Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's Now Black Thursday

by Bill Holmes

Once again it is almost time for Thanksgiving. That once best of all holidays when family and friends gathered for good food, good libations and good times. A relaxing day with eating and drinking spread over several hours. No pressure to buy and give gifts. No getting dressed up for a fancy meal at a fancy restaurant. The only requirement was to eat too much. Belts were loosened, maybe a top button or snap was undone. If you were smart you wore sweat or stretch pants to the competition.

A bonus was that many people have Friday off too so it becomes a four day break. Many people used the weekend to get the Christmas stuff out of the attic and begin decorating the house. But on Thursday nobody worried about that or anything else. A few diehards might get excited about the Cowboys or Lions football games, but most are nodding off.

The Friday after Thanksgiving has been the start of the Christmas shopping season for a long time. I guess there have been sales but they were like normal sales, maybe 20% off a few featured  items. Stores were open during normal Friday hours.

Well, that is so old fashion and 20th century. It's never too early to go Christmas shopping. The capitalism and merchandising creep began several years ago with the super-duper sales on Friday. This was mostly limited to the discount stores at first. Walmart might offer five 27" TVs per store for $50 or Target would have ten VCRs for $40. There were a host of other sale items, but only a few super deals. K-mart had more and better blue light specials. The stores still opened at their normal times or maybe an hour early.

At some point Black Friday became the accepted term for the day after Thanksgiving. The deals got more extravagant and the stores opened earlier. Other stores joined the trend. Now almost all stores have some kind of sale and extended hours. The opening hour creep has gotten worse. It went from 7:00 to 6:00 to 4:00 in the morning to midnight. A couple of stores began opening Thanksgiving evenings. Now there are no limits. Thanksgiving is just another shopping day, one with some outrageous promotional come-ons.

What was once Thanksgiving became Black Friday eve and is now Black Thursday. Soon it will become just plain Thursday in Christmas shopping kickoff week which will then become the fourth Thursday in Christmas shopping kickoff month. Eventually it will become just another Thursday in the Christmas shopping season which starts on Labor Day or maybe July 5th.

In my opinion this is all a big waste of time but it may be a blessing in disguise for people like me. I figure that most people will be done shopping and/or out of money by the time I start buying stuff. Unless they move Christmas, I think December 24th, maybe the 23rd, is a perfect day to shop.

I plan to enjoy this Thanksgiving with family and friends. There will be way too much food, maybe too much to drink, some football watching, some parlor games, old and new stories and kids who are a year older and bigger. There will not be any shopping. Remember when you are enjoying that second helping of turkey and dressing or that slice of pumpkin pie, there are thousands of workers manning the local Walmarts. Someday there may not be anyone left to go shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, everyone will be working.

We're losing one great holiday tradition among families and friends and replacing it with frenzied shopping among hostile strangers. Let's have a turkey sandwich on Friday and skip the malls. Don't forget Cyber Monday.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Mom at 103

by Bill Holmes 

Update 2015 - Another year goes by. Today Mom would have been 103. I am still trying to plow through the piles of photos that go back close to 100 years. I have managed to digitize more of them and share with family and friends. I hope you aren't tired of this post if you have read it before. I intend to republish it every year in late November. You are still missed and dearly loved Mom.

Update 2014 - Same deal this year. Today would have been Mom's 102nd birthday. She has now been gone over a dozen years. This past year I have been trying to sort through all the photos and other memorabilia she left behind. There are many treasures and surprises that have brought joy to me and others. Thanks for keeping all that stuff Mom. You have found a way to keep on giving to those of us still here. I still miss you and will always love you Mom.  

Update 2013 - This post was originally published a year ago on this blog. I have not changed anything except the title so the dates are a year off. Today would have been Mom's 101st birthday and the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination has now passed. I repost this because it's the most heartfelt post I've done and Mom deserves to be remembered. It has been almost a dozen years now since Mom said goodbye. If I'm still kicking next year and can remember you will see this again. I miss and love you Mom.   

November 22, 2012, was Thanksgiving. It was also the 49th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Those two events don't go together. Being that I'm a little over 49 years old, I remember it very well. It happened down the road in Dallas. He last spoke even closer in Fort Worth. Anniversary doesn't seem like the right word to remember that kind of event. Anniversary to me usually means a more joyous event. Your parent's 50th wedding anniversary, the anniversary of a school graduation or any other happy milestone event.

I have many memories of the day JFK was killed and the following few weeks. It was a sad and tragic time in my life. I think I'll save the details for next year which will be the 50th year since that event occurred.  If I'm lucky, I'll still be around and cognizant and able to write my thoughts.

I am a big fan of Thanksgiving. Except for the mass quantities of food, there are no expectations other than getting together with friends and family to enjoy the day. It didn't seem appropriate to remember or discuss that day 49 years ago on a day we celebrate and are thankful for all we have and enjoy. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, as it should be. No negative vibes.

The other event occurring around this time of year is the 100thanniversary of my Mother's birth, November 25, 1912. Obviously that was a much more important event in my life (pre-life) although I was oblivious of it at the time. Mom was born at home, none of that hospital nonsense needed. Home was a duplex in Winchester, Massachusetts. I wrote a blog in August about 100 years ago. That was more generic, this one is about my Mom. Besides Mom and Dad being born, 1912 was the year the Titanic sunk, the Olympic games in Stockholm and apparently when we discovered Antarctica.

If you knew my Mom, you loved my Mom. She was a gentle, proper, kind, caring, cultured and giving person. Like anyone born in 1912, she had some beliefs and ideas that probably wouldn't be considered modern or progressive now. She and I butted heads many times, but I always knew she loved me unconditionally and was on my side. I always loved her unconditionally too but was too young and too stupid to always show or articulate that love. I often disappointed my Mom and I regret that. She certainly didn't deserve a sometimes ungrateful son. Looking back, it wouldn't have been that hard to have reduced those disappointments.

I've always been thankful that my two sons got to know their Nana. She got to see her oldest grandson become a very successful adult and husband. He was the apple of her eye from the day he was born. When my youngest son came along, twenty years later, it was obvious that there was room for at least two apples in Nana's life. The younger son was in elementary school when Nana died but he was still devastated. The older son was devastated too since he had 30 years of her love. They both loved their Nana.

Mom lived until 2002 and was a few months shy of 90 years old. This is absolutely amazing. I know people live to be 90 but not many who went through what she did.  She had metastasized melanoma and lymphoma at a time in the late 1940's when people didn't survive any cancer. She went through experimental surgery, her choice, to save her leg when I was an infant. She wanted to be a two-legged Mom. Remember, they didn't have computerized prosthetic limbs 60 years ago. She had radiation therapy before the medical profession knew how to do it. That caused radiation burns and who knows what other damage. Her leg was saved and obviously she survived the procedure. For the next 60 years she lived with the limitations, pain and a severely scarred body from that and other surgery. She didn't complain about that, she was thankful to be alive and have two legs. She pushed herself to the limit and refused to yield to a damaged leg and body. That caused problems but she powered through them.Because she was in almost constant pain she ate aspirin like candy. That eventually led to an ulcer and major hemorrhage when she was in her 70's. The only change was that she lost some weight because they removed 2/3rds of her stomach. There were other challenges along the way too. I think she had about 10 major operations. Then her eyes started to go but either the doctors screwed up or she just couldn't heal anymore so she got to be half blind for years. No complaints at least about her health. If she could move and get out of bed, she was ready to go.

Way before the grandkids came along I got to be the apple of her eye. I consider myself a Florida guy, but I was born in New Jersey and lived there for six years. I went to kindergarten there but luckily spent the rest of my scholastic career and formative years in Florida. The reason I bring up the New Jersey connections is that after Mom recovered from her first cancer, she used to take me to New York City. We'd ride the bus from Kearny/North Arlington, probably a bus stop on the Belleville Turnpike into New York City. Maybe into the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a lovely place. I remember standing on the bus seat and looking out the window, not the least bit safe. I remember being curious about everything we saw on the way to the big city. I remember the stink from the pig farms when we rode through Secaucus.

After some other buses and/or subways or very rarely a taxi, we'd be at the Museum of Natural History (my favorite) or the Guggenheim or the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) or some other great place. We would also often stop by Macy's or Gimbels or Saks and on a few occasions FAO Schwarz. All those places were magical to a four or five year old. They were also huge. In later years I realized that those places were normal size (OK, a little bigger than normal) and I was small. Not that I'm big now, but not tiny. We also always had at least lunch and sometimes an early supper in an adult restaurant in NYC before the bus ride home. I was taught by my Mom how to behave in public and I did. It was understood that as long as I acted appropriately, I could do adult things and go to adult places. I can't remember her ever having to correct my behavior on those trips. Probably because I wanted to go to those places with her and I knew the rules. Those trips to NYC have stuck with me my whole life. I still love to go to museums and nice restaurants. I appreciate those finer things in life even though I can mostly only look from afar. I've been lucky to have lived or spent time in NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, DFW and other places that have great museums and other attractions. Just a couple of weeks ago I was at the Kimbell Museum (one of the great places) in Fort Worth with a dear friend. We both enjoyed the exhibition and each other's company but my overwhelming feeling was that I missed my Mom and wished she could share this with me. I knew why I was enjoying the museum. It was because my Mom exposed me to fine art at a very early age. One of the great regrets of my life is that Mom never got to come to visit us here in DFW. It wasn't her fault, that's another story. She would have absolutely loved the museum district in Fort Worth, I think the Kimbell would have been her favorite. We would have had to also go to Dallas Museum of Art and Sixth Floor Museum. Oh yes, lunch at the Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus would have been on the agenda too.

I will be forever grateful to my Mother. She encouraged my curiosity and more importantly good manners and behavior. You can take a kid anywhere if they behave. That's not a common practice nowadays. Taking kids everywhere is common, it's the good behavior that is not.

After moving from the metropolitan New York City area to Florida our cultural outings were greatly reduced. That and as the little five year old grew into a little ten year old and then a little teenager there wasn't as much Mom time. We hit the museums, historical places and points of interest when we were on vacation but it wasn't the same. Mom kept up her cultural muscles by going to the symphony, ballet and touring plays.

Mom also instilled in me my love of reading. She was a stay at home mom until I was about 12. When I was very young she read to me every day. She's the one who taught me how to read and write which I knew how to do before kindergarten. She taught me all the other proper behavior, manners and etiquette that was so important to her. Of course I thought many of those things were old fashion and unnecessary. In fact many of those practices were from the nineteenth century, taught to my Mom by my Grandmother (born in the 1880's). My Grandmother was also a very gentle, proper, kind, caring, cultured and giving person. I had many great times with her too. She raised me when I was an infant and Mom was sick. Now I'm not saying all that training took. Most of my good behavior was limited to times I had to be well behaved but at least I knew the rules when I needed them.

Mom had another important job in my youth. She kept my Dad from killing me on several occasions. She would intervene when the punishment didn't fit the crime or better yet, keep my screwups a secret. She was also my cheerleader and supporter. She was in charge of giving me encouragement and Dad was in charge of the criticism.

She taught me to appreciate quality. It was better to have a few good quality items than several cheap things. A couple of good outfits were better than a closet full of inferior clothes. A solidly built piece of furniture was better than a house full of particle board. In fact I have much of the furniture that my parents bought in the 1940's. My oldest son has several of those pieces too. My modern flat screen TV is sitting on a small chest that was in my Mother's house when she was a child. I still have the desk and chair Mom bought me when I was about 10 or 12. The second part of buying quality was to take care of your stuff. Now buying quality things is easy when you have a lot of money. Mom had to squeeze her weekly household money until it squealed in order to buy nice things. She was a master at that. She always had a stash somewhere that Dad didn't know about. Even until the very end she squirreled away a few bucks.

During the last few weeks before her death, she was barely able to speak and was too weak and unsteady to write. Dad was almost deaf and also lacked the patience to figure out what Mom was trying to communicate. I wound up being the only one who could understand more than a simple yes or no or hand gesture. One day in the hospital she motioned me to her bed. I put my ear to her mouth, read her lips and eventually figured out what she was saying. She told me to look in the pocket of her white quilted coat that was at home in the closet and to keep what I found. What I found was a pill container that had a couple of hundred dollars rolled up in it. That was her mad money. She must have known she was near the end and didn't want that money going with the coat when we cleaned out the closets.

Even in the end, Mom was thinking of others. Her whole life she was giving her time or money to the church or some cause. She was embarrassed and apologetic whenever she was in the hospital or sick. She didn't like putting other people out. She reasoned that family and friends were spending their valuable time visiting and taking care of her. She was much more comfortable doing that for others.

Yes, like most people born in 1912, Mom was a little old fashioned. She was also overflowing with love for her family and fellow humans. There's nothing wrong with being a gentle, proper, kind, caring, cultured and giving person.

She was a wonderful Mom, Nana, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, in-law and friend. I regret that she didn't get to be a wonderful great-Nana also. She missed that by almost exactly two years. I think of her almost every day and I miss her every day.

If there is a heaven she is surely there. With a healthy body, endless museums to visit, Broadway shows and symphonies to attend, plants and flowers to tend to, shopping at the finest stores, attending an afternoon tea with finger sandwiches and a secret hiding place in a cloud for her mad money. She also has a perfect view of her beloved grandsons and those great-grandsons she never met.

Happy 100th Birthday Mom. I love you.


Scattershooting 11-24-13

by Bill Holmes

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great  

Randolph Scott

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

Just saw on the morning news (11/19) that Michael Olson is the new bishop of the Ft. Worth diocese. I remember going to his ordination at the very cathedral he will now preside over. Congratulations Michael and all the Olson family.

The ordination and installation as bishop will be January 29, 2014.

Laura & George W. Bush were on Leno Tuesday night. Retirement suits them well. Both look great and W was very relaxed and funny.

Big news by the Texas Rangers. They traded Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder. A trade that should help both teams.

Brrrrrrr! Cold front blasting in late tonight (11/21). Better get some extra firewood for the weekend. Oh wait, I don't have a fireplace. Might be a little dangerous to have a fire.

Many of the local reports about the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade refer to Ian as "fan favorite". He seemed like an OK guy. No arrests or suspensions, but no great leadership either. My opinion after watching him for eight years would be a little above average. He often drove me crazy with brain dead or lackadaisical plays both fielding and baserunning. The Rangers have enough middle infield talent to make him expendable. Both Detroit and the Rangers should benefit from this trade.
Ian Kinsler
What BS that the changes to the Senate filibuster rules are called the Nuclear Option. Perhaps a little over dramatic?

What a difference a day makes (24 little hours) - yesterday (11/21) around this time I went for a walk wearing a t-shirt then a couple of hours later a bike ride. Today it is 37° with 30 mph wind gusts and 26° wind chill. Think I might need more than a t-shirt today. Better yet, think I'll do some cooking next to a warm stove.

There's going to be hell to pay for the local TV stations. ABC, CBS & NBC are all preempting soap operas today to cover the Kennedy assassination commemoration in downtown Dallas. (11/22)

Commander Holmes is home for Thanksgiving before returning to the Middle East. A couple of ensigns broke protocol and gave him a hug instead of a crisp salute. No disciplinary action is expected. Welcome home son.

Daddy made it home for R & R. Yay!!!! I had to hold the boys back so they didn't run past the big red circle and get tackled by TSA. Lol
(Unfortunately his bag didn't make it but hopefully it will be here later today)

  • Somehow it seems appropriate that it is such a miserable day (11/22) here in D/FW. Cold, windy, rainy and miserable.

I hope there are good football games on TV today (11/23) and tomorrow. I think the bikes and their rider will be staying inside until Wednesday.

Kelly & Sons at the FSU game in Tallahassee. Not a Gators fan in the bunch.

Boy - you really get the bottom rung announcers on these ESPN3 only games. These guys doing the Gators game are terrible.

It's official. The Gators have reached a new low. They lost a game in the Swamp to a Division II team. Georgia Southern 26 Florida 20. No bowl this year. Next game against FSU should be really ugly.

Hard to believe but the Mark Twain Award TV show for Carol Burnett was mostly terrible and not funny. All the testimonials were over scripted and the jokes were forced. There were a couple of funny old clips but even some of the ones chosen weren't great. The highlight might have been when Tony Bennett sang a song, no inane speech. Yes, they did play the Scarlett O'Hara scene.
And lastly as we head into this Holiday week -


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Football 2013 - Week 13

by Bill Holmes

My recap of the only football games that matter

The season is winding down. While the pros still have five weeks left in the regular season, high schools are already into playoffs and colleges only have one or two games left. Then we have a few conference championship games followed by 742 college bowl games.

The Falcons start out the week with a Thursday home game against New Orleans. Of course this would be a blowout by the 8-2 Saints vs 2-8 Atlanta. Not exactly, remember this is the very unpredictable NFL. As it turns out it was a low scoring and close game. Have no fear though the Falcons did succumb to the Saints 17-13. The game was 14-13 at halftime, so you can imagine what a thrilling second half it was. There was one thrilling field goal in the third quarter and no scoring in the final 20 minutes. The difference turned out to be the five sacks by NO and an Atlanta fumble. This is the fifth loss in a row for the Falcons. It assures a losing season and eliminates them from the division race. The 2-9 Birds next travel to frigid Buffalo to play the 4-7 Bills.

Unfortunately this will be the last high school update for this season. The Bishop Kenny Crusaders finally lost a game but they didn't go down easily. The Clay County Blue Devils won the game 74-73. That is not a misprint or a basketball score. Amazingly it was a regulation football game, no overtime. The bad news of course is that Kenny is eliminated from the playoffs. BK was leading 60-44 after three quarters but Clay outscored Kenny 30-13 in the final period for the upset. As you can imagine there were a few yards gained by both sides. The Blue Devils had 638 total yards, the Crusaders had 834. There was some good news for BKs outstanding quarterback John Wolford. He alone accounted for 773 total yards, 234 rushing and 539 passing, scoring 10 touchdowns, 2 rushing and 8 passing. Too bad he had no defensive support. Wolford broke the all-time Florida high school records for career passing yards and touchdowns. He passed Tim Tebow to take the touchdown crown. Well done John on a great four years. Too bad he's a senior. The Crusaders finish the season with a 10-1 record. They had a great run. Congratulations to the team and John Wolford.
John Wolford
The only good news on Saturday was that TCU had an off week. That's the high point.

The USF Bulls lost at home to the always powerful SMU Mustangs 16-6. It was another outstanding offensive performance by South Florida. They were held scoreless until about 2½ minutes were left in the game and that was on a 50 yard punt return, not by the offense. The Bulls threw two interceptions and were penalized 107 yards. An absolute terrible showing. USF falls to 2-8, 2-4 for the season. Unfortunately they still have two games to play. Next game is Friday at state rival the #19 University of Central Florida Knights who sport a 9-1, 6-0 record, a road trip of less than 100 miles.

As bad as the USF lose was, there was an even more pitiful game that took place in Gainesville. The once mighty Florida Gators were beaten by the Georgia Southern Eagles 26-20. Losing football games by this edition of the Gators is not unusual this season but two factors make this lose especially egregious. First, the game was in The Swamp, the once secure home field of nasty Gators. Secondly, and even more appalling, the Eagles are a Division II (now call FCS) team. It is like the varsity losing to the junior varsity. Want some more good news? GSU outgained Florida 429 to 279 yards. More, all 429 yards were via the rush. The Eagles only attempted three passes and completed exactly none. So, the mighty Gator defense knew what was coming and still couldn't stop it. GSU even lost two fumbles just to make it a more even game. Florida gave up runs of 66, 53 and 45 yards. Two Eagles rushed for over 100 yards and a third had 94. Did I mention the Gators even got off to a 10-0 lead? This is the first Florida lose ever to an FCS team, the first losing season since 1979, their sixth consecutive lose. The Gators will not be going to a bowl this year either, the first time in 22 years. There are probably some other milestones, all bad, that I missed. UF falls to 4-7, 3-5 for the year. Next they host the #2 ranked Florida State Seminoles who sport an 11-0 record. That could be very ugly. It seems to me that Seminoles are at home in the swamp.

In the SEC there were three non-conference games. Alabama and South Carolina managed to win easily against patsy teams. Florida lost to their patsy opponent. The big game was #12 Texas A&M at #22 LSU. Johnny Football and the Aggies didn't fair too well in Baton Rouge, LSU won 34-10. The Tigers never trailed. Manziel was only 16/41 and two interceptions. There will be some shakeup in the rankings and the Heisman race. The other SEC games ended pretty much as expected. Missouri and Alabama lead the two divisions but both can still be overtaken in the last games next week. In the new BCS rankings, there are three SEC teams in the top 5. four in the top 10 and six in the top 25. Alabama is still ranked #1 but they play #4 Auburn on Saturday. 

A final college note, #2 FSU mashed the Idaho Potatoes (actually Vandals) 80-14. I'm sure the Noles were extra inspired because my oldest son and his family were in the stands. The Seminoles are now 11-0, 8-0 for the year. They strengthened their overall hold on the second spot in the BCS rankings and actually bested #1 Alabama in the computer polls. There next game is at the hapless Florida Gators then on to the ACC championship game probably against Duke although Georgia Tech can still win the Coastal Division too. FSU's biggest problem now is can they keep their quarterback Jameis Winston on the field. He is under investigation for sexual assault.

In the professional action, Atlanta had already lost on Thursday. Would the Jags and Bucs hold up their end? Not exactly.

The Jacksonville Jaguars pounded the Houston Texans 13-6. It seems the Texans are even more inept on offense than the Jags. Maurice Jones-Drew scored a touchdown in the first quarter then the teams traded field goals the rest of the game. Jax actually won the statistical battle. Chad Henne was 23/32 for 239 passing yards. Jones-Drew had 84 rushing yards. Neither total is spectacular but you must remember what team we're talking about. The Jaguars improve to 2-9 for the season and are now in a three way tie for the top draft choice. They are also now tied with the Texans for last place in the AFC South after holding sole possession of that position all year. The two teams meet again on 12/5 to break that tie. The Jags next travel to beautiful Cleveland to play the 4-7 Browns.

Just a few minutes after the Jaguars victory another miracle happened. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Detroit Lions 24-21. The Bucs lost everything but the turnover stat and game. The Lions had five turnovers. Despite that TB needed an 85 yard TD passing play in the fourth quarter to come from behind. The final interception came inside there own five yard line in the final minute to seal the deal. There were six lead changes in the game. This dominating win gives the Bucs a 3-8 record, all three wins in a row. The victory moves Tampa Bay one game behind in the draft race and moves them into third place in the NFC South one game ahead of Atlanta. They travel to the 8-3 Carolina Panthers next so their win streak is in jeopardy of being stopped at three.

In one other NFL note, the Vikings and Packers tied at 26 on the frozen tundra. It was the first tie of the year and the first ever tie effected by the new OT rules. In years prior to 2012 the Packers would have won since they scored a field goal first in the OT period. With the new rules, the first team to score must get a TD for OT to end in sudden death. In this case, Minnesota came back and scored there own field goal to again tie the score. Time ran out before either team could score again.  


Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering the Kennedy Assassination

This article was originally published 11/22/2013, the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. It has now been 54 years.

Do you remember where you were? Were you even alive or old enough to realize what was going on? I was alive, am old enough and I vividly remember the moment I heard the news. It was the first of those "where were you" events in my life. There were other events and days before this that are permanently etched into my brain but they are more personal. There were also events like the Cuban Missile Crisis that didn't have a specific day or time although those of us living in Florida were very concerned just the year before this fateful day. This particular event was shared with the whole country, no, the whole world. What am I talking about? It was the day President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. It was November 22, 1963. It was a Friday the week before Thanksgiving which was very late that year. Ironically on this 50th anniversary of the assassination, the calendar lines up exactly the same. November 22 is again a Friday and Thanksgiving is late on the 28th.
JFK in Fort Worth 11/22/63
There have been thousands of essays, reports, studies, theories, documentaries, books, TV shows and movies about the assassination. Especially in the last couple of weeks and especially here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Everybody has an opinion about the who, how and why of the event. This post is neither a recount of the actual events or my theory on those events. This is about one teenager's remembrance of that day. While I distinctly remember first hearing the news, some of the details after that moment are fuzzy. Part of that is because it happened 50 years ago and part is because I think we were all in at least partial shock at the time. Even 1963's self-centered teenagers were shaken from their insulated world.

I was in my 11th grade English class which was probably my second period after lunch. Kennedy was shot at 1:30 PM EST (12:30 CST in Dallas) and pronounced dead at 2:00 PM EST. The official announcement was at 2:30 PM EST. This was in the days way before the internet, cell phones and Twitter so we would have gotten the news at least several minutes after the events occurred. Since it wasn't World Series time, none of us had sneaked a radio into class.

I attended a Catholic high school. Although it was technically a co-ed school, we did not have co-ed classes and in fact had separate girl and boy buildings which were across the street from each other. There was minimal sanctioned cross pollination between the genders. The girls had to come to our building for lunch or to use the library. We had to cross the street to the girls side to take typing class or maybe go to a yearbook or prom meeting. Lunch was still segregated as was the typing class.
The Alma Mater

My English class was taught by Sister Violetta. It was one of the few classes I had in my four years of high school that was taught by a nun. The boys mostly had priests and lay male teachers, the nuns mostly taught the girls. Sister Violetta was probably the youngest nun at the school. As I remember she was a good teacher. She tried to be serious and very professional but some of our male teenage antics made her smile. The classroom was the homeroom for Coach Parete. In fact, we had Coach Parete as our American History teacher in that room either right before or right after English. We even got a break on a couple of assignments. Coach P. would grade a paper on the history content and Sr. Violetta would grade it on grammar and spelling for English. One paper, two grades, sweet. I digress.

That particular classroom's front door was the first one you would run into when coming from the administration wing to the classroom wing. So on that tragic day, we were probably the first class, at least in the boy's building to get the news. We were going along normally in class when Sister Thomas Joseph (Sr. TJ),  our principal, came to the door and knocked. There were small windows in the doors, so we saw who it was. Sr. Violetta went to the door and had a short hushed conversation with Sr. TJ. When she came back into the room she was crying. I sat near the front and had caught a glimpse of Sr. TJ. She was or at least had been crying too. Sr. Violetta went to her desk, sat down and told us the sad news. We were all shocked. She said class was over and to just stay in our seats. The advice was to put our heads on our desks. I'm sure we were told to pray too. How is a 16 year old suppose to process that kind of devastating news? We didn't have an army of school counselors available, in fact, we didn't have any counselors.

I honestly don't remember what happened at the end of that period. Did we change classes, did we stay where we were, did we go to our homeroom? The funeral was the following Monday, November 25th. I remember watching on TV, CBS in our house. Walter Cronkite was anchoring and it was in black and white, at least on our TV. I also don't remember whether we went back to school on Tuesday and Wednesday of that week before the normal Thanksgiving holiday. I do know it was a sad Thanksgiving. It was also probably my Mom's saddest birthday on November 25th, the day of the funeral. Like 9/11 almost four decades later, everything stopped for a few days and then the country got on with life.
JFK Funeral Procession
This was a devastating event in our history. It was a particularly devastating event for an Irish Catholic teenager. Kennedy was the first Catholic president in our history. I'm mostly Irish. I was in the 12th year of my 13 years in Catholic schools (K-12). I was an altar boy. I was in a class taught by a nun when the news broke. Kennedy was adored by the nuns. JFK was the youngest elected president, 43 years old. Younger than my parents. Every other politician I knew of was an old fart.

Like the nuns, my Mom was devastated. John Kennedy may have been the first national Democrat she ever voted for. My parents were only five years older than JFK who besides being the first Catholic was also the first president born in the 20th century.

We eventually recovered from this tragedy. School continued, we went back to our self-absorbed teenage lives. We immersed ourselves in our romances, the Beach Boy, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kingston Trio, finding booze, going to the beach, talking dad into using the car, and a myriad of other very important activities. Despite our return to almost normal, we were never the same. Camelot was gone. In the years to come almost everything got turned around. The Vietnam war and the draft hung over us. Bobby and Martin were assassinated. Nixon came and went. We lost our unquestioning faith in the government. The post WWII victory blush and boom were gone.

I think those quantum changes started that November day in 1963.

I know that day changed Dallas. The establishment got a little more tolerant. Even to this day, there is some guilt and embarrassment. For the first time ever, Dallas is recognizing the anniversary of the event. There are finally ceremonies at Dealey Plaza for the first time in 50 years. I find it somewhat ironic that I now live in the area where JFK spent the last two days of his life. I've been to all the places the Kennedy's went back then. I've been to Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum.
Dealey Plaza 

I also find it ironic that this area (D/FW) is so anti-Obama. In some ways, the old white conservative anti-Catholic (maybe anti-black) guard are reemerging. It died down a little for a few years. I guess 50 years is too long ago to remember or to learn from. They once hated a Catholic president, now they hate a Black president. Funny, in 1963 Ft. Worth was much more blue collar and Democratic. Kennedy had a good reception there. Now it's mostly a very red area.

We are all a conglomeration of our genes, upbringing, environment, education, friends and extraordinary events we witness or live through. This was one of those extraordinary events that shaped my life and my views. I am a child (a very old child) of the 60"s. It's too bad we had to kill our best and brightest before we emerged from that decade.

Where were you that day?


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Perceptions of Youth

by Bill Holmes 

I have no idea what triggered this line of thought but the other day I found myself looking up something about the area of New Jersey where I was born. I consider myself a Floridian but in fact I was born well north of the Mason-Dixon line. I got to the South as soon as I could. One thing led to another and before long I was checking information about the towns some of my cousins lived in. We moved to Florida when I was six years old so many of my memories are faded or distorted by the eyes and memories of a four or five year old. There were a few visits back to the old neighborhood in New Jersey during my youth and a couple in my adulthood but things change. I don't think I've been back to the old haunts in 35 years. I've been to the New York City area many times in those 35 years but it was always on business and I never seemed to have time to venture into Northern New Jersey to just wander around. Most of the relatives are either dead, have moved from the area or I've lost touch with them so there wasn't any family to visit. Most of my NYC area business trips were to IBM in White Plains, Poughkeepsie, Fish Kill or to GTE in Stamford or Norwalk. All those places are north of the city. Those times I was in Manhattan for meetings or a conference I never had a car. I didn't want to take a bus or the PATH trains across the river without having transportation at the other end. The closest I've gotten to that area lately is when I watched the Sopranos.

Both my grandmothers and a couple of aunts lived in the town right next to the one we lived in when I was little. My parents each had two sisters so we didn't have a huge extended family. I only had eight first cousins, two of whom were born around the time we moved to Florida. One of my mom's sisters and one of my dad's sisters lived way far away, or so I thought. I remember piling into the family car, initially a 1938 Olds later a 1946 Pontiac, for the trips. It seemed like we had to drive through the country to get to their houses. That was exotic to me. The town we lived in and the next one over where most relatives lived were pretty much built out even way back then. Those two distant aunts also lived in what I thought were big houses on huge lots. We lived in an apartment as did most of the rest of our relatives. One other local aunt lived in a house with a postage stamp yard. The front yard was only a couple of steps deep and a couple of feet wider than the house. So, for our visits to the boondocks we had to go for a long drive through the country and then we arrived at a large estate.

Now the reality. I recently looked up the distances on Google Maps. One of these country families lived about 15 miles away. The other a whopping 25 miles. Now I know the roads in 1950 would be different than those today and speed limits were lower but there would have been less traffic and I doubt the total distance would vary by much. We also usually made those visits on the weekend so traffic shouldn't have been too bad. To put this into perspective many people have daily one way commutes to work longer than 25 miles. Many Sundays I ride my bike over 30 miles often over 40 miles. I ride more than 15 miles during many weekdays.

Another big deal and long trip was when Mom would take me to Manhattan. It was actually about a 12 mile bus ride and then a couple of more miles by subway to the Museum of Natural History. Radio City Music Hall was about eight or ten blocks from the new Port Authority Bus Terminal. We would go after morning rush hour and although the bus made a few stops, it was not like a local route with stops every block or two. Not exactly an epic journey.
Museum of Natural History - NYC
Another thing I had no concept of was the population of those towns. As I said earlier, the towns in our immediate vicinity were mostly built out. One town ran into the next with no unincorporated land to be found. Ironically the town I live in now is almost built out and is completely surrounded by other towns with no unincorporated land. There is still unincorporated and vacant land in other parts of the county though. The town I live in now is about three times more populated than the crowded town I lived in back then. Part of that is because a big chunk of the old home town is a cemetery with a population of almost 300,000. That includes several relatives including my Mom's ashes and my maternal grand parents. As a child, we lived a block from the cemetery and my friends and I used to play in the open areas. We never played near the graves. If you did that you would become a resident immediately and go to Hell. By the way, the cemetery seemed huge back then and in fact it is, over 200 acres.

It isn't just little kids that have problems with distance perception. One of my cousins who is a few years older than I am was in Miami at a convention in the 1960's. This cousin had lived his entire life in New Jersey and hadn't been out of the Northeast very often. While in Miami he called my dad, his uncle, to say he had some free time during the convention and since he was in the same state thought maybe he'd drive up to visit us and have lunch or dinner. Well, it's approximately 350 miles from Miami to Jacksonville. I think a 700 mile round trip would have been a little much for lunch. Needless to say he didn't drop by. Turns out Florida is a little bigger than New Jersey. I don't know what he'd think if he ever visited Texas

It's funny how our perceptions change over time. That huge house or long trip of our youth becomes a little cottage and a 15 minute drive. I'll never again see my grandparents big house or drive to that aunt and uncle who lived way out in the country. I'll never take that adventurous bus ride to Manhattan again to see the dinosaurs at the museum or a movie at Radio City Music Hall. What I will always have are the memories. As long as I have those memories, Aunt Helen will live far away in the country with a huge yard and Manhattan is another world only reachable by a big bus. All those trips requiring me to take care of my wonderful Mom, or maybe the other way around.

Do you have any huge places that have shrunk or far away places that got closer?


Monday, November 18, 2013

Scattershooting 11-17-13

by Bill Holmes

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great  

Roberto Clemente

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

  • Is there hope for the Gators next year? Maybe a real QB next season.

It was very scary for a couple of minutes. The Kroger I shop in is being remodeled. I've seen very few results except removal of most of the floor tiles and a little paint for at least three weeks. That changed today. I noticed some shelves and a few other things moved near the front. Then came the scary part. I turned onto the beer aisle and found yogurt, juice, etc. but no beer. That whole dairy/beverage side of the store is being moved around. Where was the beer? Finally found it on some temporary shelves in the back. There was no cold beer, in fact those coolers are gone. I almost called Beerman to come to the rescue. Cold beer needs to be Kroger's highest priority. Just in case, I bought a little extra.

For those of you who were concerned for my well being I have good news. The lukecool beer that I was forced to buy today due to store remodeling has reached acceptable drinking temperature. I'm testing it right now to be sure.

I'm not too crazy about the wind/temp Tuesday or that 29° Wednesday morning.

My favorite future veteran and his lovely wife not too long before his current tour in the Middle East. Thanks son. Be safe.

It was one of those days -

This is not my idea of southern living. It's 30° with 24° wind chill. It has dropped to 65° inside. May have to turn the heat on.

  • Oh no, Muscamp gets a vote of confidence. You all know what that means.

Richard Cohen wrote in the Washington Post - "People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?)"

You gotta give him credit, Cohen offended almost everybody in just one sentence and a parenthetical phrase. Also according to him he is not racist. Apparently not anti-LGBT either.

BTW, if one parent is black and the other white what kind of kids are they suppose to have? I think biracial is a good choice.

Probably got a bad batch of roids. Not sure if that's steroids or hemorrhoids. Poor A-Roid.

So what does this portend for Android?
Waaaaaaaaaay too early. KLUV, an oldies station, started playing all Christmas music this morning (11/15). Guess I won't be listening to them for awhile. Crank up the Pandora.

Giving Linux Mint 16 (Petra) 64 bit Cinnamon RC a try. Running off a USB ISO for now. Seems to be working OK. (11/15)

Turned out to be a great day(11/17) for a bike ride. Temps in the 80's, calm winds. Lotsa traffic though. Every convertible in D/FW was on the road, all with the top down and many with dogs. The Bedford Bark Park had several visitors too.

UpdateIt appears the east end of the local Kroger remodeling is substantially done. The beer (most important section) is in new coolers where the cheese used to be, the cheese is where the juice was, the juice and most other dairy, including yogurt, is where the beer was, milk expanded into the old yogurt area and a few other tweaks. Got it? The rest of the store is still pretty much the same although it looks like the deli area may be next. I'm sure all these changes are scientifically determined by marketing geniuses and will cause a huge improvement in profits for this store.