Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Quote for the Week

Don't Be Beautiful

They keep saying beautiful is something a girl needs to be,
But honestly!  Forget that.  Don't be beautiful.
Be angry, be intelligent, be witty, be klutzy, be interesting,
be funny, be adventurous, be crazy, be talented.
There are an eternity of other things
to be other than beautiful.
And what is beautiful anyway
but a set of letters strung together to make a word?
Be your own definition of amazing, always.
That is so much more important than anything beautiful, ever.

Nikita Gill

Sunday, June 26, 2016

How I Met the Hunks

Alas, the hunks I met were not age-appropriate elderly hunks.  But face it, how many elderly men are hunky?  No, these hunks were in college, and here's how I met them.

Moving from a five-bedroom home to a two-bedroom apartment requires a lot of downsizing.  I thought I'd done this successfully, but after I'd moved and unpacked and tried to find space for my stuff, I found I still had too much to fit in my new space.  Because my late husband did computer work for the Salvation Army, I've always supported them and donated to them.  During the past year I took bags and bags of dishes, glassware, cookware, clothing, linens and miscellaneous items to their drop-off place in southwest Houston.  I was such a regular patron, the guys there recognized my car.

This time I had a file cabinet and other things too heavy to haul over there so I called their pick-up service.  I guess the Salvation Army has gone high tech.  You had to email them and include a picture of at least one item and then wait for them to call and give you a day and time of pickup.  Didn't work for me.  I figured as the donor, I could request a day and time, but not so.

I checked with Goodwill.  They don't pick up donations, but their website had a link to a service they recommend--College Hunks Hauling Junk.  What an enticing business name.  I called and yes, they could come the next day.

Two college students (yes, they really were in college) arrived at my door the following afternoon.  One was from the University of Houston, the other from Texas A & M.  They weren't exactly hunks, but they were pretty cute and, more importantly, they were polite, efficient and very careful in gathering and moving things.  They do charge for their service, but, believe me, it was well worth the expense.  And I got to spend 15 minutes with two cute college students.  I highly recommend them.

You can find them at www.collegehunkshaulingjunk.com

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Tribute to My Father

You would never have picked him out in a crowd.  He was a thin, medium sized man with a voice so soft you had to strain to hear him.  He dressed modestly but rarely was seen without a hat.  His hands, callused from hard work, had a slight tremor. He was just an unassuming, ordinary guy, but to me he was a hero. He was my role model, my teacher, my cheerleader, my confidante who always made time for me, always listened.

He was born in 1906 in Kupiel, a nondescript village in the Ukraine, south of Kiev.  Life was hard there and eventually the family fled to the United States, settling in Austin, Texas.  Eighteen years old, without a word of English, he began his American life, like many immigrants of his era, as a peddler.  He moved briefly to Philadelphia, living in an area known as Strawberry Mansion, not a very desirable area but home to many of his home town friends.  There he found work in a grocery store and forever after, insisted no one could pick out the perfect vegetable or piece of fruit as accurately as he could. 

Back again in Austin he worked with his older brother in the junk business and eventually, with a partner, opened a service station, the D & S--high test gas for less.  Their motto:  "We may doze but never close."  It became the busiest independent station in the south.

He met my mother on a trip to Omaha.  She, too, was from Kupiel.  Soon they became engaged.  She wrote him every day, always ending her letters "Regards from all to all."  I don't know if he wrote back, but I have her entire not-very-interesting correspondence.

He and my mother lost their first baby, born prematurely and unable to survive.  When I came along two years later, he became a devoted and loving father.  He worked long hours, after all, the D & S never closed, but he always took time to play with me when he came home.  He taught me to print my name, read simple words and figure out the answers to "What do 3 and 2 make?", so "What do 2 and 3 make?"  It was no surprise that he taught me arithmetic.  He was a math whiz and was known for being able to add faster than an adding machine.  In another life he might have been a mathematician.

I remember Sunday afternoon rides to Barton Springs or summer evening rides to see the water works, a fountain with colored lights.  I remember him coming home for lunch and scrubbing the grease off his hands with Lava soap.  In summer we had ice tea for lunch, and I always wanted him to "fix" mine with lemon and sugar. I thought he made the best tea in the world.  I remember the summer before first grade he took to calling me his "big school girl."  The rest of the time, his nickname for me was Sugie.

During World War II he collected tires for the war effort and the Austin American ran a picture of him standing beside dozens of tires piled up as high as the roof of the D & S.

When I was twelve, he decided I was old enough to learn to drive, so he put a pillow in the driver's seat so I could see over the wheel and patiently taught me how to make turns, back up and shift gears in our Ford.  For years he bought nothing but Fords, feeling some sort of loyalty to the Ford Motor Company.  Then he decided to buy a Cadillac.  Dressed in his work clothes, he walked into the General Motors dealership.  The salesman saw a grubby guy who probably smelled of gasoline and suggested he'd better get a Chevy.  Insulted, he marched out, bought a Lincoln and went back by to show it to the GM salesman who'd waited on him and gleefully mentioned that he'd paid cash.  He never bought another Ford.

He loved salty food.  Mother had to refill the salt shaker frequently.  He also loved salami.  On Saturday nights he worked late at the station and in the evenings he bought salami and rye bread and threw a weekly party that attracted folks from all over east Austin.  I think he worked late, not because he had to, but because he enjoyed hosting the "drop on by" salami dinners.

When I was nineteen, my full-skirted dress blew into a gas stove and I was badly burned.  The first thing I cried when the firemen arrived was "Call my Daddy."  He rushed to the hospital and never left my side.  That first critical week he slept in my room (and, critically ill as I was, I was still embarrassed by his snoring.)  This man, whose business was the center of his life, took off for three months when I was treated at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston.  My mother stayed with me during the day, and he sat in chair next to my bed at night.  He must have been awake all night because I never heard him snore.

When I married and had children, he became just as devoted to his grandchildren as he always was to my sister and me.  He and Mother would drive to Houston just to have Sunday lunch and spend a little time with the kids, then drive home the same afternoon.

His wisdom and advice mirrored the themes of his life:  "When you give your word, live up to it."  "Stand up for your rights."
"Remember, your reputation is important."  "Give generously without the expectation of acclaim."  He was truly generous.  When the nurse who had cared for me after my accident had financial problems, he gladly gave her the funds she needed.  He always contributed to causes he supported, and not just money;  he gave his time, too.  And he was a big tipper.  My sister remembers that he always gave the man who parked his car at the bank a quarter,  a generous amount in those long ago pre-inflation days. "Mr. Alec," as he was called, was known around Austin as a good guy.

He was close to his sisters and their families.  On Sunday nights the whole family would gather at one of our houses for dinner.  Afterward, the men played poker while the women gossiped in the kitchen...so Nineteen Forties.

He loved our dog, General (so named because he was "a general kind of dog") and the dog followed him everywhere.

Of course, he wasn't perfect.  He was stubborn as a mule.  Once he made up his mind about something, no amount of arguing or pleading could change it. My mother often tried to persuade him to take her to Europe on vacation.  His answer was a flat "no."  I've been there.  I left and I'm not going back." And that was that. 

 He had firm ideas about what was right, even if the ideas were sometimes wrong.  Soft-spoken at home, at work he was the boss and his employees crossed Mr. Alec at their peril, even Pee Wee, a neighborhood kid who hung around the station and sometimes wiped windshields to help out.  He smoked three packs a day, always Chesterfields, another example of his brand-loyalty.  In later life, he was diagnosed with emphysema and asthma and he quit cold turkey, but he said he never got over longing for a cigarette even though he admitted smoking was a nasty and dangerous habit. And, of course his other annoying habit--he snored.  But I forgave him his faults because he was my dad.

He was a special man, a special father, and I miss him to this day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Books of May

A fascinating memoir of crime and punishment--a crime that wasn't committed and punishment inflicted.  Bettu Baer tells the story of the spray painting of Houston's Exxon building for which she was arrested, tried and wrongly convicted.  Her six months in prison, faced with courage, her confrontration of her own beliefs make this book hard to put down.

A first book from an up-and-coming author.  A mixture of romance, suspense and humor.  Highly recommended.

A rather strange book that begins with homo sapiens, hunter gatherer, takes him/her through the cognitive revolution, agricultural revolution, the building of empires, the industrial revolution and our own scientific age.  Some interested views but the final section, postulating a race of super-humans is, in my opinion, downright weird.  But it does make interesting reading.

A novella and several short stories by respected author Colum McCann.  I read this for my book club and gave it a 4 star rating with some caveats.  McCann goes in for description that puts you right in the story but he tends to over-write...i.e. too much description at times.  Another warning:  these stories will leave you hanging, but if you think you can deal with that, give the book a try.

A young girl is assaulted and left severely brain-damaged.  Years after, a  down-on-her-luck reporter tries to find out who did it.  From the title, I expected a higher level of tension, but this was a little slow moving.  Nevertheless, a fairly good read.

Happy reading!

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