Then, They Came for Steinbeck

Pulling the slim, canary-yellow volume from my parents’ bookshelves, I admired the bold, blue printing along the spine and across the cover. Running my fingers over the cover’s roughly-textured cloth was such pleasure I put off opening the book, but in time I did open it, and began to read.

It wasn’t an especially hard book for a fourth-grader, at least in terms of vocabulary, but there were words I’d never encountered. “Flophouse” was one. It made me giggle, imagining as I did a house filled with children,  jumping and flopping on beds.

I found the word again, then twice more: “flophouse.” Curious, I closed the book and went running downstairs to the bridge party taking place in our living room.

Sidling up behind my father’s chair, I waited. Eventually, he sensed my presence and said, “Need something, sweetie?” I needed a definition. “What’s a flophouse, Daddy?” I don’t remember if he paused, but he never looked up from his cards when he asked, “What are you reading now?”

Willie & Wittgenstein Play Luckenbach

Whether it’s good beer, great music or a sense of history you’re wanting, Luckenbach, Texas is a fine place to find it.  Established as a trading post c. 1849, it rose, sort-of-flourished and then declined, nearly passing away before its retired postmaster, a descendent of the town founders named Benno Engel, put it up for sale in 1970.

When I waltzed into Texas in 1973, Luckenbach – a post office, a general store, a dancehall  and a collection of really fine shade trees – already had sold to a remarkable collection of people.  Certain Houstonians turned up their noses at buyer Hondo Crouch and his pals, calling them a collection of “eccentrics, oddballs and kooks”. The description was fair, but out in the country their eccentricity was a selling point, and Hondo’s town took a turn for the better.

Supplementing dominos and beer with a Mud Dauber Festival provided a certain je ne sais quoi, but when Jerry Jeff Walker waltzed into Luckenbach in 1974 to record Viva Terlingua, the Luckenbach nation was born. By the time Bobby Emmons and Chips Moman wrote their song about Luckenbach in 1977 Hondo Crouch had passed away, but Luckenbach was established, and Waylon and Willie and the Boys brought tears to the eyes of expat Luckenbachians around the world. (more…)

Published in: on April 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm  Comments (48)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Birth of a 4th-Grade Radical

Once upon a time, a petite, sloe-eyed little girl whose primary gift is the ability to melt adult hearts upon contact and whose nickname is “Princess” determined to take on her school district’s move from Halloween Party to Harvest Festival.

Like every child above the age of five, she emails and texts regularly. In the process of chatting with her cousins, she discovered each of them attends a school where Halloween parties are allowed. In their emails, her cousins told delicious stories of pre-Halloween activities: pumpkin carving, bat origami, spider-web draping and skeleton-making. All of this, of course, is simply a precursor to The School Party, a celebration of a day that on the Scale of Childhood Preferences may be second only to Christmas or Hanukkah.

For the Sloe-Eyed Princess’ cousins, there will be sugary cupcakes and candy, “Cauldron Punch”, “Grave Robber Gumdrops” and “Casket Cake”. One cousin is to narrate a class performance of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. Another is writing a poem that, while still under wraps, seems to involve a few body parts and a Brave Prince.

Best of all, each of the Little Sloe-Eyed Princess’ cousins will be given the freedom to dress in traditional Halloween costumes. At last year’s parties there were pirates, bed-sheeted ghosts and baby dolls, a Tinkerbell and a chain-gang prisoner. (The prisoner has parents who tend to watch a lot of early films. A lot.) There was the obligatory skeleton, a couple of vampires and an improvised ghoul. Everyone had fun, no one seemed to be traumatized, and everyone agreed the teacher dressed as a punk-rocker deserved her prize. (more…)

Published in: on October 29, 2010 at 3:24 pm  Comments (15)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 14,068 other followers