Tag Archives: Dallas

Dallas… Deal With It.

My wife doesn’t trust my school administrative judgment.

Last night after leaving the painting place I made the bold prediction that school would start on Friday as normal but that around 11AM we’d be let out due to the weather.  I had been following the forecasts pretty intensely.

Well, it’s a bet I wish I hadn’t won.

Take a look at this map.

Dallas.  Noon.  Friday. God help me.

Dallas. Noon. Friday.
God help me.

Would you believe it took me 4 hours and 1 minute to drive home?  We got a grand total of 1 and a half inches of snow.  I miss the Northeast.


A Storm’s A-comin’…

It’s Texas.

It’s October.

It’s…  Time to batten down the hatches.  Lawdy, there’s a twister a-comin’!

When did I become Scarlet O’Hara?  In all seriousness, folks, wherever you are tonight I pray that you are safe, happy, thankful, and secure in the knowledge of God’s love for you.  I also pray that you are sharing that love.  Hey, you clicked on this post.  That says something.  Now about that storm…  Well, according to the weather service we here in Big D are expecting a whopper overnight.  Say a prayer we’ll muddle through.  Updates tomorrow.

Ominous Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons (PD)

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons (PD)

Galveston 2014: Day 1

A Safari in Texas

Why animals and a Chrysler Town and Country Probably Don’t Mix Too Well

And we’re off again on another exciting road excursion.  This time we’re headed back to that great barrier island on the Texas Gulf Coast known as Galveston.  For the record, this is our third trip to G-Town.  OK, so nobody calls it that except me just now but repeating the name “Galveston” a third time was going to get boring.  The first time was a trip my wife and I took with her family when our son was about 8 weeks old.  A month after that trip Hurricane Ike destroyed much of what we had seen including some notable landmarks in an otherwise sleepy city by the sea.  The second time was just last year when we rented a house for the week with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and several of my wife’s aunts and cousins.  Also for the record, Galveston was site of the the worst natural disaster ever to befall the United States when, in 1901, a major hurricane made landfall and swept as many as 12,000 people out to sea.  Lucky for us, the weather looks calm this week.

"I promise, honey, the beard comes off as soon as school starts again."

“I promise, honey, the beard comes off as soon as school starts again.”

Most folks, when traveling with two children in an overpacked minivan on a five hour trip, like to take the most direct route, avoiding as many potentials for pitstops as possible and saving the precious few that do arise for necessary purposes — as in “Daddy!  I have to pee!!!”  Not us.  We have mastered the art of turning a relatively short drive (hey, it’s Texas, five hours gets you into the next county) and turning it into a phenomenally long but always fantastic voyage.  So after a long night of packing and cleaning (having consumed every morsel of food in the fridge because no one wants to come home to rotten food) we began the day quite piously with 8AM mass.  I suppose we could have been asking God’s blessing for a successful trip.  Instead I was musing on the fashion choices of several of my fellow older parishioners.  Hey, I’m only human.  Did I mention that after 25 years I’ve decided to give up on shaving?  I’m a teacher.  It’s summer.  Look, when I was 13 it was cool.  Now that I’m almost 37 it’s a drag.  So I was making those subconscious judgments at mass while scratching my hot and itchy face.  I foresee a beard trimmer in my immediate future.  But as soon as Father announced “Go forth, the mass is ended” we went forth.  A quick stop for coffee and a whole bunch of breakfast burritos I did not need from McDonald’s and our vacation was underway in earnest.  It got real.

OK 1) What are they wearing?  2) What are they wearing?!

OK 1) What are they wearing? 2) What are they wearing?!

No, he's not branded.  That's the reflection of my sneaker in the window.

No, he’s not branded. That’s the reflection of my sneaker in the window.

To say we like to get off the beaten path is kind of like saying that Michael Jackson was a tad bit eccentric.  The most painfully obvious route for us would be to get on I-45 and follow it to the Gulf.  Boring.  So instead we headed into East Texas and a region known as “the piney wood”.  Not sure why they couldn’t conform to the conventions of English and call it the piney woods but, whatever…  Our first stopover was in a tiny town called Jacksonville.  For some reason my wife and I thought it would be fun to take the kids on a ride through a drive-through safari.  I envisioned being escorted to an armored vehicle with iron bars separating me from the few majestic creatures that would approach it.  In short, I was thinking of the words “safe distance”.  And then Mrs. H. dropped this gem on me.  “So…  yeah, the safari thing?  I found out that we drive ourselves through it.”  I contemplated slamming the breaks but realized that our rockin’ Town and Country would probably disintegrate given the posted speed of 80 MPH on the road on which we were driving.  “We do what now?” I said aloud.  “We drive through it ourselves.  Oh boy…  Do you want me to drive?  Are you going to be scared?” she said.  I know my wife well enough to know that this was not a challenge to my testosterone but a genuinely loving and concerned offer.  The truth is I was scared out of my mind.  But then there’s that testosterone thing.  And there was no way I was going to not drive through a safari now that someone had suggested I might be scared to do so.  She then went on to say “…and Mom, don’t worry about the cost.  Just don’t freak out or anything.  We’ve got it covered.”  Turns out that the place charged a fee of something like $13 per vehicle occupant.  Upon hearing this, Wilma remarked “Couldn’t you just drop me at the gate and circle back for me when you’re done?”  Nice try, lady.  If I’m driving through this thing, then you’re coming along too.

If the animal wants to stick it’s head in your car you just pat ’em on the nose and say ‘shoo now!’

I don't even want to know where they found this thing.

I don’t even want to know where they found this thing.  Or what it is.

So here we were, an hour and a half into our trip, miles “off course” but exactly where we wanted to be.  We checked in at the “welcome center”.  The nice young lady behind the counter went over the rules for us.  “Here are the protein pellets to feed the animals with, you know hon, so you can get ’em closer to your ve-hi-cle.  If the animal wants to stick it’s head in your car you just pat ’em on the nose and say ‘shoo now!’  Don’t let them think you’re scared, now, y’hear?  They know the drill.  If ya’ll be wantin’ to move on and especially with the bigger critters, they’ll just kinda tap at your car or somethin’?  Ya’ll can just start inchin’ forward and they’ll scram.  OK?”  My God, that was almost as painful to write as it was to hear.  After I mentally interpreted what she had said into proper English I looked at her in all sincerity and asked “What do I do if the animals attack me?”  She stared at me with a puzzled look and said “I don’t think that’s ever really happened before, sir.”  I contemplated responding with “Good job.  You did grammar and stuff!”  Instead we got into the car and headed out onto the red clay roadway that lead through the safari.

The gas station was on Gin Road.  Unfortunately, there was no actual gin nearby.

The gas station was on Gin Road. Unfortunately, there was no actual gin nearby.

See, they just come up right by your car, real easy like, and then they either lick your hand or kill you outright.

See, they just come up right by your car, real easy like, and then they either lick your hand or kill you outright.

And about ten minutes into our trip I asked my wife “How long’s this thing estimated to take?”  Her response of “an hour and a half” lead me to rejoin with “Then we’re about to learn what happens when you run out of gas on a game preserve.”  Yep, we had to exit the safari, drive seven miles on fumes, fill up, and return.  Should have checked my gauges first.  Now here’s the neat thing.  There were some pretty cool animals.  Clearly they had all been tranquilized and I don’t care what the safari people say.  Their liability would be too great otherwise.  But for safe measure I did have several Valium pills ready to mix into the bags of feed.  We started out being approached by alpacas.  That was neat.  They walked right up to the car and lazily waited until we tossed pellets at them.  Then we saw white tailed deer.  Up next were four large bison.  They were followed by speckled deer.  “Ooh, an ostrich!  Look, it’s more deer.”  Are you following the pattern?  This must be the business model taught at Harvard these days.  When opening a safari park and you cannot find enough safari animals, just fill the place with deer.  To be fair, the camel came right up to our car and actually stuck his head in the window.  A bit freaky, yes, but funny, too, based on Sonny Boy’s reaction.

I still managed to find the longest footbridge in America in one of these East Texas towns.  And this is the reason we get off the Interstate.

I still managed to find the longest footbridge in America in one of these East Texas towns. And this is the reason we get off the Interstate.

They claim to be "oldest town in Texas" but so does nearby Jefferson.

They claim to be “oldest town in Texas” but so does nearby Jefferson.

We continued to drive through this place and my daughter piped up with “What’s our next stop?”  We told her we wanted to visit the tiny tourist trap of Nacogdoches.  “Hey,” she said, whispering to her brother, “We’re going to Nag-a-no-jez next.”  He was quite disinterested.  He was too busy naming the safari animals.  “Mommy!  I think that one (the zebra) should be called Ze-be,” he said with glee.  “And that one (the camel) I will call Cami.”  I must not have been paying attention to his nomenclature.  Moments later I spit out my drink when he tried to grab the attention of the errant antelopes (with the twisted horns) by yelling out the window “C’mere, horny!”  I looked up to see that he (my son, not Horny) had moved over to get a better view.  Now he was sitting atop a suitcase belonging to my mother-in-law.  Remember her?  She had a double mastectomy not long ago.  “Wilma, do you know what’s in that case he’s on top of?” I asked.  “Oh, just my ta-ta’s dear,” came the reply.  Good to know her prosthetic boobs were packed for the trip.

This little jaunt was nearing it’s end when some of the ugliest animals we encountered made their appearance.  I think they were from India and they resembled oxen who’s faces had been smashed with bricks.  Worse yet, they had flies surrounding them.  Windows went up immediately.  My wife then muttered under her breath “We’re not feeding you unless you’re healthy you disgusting beasts.”  Who knew she took this so personally?

And no Texas road trip is complete with paying homage to the beaver.

And no Texas road trip is complete with paying homage to the beaver.

After exiting the safari-land adventure park we continued on, passing through the many small towns of the region.  We stopped for early dinner in Na-ga-no-jez as my daughter called it.  Finally, after a quick stop at Texas’ most famous chain of roadside rest stops – Buc-ee’s – to fill up on junk food and coffee, we reached our destination for the night.  That would be a hotel about thirty minutes north of Houston.

And if we had driven here directly we would have made it before lunch.  But we would never have encountered the mountain woman behind the desk at the world’s most awesomely strange drive-through animal park.  Also, the zebra licked me.

Hey! Where Did We Go?

This has been such a long day for me.

I literally got about 45 minutes of sleep last night… and that came in five minute increments.  I just could not sleep.  I had been promised* a snow day by a person at work in a position to deliver on such a promise.  Wordy?  Sorry.  Twitter was involved.  I ramped up my efforts to get my students on my side.  It was a glorious effort.

I always got a kick out of these smiley heads of pain-things.

I always got a kick out of these smiley heads of pain-things.

Have I mentioned that I’m two and a half weeks smoke free?  It was a twenty year ride people.  It’s not the easiest thing in the world and the fact that I ripped the patch off two days ago and said: “Pfft…  I don’t need this thing.”  Besides, it was making my heart race.  Couple that with a disgusting virus my daughter gave me and I was just a quivering mass of jelly.  BUT, I was jelly with no cigarettes.

Anyway, after getting to work, making some plans, catching up (for I had been out sick yesterday), and stopping to catch my breath as the pain started to catch up to me…  As I walked into my classroom I passed a dozen students (and teachers) in the halls who all said “Hey, at least you tried for us, Mr. H.”  That I had.

I got a text from my wife.  Without going into it, I needed to turn around and go home pretty quickly.  Thank God I have such wonderful colleagues.  I mean that.  I don’t know that any of them read my blog and that’s OK; but knowing that I could count on them to drop into my classroom like ninjas and that everything was going to be OK took a huge burden off of me.

And at this point I have to say, I don’t like missing work; but I have been trying to look on the bright side of things.  Truthfully, who couldn’t use an afternoon off here and there?  I say this especially since those days off give me a chance to get off my feet and with the pain I’ve been in lately that’s welcome relief.

By the way, this post is really fun to write.  I’m just sharing my perspective.  Also, I remembered that at least one of my colleagues does read this blog, albeit a few weeks after the fact.

So, once the debacle I came home to settle was settled, I had the joy of letting my wife and son rest.  You see, he caught the virus when I was done with it.  The wife?  Well, she’s just tired from taking care of us.  They napped (along with her mom, recovering from her mastectomy at our house) while Baby Girl and I got down on the floor and cleaned the kids’ bedroom.  That only took about an hour.

When that was done, I stopped to eat and then hunkered down to write my coursework for the week.  If you’re keeping score that’s 1 6-page response paper for school law (Court decisions relating to student freedoms) and 1 Literature review for an action research project.  I’m not keeping score so I don’t know where any of this is coming from.  Took me about an hour and then I slammed the books shut, grabbed a quick, hot shower, got into some comfortable loungewear, and sat down to watch Shark Tank with my wife.

So here’s my big question…

Where did everyone go?  I mean, I miss my Zero to Hero crew.  It was actually a fun gathering.  Yes?  I have to remind myself at least once a week to go through and touch base.  *In the meantime, I’ve got to learn not to trust deans of students who tweet snow closings.  Or maybe it’s just because we’re in Dallas and the whole idea of a “snow day” is risible beyond belief.  You be the judge.

¡Snow Kills!

We are not impressed with this snowfall.

We are not impressed with this snowfall.

Welcome to North Texas!  I’m a Jersey boy so snow is sort of familiar territory to me.  It still surprises me when it snows here in Texas.  No one is prepared for it.  At the high school where I teach, everyone arrived for a typical Thursday.  The snow started falling around the time of the first bell.  Good luck trying to teach after that.  But I did a decent job.  I simply gave up!  In all seriousness, I stood in the hall as kids were passing by on their way to class shouting out “Don’t forget to tweet your snow pictures to the Dean of Students with the hashtag #sendushomeearly!”  Then, I spent the whole 90 minutes of my first period doing just that.  Hey, if you can’t adjust your lessons once in a while, when can you?  The kids got a kick out of it.  And, I managed to convince the Dean of Students to go into the principal with this crazy idea that the inch of snow on the ground meant we should dismiss early.  Guess who was high school hero today?

My lunch appears to have been packed by a group of Russian nesting dolls.

My lunch appears to have been packed by a group of Russian nesting dolls.

In the meantime, they kept us just long enough to count it as a full school day.  This meant I got to enjoy lunch.  Today’s fare was something my wife made for dinner a couple of nights ago.  It was a chicken chili and it was quite tasty.  However, the remnants from dinner were just a bit too much to fit into the small Tupperware my wife packed it in.  My makeshift solution?  Check out the picture.  Glad I ate before I left because it took me and Zippy (my colleague and friend who hitched a ride) two hours to make a thirty minute commute.

By the way, since I know he’s reading this (but probably three weeks after I’ve posted it) I just wanted to say once again how thankful I am to have a friend like Zippy.  Although I’m positive he’d probably rather not have to put up with me dropping by his classroom when I’m bored (which is often) and talking his ear off (because I do that) and all the other things about me that I would call quirks and others would call annoyances; I really enjoy just having another guy I can relate to.  Did I mention the fact that he’s also a decent family man, a good teacher, and all-around good guy?  Yes, I really lucked out this year.  It’s nice not to be the only man in my department anymore.  It’s really nice that I actually like the dude who filled the position.

Baby Girl is not impressed with her awesome daddy.

Baby Girl is not impressed with her awesome daddy.

After returning home almost as late as I would have without an early dismissal I attempted to nap for a bit.  My painkillers are playing havoc with my sleep cycle. I have to be awake at work so that’s not an issue and I sometimes can’t sleep at night so I try to take it where I can get it.  Let’s just say that my mid-afternoon slumber was not productive.  Mrs. Harvey beat me to it.  She was napping when I got home which meant the kittens needed me to keep a watchful eye on them.  You see, Mrs. Harvey didn’t get home from the hospital until very early this morning.  The good news is that her mom, Wilma, is doing very well.  The surgery was a success and she should be coming home soon!  Praised be Jesus Christ!  May He be forever praised!  Meanwhile, I went to mass to give thanks.  I tried to tell my daughter all about my day.  She was not impressed as the picture clearly shows.  Her brother didn’t even bother.  He went to bed.

Buddy is not impressed with this story.

Buddy is not impressed with this story.

Ultimately, I played another exciting round of Tweet the Dean and managed to give a pretty compelling argument.  I’m not saying I had anything to do with it; but guess who has another day off tomorrow?!  And again, guess who’s the hero of the high school.  I really wish I had been this popular when I was a teenager.  These kids were tweeting me asking me to come through for them with another snow day (as if I really had anything to do with it).  “You were clutch once already today Mr. H.  #studlyteacher” they said.  Aw…  Go on.  No, really, go on.  I like this.  In my excitement, and knowing that Baby Girl already expressed her disgust for my story, I turned to the only living creature in my house whom I hadn’t completely bored with my story.  He was even less impressed than my daughter.  And they call him “man’s best friend”…

Pizza’s Here! Why Area Codes Matter, Play-ah.

I have encountered this problem before.  And every time I do I find myself laughing at that little part of our common human nature that causes us to skip the details when we think we know the outcome.

Alas 201, what has become of ye?

Alas 201, what has become of ye?

I grew up in Northern New Jersey.  When I was a kid our home phone — you know, the kind that had a coiled cord connecting it to a base? — had a 201 area code.  This really was inconsequential to us as, when I was a kid, we did not actually use the area code.  Those three digits were reserved for making long distance calls — like to another area code.  Before I bore you with the rest of my story, I’d like to bore you with another story.  Fun fact: area codes were invented in New Jersey.  Bell Labs was (and essentially still is) headquartered in a little town called Basking Ridge about twenty miles from where I grew up.  With the advent of direct dialing (i. e., not requiring an operator to place the call), Bell began experimenting with adding an additional code as a prefix to the seven digit number.  The area code would be used only when calling a phone in a different area from the caller such that when you dialed your next door neighbor you would just dial seven digits; but when you dialed a neighboring state you might be calling the same exact number just with a different area code.  The geniuses out in Basking Ridge decided to establish a system whereby the middle digit in the area code would be either a 0 or a 1.  For some reason they could not start a 1.  Obvious additional combinations such as “411” and “611” were out as they were already in use by the phone company for information and phone repair respectively.  With that in mind, and going in sequence, the first code out of the box was to be “201” which was assigned to the entire state of New Jersey, home of Bell Labs.

By the time I was in college, the more populous parts of these United States had seen their area codes halved and quartered in area to make way for the growing need for more phone numbers (fax machines, computer modems, etc.)  We saw our beloved 201 taken away from us and pushed into a tiny corner of the state covering Bergen and Hudson Counties.  We were given the consolation prize of “973”.  By this time the original 144 possible three digit combinations following the above rules had been exhausted and the phone guys were forced to start allowing additional middle digits.  Many of us wanted to give them a particular middle digit right back at them.  We were proud of 201.  Now we were reduced to 973.  But over time, we got used to it.  Hey, at least it wasn’t 908.  Things got really bizarre when they started overlaying the codes so that a caller could no longer trust that three digits always meant a particular area.  Finally, the federal government legislated number portability to accommodate all of us cell phone users who wanted not to have to change our phone numbers every time we switched carriers.  This leads me to my story.

True, it’s not 201 but I’ve been fond of my 973 number for some time.  I kept it when we moved to Virginia and I kept it when we moved to Texas.  Unfortunately, the place where we moved has a little quirky problem.  They have a 972 area code.  Imagine how obnoxious this is.  I go into CVS or Walgreens.  The clerk asks if I have a rewards card and I say “Not on me.”  “Oh,” he replies, “just give me your phone number.”  I raise one eyebrow.  “Why?  Don’t you see my wedding ring?  It would never work.  I’m sure you’re a nice man and all but the fact remains that I’m married.  And you’re a dude.”  “No sire,” he replies.  “Although you will later write a blog about this and purposely leave a typo in place to make it look like I called you ‘sire’, your number will access your rewards.”  “Ah…” I reply.  “Have at it, my liege.  It’s 9-7-3-XXX-XXXX”.  And then I watch as he punches in the numbers 9-7-2.

“STOP right there you punk!”  He jumps.  “Is a 2 a 3?”  Puzzled, he frantically searches for the key marked ‘DEL’ and asks me to state my number again.

Recently we had several snow days at work.  Ice days, really.  Although I found out about the closures through other means I began to wonder why I was the only one of my colleagues who hadn’t received the emergency alert phone call.  I emailed the IT guy at work.  He promptly shot back to me “My log shows”  — Sorry, that line makes me laugh. — “My log shows that we did reach you on three different occasions.  One time you picked up and the other two went to an answering machine.”  As if to prove his brilliance he included a screenshot of the log in question.  To him I replied “OK 1) answering machine?  Really?  Is this 1987? and 2) you didn’t reach me.  But whomever you called at 9-7-2-XXX-XXXX was certainly made aware that our school was closed.”  Genius.

I suppose I could change it.  I could conform.  I could sell out.


Good pizza.  Wrong number.

Good pizza. Wrong number.

Tonight, come to think of it, the original story about the pizza really doesn’t relate to this topic too well.  I’ll tell it anyway.  If you feel like leaving now I won’t be offended much.  That’s a lie.  Stick with me.  It’s fun.  Like letting a giraffe drive a Mini Cooper.  Tonight, my phone rang repeatedly.  The screen showed the call was coming from “973” but I did not recognize the number.  On the third try in a row I answered.  The voice on the other end spoke in broken English.  “Hello?  You order Domino’s Pizza?”  I didn’t even know how to respond to this one.  “Um, no.”  “Somebody at this number order Domino’s and I outside.  You sure you no order Do-mi-no’s” he said while actually singing the company’s name at the end.  This was so strange.  “Where are you?” I asked.  He gave me the address.  “If you let me in, I give you pizza…” he said.  “OK, I didn’t order piz-zzzzaaaaa,” I replied.  “And I’m in Tex-asssssss.”  The singing on the other end stopped.  “Huh?” he said.

“My friend,” I said, “You’re at my sister’s house and I guarantee she typed my number into the box when she ordered online because we had just been on the phone.  I’ll call her and tell her to let you in.”

See, it was a funny story, right?

But man that pizza sounded good…  Damn you 973!

Hunkering Down and Carrying On

Well, that was a success…  Remember this gem from about a week ago?

I’ll try to post more regularly over this next week so as to provide some pictorial proof of this visit.  When she and I get together we usually wind up with some “fun” pictures.

Clearly that didn’t go as planned.  I should add that the visit with my mom went exactly as planned and we all enjoyed the time tremendously.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before we all see each other again.  Now then, what in the world does “hunker” mean?  I’m assuming that’s the infinitive form.  OK, I know what it means from the context of that expression “to hunker (down)” but where did it come from?  It’s one of those words that just doesn’t fit into our everyday speech; only in semi-archaic expressions.  Whatever…  Here are some pics from the past week.

Now that one visitor has left, it’s time to get ready for another.  In nine days my sister and my niece will be here for the week of Thanksgiving!  We’re all very excited.  Hopefully my posting will be more frequent between now and then.  It’s kind of like going to the gym, writing.  When I was working out regularly I always worked off of this theory that doing anything was better than doing nothing.  Lately I’ve noticed that I need to get back into both.  So, whether it’s the Weebles or the daily prompts; I’m going to take my baby steps back into the world of more frequent posting.  And just like hitting the gym, it might be hard to find the energy to get there and do it but I always feel better when I’m done — except for that time when I put down the weights early one morning before work and hit the showers only to discover that the Columbian cleaning woman hadn’t actually finished her duties in the locker room.  That  was an interesting experience.  I don’t know Spanish so I patched together a few foreign words as best I could.  “Ay! Yo soy sum es in neccesarium, er, bano? Laudo laudas laudat!  Bonjour!  Get out!”