Tuesday, October 11, 2005

COM: Memeries . . .

"Ah for just one time, i would take the Northwest Passage
to find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort sea.
Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage
and make a northwest passage to the sea . . ."


I like memes. Really, i do. As long as i'm reading someone else's.

No, really. I am a student of our culture, and meme's have a way of enlightening me about several things (which we won't delve into here).

And, I always feel naked answering the things. Even though i like them. I really do. So thanks are in order for three of my truly favorite blogs The House & Other Arctic Musings, Snail's Tales, and Bird TLC for all nominating me for this honor. Really.

The problems are these: a) i figured i'd spend more time analyzing the questions and my potential answers rather than actually answering the questions -- especially the part about how the answer is what i want people to know rather than laying it all on the line . . . i'm the private sort despite blathering all day online . . .

b) i also read a dozen other responses to the meme, all the time picking up hints about what i should really say rather than what would have slid off my tongue . . .

c) i knew the combination of my cynicism and my trying to be non-boastful would be lethal. it will be . . .

d) i don't know -- procrastination?

e) so here's my answers, in which i cheated often, redefined the questions frequently, and am not sure that what's there is actually me here . . . sorry in advance if i ramble about things you may be clueless about . . .

10 years ago . . .
a few days ago i was at Holly and Roy's discussing Our Town (Holly's directing, Roy did the last time, i'm in it) for which the high school thespians are getting ready to start rehearsals. the reason this comes up here is that last year the thespians had an incredible bunch of boy actors, almost every one a senior (the girls are mostly returning and what a group). well there was fretting last spring about what kind of shows could be put on here with almost no boys. then voila, from out of the shadows some younger kids stepped up, some new ones appeared out of nowhere it seems, and it's quite possible that this crop is better than the last (which truly was an outstanding bunch).

the relevance is that i discussed the other night one of my teams -- a group of kids that had been with me from both mine and their first days at the high school, a truly outstanding bunch of kids, not only as players but as decent human beings. and when they graduated in 1994, 14 seniors, i was at a loss to know where my next team would come from, and pretty sad at losing that first group. but in 1995 the team that set foot on the field, a bunch of kids that had been in the shadows their whole brief lives started their varsity careers off with a string of wins like nothing we had yet seen, and would, as juniors and seniors win our first school championship, go undefeated and unscored on in league play, and make our first ever appearances in the playoffs, and back-to-back. and to top it off they were every bit the great kids as the earlier crew. so, in 1995 that was my life -- those kids.

the only other memory i have from that year is this one (why do the ugly things stick with us . . .). i had for years done the chasing-rare-birds thing, and in 1995 decided that i wanted to go after the Texas Big Year record. to start with that is a pretty ridiculous goal considering i was a coach by profession, and obsessed with coaching to boot, and trying to conduct some serious research on the side. but i tried, and was well along when the end of school rolled up. i had planned a rather extensive west Texas trip to fill in a lot of holes with the high elevation breeding birds, was going to spend time with friends and had tons of things to show them, etc. so my Trooper was packed to the roof on the last day of school and i was headed straight out of town at the bell.

but when i got to the parking lot all that was left in my space was a pile of glass. someone had stolen my car -- more importantly, several hundred tapes (i was doing bioacoustics work at the time and was taking tapes to a friend to be sonographed), my binoculars, scope, tape recorder, parabola, cameras, mistnets, spare glasses, driver's license, everything.

well later that day my car was recovered in San Antonio, badly damaged but fixable. but all my equipment was gone. the only thing left were files of papers (though they were scattered everywhere -- it literally looked like a tornado had blown through) and my data books (which, had i lost those, i probably would have given up things biological altogether forever). it's taken me ten years to reacquire the equipment and get back in the field in earnest again . . .

5 years ago . . .
i gave up coaching and teaching (at least for the time being). after having a string of rather incredible teams and success, starting some undeniably successful programs in school and on the field i hit a brick wall called politics. it's always struck me funny that when we were losing i was the best coach in the world, everyone let me work with their kids and thanked me profusely. when we went undefeated i was the worst coach ever and dads who'd never seen a soccer ball before their kids took up the sport were suddenly god's gift to the perfect game. i still don't get it (and i have to say now, to keep things straight, that in my program --80+ kids -- there were 150+ great parents, and three who made life absolutely miserable). so i left on top.

in teaching it was the same sort of scenario -- one bozo with an ego who systematically destroyed everything for which i and some fellow teachers had worked our entire careers, all in service to his resume. so i quit and began a short-lived career as an investigative reporter. my job -- to cover the school district, thereby exposing the silliness of this one's idiot's agenda. he's gone, but not before virtually bankrupting the school district -- financially, emotionally and educationally.

1 year ago . . .
well this is a cautionary tale about the things you least expect.

let's start here. i got cast in a show at The Point Theatre (where i have done a number of shows in recent years). because of that, i got cast in two more, got cast in three films, and because i couldn't wrangle a stage for one of my own scripts started the process of creating a film instead (a very long, if interesting i think, story . . .).

so here's my fall a year ago: appearing in The Diviners, followed by appearing in Cabaret, followed by appearing in The Boys Next Door. During this time i'm also filming Diogenes/Dionysus, doing camera work for ZeroSum (someone else's feature) and Austin Blues (someone else's documentary), and appearing in Everything or Nothing (the first screening next weekend), Sons of the Rodeo (premiering this weekend), and Sky (i have no idea what's happened to this film).

because i opened my big mouth (having not learned my lesson about doing all that at once; and having not hit the brick wall that is part two of the story below) i audition for, and get, what may be the role of my stunted career -- as Angus in The Drawer Boy, directed by Catherine Babbitt and Cackie Hayes. that's a significant issue, not only because it has a 12 week rehearsal/show run, but because it's 60 miles away and i have to commute daily for that 12 weeks to get there. and i'm not rolling in either dough, time or gasoline.

that's okay, i have a second gig lined up that pays big dollars (everything else here is for free), and that will cover the other and then some. things are looking good, if entirely hectic.

only, after i get immersed in The Drawer Boy, the second gig falls through. i'm still in debt heaven over that.

now here's part two of my year -- my real gig is putting together an annual and the video yearbooks for the camp that i call home. together these are normally a five month post-summer operation. only this time, September a year ago, as i begin to wrap up the book, my computer sytem vaporizes. poof. gone. this is a huge, good, system, but it's been through a lot in its five-years of service. it was probably time for it to go. and it did. now to forestall all the finger-wagging you-should-have-backed-up talk. i did. only this is a link-based program so even though everything was backed up, the links were all broken and that was the real work.

realizing that time was an issue and that we needed to get things out to our kids i suggested abandoning the book for the moment and doing the video first since, when done, the turnaround was much quicker. and so that's the direction i took with a new hard drive.

three months later the film is nearly finished and boom, the hard drive vaporizes. the new one. backed up? yes. same issue though. turns out the clown that installed the new hard drive didn't exactly do it right. and that wasn't the last crash of the year either.

so, long story short, three versions of the films later i finish it (which gets screwed up at the DVD manufacturer also), and barely get a version of the book to the printers. it's a ten-month operation -- and that's my bread and butter -- while doing all of the above theatrical stuff, all of which kind of take a back seat to doing my work.

nevertheless my job took a hit, and i worked 100 hour weeks to zero appreciation of what i went through.

i've considered doing quick and sloppy, but i've kind of banked my life on doing things well.

enough of that . . .

yesterday . . .
let's see, this year's book's gone to the printer, whew. it's cool and nice here, some rain. i'm focused on getting several projects finished -- west Texas pictures posted (a month late), writing up a post for I and the Bird (done!), seeing what bugs are coming to the black light, this meme! quiet day really.

five songs i know all the words to . . .
see, here's where things could get obnoxious, and i will have to cheat . . .

i write a lot of songs. i do the music thing. so my thought that the intent here was to prove you could sing five songs by naming them seems moot. if i named five of my songs, no one would know anything about them . . . how's that for smarmy.

otherwise, i could do almost anything by Lyle Lovett, Eric Taylor, Robert Earl Keen, Nanci Griffith and maybe a few others . . . as long as it's the words and not the music too.

so i'm cheating by just naming some i do often lately . . .

I Would Bring You Ireland -- Nanci Griffith
Tougher than the Rest -- Chris LeDoux (RIP)
Walking Shoes -- Ruthie Foster
William -- Chris Knight
Truth No. 2 -- Patty Griffin

five snacks . . .
this is all so dangerous. even attempting to answer is dangerous . . .

i don't think i have five snacks.
vanilla coke. chips and lime and garlic salsa.

how about my favorite field "meals" -- a large tortilla with slices of avocado, tomato-basil-cheddar, red onion, and salsa -- or a walnut, philadelphia cream cheese, honey sandwich.

or my favorite foods, which hardly count as meals, but which i want to die while eating -- guacamole (yes i have an avocado fetish) and cheesecake (yes i have a cheese fetish).

okay: vanilla coke, chips and lime and garlic salsa, avocados, cheese. one more . . . um, dark chocolate? no wait . . . jordan almonds!

okay, move on you windy old bag o'guts . . .

five things i'd do with a $100 million . . .
oh great. first buy a house of my own, small, warm . . . then:

two things i've always wanted to do, but i'd probably only be able to fund one with this money . . . so one or the other . . .

a) buy up a critical piece of property that is essential habitat for some rarity and manage it without any of the bureaucratic nonsense of today's conservation efforts (either gov't, agency, or private), just to show that it could be done, done well, and make a difference without the political garbage that goes on . . . or

b) create, build and run a high-performance high school, specifically to show that modern public education is a total fiasco, that without all the stupid testing and paperwork requirements i could produce first-rate scholars with real knowledge, thinking skills, and creative futures.

or i could build that theatre i'd like to design, or start a charity where the money goes to people in need instead of to someone who's salary depends on keeping people in need, or fund documentaries by visionary folks with no other source of revenue, or just give money to people who will do something fantastic with it, or pay 1000 kids i know to go to a major college.

or i could . . .

the funny thing about a) above is that with last weekend's Big Sit i had to designate a charity to receive a donation should i win some vague random award. i watched last year as a number of winning teams in another conservation birding contest designated funds for conservation and was dismayed to find that most of the donations went to projects to build gazebos, parking spaces and boardwalks that benefitted birders but not only didn't benefit birds but probably resulted in a net loss of habitat. of course, when i complained i got the usual baloney talking-points memo about making the average birding public troglodyte comfortable so they would in turn donate money to conservation causes -- which to my knowledge just isn't happening. spending money on optics and ice and disposable aluminum and plastic yes, but buying land -- guess again. and there are some folks who just don't get it anyway. i get slapped around for it by the conservation apologists but i maintain that what's good for birders is almost never good for birds.

okay, five places i'd run away to . . .
sheesh, you guys aren't making this any easier.

in the first place this implies that i'd go someplace forever. let's get this straight right from the beginning -- i really like where i am. i really do, and i'm settled and can't imagine starting over -- that to me would far outweigh my desire to be anywhere else.

so with that in mind, next thought that comes to me is i wouldn't run off to anywhere i hadn't already seen and decided i liked. so that limits me again to places i've been and seen and have already, at some point in my life, rejected for some reason.

so let's look at those possibilities:

the Rio Grande Valley -- well, i grew up there. i really have great memories from there, and i love returning to bird and enjoy. BUT it's not the place i grew up anymore, i don't know but a handful of folks there now, and they're not the folks i grew up with, i remember the summers there quite well, and it's a long way from anywhere else i might want to go in the US -- in fact i don't think i could get much further away unless i were neighbors with Bird TLC. so no, not the Valley.

Chiapas and/or the Yucatan -- outside the US i can't think of a more exciting place where i've been and would love to spend time, BUT again it's remote, and friendless for now, and it's remote, and lately it's been a little revolutionary. still, but no, not southern Mexico.

Jackson Hole (or for that matter, Montana or Alberta) -- i love the thought of being anywhere in the northern Rockies. Jackson Hole has a special place in my heart. and then there's the Milk River. BUT, there's exactly one month of summer and eleven months of blizzard. so no, i don't do cold.

there's really a lot of other places i'd consider, but those are my favorites and i've ruled them out so any place else would be second-string.

having said all that, there are some places i'd like to see that i haven't -- all without the pressure of running off to them: Australian Outback, Antarctica seas (whales!), southern South America, East Africa, Hawaii, Ireland, Scotland, Revilla Gigedo Islands, Peru, the middle of the Pacific . . .

but i can't imagine ever wanting to live at any of those places. see i love people, and as much as i like going to the fur reaches, i always have to come back, and this is home now, i know people here . . .

five things i'd never wear . . .
too late.

five favorite TV shows . . .
i don't own a TV, haven't for 25 years.

i have fond memories of I Love Lucy and The Dick van Dyke Show as a kid (Mary Tyler Moore was my childhood flame; then she did Ordinary People and i realized that all wonderful young idealists grow up to be crotchety, self-centered old witches and warlocks; after that i found a career working with young idealists). there were also those college nights we all gathered to watch Monty Python and the Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live. the first few months of MTV i thought were an exciting time -- i thought TV was being reenvisioned right in front of me, but greed took care of that. and for some reason unbefathomable to me Johnny Carson will always have a place in my heart.

these days i watch a game or two a week by going to a restaurant with a big screen, and i catch the highlights from Letterman and The Daily Show on my computer on an irregular basis, but i'd be hard-pressed to even name five TV shows that are on right now.

five greatest joys . . .
my kids (meaning the ones i coached, taught or worked with -- there is hope in my version/vision of the world). i enjoy a lot of things (walking wilderness, writing, food, poetry that means something), but i can't think of anything that approaches number one there.

five favorite toys . . .
don't really know where to go on this one. i understand that it's the electronic age things that folks are intending, but what few of those i have i consider to be extensions of my limbs -- it's not the cameras for instance that give me the pleasure but what's at the other end, and i have trouble calling wild bugs toys . . . cappicce?

how about the fan in my cabin?

blogs maybe?

okay, i'll work some more on this one . . .

five people i'm tagging . . .
well everyone i checked on, the folks i read most often, that i think would enjoy this have already been tagged (and i enjoyed reading ALL of you!). maybe i'll find someone new in the next few days that i can pass this on to (or if you haven't been tagged and would like to be, just drop me a note).

so, i'm going to cheat again and toss this back at everyone who has passed before me in this particular chain and beyond by asking some additional questions.

ready?

five pet peeves . . .

five wild critters you'd like to see just once before you go . . .

and . . .

five moments in your life that have changed everything you've done since . . .

i remembered another one -- five movies that are your life . . .

i'm tossing this back to Bootstrap Analysis, Bird TLC, Snail's Tales and The House & Other Arctic Musings for you to answer and pass on again. i've already got my answers but won't post until i give everyone else a chance.

[i came back from rechecking links having found an eloquent, snap-back-to-reality, post at Bootstrap Analysis about her brother and wonder, having come up with meme addendum question number three above, whether i should toss it and find something lighter. instead i think her post may sharpen other answers from all of us -- may you each read it before pondering the five defining moments of your life . . .]

finally . . .
and sorry, i just can't help this, but i had comments on the answers others gave . . . just reading them brought a flood of memories . . .

Bootstrap Analysis, where this particular round originated, told a story about things encountered while birding and i had to have my say about things not only encountered while birding, but while on Christmas Bird Counts:

fires, more than one, luckily while birding with my friend Kelly Bryan (Ft. Davis Fire Chief by the way) . . .

a rape in progress, luckily amongst the birding crew was Greg Lasley, a cop . . .

a body . . .

and a Great Blue Heron, the morning after a surprise blistering cold front, with its feet frozen solid into an inch of ice on a country road . . . we took care of that.

i find it interesting that two different respondents mentioned running off to Cuba. really? i'm sure that beauty is involved. but does it negate the negative? and Ibrahim Ferrer is dead now anyway . . .

and to The House . . . i used to imitate Topo Gigio when i was a kid. my dad called me that until he took to calling me The Village Idiot. i can't believe you came up with that . . .

i was fascinated by Aydin's story of being a soldier and getting to fire two rounds -- it reminded me of Barney Fife. and his list of toys reminded me that with that $100 million i'd get a field microscope that i've needed for a long time.

Bird TLC sparked me to wonder whether there are places where you're required to be married by a preacher? i'm absolutely dumbfounded if there are . . .

Rurality's list of songs is the coolest answer ever -- to that i'd have to add Barred Owl for myself. maybe the five snacks answer is better . . . or the toys answer . . .

i had chosen Seven Bridges Road as one of my songs until i saw that WoodSong had it listed (and didn't want to seem like a copycat). only i would have put the Steve Young version since he wrote it and i think his version is better than the Eagles'. he was here just last week too and i had a program of my own and missed him.

i got a giggle that WoodSong had given up malls for Super WalMart and Home Depot. but she reminded me that frozen coconut "fruit" bars are something that i always stop at the Lost Maples Store for whenever i'm traipsing through the back hills.

so, that's it (i hope you all have figured out that i don't do anything halfway around here). if you got this far, thanks for reading!

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