Friday, July 13, 2007

What Was It Like When You Were A Kid -- Presidents Part 1

My kids ask us this all the time. I can't remember wanting to hear so much about my parent's childhoods, but this stuff fascinates my kids. When we were in Dallas, Bill wanted to take them to the site where the president was murdered. I really didn't want to go, but he thought it was important for them to understand it as part of their history studies. Surprisingly, the kids didn't get as much out of it as we did. We'd both been there before as visitors always ask to go. We cringe inside because this was so not a tourist thing to us, but we will take them. Anyway it's been a long time since anyone has asked.

We were there on a quiet morning and had the area mostly to ourselves. We were able to walk around, cross the street, walk up and down the length of the route and think about what we had lived through. I couldn't really make my kids see how close to home this hit us. Removed so far by time, this holds no real fear or sorrow in their hearts.

My own reaction surprised me. As I stood there I got angry for the very first time. When it all happened, we were terrified and then deeply grieved. Now I looked at the window out of which a gun had been pointed, saw the quite street that had been filled with neighbors that day, and really registered the wrong done to us all.

We also learned something new about the book depository. There is a historical marker which explains the history of the building itself. The depository was a municipal building constructed in 1901. This means it was built by someone in my family.

Our grandmother's family were all stone masons. They worked every turn of the century municipal project in the city, because they were the best. I don't know which ones would have worked on this building because there were dozens of them; great-grandfather, great-uncles, cousins, etc. I know most of their work, because they would point out the buildings and talk about what they had done. My great-grandfather loved to just drive around the city pointing to the family's work. He said they were "built to last."

Why didn't I know about this very famous building? I'm guessing they wouldn't have wanted to talk about it, wouldn't have wanted any of us to be reminded of it. But I stood there and read the plaque and knew for the first time. This made me so angry at the evil of the thing done here that I shook.

Another Texas historical marker down in the park area explained that this was the original site of the first settlement in Dallas. I didn't know that either. The park had been there long before the terrible events in 1963, but I never thought to ask why. So, school kids don't go there to picnic and learn about the history of the city. Families don't sit on the benches. Old men don't feed the birds. There was once a reflecting pool. It's been drained and stands as an empty white hole. It would have reflected the surrounding buildings and who wants that? Instead of park goers, there are conspiracy freaks prowling around with ghoulish glee, crawling across our childhood. A man approached with a lurid color photo showing the whole ugly thing, silently screaming its horror. The young wife crawling across the back of the car, the young leader gone. I asked the man why the hell he thought I would need his picture to know what happened in my own home. He retreated quickly, and my kids just looked at me wondering why I was so upset. They'd seen similar photographs their whole lives. Why so angry?

The kids were more interested in hearing about the family's work building the zoo, the red bricked streets in the historical parts of town and the university. They are fascinated by the mansions with their wealthy owners. All built to last.

I wanted to write about Lady Bird Johnson today but found I couldn't without thinking through this other thing first. I'll write about that sweet lady tomorrow.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Hating Dallas and Other Pastimes

One thing that unites most of the state of Texas is our hatred of the city of Dallas. All the major cities have a gentle rivalry. We compete over which city has the best food or music, which has the best rodeo, or even where the real cowboys belong. But almost everyone will agree that whatever good there is in any city, Dallas is not it. The only time the city starts to have virtues in our eyes is if we add non-Texas cities into the mix.

Our very short trip to Dallas and back has resulted in some very interesting discussion about the city to our north. My favorite encounter has to be the one Bill had with our friend and physician during his physical. Bill told the doctor he had just come back from taking Morgan and I to see the Police in Dallas. Our doctor became very upset.

"Why did Donna and Morgan have to see the police?" he asked. " Why the Dallas police of all things? Why did you have business in Dallas in the first place?" he wanted to know. " I would think you folks would know to stay away from Dallas. Was Donna hurt, or Morgan? Why wasn't I called before you all went off to Dallas of all places?????"

OK, so here are the two great things about that conversation. One, my doctor didn't have a clue that there's a band called The Police. Two, even when Bill explained it to him, he still thought it didn't justify a trip to Dallas. I also have to admire the nerdly complete lack of concern that he hadn't heard of one of the biggest bands from his young adulthood. (He owns a ranch in Round Top not far from Willie Nelson. I'm guessing he would sure know who that is.)

Another interesting conversation was with the very nice lady who is my usual cashier at Kroger. Bill and I stopped at the grocery store to pick up snacks for the drive. It was mostly junk food, and the cashier teased me a bit about it. When I told her we were driving up to Dallas, she completely stopped ringing up my order. Then she looked me right in the eye and with steely determination declared "I HATE DALLAS," while jabbing her finger in the air for emphasis.

I was so appalled that she might think that I was from Dallas that I quickly explained that I was from Ft. Worth and equally hated Dallas. She relaxed somewhat and nodded knowing that the people of Ft. Worth hated Dallas even more than it was despised by the good people of Houston. Like our doctor, she also stated flatly that we were wrong to go there. When I told her we were going to see The Police, and she answered that we should have stuck to seeing them in Houston. "Nothing good comes out of Dallas," she warned me ominously.

By the time we got home everyone had at least one, "This is why I hate Dallas," story. Even my very mild mannered and soft-spoken husband found himself in a hot dispute with one of the natives. Morgan and I, ironically, had a run-in with a traffic cop on our way to the concert. He had made some confusing hand directions and got really mad when we misunderstood him. We both apologized but he continued to yell as we stood on the curb in the rain.

I finally told him, "We're from Houston."

It worked exactly as I thought. He said he should have known that was what was wrong with us. Then, he looked me in the eye and snorted, "I ... Hate .... Houston!"

Sometimes life's funny that way.

(P.S. The photo above is from the Ft. Worth livestock show. At least twice a year they take some cattle through the city streets. I love it. Guess where I think the really cowboys live?)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Police Reunion Tour Dallas and Houston

After I've gone on about these concerts for weeks, we've finally done it. We saw the Police in both Dallas and Houston last week. The rest of the family is glad it's over and hoping we'll stop singing old Police songs every chance we get. Morgan and I definitely got a bit obsessive about the idea of getting to attend two concerts in the same week, but I think we're now bigger fans than ever. The concert in Houston on Friday was fantastic. We loved the Dallas concert Tuesday, but there were some pretty big problems. Most of the things we noted had been cleaned up on Friday, and we saw the band perform as they should. These are three gifted and experienced musicians who should be held to a very high standard. Friday, they began to approach that level of quality.

Here are a few of our observations.

Stewart Copeland is an amazing percussionist. We never really got it before we saw him live. This guy is so focused and dedicated, the perfect rock and roll drummer. He never overwhelmed the trio, as I thought he might and showed a mastery of timing and precision in the Houston concert that is unrivaled in my experience.

Andy Summers is a fine guitarist, but some of the problems we heard in the Dallas concert were, we think, a result of his rushing the beat and taking off on his own. He had some rather fine solos in which he performed magnificently in both concerts. , and his Houston performance was much tighter. I think, in part, this was because Stewart stayed very focused no matter what might be going on with the guitar, so Andy couldn't take them off. Andy had some amusing interactions with Sting and Stewart in both concerts.

Sting was energetic and in good voice at both concerts. However, we both thought he was much better in Houston. After seeing him so many times, we've concluded he is always better if he's been off the night before. When he's performing night after night, he falls into an kind of economy of working that is no doubt necessary. Having a chance to rest, he will inevitably come back with more strength the next night.

He danced and interacted with the other two band members on Friday in a way that gave them more of a feel of a band than just three guys playing together. We sat close enough to see a few interesting things on Friday as well. Sting broke a string toward the end of the evening. Morgan was quite impressed in how he adjusted and continued to play. We both winced too, knowing how much it hurts to get hit by a guitar string. When they came back for the first encore, Sting had put on a jacket. We thought he may have been hurt. Cuts from a string hurt like hell. Then Andy went to the final song on the first encore early and again we wondered if it might be because of an injury, but they came back strong for Next to You, the final song. On the way off the stage, Sting thumbed his nose at Andy. I don't know if it was because of the confusion at the end of the first encore or something else entirely. I've never seen Sting work so hard. In fact, it's the first time I've seen the effort really show on him physically. By the end of each concert, I thought the three of them had gone as far as they could go. The last song was one of the best, but the strain on their faces was clear.

I've read some reviews which complained of the ticket cost. It wasn't cheap, but it wasn't more than we are accustomed to spending on an important concert. We might very easily pay the same price to see the Houston Grand Opera or the Ballet. I guess the value question is really up to the individual. Tonight, all four of us are going down to Galveston to see the tribute band, Killer Queen. These tickets are only $15 and we can just go home if it's not any good. They are supposed to be one of the best, but I'm not sure how easy it will be to watch someone else look and sound like Freddie for any of us. Over the years, I've sort of trained myself to forget that he's gone when I listen to their music. Morgan was put out over the Queen with Paul Rogers tour for much the same reason. So, we'll see.