Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Seventeen

Dear Readers,

I think for the first time during this whole Rona thing, I’m getting a little stir crazy. Thankfully, when I get too fidgety, I can go down to Sylvan Beach. It’s less than a mile from my front door and I can sit there in the truck and watch the ships coming down the Bay from the Port of Houston. Rumor has it that the college will remain (mostly) online for the spring semester too, so by the time I’m physically there again, it’ll have been eighteen months since all this started. Honestly, when I left campus for the last time on March 6th, I had no idea that so much time would pass before I’d be back. Sure, I figured I might not be back for that semester, but I didn’t have the slightest inkling that this would last as long as it has.

If you’ve followed these entries over the past six months, you’ll know how insane this whole quarantine period has been for us, what with major home repairs, renovations, etc. 2020 will be memorable for many, many reasons. Every New Year’s Eve, I write a year in review post. I don’t know how I’m going to manage that this year. There’s so much to say, but at the same time, everything has been said already. I’m sure I’ll be able to cobble together something, so fear not.

I’ve had some excitement this past week. Since the semester started, I’ve been getting some headaches, usually late in the day. With being online only now for school, this means a lot more time in front of a computer screen than I am accustomed to. Since my glasses are five years old, I decided it was time for a new prescription and a new pair. So on Monday, I sallied forth to the optometrist. Armed with a new prescription, I picked out a pair of glasses. They arrived today (Saturday), but I’m going to wait to go and pick them up until Monday morning.

To aid me in my quest to slay the Nic O’Tine dragon, my doctor gave me a script for Chantix. I started taking it a couple of weeks ago. It’s not causing me any nausea, which is the main side effect. What it is doing, though, is causing me hardcore insomnia. Like, can’t sleep at all, insomnia. I don’t know how well it is working for what the prescription was for, but we’ll see. I have two weeks left and then I’ll decide if I want to stay on it or not. I’ve also been working on decorating, or rather redecorating, my workspace. After all the renovations, we moved the bookshelves out of my room and into the living room. Now, I am left with a big white wall adjacent to my standing desk. I purchased some art and a few other odds and ends to put up. So far it is looking good, but I have a few more pieces to add. I’ll post pictures once it is finished, but since one of the items is coming from the U.K., it might be a while.

And the best news for last! Molly’s Song is now back with the editor! I’ve finished all my work and now it is time for the copyedit. Then it will go out on submission. I have no idea of a publication date, but as soon as I know one, I’ll let you know. It took six months to write and nine months to revise. There are days when I think it is a fantastic story. And there are days where I question why I ever learned how to write in the first place. To be a writer is to be plagued by self-doubt on a regular basis. It’s an occupational hazard for us.

Until next time, Dear Readers, take care of yourselves, and each other.

L.H.

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Sixteen

Dear Readers,

I hope this latest missive finds you well and free of the Rona and far away from any hurricanes. It’s been a hectic week, or maybe ten days, around here. Not for any bad reasons though. On Saturday, September 26th, I’ll hit send and forward Molly’s Song back to my editor for the final polish. I’ve been immersed in her world up to my eyebrows for days now making sure that all my edits are finished. Books are not written. They are re-written. The version of the novel that will go to my editor is actually the 7th Draft. I’m a fast writer but a slow editor. That’s why I finished the book last November and it will be eleven months later that it is ready to go out on submission. With so much time spent with her lately, I’m dreaming about Molly at night. (No! Not like that, you perverts!) My hope, my only hope, is that I do her story justice. For her, and for the millions of women like her from the earliest times right up to the present day who have found themselves victims of traffickers.

Demelza. Oh, be still my beating heart!

I had a surreal experience the other day while working on the manuscript. People had suggested to me that I might like to watch Poldark on Amazon. As I had finished my latest binge watch of something, I decided to go ahead and turn it on. Honestly, I was working and so I wasn’t paying much attention to the show. Then, I looked up and I swear to God it was as if Molly herself were staring back at me. Eleanor Tomlinson, who plays Demelza in the series, looks just like Molly looks in my head (except Molly’s eyes are brown). And I’m officially in love with the screen version of Demelza. If the Molly’s Song series gets produced for television/Netflix/Hulu/Amazon, it would be grand if Ms. Tomlinson could play her.

Speaking of the series, as I think I’ve said before, I project this to be a three book series, possibly more. I can now state that books 2 and 3 have been roughly sketched out. Book 2 has an outline that is a little more fleshed out since it will be next up to write. My plan is to start on it once Molly’s Song goes out on submission in early October. It’ll give me something to do while piling up the rejections. (All authors get rejections…it’s part of the business. My advice to anyone who wants to make a go of it in the publishing world is develop thick skin!)

We had some NFL action this weekend. I got to see my Saints give the Bucs (with Tom Brady) a pants down spanking. Who Dat Nation is back! Anastasia and I listened to the game together on the radio. I’m thinking about getting her a little Saints cheerleaders outfit. I bet one made for a small dog would fit her. She’s not fat. She just has big bones. We are a few weeks into the semester now. I think everyone is started to get the hang of things. It’s tough for students that are not used to taking online classes. It pays for those of us on the instructional side to be as understanding as we can.  

Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves, and each other!

L.H.

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Fifteen

Not a bad spot to hold virtual office hours!

Dear Readers,

My fall virtual semester started on Monday, August 31st, so I now have more to occupy my times. I spent time loading everything for the whole semester, so once it starts, it is a matter of holding virtual office hours, responding to emails/questions, and grading. Not a whole lot different than a regular semester, just without the face to face contact hours. Our classes are asynchronous, meaning the students log in on their own schedules to complete the weekly lessons. There is not a set time that they have to be in front of the computer. This is an easier way for students, particularly those working full time or with families (like many community college students) to stay in school despite The Rona.

As I mentioned in my last entry, Hurricane Laura made landfall to our east and so we were spared any damaging winds or storm surge. My wife had come home from where she was living to be here in case the storm hit and to help with storm preparations. We decided that it would be best for her to just go ahead and stay here and not move back out. Is it risky? Yes, it is. But life is short and we’ve spent enough time apart in our marriage. I’m infinitely happier with her being here, that I can tell you. I did fairly well while she was gone. Physically, that is. If you follow this blog or if you follow me on social media, then you know the challenges I face and also how I feel about my wife. Ours is a love story straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, though I don’t know if that is necessarily a good thing. Let’s just say that we’ve been through a lot together. Or maybe I should say that I’ve put her through a lot. This is why our song is Far Away by Nickelback. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the video I made for her for Christmas.

Speaking of songs, I bought a new karaoke machine in early August. It helps with the cigarette cravings. That may sound odd, but it actually works…singing instead of smoking. Glen Campbell I ain’t, but here is a video of me singing Galveston. Twenty years of eating smoke (both as a firefighter and a lover of Nic O’Tine) shredded my voice, but there’s still a few songs I can do. We are thinking about having a karaoke party for the students at the college whenever we resume normal operations (either in January or possibly next August). Having fun at work is an essential ingredient of being happy in your job. I just wish that more people realized that it is okay to have fun at work.

My buddy Paul!

I’ve made a new friend during the pandemic. For several months now, I have a nightly visitor. I call him Paul the Possum. He stops by each night around 8:30pm to eat some cat food. He’s gotten fairly comfortable around me. Him being a wild animal and all, I don’t try to touch him, but he will come and sit under my chair or between my feet. He is friends with the feral cat that I take care of too. With everything going on in the world, it doesn’t feel like I’ve truly started back to school for a new semester. Nor does it feel like the summer is over, though to be fair, this whole quarantine period has passed (at least for me) with lightning speed. I imagine this is due to all the crap we had to deal with house-wise in April and May.

Last but not least, the NFL will be starting in a few days! Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints!

Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves, and each other.

L.H.

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Fourteen

Dear Readers,

Who had major hurricane on their 2020 bingo card? Living on the Gulf Coast, it is always a possibility, so I don’t know why I just assumed that we wouldn’t see one in 2020. It was kind of dicey because originally, the weather guessers on TV were saying we would get hit by a weak Marco, while Laura went very far to our east. Then, Marco kind of died out and next thing we knew, they told us that Laura was head straight for us and would make landfall as at least a 3 and possibly a 4. That’s just what we needed, right?

Having grown up on the Gulf coast, I’m an old hand at hurricanes. I’ve been through quite a few either as a civilian or as a firefighter on duty during the storm. The problem is that you have to start making plans a few days out, but forty-eight hours before landfall, the safest place to be is right in the middle of the Cone of Doom that the weather guessers put up on TV. More often than not, the storm goes somewhere else. That is kind of what happened with Laura.

My wife’s school announced on Tuesday that they would be closed for the rest of the week due to the approaching storm, as did most schools in the area. I am unable to make the necessary hurricane preparations by myself, so she came home. Our plan was that she would stay here if it would hit as a Cat. 1 or 2 and she would leave with the cats for a 3, 4, or 5. I ain’t for that leaving, so I’d stay home regardless. Our house has been through 14 hurricanes (2 Cat 4s, 2 Cat 3s, 4 Cat 2s, and 7 Cat 1s, plus a dozen tropical storms…and it is less than a mile from Galveston Bay). I’d feel safer in my house than any modern structure in the city. On Tuesday evening she and my brother started boarding up our windows and they finished on Wednesday morning. By the time we finished, it was looking like the storm might hit around 50 miles to our east, but that would still put us in the middle of some wicked winds. Then, the weather guessers started shifting the track further east. Laura ended up coming ashore about a hundred miles to our east instead. Wednesday night, we got a couple of wind gusts in the 25-30 mph range, but no rain.

You ain’t hurricane ready unless you got a pirate flag to put out!

The same cannot be said for the Golden Triangle area of SE Texas and SW Louisiana, particularly Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes. As I grew up in the area, this is a particularly difficult thing for me to see happen. That area has suffered so much over the past fifteen years with Rita, Ike, Harvey, Imelda, and now Laura. And since it happens well away from the bright lights of Houston or New Orleans, the media and the country soon lose interest and the survivors are forced to try and recover on their own without the huge outpouring of support we see when storms hit more populated areas. There won’t be any telethons or national fundraising campaigns on their behalf. This compounds an already tragic situation.

We got the boards taken down on Saturday and brought them back to the storage shed today. Hopefully we won’t need them again this year, but it looks like their might be more trouble headed into the Caribbean as we are nearing the peak of the hurricane season and it is also the Cape Verde season…the big, long tracking hurricanes. There’s never a dull moment down here on the third coast. Today, my wife will leave again to go back to where she is staying for the semester. We are hoping she’ll be able to come home for good in another week or two, but we’ll see.

I miss my office at the college. Haven’t seen it since March 5th.

When not busy dodging hurricanes, I had to spend time getting my classes set up for our fall semester. We start late this year, on August 31st, but that is by design and was decided long before The Rona or Hurricane Laura. I think I’ve got everything ready for the semester, but I’ll no doubt have to tweak a few things as we go along. I’m lucky in that I’ve taught at least a couple of online classes a semester for years now, and so I already have a lot of material ready. Given that all our classes will be virtual this go round, I took the opportunity to revamp my courses to make them, I hope, better for the students. Like many, I look forward to being in a physical classroom again, though, if I am honest, I’m kind of enjoying being at home too. Or at least I was until my wife had to leave.

This is what Query Hell feels like.

Molly’s Song goes off for the copyedit on Sept. 28th, which reminds me that I need to make my last couple of changes. When I get the manuscript back around Oct. 9th, I’ll then enter into a world known to writers as “Query Hell.” This is where you fire off emails and sample chapters in order to place the manuscript with an agent (or publisher). My brother Andrew can tell you stories from the bowels of Query Hell as he’s placed articles with national publications. I now know what direction the sequel is going to take, and I’m actually slowly working on my Russian Revolution epic, Dark Raven, while I plot out Molly’s {Insert Word I Haven’t Decided On Yet Here}.

Until we meet again, Dear Readers, I wish you fair winds and calm seas. And remember, take care of yourselves. And each other.

L.H.

P.S. Hurricane Laura can kiss my Irish a$$.

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Thirteen

A week has now passed since my wife moved out. We talk on the phone every night, of course, and she stops by once a week to bring groceries, though when she gets here, I have to put on a mask and go outside while she brings them in (and she wears a mask and gloves), and then we can talk on the porch for a bit, while staying ten feet apart and wearing masks. This past week was a little busy. I had a Skype meeting at 0900 on Monday. My Summer 2 courses were also doing finals this week, and so I had to get all that wrapped up and post grades/handle paperwork. This coming week, I actually don’t have anything school related to do. I’m going to give myself the week off before I had to jump into planning my virtual classes for the fall semester. My wife is doing as well as can be expected, though her district had four teachers test positive for the virus this week after being at in-service with all the other teachers. (The students won’t start back until the coming week). Rather than telling teachers who have been around those individuals to quarantine, the district is just acting like it didn’t happen. I guess that’s what happens when the district leadership thinks the virus is a hoax. Despite how they claim they are following CDC/State guidelines, they posted pictures last week of teachers not social distancing and not wearing masks.

Enough of that. My birthday was Friday the 14th, and it passed with little fanfare, though I did get my new masks in the mail. One of them has a picture of Mashka and the other a picture of all the Grand Duchesses. I’ll probably not wear them (since I have masks of better quality), but one day they might make a nice collector’s item. My wife did stop by on my birthday for a few minutes. My buddy Paul the Possum showed up after dark to say “Happy Birthday”…okay, actually it was to eat the leftover cat food. With Molly’s Song ready to go back to the editor, I have turned some attention to the sequel. However, the novel that I planned to write over the summer has kept nagging me. Initially, I think I was to start it on May 15th and I’d be finished with it by now. Home issues intervened (remember the whole roof and re-wire thing?), and so I had to shelve it. For whatever reason, perhaps because I’m alone and I have nothing else to do, I was struck with a sudden bolt of inspiration. This has allowed me to steadily knock out 5K-6K words a day, almost double my typical writing output.

In a way, I’m okay with this as I hope to be finished with the first draft around the same time I get Molly’s Song back from the editor on Oct. 8th. When Molly goes out on submission, I can turn to editing the other book and also writing Molly’s sequel. It’s an ambitious plan, I guess, but it is one that is workable.

I apologize for the short post, but I don’t have much exciting to report from the week.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

L.H.   

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Twelve

Elizabeth and I in happier days. Before I got hurt. And before The Rona forced us to live apart.

Dear Readers,

Today was D-Day. We spent the day getting my wife’s clothes and other teaching related items packed up. The biggest task was to go through the house and make sure everything I may need (water, food, etc) was on a counter or shelf at least waist high for me. Since I cannot bend at the waist, and I cannot lift anything heavier than a half-gallon of milk, we had to make things accessible for me since I’ll be going it alone for the foreseeable future. We’ve had to do this in the past when my wife has been out of town for a few days or a week, but this is the first time we are doing it without knowing when she’ll be able to come back home. Then it was time to load up her car. We said goodbye, and she drove away.

Obviously, she isn’t going to the far side of the moon. We’ll be able to talk/text every day. And at some point, we anticipate that she will be able to come home, we just don’t know when. It isn’t a permanent goodbye, though if she catches the virus at her school, I suppose there is a possibility that it will be. I am in a shitload of pain today, probably due to the stress, but I tried to hide it as best I could so I wouldn’t upset her. People who live with chronic pain get very good at hiding things like that. It’s how we cope without making everyone around us miserable. Here in a little bit, I can take my medication and lay down on my ice packs. Hopefully, that will drop my pain level from an 8 to a 6. A 5 if I am lucky.

I have a busy week ahead of me, which is a good thing. I have a meeting tomorrow, another one on Tuesday, my online classes are taking their finals, I have to submit their grades and paperwork, I have a telehealth appointment on Friday, and I also turn 42 on Friday. This first week, keeping busy will help me, I think.

As for tonight, I am going to lay on my icepacks and watch my favorite television mini-series, Тихий Дон (2015) on YouTube. It is fourteen episodes long and will a week’s worth of nights for me. I have it on DVD, but it is on YouTube for free. Losing myself in the saga of the Don Cossacks in peace, war, and revolution, not to mention the love between Grishka and Aksinia will be just the ticket for me.

I know this is a short post, but I’m at a loss for what more I can say. But I hope all of you are healthy and well and if you are fortunate to be with people you love, hold them close to you. As a retired firefighter, I know all too well how fragile life can be, even when we are not in the midst of a pandemic.

Until next time, Dear Readers, take care of yourselves. And each other.

L.H.  

Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Eleven

Dear Readers,

Wow. When I wrote my first Journal of a Pandemic Year entry back in March, I had no idea that I’d still be doing it come August. It’s worse now than it was back then, at least in my area. At this point, I don’t even know what normal is anymore. My college has moved online for the fall semester, so assuming that I’m back on the campus come January, it will have been almost a year since I set foot in a classroom or in my office. It’s crazy to think about.

At least we have baseball back, though Lord knows for how long. Then again, I wouldn’t call what the Red Sox are doing this season baseball. My wife is a Cubs fan, so at least she’s happy thus far. We’ve already had big changes to my house during the pandemic. There has been another one since we last spoke. And there’s an even bigger one coming in a few days. This time, it’s not to the house but rather to its inhabitants. I have finally managed to quit smoking (again). I quit originally in early 2011 but started again a year later when I got hurt. It’s been a constant battle since then, but I’m convinced that this time it will stick. Everyone has to find their own way to quit. Since I put out my last cigarette, slowly my singing voice and my lung capacity are coming back. Bit by bit. So whenever I get a particularly strong craving, I plug in my microphone and belt out a tune or two. It actually works! The other change is, sadly, not a happy one.

My wife is moving out on Sunday, August 9th. Yes. You read that correctly. She is moving out. No, we are not getting a divorce. We aren’t even separating, at least not in the legal sense. She is a public school teacher. Her district is adamant that they are going to have classes as usual in a few weeks time. Students won’t have to wear masks in the classroom. Employees were told that even if they share a household with a person with an active case of the virus, they have to come to work unless they start showing symptoms themselves. On top of that, if a student or staff member tests positive, people who have been sharing classrooms with them will not have to quarantine. There is no question as to whether or not she is going to be exposed to the virus. She will be. As I am an immunocompromised person, I can’t be around someone who has been in a building with 2,000 other people, plus the virus. How long will she be gone? We don’t really know.

I’ll be honest. I don’t do very well when she’s not here. Every year, she usually goes out of town for anywhere from three days to a week, but that’s different. In those cases, I know exactly when she is going to be home and I am always occupied with stuff to keep me busy. This time, she’s leaving and we don’t know when she’ll be back. She’s in better health than I am, but if she gets sick, what if it turns really serious? It is a small possibility, but there is still a chance that we’ll be saying goodbye for the last time. Sure, that was true every time we said goodbye before I left for my shift with the fire department, but that was different. I signed up to risk my life at work. She didn’t. And neither did any other teacher in the country. But we are going to sacrifice them, and our children, upon the altar of the economy. Don’t worry. I assure you the sociopaths making these decisions won’t lose any sleep over it. After all, it isn’t their kids or their spouse that may die.

Yes, I rely on her to do things around the house that I am not physically capable of doing because of my injuries, but that’s not the important thing. She’s my rock. My anchor. She keeps me grounded. We’ve been through hell together as a couple and she’s stood by me when most others would have left or cracked under the strain. There’s been nights where she has had to stay up and hold my hand while I shook from nightmares only to have to go to her job in the morning and act like everything was fine. At times, I withdraw into myself and won’t say a word to anyone for days. She doesn’t push me. She waits for me to be ready to open up again. I don’t have to tell her when I’m having a bad day pain wise or brain wise, she just knows. We can have a conversation sitting out on our front porch without either of us saying a word. Other than my grandfather, Elizabeth is the only person to truly understand me. Which is funny, in a way, because I’m so much like my grandfather to be a virtual clone of him. Last Christmas, I made a video for her that had a bunch of pictures from our early, happy years together, when I was on top of the world…before Humpty Dumpty had his fall and broke into a million pieces. You can see it here.

I don’t have many friends these days, just a handful of co-workers that I consider friends. And a few more outside of work. It’s tough when you are in severe pain all the time. As much as I try to hide it, people don’t like to be around me. That’s fine. I don’t blame them. When I’m at home, I count the minutes until my wife gets back. What’s been crazy about this whole pandemic is that we’ve been together almost every minute of every day starting on Saturday, March 7th. During that time, despite the extreme stress of the damage to the house and all the repairs, we haven’t had a single argument. It’s nice because during our early years of marriage, I was gone a lot for work and sometimes we might not see each other for a few days at a time. The pandemic has allowed us to make up for some of that lost time.

Our song is Far Away by Nickleback. It isn’t supposed to be literal though. It’s because of the emotional distance between us sometimes when I go through another period when I can’t bring myself to talk to anyone, and to the distance between us when I was still with the FD and gone for 24 hours at a time. It isn’t supposed to be because she’s gone away and I don’t know when she’ll be back. I’m putting on a brave face for her, but I honestly don’t know how I am going to make it. I’ve had to find superhuman strength to battle through the injuries, the pain, the surgeries, the complications, and the autoimmune disease. I think I’ve used up all the brave that I ever had. I’ll try to make it though. For her more so than me. One day this will all be like a dream. Or so I hope.

But enough complaining. As far as good news goes, I have finished my major edits to Molly’s Song. Elizabeth has finished her read through (and she cried when she finished it, though she doesn’t know that I know that…) and I’ve given it another pass. It’s about as good as it can be. On Sept. 28th, it goes back to my editor for the copy edit. It’s been a long process, but it’s almost over. I can’t wait for you to meet my Molly. I promise you that she is a character that will stick with you long after you finish the book. But that might be because this is book one of a trilogy.

I’ve prattled on for long enough now. In closing, I’d like to leave these words for Elizabeth. I love you more than I can ever say. And I always will.

From Far Away.

On my knees I’ll ask, “Last chance for one last dance?”
‘Cause with you, I’d withstand
All of hell to hold your hand
I’d give it all I’d give for us
Give anything, but I won’t give up
‘Cause you know you know, you know

That I love you, I have loved you all along and I miss you
Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you’ll be with me and you’ll never go
Stop breathing if I don’t see you anymore
 

L.H.

P.S.: When my wife asked what options she had, since she lives with someone who is very high risk should he get the virus, she was told she could resign or teach in person. That’s it.

The Return of Iron Mike

Dear Readers,

Don’t know a jab from a job? Don’t know the difference between a Philly shell and a Philly cheesesteak? Don’t worry! You too can enjoy the proposed return to the ring of Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, Jr. It’ll be a spectacle for sure. I’m not sure if the schedule exhibition match is truly an attempt to return to the ring, or if it is for money and publicity, though I expect that is the case. It matters not if you are a student of the sweet science of bruising or if you prefer more genteel pursuits such as baseball, one thing I think the country can agree on is that a large number of us will be tuned in on September 12 to watch them go eight rounds. As a lifelong devotee of the pugilistic art, I’ll be watching for sure.

I was seven when Tyson fought his first professional bout in 1985. Those of us who were kids in the late 80s have a lot of Tyson memories. His name was all over the place, including on the great Nintendo Game, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. A lot of kids really looked up to him. Though I saw his fights like most of the country back then, my favorite boxer was actually Marvelous Marvin Hagler. His fight with Hitman Hearns in April of 1985 was the greatest fight of all time, in my opinion, other than Ward vs. Gatti 1. You can see the Hagler fight here and you can see Ward fight Gatti here.

I certainly think that a lot of us Gen X types will watch this more for the nostalgia it brings rather than expecting to see a good fight. With both men in the 50s, I share some concerns for their health in the ring with George Foreman who has asked them to reconsider their plans. However, if they are going to fight, rest assured that I am going to watch. (But since it is on pay per view, I’ll have to get permission from The Redhead, but she’s a fight fan too, so that won’t pose a problem). Though I do think that people use the word “historic” a little too freely, Sept. 12, 2020 will unquestionably be a historic night.

One that I hope you’ll share with millions of fans around the world when we tune in to watch.

L.H.

What’s In A Dream?

Dear Readers,

Let’s talk about dreams. No, not the kind I have about Maria Nikolaevna, my history crush. I mean the dreams we have in life. Growing up as a kid in Port Arthur, Texas, I dreamed of a couple of things. First of all, I wanted to be a firefighter. Second, I wanted to write a book. Okay, to be completely honest, I also dreamed of playing the NFL. The Golden Triangle area (made of up Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange) is the football capital of the world with more NFL players per capita than anywhere else on the planet. So that’s a common enough dream there. Some, like Jamaal Charles do make it. Others, like me, do not. Though my pursuit of said dream stopped when I was ten, but I digress.

I’ve been truly fortunate in life. My two real dreams came true. I became a firefighter and lived the dream for many years. After I retired and became a professor, I also had time to pursue the second dream. My book came out in the spring of 2019. As I stand here and type this, I can say that my two biggest dreams in life became a reality. This does not mean that I have or had it easy. I didn’t. But my dreams came true and I thank all things holy for that on a regular basis. Ever since my book came out, though, I’ve been slowly focusing on a new dream. One that, in my most sincere hopes and prayers, will come true one day.

So what is it?

Reader mine, the city that I grew up in is a rough place. It’s got a high poverty rate. Around 1/3rd of the children in the city live in poverty. There’s a high crime rate. A large number of vacant, boarded up buildings in the old downtown area. Drugs. Gangs. You name it. But you know what else it has? Some truly amazing, wonderful people. The best you’ll find anywhere. It’s got great music. Great food. And an enduring spirit, as evidenced by the fact that the city is still there despite getting slammed by hurricanes regularly. I am PROUD to call Port Arthur my hometown, and I love the city and its people with all my heart. And this, Dear Reader, is where my new dream comes into play.

Yes, I published my first book last year (and was proud to donate a copy to the Port Arthur Public Library), but you’ll notice I haven’t posted any pictures of me jetting off to Tahiti on vacation. Sales have been modest, but I wrote the book for love, not money. I’ve finished book two (it’s in the editing process now) and I’m working on book three. In order for this dream of mine to come true, one or both of these books must land me a big publishing deal. I want that not for me. I’ve been broke my whole life and wouldn’t otherwise know what to do with the money. I want to do it so that I can put the money into my dream.

My dream, Reader Mine, is to open a boxing gym in the old downtown part of Port Arthur. With all the vacant buildings, I’m sure there’ll be something suitable. This won’t be any old boxing gym though. It will be free of charge to the children of Port Arthur. And it would be more than just a gym. At the end of the school day, I would have vans or buses pick up children from the elementary schools and bring them to the gym. When they arrived, they would get a healthy snack first, and then I would have tutors to help with them with their homework. After that, and only after that, would they be allowed to work out. In the evening, the buses would then deliver them to their homes.

This would serve several purposes. First of all, it would give kids something healthy to belong too at an age when they are susceptible to the influence of street gangs. Second, many of the children in Port Arthur live in single parent homes and when they get home from school, they are often alone for several hours. The gym would give them adult supervision and also provide some good role models, as there are some old fighters that live in the city that I would recruit to run the gym for me. Finally, it gives them a positive outlet for their energy. We would not be training kids to box in the Golden Gloves or turn pro. This would simply be a boxing gym where they could work out, so things like CTE wouldn’t be a problem. The healthy snack is important too, unless PAISD has improved the gruel they served us for lunch back in the 80s.

I would set up a non-profit to actually handle the gym and all associated components. And I would fund it myself until we got enough interest from businesses and community leaders willing to invest in it. Every dime brought in would go right back into the gym. I would not take so much as a cent for my personal coffers. (Though the gym manager, trainers, tutors, and drivers would be paid a salary). I really think that if I once I have enough to get it off the ground, it will be a long term benefit to the city.

I’ve always been the kind to put the service of my community at large above my own personal needs. That’s why I became a firefighter. And that’s why I became a community college professor. In the faces of my students in the classroom, I see my own face. When I see the faces of the children of Port Arthur, I see my own face, because I was one of them once too. I’m lucky, very lucky, to have chosen a path in life that has led me to some amazing places. And I think it is incumbent upon those whom life has blessed to share that with others if they can.

It might be years. It might be a decade or more. But I will make this happen one day. Of that, you can be sure.

Until next time, Dear Readers, take care of yourselves, and each other.

L.H.

“Opening Day”, 2020

Dear Readers,

Back in 2018, I was home on Opening Day and set out to watch/listen to as many games as I could. I wrote about that experience here. This year, we have a different sort of Opening Day. For starters, Opening Day was actually last night when we had two games played, one on the East Coast and one of the West Coast. And as far as today goes, there isn’t much “day” in Opening Day since there is only one afternoon game on the schedule. Still, it does mark a return to baseball. So there’s that at least.

I’m a Red Sox fan. I live behind enemy lines outside of Houston. It’s funny, really. Ten years ago. Five years ago. Few in this city gave a shit about the Astros. When they racked up those 100 loss seasons, they were giving away free tickets and couldn’t get more than 10,000 people at the games. Then suddenly, they have a couple of good seasons with the aid of some trash can lids and now everyone in this city acts like they’ve been fans all along. Bullshit. 85% of the Astros “fans” are of the fair weather variety. And the problem with those “fans”, as opposed to the real Astros fans, is that they do nothing but talk shit when they learn you like another team. I’ve had many a run in with these buffoons when I wear my Red Sox stuff out in public over the last couple of years. And, they are a bunch of crybabies when they lose too. But I digress.

Last night, I listened to the Yankees play the Nationals in D.C., up until the rain out, that is. Dr. Fauci threw out the first pitch. Let’s just say that he’s a much better doctor than he was a pitcher…unless he was trying to give an indication of how to social distance based on the distance from the plate the ball landed. The first inning was exciting. Stanton of the Yankees hit a two-run shot that also scored Judge. In the bottom on the first, Eaton answered with a solo shot to right field. The Nats had Scherzer on the mound, so I assumed the home run he gave up was simply due to the long layover given the dominant performances he usually brings to the mound. He gave up a run in the third and another in the fifth. He pitched 5.1 innings with four earned runs, but he also struck out 11. The game was called due to lighting after the top of the sixth, so the 4-1 score ends up being the final one.

After this game ended, I switched over the Giants and Dodgers game. Kershaw had been scheduled to start for the Dodgers, but he was scratched a few hours before the game due to back spasms. As an individual with a damaged spine, I know full well how debilitating that can be. The Giants scored first in the top of the third. The Dodgers tied the game when Hernandez hit an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth. The game remained knotted until the Dodgers offense exploded in the bottom of the seventh. They added five runs that inning, and two more in the bottom of the eighth to come out on top 8-1. My favorite player from the Red Sox, Mookie Betts, now wears Dodgers blue. He’s there on a one year contract, but it was announced earlier that he singed a 12 year 345 million dollar (I think) extension. In his first game as a Dodger, went 1 for 5 with two strikeouts. Oops.

What’s on tap for today? At 3pm, I’ll listen to the Mets home feed when they take on the Braves. At 6:30pm, it’ll be time for the Red Sox. Since Jackie Bradley, Jr. is going to be wearing a mic on NESN, I’ll probably do something very unusual and watch via my MLB subscription rather than listen on the radio. When this game ends, I’ll pull up the Dodger radio feed and listen to the rest of that game. (All times CST).

This is not a paid advertisement, but if you like baseball on the radio like I do, a SiriusXM subscription is a must. With the sports package, you can get the radio feeds for every MLB game. And you can listen on your phone! Whereas in your car, the subscription usually only includes the home feed, it also comes with access to their phone app where you can listen to the away feeds too. It’s like the MLB TV package, but for radios!

My wife is a big Cubs fan. I do not hold that against her. She typically watches the games on the TV in the living room via MLB with the sound down so that she can listen to the radio feed on her phone, since she likes the Cubs radio guys. Assuming the world goes back to normal, for the upcoming Christmas, I plan on surprising her with a couple of tickets to see a Cubs game at Wrigley next June (including air fare and hotel for two people). I can’t go with her since my injuries prevent me from traveling, so I’ll cover the cost for her to take a friend with her.

Until next time, Dear Readers, take care of yourselves. And each other.

L.H.