Sunday, December 9, 2012

They ask me how's Lubbock so far; I've been here only what, four months maybe, so I don't really know. People are nice. It's easy to get around, and has a small-town feel, everyone knows everyone more or less. It's got an economy, which is more than you can say for anything northeast of about St. Louis.

It's odd, though, that the town has developed so far out south and west, and more or less left the downtown empty. I went downtown to the library on Saturday, and once more, the streets were virtually empty. I saw an entire block, empty. No shops to speak of, no Christmas shopping going on, that I could tell. At the library, there was a policeman; the library, at least, had a lot of people. It was maybe the only place that had a lot of people. Ah, but then, it's worm in there, and it's cold out, and it's always open, I think that explains the policeman.

Then tonight I went out to a friends' house way out south, on the edge of development and cotton fields, a good nine miles from our house in town. Out there, he said, there's plenty of traffic, plenty of business, plenty going on all the time. There's water, he said, at the corner of Indiana and ninety-eighth, this water comes from local businesses that water their lawns all the time, but the lawns are red clay and the water doesn't seep back into it. It ends up on the street where people splash it around but it has nowhere to go until it evaporates. So I said, it's nice here, I'd like to invite my kids and my relatives to settle around here, but it seems, if the ogallala aquifer is on its way down, and everyone is just spraying water on red clay left and right until it's gone, then the place doesn't have that much of a future. OK so they're bringing in water from the nearby lake. Maybe that will help for what, a few years? But that water is from the Brazox. There's no infinite supply of natural water anywhere. Ten, twenty years from now people will start fighting over what's left. We'll blame the people with those green lawns and point fingers for wasting all that water for so many years, letting it run into the streets like that and evaporate away because it has nowhere to go.

Ah but in the meantime, people have these nice new cars; gas is below three; the sun shines and they keep building out into the cotton fields. The guy sells off his cotton field little by little to the developer and doesn't care how much cotton he gets off of it; some of it drops from the plants near the road and lines the fence along with paper and garbage strewn out in the country there, blown by the wind. I feel like getting out of the car and grabbing some of it if only because it has to be part of an era. Who can justify pulling up so much aquifer water for that cotton, so that the cotton can just blow around the plains getting in tumbleweeds? Cotton is prosperity and it keeps the banks and the new cars coming, but, does it take our future in the form of the water we'd need to stay here permanently? And those people who are serious about the cotton, growing it in huge bales, irrigating like crazy, what else do they have to do to the red clay to make it come forth with all this cotton? I'm not clear on how this works.

And another thing, the people just outside of town, have their own wells, no water restriction at all, they can draw up whatever they want. Is that because they have another source besides the ogallala? Or because it's just assumed they're using it only for themselves and not for bales of cotton? Not, for example, just leaving a hose running by a tree until the water shoots out and fills up the streetcorner?

A playa is a plains lake, just sits there until it evaporates; maybe in the old days the water had ways of getting down through the soil, back to from whence it came, the ogallala reservoir. These days, places like ninety-eighth and Indiana are playas, because they collect the water too, and everyone knows that, and takes University when it rains. If somebody can explain this to me, please do; one issue is that the city as we know it is so new, nobody has applied themselves to figuring out how to make it survive over time. Another issue is, there are really two cities. One, the old one, has been here a while, but is fading back into the plain. The other, new, aggressive, drill baby drill, get it while you still can, and then maybe if you have some money in a Swiss bank, when the water runs out, maybe you can head out to the south of France or some such place, because you'll be used to the warm dry sun, and you'll have a taste for the monied lifestyle. I feel like one of those old cowboys, squatting in the shadow of the saloon, weighing it back and forth, by the time he's made up his mind, the wagon's up and left town for better parts, the history it leaves behind, merely the suggestion that things could have been better.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Iconic Makeover: Repairs Completed on Historic Dairy Barn, TTU news.

I have loved this old barn since the moment I got here. It reminds me of my grandfather, who combined the love of old farms and the academic setting where you prove scientifically what works and what doesn't, then apply it so as to feed successfully 8 billion people worldwide, notwithstanding a little damage to the environment, or, making all varieties of corn into a single hybrid that is unvarying as far as the eye can see. I'm not sure if everything my grandpa did was good, or worked out as good in the end (for example I'm sure he would not have been opposed to genetic modification), but that's not the point of this post. My questions for this post are: What are they going to do with this barn? Is there a good reason it has to be in tip-top painted condition rather than look like an old barn (which students loved so much, they raised thousands to preserve)? What has happened to the ag school? Is it still thriving, but on the outskirts of campus, and if so, is it better off there?

My idea is simple: barn dances. Make it a social gathering point. I know it's possible, and it will work, and it will be cool. You heard it first here. You've got to do something with it.

I have no idea about the other questions. I'll find out about them sooner or later, I'm sure. I'm not an ag guy, or I'd know that last one. But I'm in international education, and there's lots in that area that I don't know either. One can live in ignorance (and that can be refreshing) but not forever. It's in everyone's best interest to use our resources to their best potential...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Party Next Time, New Yorker.

Great article, though I've just finished reading it. I highly recommend it.

It focuses on Texas because Texas is the heart of the Republican party, and Republicans' soul-searching about what to do about losing the election, and in particular, losing support of Hispanics, has already played out to some degree in Texas.

I hadn't really noticed this, because, coming to Texas from Illinois, I was surprised that as far as I could tell the entire ballot was Republican, with a few principled Libertarians thrown in there for good measure. No wonder Republicans won by accusing their opponents of being MODERATE!...they were claiming the center by moving over further to the right! But, according to the article, the entire state could go Democratic in a few short years, since Hispanics make up an increasing majority (95@ in Laredo, up to 55% by 2040)...and since a million people, myself included, have moved into the state recently.

I don't want to belabor the point; I still consider myself a visitor, or at the very least a johnny-come-lately, so to speak. I don't know much more than I read in the article above, but I've promised my dad I'd get some Molly Ivins books as soon as possible, and I also plan on reading some Kinky Friedman. Jim Hightower might be a little too serious for me, I'm not sure. But the time to start learning is now; times are a-changin'. One Democrat did win in Lubbock County (besides Obama), but I still don't know why; in three major elections (US House, State House, State Senate) the Dems ran nobody. The US Senate candidate was not taken seriously; I think he decided not to waste a bunch of money on lawn signs. It was just as well; Rove poured millions into the election, and what good did that do? As of now, I have no plans to run myself. But I might write a book; be careful what you say around me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

wayward coaches

You ask people about these coaches, and they usually tell you that they are pretty nice guys, so you tend to believe them. Besides, they're our nice guys, who watch out for our kids, make sure they graduate, bail them out of jail, etc. No question, sports builds character, and a lot of time this is good: kids graduate with the memory of being on a team, being part of a winning culture, etc.

I don't actually know these guys, so I'll assume they're nice good guys, our guys, and simply wonder: why would one of them, notorious for throwing a chair and trying to strangle verious players, including his own son, wanted in Puerto Rico, be invited down here, supported, etc.? In the Puerto Rico incident, backing him up and supporting him (as they had done both at his university and his home state) meant disrespecting the law of part of the United States, as he had skipped out on jail time and a large fine, just blown them off, and still does to this day, though now he is a well-known commentator on the college basketball circuit. Or there was the TT coach who locked a kid in a closet (?) but later got work at Washington State, where he is now under investigation for similar abuse. Or there is TT himself, very popular, just lost it for a minute and ripped the headset off a graduate assistant coach, in a game last Saturday, that is the talk of the town. It's got what 700,000 hits on Youtube (as of today, Mon. afternoon)? This means that everyone in Lubbock has seen it, what, three times?

Maybe sports abuse is what passes for entertainment in the modern world.

It bothers me a little that we, the fans, seem to be complicit in it. We want a winner, we go for the best coaches, we're willing to overlook a few of their personal flaws. This town is very busy overlooking TT's flaws; he has apologized; rug-sweeping-under has started in earnest. And, maybe his crime is not as serious as those of BK or ML before him; I don't really know. I have a few questions, though, about this persistent saturation of sports violence at the top...

1. Is it possible to be a coach in modern USA media-saturated sports and not get caught up in the hype, the competition, the screaming crowds, the feeling that it all is way more important than anything on earth?

2. On balance, the point has been made that TT is milder, less abusive than some of his predecessors. Does it matter? Is violence violence, or is some of it more forgivable than others?

3. Is it possible to be a coach at a big school and not be abusive? I say this because we're obviously dealing with a difference in degree. Some coaches use verbal tricks. Some coaches are probably not domineering at all (but you don't hear about them, because they don't win)...
,br> 4. What would it take for a team to do a job search, for a great coach at a good price, and have zero tolerance for this kind of stuff? Am I dreaming?

5. I am trusting that these guys are not doing a Jerry Sandusky on their kids. Is this also out of line? Totally unrealistic? How many Jerry Sanduskys are there?

6. The Jerry Sandusky case turned up an ugly truth - that many kinds of abuse are silenced, apologized for, covered up, swept under the rug, etc., all over the oountry; that the machinery of a sports department is made to cover up this stuff; that, therefore, complaining or protesting sets you against an entire machine and the reputation of its school. This presumably is why Jerry Sandusky got away with what he did for so many years. The question is this: if this is a permanent, pervasive situation, abuse of sexual, sphysical and mental nature, to all degrees, what does that say about our college system? It could be a huge problem that this is happening under the name of the college which makes it, really, sanctioned violence, until lawsuits turn it around. 7. If it is in fact the fans who a) demand excellent coaches at any price, b) fill a stadium with noise thus giving the impression that a fourth-and-one is huge; c) have so much invested in a school and its reputation that coming out with the truth (for its victims) becomes impossible, extremely destructive to the school? And if the fans are causing trouble here that must be altered, in what way can fans change their expectations so that this doesn't keep happening?

I'm a fan, and I'd like to know.

Market Street incident, Feb. 2004

TT apologizes

Firing of Mike Leach (coach before TT)

State Farm denounced

allegations at WSU

Friday, November 2, 2012

mil here, mil there, whatever

About six years ago a guy was convicted and sent to jail for 25 years for embezzling $77 million from a local company. He was married and had three children. As a writer I have natural fascination for such people and that's where my questions come from. I mean no disrespect, and of course have never met him, I leave his name out of this so that he's a little harder to track down, though people from around here will know who I mean immediately, and if you really want to know you can read about how we trick-or-treated at the house he'd built.

So he was working for a local oil company, and was maybe an accountant, and his superior had more or less lost track, and pretty soon, what, 77 million was found in his possession? He had been buying things around town: a truck stop, a bunch of antique cars, a house that he poured millions into, etc. And nobody saw this? One guy who was working at our house said he thought he knew who we were talking about, if he hadn't been so obvious spending the money, he might have never got caught. It makes sense. But $77 million?

Then there's the question of his wife. Here they are raising three little kids. Is she in the dark about where these millions come from? Or, if she knows, does she encourage it? or cause it? After you've spent three, four, twenty million, do you wonder if this is going to go on forever? Or if maybe you deserve this good fortune? I'm kind of wondering what it does to your head, to have this kind of running faucet of free money to spend, and not really be able to hide it, or be discreet, or do the things that would keep it coming forever. Maybe a craftier way would have been, have a swiss bank account, a false identity, a second passport, whatever. It didn't seem like "crafty" was part of the picture.

Finally, I'm sure the kids have quite the inheritance, and it's six years on now. What kind of damage does that do to them? How are they feeling about their dad, or mom, or former neighbors, or whoever else was involved? Just curious because, I'm sure, it'll find its way into a novel. And that novel could be reality-based, but more likely in this case, not. I think I'd rather imagine, than in fact know the answers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

ogallala! ogallala! ogallala!

I have noticed, having lived here almost three months, that mention of the ogallala aquifer makes people very nervous. It is generally known that 1) the ogallala aquifer is what we rely on in times of drought and in other times, 2) it is running out so quickly that it may be totally gone in 25 years, and 3) in some places Texas landowners are digging wells and then having to redig them in a few years because the aquifer has gone down so fast. The result of this is that ordinary, sentient Texans are very nervous about the long-range chances for our children to live here. It cannot be replenished very easily, apparently. This is due to the nature of the soil and the nature of the various layers below it (the caliche) that prevent the water from getting back down there.

I learn this from reading about it. It's actually very scary.

To me there is a rather obvious solution that I'm confident would be politically difficult if not impossible. That is, make people pay for their use of water from the aquifer, and use that money to ensure that the water gets replenished. How do you ensure it? Well, if water from playas replenishes it, make more playas. If it requires research to figure out which water replenishes it the best, do the research. This would be paid for by people who need that groundwater so badly that they're willing to pay extra for it.

Texas is a huge consumer or depleter of this groundwater; specifically Texas cotton-growers and other ag folks who have apparently been considering our public heritage, our future, as their personal water tank to use and deplete. That may sound a little crude, but in fact, you can't expect them to just be prudent or careful about it, when there are no laws to prevent them from drawing what they can out of it. Public resource? So is the air, the roads, the government grasslands, etc. They are somewhat in the habit of taking things for granted. Farming requires taking what you can, what you have, what you can use, and making stuff you can sell. It doesn't require asking questions, or begging to pay more for a resource that you sorely need.

On the other hand, I'm sure farmers would understand if you said: this belongs to all of us. We can't deplete it at this rate. If you can raise, say, sunflowers, and conserve it, and still make money, you should do that, because we're going to charge you for taking away our future rights to live here. Etc.

In the process of raising children, and encouraging grown children to live here, I am coming to realize that nothing is more important than ensuring some kind of sustainability for them and future generations. Now I just got here, and folks were nice to us; they didn't tell us, though, that we could move in here but we might not have water in 25 years. Actually I suspect nobody really knows how long it will be before "the well dries up." And, as I've noticed, they've at least started doing something about it...In fact this article mentions how hard it is to get people to work together on an issue like this, and how hard it is to accept any limits at all. Government in particular is hostile to limits from above, and actually, in my mind, I'd already blamed those ferrocarrile guys, who I'd suspected had already let their friends start fracking, etc., and who probably were the first to open the door and let anyone have at any public resource. But the fact is, I don't know from anything. I've at least read a couple of articles, and I'm beginning to realize: people have noticed. Water is scarce. It's a place to start.

Friday, October 19, 2012

ballot of the republic

I looked at the ballot for the fifteenth precinct (?) of Lubbock and noticed a couple of salient factors, being a rank outsider and unaccustomed to Texas politics.

First, if it's a two-party system, the Libertarians are the second party, so that explains why moderate is a dirty word: it's about as far left as you can go. The Republican primaries I would guess settle most of these races, and that's why I don't hear much controversy over anything except maybe Obama and Romney. Obama is by far the only Democrat who has a chance to win anything on this ballot; there is one Democrat running for Senate from Texas but I'm not sure anyone takes him seriously. The Congressman has some Libertarian running against him but is otherwise unopposed.

So the education races, the judgeships and the ferrocarril still matter and I want to investigate them further, but I'm wondering, what happened to the Democrats? Did they just up and roll over? It gives Texas a kind of advantage, to have all these congressmen unopposed, they'll get what is known as seniority and bring such things as jobs and roads back to Texas. Guess I should be a Republican. Republican = the only thing.

Then my guess is, it's not really such a big deal counting the votes; there are probably a few close races here and there in the state but clearly none around here, and, one would guess that you'd only need pollwatchers when it was contested. Which could possibly be in the primaries, but probably not. It's an interesting cultural situation.

In Illinois they had trouble finding precinct captains and I almost voted for myself once. There was nobody on the ballot. But I did that in college once, in a university of about 40 000, and I won. I had to back out sheepishly and I felt really bad for the freshman council of the student government which then had to accept a no from a winner.

I'm wondering, how they elected LBJ. That was just 50 years ago, but I guess that's ancient history. The Democrats did what, fled? Packed up their tents? Reminds me of the mound people. They're almost completely gone. But I'll bet those Libertarians rake them in.

Watch out for those moderates...

Friday, October 12, 2012

water rights

I realize that I'm stepping square into a giant puddle here, but there is apparently a lot to say about water rights in general and developments in the Lubbock area.

First, I was wrong when I said, upon moving here, that I'd heard people referring to giant puddles at street corners as "playas." I had in fact thought I'd heard someone say that (the big puddle in my life is at Flint and 19th; however, I understood there to be one, also, at Quaker and 50th); but, as it turns out, they were probably not referring to the puddles in the streets per se, but rather, the dips that the city put in in places in order to catch and hold that water, and get it out of the way so that traffic could still function. Thus, you have low spots along 19th street out by the park, low spots in parks here and there throughout the city, and, if all goes well, water drains off into there, and stays there, until it either evaporates or seeps down into the ground.

The latter, however, apparently doesn't happen. It's red clay country, and the water table way below, the so-called Ogalalla reservoir, is what my friend called "not replenishable". Now I have a question about that: would replenishing it be impossible? Unlikely? or just Difficult? I don't know. But apparently all water on the plains, in these so-called "playas," is more likely to evaporate. And there are no grounds for the rumor that "estacado" was actually misheard and was really "estancado" or stagnant as in what happens to this water after it has stuck around for a while.

But I have questions about water use in general. Yes, I hear people discussing it in various places as a politically hot topic around the city. The essence of these discussions is that we city people actually have water use regulations; we can only irrigate on one day of the week (somebody said: as long as you hold the hose yourself, you can stand there all day, but if you turn on a system, you're supposed to check the city website and do it only on the day you are allowed). However if you buy a ranch or farm out in the country you can dig your own well and have no restrictions. So all new houses out there in the hinterlands are coming with their own wells. Yet the wealthy out there are complaining that after a few years, they actually have to dig another one, or dig deeper, because the water table is going down so fast.

What's up with that? It sounds like an alarming development, that wells that were good not five or ten years ago, have now run dry, and that there's a thriving industry just in redrilling for rich people who simply want a steady supply for permanent, ongoing lawn-watering.

It reminds me of a story about Las Vegas that I heard, and which, like the above, I have no way of substantiating anyway (I may be totally wrong about all of this, but have no way of knowing). The story goes like this. Las Vegas hotels were luxuriously indulgent in every way, and one way was to build these huge fountains right outside their front door that attracted tourists. At times of drought and water shortage you couldn't get much worse than southern Nevada, desert of deserts, but the casinos and hotels argued successfully that there was water in the water table, they had it covered, they lost a little bit to evaporation but by and large they contained most of the water so it was less wasteful than, say, a homeowner who constantly watered his lawn, such as you'd see in suburban Vegas or Lubbock for that matter. They went back and forth on the issue, with some people objecting most to the symbolism of it. So, they said, you use up the water table, you make this big splay in your front door, what is most irritating is the implication that there's water to waste, when in fact, there isn't. Finally the casinos got the message: it was bad PR. In times of shortage, it's like driving a Cadillac through the poor neighborhood. You should have some sense, some decency, recognize the appearance of it.

There is also, of course, the social justice angle. The water is almost gone? And people are still watering their lawns?

Monday, October 1, 2012


So I had this idea the other day, that I should just say before I know too much, and it helps actually that I'm a complete outsider, don't have a clue, don't really even know the people involved.

And that is, the city needs to make the first move, and invite Natalie Maines back into the fold as a native daughter, excellent musician that she is, and give her a place on center stage right next to her relatives and all the other proud musicians who have called Lubbock home.

Now I say this because I know the whole feud is personal, and I'm sure she's said stuff that hurt everyone's feelings, and they've hurt her feelings, yadda yadda yadda. But, she grew up here, she's ours, and we're grownups. It's time to just say, let bygones be bygones. It doesn't matter what she said or did. She's a great musician; time will bear that out. It doesn't matter if some of her songs blast Lubbock or even people she knew.

Lubbock had a music fest the other day; it honored some people with "Hall of Fame" and other status, and some people played music here and enjoyed the beneficence of a city that is now aware of the fine music it produces. Natalie "couldn't attend." That struck me as the kind of thing that happens in a personal feud. That's all I know, believe me. But somebody has to make the first move to get out of this stuff. I say, rise to the challenge, Lubbock.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I was bemoaning the fact that whole streets get badly flooded here whenever it rains even a few inches, and a friend pointed out that these were called 'playas' and that, along with 19th and Flint, another bad one was at 50th and Quaker. I had already known that for all intents and purposes I had to avoid 19th and Flint at all costs for at least a few hours when it rained. Police cars come from different directions just to warn people away, perhaps because those people see no other choice besides driving through the intersection, and invariably lose their car or soak it badly. The water appears to be bad enough to swallow whole cars; I'm reminded of friends in Japan who hear about impending typhoon and just hunker down and stay home for days on end. That option is not open to me, but I'm on a bicycle, so I've begun to plan alternate routes, and there aren't many; there are actually playas wherever one turns.

Now I don't want to slam the city's sewer system, because tearing up whole roads for months or years at a time isn't necessarily even possible. Part of the reasoning is that it rains so rarely that comprehensive million-dollar plans for managing these rains is not really cost-effective. In many other ways the city seems to be well-planned; it's easy and safe to get across town, and they always take out the garbage. I've also noticed that they basically leveled a whole area north of Broadway; much of it is now fields but there is a lot of fairly new housing up there and a kind of boulevard that, like Broadway, doesn't seem to be getting a whole lot of action. Their rebuilding of the city ("revitalizing") was not entirely successful, I can see, but I can also see that a lot of love and care has gone into trying to make this a more habitable, pleasant place to live.

What makes a playa into a playa is that the water has nowhere to go, so it becomes a lake on the plains that just sits there, becomes stagnant, and eventually evaporates. There is one theory that "estacado", the so-called "stacked" or "escarpmented" plain of llano estacado, was actually estancado or "stagnant", which would lend a touch of irony to our idea of the plains as a nice place to live.

But I've been thinking a lot about one naturalists' assessment of why we no longer have water in the aquifer. He said that our downfall was getting rid of the buffalo, who wallowed in the lowlands, thus making mud wallow areas where rain water would work its way naturally down into the water table. My question is this: is he right? Do we actually lose a lot of water to evaporation, that we need down there? This of course is a question for the entire plains area to answer, and do something about, but we, Lubbock, as the biggest city on the plains, could lead in figuring out creative solutions to making sure rain water, what little we get, goes back where it belongs.

So, you ask, am I suggesting mud wallows, with buffalo, in the middle of the city, at corners like 19th and Flint? Well, that would be a little extreme, but, remember, there are lots of medium paths. Any run-off system would be better than what we have now, and there are systems like French drains that do essentially the same thing without making people actually live next to buffalo. People seem to like these raised roadways like the exit ramps of the Marsha Sharp, one of which took me way up over Lubbock the other day, a fine view, but with no place to pull over; you might protest that these are lousy places for cars to break down. Yes, but four-foot floods are lousy places to have to go through, when you need to get somewhere. I say, if you have a crucial intersection that everyone needs, that plays an integral role in traffic flow through the city, consider raising the road, and making wallow-type arrangements that naturally take in some of this water, and get it out of our hair. We water our grass enough, so that we aren't really falling short in the evaporation department. But our water table needs a hand. One long-term way of ensuring our survival out on this windy arid plain, is to hang onto what little water we get, and not set it to the winds.

Friday, September 28, 2012

everything revisited

So at first I said, football kills people and it has to be stopped. Now, I feel like a complete chameleon, talking to people about Tech football, and I've become a fan. It may be that I ride my bike past the marching band every day. It may be that people are so darned friendly and you can really learn a lot from them by listening to them talk about Tech football. There's no question it's engrained in the culture. Everyone's excited about the big Iowa State game. Iowa State seems to be a team that's a lot like us.

The City of Lubbock (I think) honored four musicians this weekend including Lloyd Maines, father (?) of Natalie. Natalie didn't make it to the celebration. She is the black sheep, spurned relative. Doesn't even come back to town; people are still mad at her, maybe, or she's mad at them. Or just busy, who knows?

In some ways I've grown impatient with the rearview-mirror theme although the pictures really were coming fast and furious for a while. I haven't begun to get what I want in those mirrors, either. It's actually a photogenic town, lots of pretty buildings, houses with courtyards, interesting weeds, etc. But to me, always looking in the mirror is kind of like obsessing with letting go, to some degree. Enough with the frames. Just use the phone/camera, and get out there and see it all. It's my new strategy.

When it rains, my own corner, Flint and 19th, becomes an ocean. Police actually come out to make sure it doesn't swallow up whole cars. Other places are bad too: Boston and 19th, right behind the Student Center, etc. But our own ocean is the worst. We have to go out of our way. We expect to see cows floating in it one of these days.

Our kids say the Texas pledge every day. Apparently they do this all over Texas. I'm going to study this pledge, I think. It was pointed out to me that it's ironic that a state that believes so strongly in government leaving you alone (especially if you're a business, or a cowboy) takes such an active role in ensuring that everyone's education is the same, statewide. This is another topic I hope to explore, if I have time. Does recitation every day for many years actually help? I have noticed a number of Texas flags, and "secede" bumper stickers which implies that it got somebody at some point, at least something did. Texas pride!

Flatlanders are in town, but I'm missing it. It's raining, and it's 30 bucks, and I'm exhausted, and I"m staying in. But I'm ok with Lubbock, still. I'll bring pictures. Now that it's fall, maybe I can get out more, and take a few more of them.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Approaching seven weeks in Lubbock, and I have a few questions for the locals here. Actually I have been asking a lot of questions, and people are pretty forthcoming with the answers. This is a very friendly place; people like to talk, and share information.

The first one is a toughie. A little while ago I was looking for the driver's license station and got lost. Somewhere downtown I saw a beautiful block, beautiful on both sides, old buildings with nice facades and all. I pulled over so I could ask directions in a store that would presumably be open. But the entire block was vacated. Every single store! It was quite an amazing experience for me. There could have been people living in the apartments above the stores, but the stores themselves were empty.

Well, my only question is obvious: What's up with this? They talk a little about a downtown renovation project, but apparently it hasn't done so well.

I had a question about the "Big Eight" or "Eleven" or "Ten" or whatever. Forgive my ignorance about football issues. When I was growing up, Nebraska was in, Colorado was in, Missouri was in, but TCU? Even Texas Tech was not in. I'm not even sure Texas itself was in. These are the usual plains state teams: Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, West Virginia?? I'll find out in due time.

They say I should be grateful that they built up the city to the south and to the west, because the wind comes from the southwest and blows less dust now that everyone has a green lawn. OK, I'll stop harping on this lawn thing. And another thing I hear is, not a single tree is native to this place. By nature, it's intended to be, just a few people, and a lot of sun. We all just about got sunstroke today, outside to play soccer for a while, maybe a few hours, and it was piercing hot all afternoon. To me, it was not so much that it was relentlessly sunny, or hot, but that here it is late September...does it ever let up?

Friday was 50's day at Roscoe: poodle skirts, and lots of Buddy Holly music. I continue to hear things about all our favorite sons/daughters: he lived here for a while, he used to play music right over there. But what was he really like? The plaque says he was an "above-average student"...and what does that mean?

I have more questions, but I'll save them for later...chou

Monday, September 3, 2012

lubbock in the rearview mirror

I think it was shortly after I mentioned Lubbock to somebody, back in Illinois, that I first heard the expression "Lubbock in the rearview mirror" and, at that time, I was also aware that it was a line in a song. My wife relates a story that at one point she was driving and that line came up on the radio, just as she turned it on, also at a crucial point in my life.

It was soon after I got here that it was pointed out to me that Mac Davis actually liked Lubbock, and that if you listen to the entire song, he ends up coming back and being grateful to be here. Now this is another level of awareness entirely; I think that not everyone knows this, and I for one never listened to any song all that carefully, so I would have never known it had it not been pointed out to me. But at the moment that it was pointed out to me, I surmised that people here might be a little defensive about that song, and the concept in general, so they might be a little more likely to know that than most people.

So I was at a party the other night here in Lubbock, and we were discussing the benefits of the place, versus for example picking up and moving to another locale. The expression "Lubbock in the rearview mirror" came up and one guy then pointed out what I did above: that in fact Mac Davis liked the place, and the song makes it clear he was glad to come back. At this party I was one of few who knew that; it turns out that not everyone, even in Lubbock, is fully aware of the different meanings that song carries.

All this brings up the question: how uncool would it be if I were to just lift the lyrics, and put them here in this blog? He still owns them, after all, and although people do that, and put lyrics all over the internet....oh bother, I guess I won't. But here's another question: How cool or uncool would it have been, if I had just said, at the moment we were discussing it, hey, I've been obsessed with that idea ever since I got here, which was about a month ago, and as a result, every time I go out, I take my camera and take pictures of whatever I see in my rearview mirrors, and as a result I have a whole set of pictures which are all essentially Lubbock in the rearview mirror. Now, at the time, I bit my tongue, I didn't say it. It's partly because, I'm new here, I'd rather just let these conversations go their course, and see if something else comes up (which invariably happens)...let's just say I'll let the pictures speak for themselves and, for the moment at least, keep cranking them out. I can say this much: the inclusion of a rearview mirror in a cell-phone/instagram pop art photo gives you instant contrast: where you are with where you've been, the van you're in vs. its environment; the rounded-angular shape of (2006 Kia Van) rearview mirrors vs. the desolate straight lines of telephone poles, etc....

Let's just say I've gotten into the composition side of the equation, and have lost sight a little of what Mac Davis was driving at. So I guess I'll just link to the lyrics and let it go at that.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

football culture

Today is "game day" in Lubbock, and I'm aware that a large amount of cultural energy is wrapped up in the football industry. The Will Rogers statue is red; there is a "Raider Walk," some people will be doing serious tailgating all day, etc.

At the same time a body of research is showing how bad football really is. To put it bluntly, rattling your brain repeatedly tends to wreck it. I used to think that the main thing wrong with football was that you can only run in one direction, and your knees can only bend in one direction, but they come at you from all directions. No, the worst part of it is that your brain turns to mush after a while. In short, football is killing people. This article is a gateway to lots of the recent information about it.

So at this point you might be furious at me for bringing it up, or overjoyed that somebody is saying it bluntly. Either way, we live in a polarized world, and this issue may polarize us more. But actually, I'd like to be objective about it. Is there a way to save football? Or, will it be like smoking: We find out it's deadly; some of us reject it outright and teach our kids to do so; eventually most people reject it, because the culture gets smarter.

Football (American football) grew up with television; its primary advantage is that it's fun to watch, especially from above where you can see the whole pattern. But to the people down in the thick of it, its most notable characteristics include how easily it rattles your whole body, and how easily you can break knees, elbows, etc. I played it a little when I was growing up and had fun, especially when we played it on mud. There was a touch version that was especially fun to play though I can see how people prefer the hard version. The tricky part, for those of us who love the game itself, is going to be how to save it. Can we make helmets better without sacrificing movement, or vision? Can we make it so parents don't have to feel like they're sacrificing their boys to the great god of American entertainment? I'm not sure.

Friday, August 31, 2012

one month on

OK OK a report is due. What is this blog about? I'm serious, I just arrived in Lubbock (one month ago, more or less). Yes I'd heard a few things about it before I arrived, but, I try to have an open mind and a ready cell-phone, because a lot of what I see strikes me as very interesting or at least different, and I want to document it. That's part of what this blog is all about.

The mirror aspect of it gives me some composition opportunities; I'll admit I've been playing with that. There are many interesting photo opportunities in town and on campus; I'll admit that if you'd been here your first twenty years or so, they might not look like much, but if you arrive from a tiny town with much less, and none of this West Texas stuff, it's very photogenic. One problem is that for me to whip out my camera while I'm driving, in traffic, is really quite dangerous, and I might have to make sure I'm a passenger more often, or, learn how to pull over and park more safely. For example, the other day I was trying to find the driver's license bureau, which is downtown on Mac Davis Street. Somewhere downtown I admitted to ourselves (my young son was with me) that I was totally lost and I found a picturesque downtown block and pulled over to park and ask someone for directions. Unfortunately every single building was uninhabited, as far as I could tell. It was a beautiful block, but entirely devoid of people. I looked quickly at my mirrors to see if I could take a picture, but, unfortunately, no. And I couldn't simultaneously 1) drive, 2) figure out where I was, and 3) check my mirrors.

I'm carrying around a few questions that I intend to use this blog to answer, though sometimes I may answer it photographically, other times by blabbing away. First, it's our first football game-day weekend, and I intend to watch the show; I realize I'm in the heart of football country and it's obviously a cultural spectacle. Parking spaces have game-day status which is different from weekday or weekend. I'm kind of interested by a football culture that is in full swing, as opposed to where I was before, where it had almost died out altogether. Second, I read the other day about the original settlers of Lubbock County, in Estacado; I wanted to investigate that, maybe go there if I get a chance (this may have to wait)...what was that all about? Third, what are people saying and feeling about certain local folks who made it big, like Natalie Maines, Buddy Holly, Shelby Marx, Mac Davis, the Flatlanders? I understand that some of these people have had mixed feelings about being from here, and have left behind some mixed emotions among the local folks who of course are left living in a town that others may have rejected for whatever reason.

It reminds me of a time I was young and hitchhiking around the country, and came through Beaumont Texas only to be picked up by a guy in an old plumber's van driving west and saying he was going to Austin. Now this guy is probably still out there, may even remember me (though probably not), and may even find this and respond. But in any case, his story was this: he was good friends with Janis Joplin. When she went to San Francisco, she spoke to a crowd once and disparaged her old friends back in Port Arther who were "being plumbers and that kind of thing"...this, he said, stuck him in the heart. He was, after all, a plumber who had had musical dreams but had nevertheless stuck with a steady living. Back to Janis, she said she was stuck in that horrible place (Port Arthur) and couldn't imagine living out a life that way. Now keep in mind that Janis was a bright candle, but she had only a few more years if any to live in this world. Actually I'm not sure if she was alive at the time this guy and I met, though I suppose I could find out. In any case, he had thrown his guitar in his plumbing van, and set out west across Texas for Austin (only to break down in a place called Sealy).

My theme here is that we look at what we've got sometimes, and it isn't enough, it's lacking, it's confining. Believe me I've been there and I couldn't be surprised if any of my kids said that about any of the places I've lived. But here's another idea: you take a camera out there, you look at stuff, and you work on always having a fresh perspective. You work with rearview mirrors until you have a set of compositions that reflect some of these feelings: wide open spaces, endless roads, precious shade, old Texas countryside, the contrast between the inside of one's van, and the image in the mirror, or, the image in the mirror and the view out the main window. There are lots of possibilities here; you can see that I've barely begun, below. And I mean no disrespect to the people, the area, the sights themselves. You may read into them derision, bleakness, or confinement. You can read into them what you want; I don't necessarily feel that way, yet. Or rather, let's put it this way: I'm as aware as anyone, it's all what you make it. I'm one of these people who can look out over a flat, dusty, endless plain, which might scare or intimidate others, and say, it's just me and God out here, the big windy plain, the huge sun, the endless earth, and I'm ok with that. I'm a newcomer to Texas; I'm still finding my way around. But if you're going to quote me, take that last part. Hope you enjoy what you see...