Opening the album

I’LL BE TURNING 76 before the month’s end, outliving my father, so I opened the album to see what used to be, and I’m sharing with you because I’m a sharing sort of fellow.

I’ve posted some of these photos before, maybe all of them, but it’s been years. I began this internet writing effort in 2005.

I do not have lots of photos from my past. When my second wife tossed me onto the hard Houston streets in 1995, I left most of our photos behind. Wish I had not. It was almost 20 years of memories, but I still have some shots from before and after.

Let’s start when I was in the 7th Grade. That’s me in the middle. Note the shoes.

Roundabout that same year I would pose with my sister in the back yard of our home on Cesery Boulevard in the Jacksonville, Florida, suburb of Arlington. My sister will turn 80 next February, and she lives in what appears to be a double-wide in Arcata, California. We have not communicated in almost a decade. Why? In a nutshell, she is quite difficult.

Our backyard in the 1950s.
Movie extra in New Orleans, 1970s

By the late 1970s, I was living on Prytania Street in New Orleans with Julie who would in time become my second wife, but we didn’t marry till after moving to Houston in the early 1980s. It was while living on Prytania Street that I bought my first manly motorcycle while growing even fonder of the varieties of the demon rum. And gin.

Holding a highball and weighing 225 lbs.
With daughter Celeste, age 12.
With a French friend atop the Torre Latinamericana in Mexico City, the mid-1970s.

In 1976, Julie and I took our first trip to Europe. We visited England, France and Spain. This photo was taken outside our home on Prytania Street as we were heading to the airport. I am a foot taller than she is, so I was scrunching down a bit, bending my knees.

Or perhaps she was standing on a box.

She was a cutie.

In the mid-1980s, my mother and I split the cost of a “new” car for my daughter, and Julie snapped this photo at the moment I presented it to her. She was happy. I’ve been in Mexico 20 years now, and I’m still awaiting a visit from her and her husband, Mitch.

Celeste was happy to see me that day.

The following shot was taken in my apartment on Braes Boulevard in Houston around 1998. Still coping with my involuntary bachelor life, i.e. Julie, combined with having recently broken up with a lovely Latina, i.e. another name, with whom I was much enamored, I was not a happy camper. I cut all my hair off.

Another bad day.

But life improved. A lot! The following shot was taken on the patio of our favorite hotel suite in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, about 10 years ago. I did not weigh 225 pounds anymore. I was sleek and trim. Some would call me skinny.

One reason I wrote this post is because WordPress just now forced a new editing program on us, and it’s incredibly complicated. In the process of putting this together, I’ve become a little more comfortable with it, so I can continue for another 15 years.

There are new features. For instance, now I can put on a slide show, which was not possible before. Here are some color photos, all shot by me a few years back.

And below that is yet another new feature, a tiled gallery. Again, all my photos. All are clickable to see larger versions and to leave comments, which was not possible before.

Thinking back …

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YESTERDAY MORNING, after hard work in the yard, I was sitting at the dining room table after second breakfast, cereal. My child bride had returned to her pastry workshop, so I was alone, gazing out the window toward the distant Alamo Wall.

With elbows on the table, I placed my face into my hands, closed my eyes and thought. What a high pile of memories.

Three-quarters of a century of breathing combined with an adventuresome, sometimes reckless personality lead to all kinds of crap, most still alive in the cranium.

Three wives, two countries plus a Caribbean island, two languages, planes, parachutes, motorcycles, hot-air balloons, mind-altering materials, a number of jobs but only one of any duration. I did stick with that, which was good, and why I’m here right now.

Dancing in clover.

I wonder about people who live in a more linear fashion. Finish school, a real profession, marriage, have kids, grandkids, buy a home and stay put for decades. Take vacations every year to places like Paris, then head home again.

Yes, I know far fewer folks live like that these days, but many still do.

I ponder if I would have preferred that. Some moments of my life have been pure terror. Try two divorces for starters. Once I had a small plane spin out of control, but it got leveled off. Once I flew into a cloud bank with no training on how to deal with that. And once I overflew a rural runway and ended up in the weeds.

Drive a motorcycle drunk? Count the times. Other stuff so absurd I’m not even going to share. Yet, there I sat at the table, full of cereal, low-fat milk and chia seeds while my child bride was baking brownies, and the sun was shining in a cool, blue sky.

Thoughts in the night

TWO DECADES AGO when my mother was about 80, I asked her what entered her mind at night during those moments when she was awake, those intervals we all have.

I was curious about what old people with lots of history thought in the dark night.

New ImageIf we’re worrying about something before going to bed, that’s what we’ll be focusing on, of course, but at times we awake when there’s nothing worrisome in our lives. Usually, we slip back into our dreams easily, but not always.

I forgot what my mother told me, but I recall it was nothing notable. I thought she’d be remembering the Great Depression or the time she eloped at midday with my father in Athens, but she didn’t mention anything like that. I would have remembered.

Well, now that I’m pretty old myself, I know what old people think, at least what I think. I have a few set skits for those moments. I think, for instance, of a photo of me standing on Cesery Boulevard in Arlington, Florida, posing with a baseball bat as if someone were pitching a hardball at me. I was about 9. I have lost that photo.

But it lives in my mind.

I sometimes think of my very small bedroom in that Cesery Boulevard home, the twin bed, and getting up mornings, stepping across the narrow hallway, and opening the folding canvas door into the kitchen where my mother would be smoking a cigarette. Maybe she’d just downed a Miltown to get her through another day.

What I have thought of more frequently than anything the past 25 years is the moment my last wife told me she was leaving. I was standing in her office door in our Houston home one evening, and she was sitting on the floor going through files.

She mentioned fairly casually that she had found an apartment in Montrose and was moving out. She was shockingly nonchalant. She didn’t even look at me.

Since we had never discussed the possibility of divorce, this was like a meteor. I remember the moment in detail a quarter of a century later. And here is the strange part. Conjuring up that memory during an insomniac spell almost instantly returns me to sleep.

You would think it would be precisely the opposite.

But I’ve just recently noticed that I’m not using that memory anymore as a substitute sleeping pill. The 25-year-old habit has died. I do still think of the kid with the baseball bat, and mornings walking from my small bedroom into the little kitchen and seeing my mother, but not the moment my wife announced she’d had her fill of me.

A single Tylenol will also send me to dreamland, but where’s the drama in that?