out now, and brings gang-nam back to me. it's almost like he's talking to me directly, even though he's clearly outrageous. he's saying: be yourself; get out of the restrictive expectations of the world around you; make your own moves and really dance. the music and the moviemaking will take care of itself. if you're a star, the world will build itself around you - they'll make a risqué youtube, they'll dress you up, and they'll market you. hollywood, of course has its price, but that's another story, and besides, i wasn't hollywood's agent, didn't do a thing to get anyone to just grab their bags and come to the u.s. some did, sure, like him, attracted by the freedom of expression we celebrate. i myself say, that's lost a bit of its lure, after a lifetime of teaching and representing u.s. culture. i could make maybe "toledo style" or "rust belt style" based on my growing up, but people might fall asleep before the video even finished. more later...

Friday, September 14, 2012

took a nasty spill today, and it really set me back, because, about a year and a half ago, i took a nasty spill and had a sore shoulder for almost nine months. the fact is, i'm getting older and don't recover as easily, i end up sore and stay that way, and, i really need this shoulder, it's my fiddling shoulder, I don't want it falling off.

happened like this: it rained and rained hard today. this is quite unusual for lubbock. we are not used to the fact that with just a couple inches of rain, whole corners and streets will be flooded with a couple of feet of water for hours, maybe all day. it so happens that one of these corners is flint and nineteenth, merely a block from our house; though we only have to ride/walk about five blocks, or maybe ten, to get virtually anywhere on campus, we always have to go through that corner and it gets hard to ride a bicycle through more than a couple of feet of water. going around is possible but presents its hazards also. so there i was on campus and my wife was texting/calling hoping she could bring the car by, so as to not have to drive through flint and nineteenth and i'm messing with my phone and carrying my bicycle helmet in the rain when my feet go out from under me and i land flat on my front, fortunately my helmet protected my face; i more or less landed on my helmet. only my shoulder suffered really, and it's getting better, so i'll stop yapping. but i was pretty covered, all up my front, with the foot or so of puddle i landed in.

once when i fell off a roof i decided, life is short, better get all that stuff done now, quick while you can, so that's in essence what i'm doing, and i'm staying up late, all charged up about my final linguistics lecture of the week. it so happens we're doing phonetics and phonology, and this is one of my favorite topics: why do languages change? what accounts for variation and dialects? why do people shift vowels without even knowing it? i'm going to lay it out for them tomorrow. i'm interested in when you can call something a dialect, and when you can call it a language. or, when is it a vowel shift, and when is it just a dialect. i've got all this linguistics in my head because i've got to teach this complex class to these poor undergraduates and they're like, what's up with this. so i say to them, it is what it is, and you have to study it. the northern cities vowel shift. the great vowel shift of 1300-1600. the southern dialect. all that cool stuff.

it's cooler here now, after the rain, and that leaves me charged up, even less able to sleep, and worried about my new life in texas and whether i will just be reduced to being a retiree who hangs around and does Facebook every afternoon instead of teach esl classes as i always used to. it's like, i never got back to 100%, i needed a break so bad, now it's hard for me to get back into the groove. i love teaching linguistics, love teaching i.t.a.'s, love the writing lab, but i come home every afternoon, eat and do facebook. can't quite get back to 100%. then the rains come and just about wash me away.

buddy holly went to my sons's school, so i got into listening to his music and trying to figure out how such a geeky guy could be so enormously popular so long after his death. went to not fade away and found a number of people who had wished him happy birthday (this was about a week ago) right on that site, right on that day. still very much in people's hearts, both here in lubbock and nationwide, still having an audience, getting a reaction. and he's pretty much of a 50's dude, and he proves the idea that the 50's went right up into about 1962 or so, maybe after his plane crash everyone said, ok, enough with the 50's, time for the 60's. it was a pretty interesting time. i'm not sure how he felt about kennedy or the cuban missile crisis, but he was a pretty good student at the elementary school, i hope my kids can keep up the good pattern.

this is definitely a city; we hear a lot of ambulances and police cars. traffic lines up when they don't want to drive through three feet of water. dozens of arrests every day, all kinds of things going on. we are sheltered a little from west texas reality; we live right near campus; our lives are red and black, 18-22, idealistic. we aren't the only bike riders. i don't know what people do about the "playas" which is what one guy called them. hey, if they don't go away, you just have to live with them. 50th and quaker has one, so they say. that would really mess things up; half the town goes through 50th and quaker. seems like the other half goes through flint and nineteenth.

back in the old days, you could lose a whole volkswagen going through a playa like one of those. these days everyone drives these huge trucks, and they whip through them, and sometimes they splash. sometimes they are extraordinarily polite; I like that. one guy acted like he knew he would get me if he plowed through the playa and he actually slowed down, so he wouldn't. also, when i fell, people called out to me from two different directions, to see if i needed help. it was very nice. a kind of genuine helpfulness, impressive. i'm not sure you'd see that in illinois.

but my shoulder is sore, and i'm feeling older by the minute. thank god tomorrow is friday. i'll give my knockout lecture, then i'll basically recover. it'll take me days. i can't believe the news, libya, egypt, new york city, guatemala, it's a crazy world, there's no accounting for it. they want my sons to say the pledge of allegiance. then they want them to say some pledge for texas too. then they also have some song that says their school is best. well yeah, buddy holly went there, but, hey, i was distracted. the point is, my ten-year-old says, why do we have to say stuff if we don't necessarily believe it? he's still missing his school in illinois. and i don't blame him. i was never big on forced recitations either. this, i think, might be genetic, since my dad once said the same thing. you can do them in a presbyterian church, if you think that, by repeating them enough, you'll finally come to believe them. believe? whatev. maybe it's just nice to all stand up, and be together, and all do the same thing, just once. maybe.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

i teach a class every day, and then i spend a few hours a day in the writing lab, and it all comes to three quarters time, supposedly, though it hasn't quite settled yet. on mondays, wednesdays and fridays i teach anthropological linguistics, and it's wild, because i have maybe forty-two american students, and i have a really hard time remembering their names. i have better luck with my tuesday/thursday class, which has only twelve, from places like sri lanka, ecuador, and china. these folks have pretty good english and give us lessons as they practice becoming teachers. in the writing lab i have a wide variety of people, mostly texas tech students, with all variety of writing work to be pored over. some are personal statements of people trying to get into med school or law school, or dissertations at the graduate level; other times it's freshmen with barely a clue and pretty bad writing. it's all quite educational. i've haven't taught americans much over the years, and it's good to talk to them and find out what they're thinking; what they write is invariably interesting. internationals are interesting too, especially given that west texas is way different from illinois, so it's a different process of acculturation. speaking of that, we still have considerable adjustment here, although the boys seem to be doing ok in school. i remind them regularly that buddy holly went to that very school and was an above-average student. the school celebrates him and is proud to be a music-theatre magnet school. i am grateful we don't live in chicago. apparently, however, they teach them a texas pledge which is similar to the use pledge, and one son was quick to point out that he doesn't have complete allegiance to texas, yet, though he's managing ok with the rest of their requirements. out on the various roads around town, i take my phone and watch for opportunities in the mirrors; most of these pictures end up in the mirror site though you can see some here. it's a welcome break from serious teaching and there are lots of opportunities, though it's a little dangerous just stopping the car whenever i'm upon one. so i don't. i wait patiently...what do i have, the rest of my life? it doesn't bother me. i protect myself, ourselves, to some degree, because being a biracial family will never be as easy here as it used to be; it's a larger city, it's the south, etc. things take longer, too. that's basically because everyone is friendly and polite, but it's also because, in many cases, they just don't know how to do a transaction quickly. it's the kind of place where people are moving up in jobs quickly and even the police have to make these large road signs advertising for more officers to join the force. in illinois this would never happen; the police didn't even have to advertise. i ride my bike a short way to campus and watch every direction as i've taken my life into my hands. i'm in a routine though, and i'm fairly safe. i stick with the lines. i go on green. i stay off the sidewalks. some places are way busy, it can be lively. you'd think it would be hot sunny, windy and clear all the time. actually, it's most of the time. tonight a storm is rolling in and it's getting cooler. sometimes we go to the lazy river and it's almost too cool to swim. i'd like to swim every day, actually, even in the cool, but i'm not organized, i'm working on it. i could do the lazy river, for example, between classes. I could really enjoy this fact, the weather is quite interesting, nice sunrises and sunsets, clear skies. they complain about the dust a bit, and yes, we've had a bit of that, but that's actually ok too. the weather isn't really bothering me at all, yet, and fall is coming. the best time of year. different things to learn in all three jobs. new tricks for a very old dog. i've become tan and wrinkled, with a lot of bug bites. but, as another fall sets in, i find myself grateful, as usual, grateful to make it through another summer, to be free, to still have my kids, struggling to grow, and all of us, basically ok. texas doesn't have to be a permanent thing, though it looks, from here, like it goes forever.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunday, September 09, 2012

i'm a musician, so i was grateful to be able to saw away at the fiddle the other night at a party where a bunch of friends had gathered for a potluck. the kids ran wild in the back, grateful to have little or no supervision, but in the living room they humored me by playing some old texas songs and other popular folk songs that weren't too hard to catch the tunes of; it was a joy for me, because i hadn't played in maybe six weeks.

at the party a guy said he'd been offered tickets to yo yo ma for $250, but he passed them up. yo yo ma played with the local symphony maybe tonight and was the topic of conversation for a while. you have a town like lubbock, kind of second tier, and they suspect that ma will fly in, lock the door in his hotel, and fly back out. but some people said that he was not like other performers, and actually might meet somebody. i always thought of ma as the cellist of my generation (i'm 58)...every generation gets one, and rostropovich, and pablo casals, had gone before. i considered him as representing the path not taken to some degree, as i'd started out as a cellist, but i could have practiced the cello forever, of course, and not even approached yo yo ma. i had a friend in high school, however, who was able to play with him, at some point, by virtue of going to harvard, and being a fairly good violin player at the time. maybe that guy was my alter ego. with more practice, i could have been a little better when i went off to college, or perhaps have gone off to a better college (harvard?) where i'd make these valuable connections.

a little rain came through lubbock, again, over the weekend, cooling things off, so that the lazy river was cold and virtually empty today, and we could very easily hang around outside without dying from heat or being eaten alive by bugs. the bugs have been a problem here, but it's partly because we don't see them and they could be getting us at night, or maybe when we're outside going from one place to another. everyone is paranoid about mosquitos, west nile and all, but somehow i think if mosquitos were getting me, i'd see them, and their bites would look more like mosquito bites.

went to the driver's bureau once only to find lines are hours long there. and there's no choice: you inspect your car, you get insurance, you change your license, and you do it as soon as possible. i was hoping to keep those illinois tags at least a little while, kind of an obama sticker, since apparently nobody has obama signs here. they're afraid to do it, i guess, at least in my part of town. there are plenty of r/r signs around, i guess it's ok to have one of those in your yard. or, you can choose between far-right, and far-far-far, lunatic that's a language that everyone understands. if you began to talk like these guys, you're a texaphone, if you like this stuff, you're a texaphile, but if it scares the heck out of you, i guess you're a texaphobe.

did research on the quaker ghost town; apparently quakers were the first settlers of lubbock county, out on the plain outside of town, about twenty miles, where they set up a small town of estacado, and a meeting house, but found the place hostile, one of their little girls was killed by a rattlesnake, and they up and left after a few years. they had a pretty good town going, it was the county seat of crosby county, but the surveyors came through and found out it was actually in lubbock county, so crosby county went and got their own county seat, and this place was left to rot. i asked the local quakers about it and some agreed, in principle at least, to go out and check out what's left of it, at least the cemetery, which is the most visible remainder of the community. the empty buildings, apparently, are not necessarily even associated with the quakers. to me this is interesting, getting out there, into the plain, seeing an old place like this.

i get a little more involved in the area, the history, the culture. i ask everyone about xerascape and sure enough, some are like me, and call it zeroscape...and it also is a topic of conversation. yet they have water, they say, just got some from a nearby lake. we can water the grass for what, maybe twenty more years. and all that watering is good, they say, because it's the development of houses, particularly in the southwest, that has kept the dust storms down. ah yes, not such a hostile environment anymore, I guess. no rattlers. just a blinding sun, makes you want to lay low, and stay by the fans and the zircon, until evening comes around. the football team trampled another victim today, this time texas state, but the basketball coach checked in the hospital and came back out, he's in trouble, and has somewhat of a history. looks like a good year for football, a bad one for basketball, and who knows what else. we have a lot going on, and barely can get ready for another week. i've begun looking for stray cacti, and various xerascape grasses, that i can take from the unwanted areas, and set going in my back alley. i'm thinking, the way to go is a little wildcat xerascape. some stuff grows just fine around here, doesn't mind a little drought (someone mentioned okra....other things, like sod or grass, you might as well not bother, unless you're going to get out there and water a lot. i'm thinking, might as well haul it in now. there's like buffalo grass, turfalo, etc. i'll give a report, and bring pictures. i've done zero so far. but i'm just starting...

Saturday, September 01, 2012

mornings are cool, clear, dry and beautiful and people go out in their courtyards with their coffee sometimes for entire mornings. days are hot, clear and dry so you have to watch it, you can't stay out there too long, you burn up. but evenings are cool, clear dry and beautiful again, and everyone comes back outside. it's great. if you miss one day, you can catch the next one, and that puts me in a good mood. there is a rare but occasional rain, which people celebrate, and dust storms which they consider a nuisance.

the dogs don't quite know how to handle it, because when we let them out into the courtyard, they can see through the fence, just enough of the street to know that people are walking, running or riding their bicycle right up the walk past the fence. and, there's a cat that kind of luxuriously walks around out there like it owns the place. so, rather than enjoying the fresh, cool mornings, or evenings, they often start barking. it's just not clear to them yet what a courtyard actually is.

my computer, which had a fried wireless card for about three weeks, now fires up ok, and i can get online easily. i don't know why. when it fires up, i can put pictures online (because, actually, i can get online on my phone anyway, and on my wife's computer, but my pictures are here), so i quick get all my pictures from the phone and put up what I want. I say "quick" because I know, if I get back off, I might stay off, i might be off for a while. and this has been what has happened in the past. it adds an element of randomness, and hassle, to my life. there's a possibility of getting a better one, a newer one, that i can use more; we'll see.

it's game day in a college town. in my previous college towns - i've lived in about five - this means a lot of drinking, large police presence, sensitivity about parking, and a certain amount of color awareness. namely, that you can tell who's into it by the colors that they wear. a certain minority of us wear whatever we want, but then are stuck in traffic, or stuck trying to find some parking place, where there's not a prayer of a chance. and then we say, i should have known, it was game day.

i'm using my lubbock site to talk to lubbock about what i see. i'm using the music site to collect music of the texas persuasion, though i'd put some of these elsewhere too. I've come to refer to my own interests as texaphilia (love of texas), texaphonia (speaking texan), texaphobia (fear of texas), etc. don't know if these are real words or not but they sound good. another good word is texish, which is mine entirely, you heard it first here. though of course, i'd be glad to share it, if it works. i'm working on variations that combine texting and texas, such as texas-messaging, for example.

there is a sense that this place, texas, is a world of its own, with enormous cities and wide territory, somewhat self-enclosed and self-absorbed. my own class is maybe 90% texan, or more; i'm always surprised that some kid can find his way out here from, say, new jersey, since i'd hardly heard of the place (lubbock, now, i'm talking about) before we were offered a job here. but it's got a role in the state, an image, and that sustains it as a growing university, since the entire state is growing. austin has grown from 200,000 to 500,000 in ten years and will soon go over a million; i talked to a woman from longview (a town i barely knew), and it had doubled in the time she had been in college. doubled and changed completely, according to her. houston picked up a few hundred grand in katrina and you'd think it would just boil over, or become inhospitable, but no, it just passed up philly, and probably chicago, and probably expanded another hundred miles or so out into the bush. it's how it is, and folks are used to it, i guess. i'll keep you posted.