Tag Archives: Texas

More Texas Airport Follies

I would post a picture of my son the Marine in his uniform, but I have promised him never to use his real name, or pictures of him in his military persona, or even reveal destinations where he was going for the armed forces.   He is not going on secret missions, but he likes to play like it is so, and is capable of getting very, very mad about it.  So you will have to be satisfied with the harrowing tale of delivering him to the airport, putting him on a plane to… somewhere… and finding out first hand what the term SNAFU is all about as it relates to the military and deployment.

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You may remember that I posted about collecting him from Love Field and what a wondrous, lovely adventure that was, at the start of his leave for the holiday.  (Texas Airport Adventures) Well, unfortunately, we didn’t have the same easy time of it on the butt end of his journey home.  We had to go to DFW… The Texas-Sized airport that makes you appreciate how loud and braggart-y and smug and foul-tempered Texas is as a whole.  Practically nothing went as planned.

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I used this scene to represent the airport and blurred it on purpose (yeah, right!) to protect the identities of the random airport denizens I was photographing because I obtained a release from no one and no faces can be actually visible.  (I also thought the pretty little Asian girl dressed in blue was particularly cute, but wanted no part in taking some sort of weird stalker photo.)  To use this photo to imagine what the airport is really like, you have to realize that this is one of thirty-five-something waiting areas in only one of the Terminals A, B, C, D, and E that litter this monster airport.  You have to take this particular photo times one-hundred-seventy-five-something to get an idea of how labyrinthine and utterly foul and soul-munching this cesspit of Texan humanity and lurking random monsters truly is.  And we didn’t even have the misfortune of finding the Minotaur in the middle of the maze.

We started our quest at Terminal C, not quite sure which of the many, many American Airlines spots we were supposed to find out of all the x-marks-the-spots x-es that were to be found on the GPS and Google Maps.  We checked his bags and asked about boarding, and if we could get passes to eat dinner at one of the terminal restaurants with our boy before he winged off somewhere into the military world far, far away.  Helpful little lady in the official red jacket said we had to go to Terminal B to the USO office and get passes because he was military and that was a USO responsibility.  Then she said we should hustle onward to Terminal A to catch his plane.  So we went to terminal B.  The nice lady at the USO said she had no earthly idea what red-jacket-supposedly-expert lady was talking about.  We needed to get our passes from security at the Terminal where we were actually putting him on the plane.  So by now, we didn’t trust anything that red-jacket-lady had told us and checked the ticket to see if she had given us the wrong terminal as well.  Sure enough, the ticket said we were to put him on a plane at gate D20.  There is, of course, no such gate in Terminal A.  So we went to Terminal D.  There we tried to get passes.  The ticket agent that was helping us said we had to go to the special customer services desk at the other end of the free-world side of Terminal D.  So, armed with my cane and two aching knees (from arthritis pressed into walking too far already) we stumped and slogged and slithered down to the far end of Terminal D.  On the way (during one of my frequent puffing and panting and gasping stops) I checked the departure board for number one son’s flight and saw, to my shock and dismay, that his flight was leaving not out of Terminal D, but out of Terminal A, from gate A11.

The red-jacket-supposedly-expert lady from the far end of Terminal D apologized profusely that we had been misdirected by red-jacket-but-know-nothing lady and recommended that we get our passes from the special customer services desk that was now within fifty feet of where we stood.  We went there and lucked out with a quietly competent special-customer-services guy who quietly and competently issued us each of the four passes we sought.  (The poor Asian gentleman arguing with the next ticket agent over had already missed his plane because he had been waiting in long airport lines through boarding and take-off.  I was so glad not to be in his shoes that I overlooked the fact that smoke was already rolling out of the soles of my shuffling shoes.)  From that point on, we got what we wanted.  We went to Terminal A and got in through security without being strip-searched… completely (only my feet were actually bare).  We found a nice, expensive airport restaurant and consumed enough carbohydrates that it should have killed diabetic little me.  The waitress was even a bit smitten with number one son, although the boy did not even notice her big brown calf’s eyes.  And then we got him on his plane.  And he was gone.  Of course, the SNAFU (Situation Normal, All-French-worded-Up) was not completely done with number one son.  He reached the place where he was supposed to go from American Airlines to the military transport flight, and was promptly grounded for a couple of days as there was a huge, nasty weather event across the ocean at his destination.

So, there you have it… the abridged to less than one-thousand-one-hundred-words version, anyway.  More airport follies to tickle your glee-and-giggles center in your brain.  And I may live long enough to go through similar stuff a number of times more.  Such is the life of a military parent.  But when we got home, just like the last time, the flower wagon had another surprise for us… just before the thunderstorm.

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Those Were the Days

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Pictures from picturehistory.comwww.edb.utexas.edutexasescapes.com, and lbjmuseum.com

My personal history as a school teacher begins in the 1981-82 school year in a little town in South Texas called Cotulla.  Without realizing it, I was following in the footsteps of former U.S. President LBJ.  Really!  It’s true!  To prove it, here is a picture from the LBJ Museum showing the big-eared, jug-headed goofball with his class of Mexican American Cotullans.

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His class looked a lot like my first class, only a lot smaller.  I was hired by the new junior high principal to be the 8th-Grade English teacher for Frank Newman Junior High.  The school had basically imploded the year before.  Gus the janitor told me that the previous principal had been robbed several times, with kids breaking into the main office in the middle of the building during the middle of the night.  They even broke open the safe.  Some of the same kids I was supposed to teach had been arrested for assault the previous year, and some of the kids were caught making babies in the school cafeteria.  I went into the same classroom that the previous year’s seventh grade class had used to drive poor Miss Finklebine out of teaching for life.  They had set off firecrackers under her chair.  They threw erasers and chalk at each other.  They almost got away with murder…  In fact, they may have gotten away with it.  Miss F was never heard from again, and I found a very long list of self-destructive rantings (in the form of discipline reports that had apparently never been turned in) in her desk that threatened the lives of several students whom I knew for certain had survived because they were in my eighth grade classes that year.  I don’t think they tracked her down and got her… but what they did to that poor woman’s mind may have pushed her over the edge.  I had a tough year that year.  The two boys who threatened to beat me to death with a fence post they picked up when I was marching kids in a line to the cafeteria, El Mouse and El Talan, both went to prison withing five years of being in my class.  Both of them are now deceased.  El Mouse by suicide after the Texas Syndicate wrecked him in prison, and Talan was shot and killed by a rival drug dealer while his wife and family looked on.  I hope you are not laughing at the moment.  I do often exaggerate for humorous effect… but that is not what I am doing here.

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Cotulla was once a wild west town, probably worse than anything Hollywood ever put up on the silver screen.  Former Mayor and descendant of the town’s founder, Bill Cotulla, once told me that they had six-gun shoot-outs on Front Street in the 1880’s.  I met Mr. Van Cleve the former Texas Ranger whose picture is in the Waco Texas Rangers’ Hall of Fame because of the border machine-gun shoot-out in the 1940’s.  In fact, I taught English to his grandson.  The school, just like the town, was a tamable thing.  I spent the next 23 years of my life there teaching mostly Spanish-speaking kids about the wonders of English, literature, and writing.  I saw the school go from a rough-and-tumble wild beginning into a program that routinely out-performed other small schools our size in everything but Math.

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I know that you may find this part difficult to swallow… in the same way a goat has never managed to swallow an entire school bus… but my fiction books about school kids in Iowa are really mostly about characters I knew and taught in Cotulla, Texas and only slightly merged with the white-bread Iowegians I grew up with in Rowan, Iowa.  Texas and Iowa have more in common than you might think…  Me, for one thing.

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Filed under autobiography, Cotulla, teaching, Wild West

The Liar’s Club

I am a teller of lies.  Yes, I can’t help it.  I do it for a living.  Telling stories is simply what I do.

Now, for those of you who know the secret, that I am employed by a Texas public high school as a teacher of English, I must confess that Texas teachers are all expected to be liars.  Not merely the tellers of small, innocuous white lies, but big, powerful, dark black hoo-haws that would curdle the innards of those you have to tell them to if they ever found out the truth.  In Texas, all teachers must tell these particular lies by State mandate; 

  • Texas values education.
  • We put the students first and make our decisions based on what is best for them.
  • We only put smart people in charge of education in our state.
  • We only put smart people in charge of our state.
  • We don’t let politics affect the quality of our education.

If I just shot down your illusion balloons of sacredly held beliefs, I’m sorry, but you must not have paid attention when our State Emperor for Life tried to step down a notch in his career and run for President of the U.S.  The man with all the tact and wisdom in Texas said that he wanted to do away with the Department of Education at the federal level.  At least, I think he said that… or was that the one he forgot during the debates?  I don’t remember.  Oops.  I guess it rubs off. 

Teachers in Texas have had to deal with billions of dollars in cuts in our education budget.  Yes, I actually meant BILLIONS.  I know the difference between M and B.   And, of course this exercise in thriftiness comes at the same time that the yearly state test by which all programs are evaluated, trimmed, and ultimately obliterated is being morphed into a harder test of higher level thinking skills, and multiplied by four core subjects so that high school seniors will have to pass not one, but TWELVE (or possibly sixteen, the state has not made up its mind yet about what number will do the best job of improving graduation rates) high stakes, pass-or-no-diploma tests.  Sorry, I meant to say TESTS.  We have to shout things in Texas education or no one listens…  No, that’s wrong too.  No one ever listens.

So teachers are professional liars.  That’s the truth of it in the modern world.  You have to go into the classroom every day and tell lies right and left.  You have to say things like; “Welcome to English class, all thirty five of you.  Ask me any question at any time because I have to make sure each one of you individually understands each and every one of the three thousand points of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.  I am happy to see all your smiling faces.  Don’t carve your name in your desk with your Bowie knife or I will have to call the principal, knowing I dare not lay a hand on you or your property, and confident that the administration will back me up and do something about your behavior instead of lecturing me about classroom management skills (assuming I survive this) and sending me to the teacher re-teaching center to re-teach me how to handle dangerous, aggressive, un-motivated, belligerent, and bad-smelling students with learning disabilities (who are not more than eighty per cent of the student population.)

Now that I am old, and parts of me are drying up and falling off, I am seriously trying to take my talent for lying like a rug and turn it into a new career, a fiction author for young adults.  I mean, I do have some knowledge of youths and adolescents, having taught them for a quarter of a century plus half a decade (sorry, thirty years for those of you who are used to actually being listened to when you talk).  I am also very good at telling narrative lies from having to recount what happened when we had the fight in the classroom because Bozo looked at Bozina from behind and she went into a screaming fit because he’s a creepy guy and she could feel his eyes on her behind even when she was only looking at the girl ahead of her, Bozolette, who was turned around talking to her without permission about how ugly Bozinga is whenever he has to wear shorts for Phizz Ed Class.  Of course the principal sends me to the teacher re-teaching center for more re-teaching even if he believes my little black hoo-haw.  Therefore I hope that means that I really ought to be able to mash together a bunch of my brilliant, witty hoo-haws, put a nice pink ribbon on them, and sell them as a young adult novel.

So, there you have it.  I am a liar.  I freely admit it.  And I am trying to make the transition from one liars’ club to the next before all my parts dry up and fall off.  Dang!  There went one leg already!Image

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