Passage of time

The House of Horrors. Well, not really. There were good times … I think.

Saturday dawned in a lovely mood which inspired me to get off my lazy keister and do yard chores I’d been noticing and ignoring for weeks. While out there, I began to think about how long I’ve lived here at the Hacienda, 18 years. This is not how my vagabond life played out in the past. I rarely lived anywhere for long.

My previous record was in my youth when I lived in the house just below from ages 9 to 17 when I graduated from high school and headed off to Vanderbilt University where I lasted just a few short weeks before dropping out and enlisting in the Air Force.

The Jacksonville suburb of Arlington.

My parents were the first buyers of this house, into which we moved in 1953. The window on the right was the living room. The one in the middle was my bedroom, and the one on the left was my parents’. My sister’s bedroom was on the other side of the house.

This photo was shot about 10 years ago, I think, by my daughter who was passing through Jacksonville, Florida, which is where this is. What strikes me most about this photo is the front yard. My father worked at night and enjoyed gardening in the daytime. We had a lovely yard, and now there is nothing.

Those huge trees were not there in the 1950s. Neither was the sidewalk.

In 1953, this area was a brand-new subdivision of the postwar, growing middle class — Levittown in the Florida sunshine. Now it appears to be a working-class neighborhood. The owner (or renter?) probably drives a delivery truck, or he works at Auto Zone.

I lived there with my parents and sister almost a decade, and it was my longest home stay before constructing the Hacienda 40 years later. Taking third place in the longevity list would be the house at the top where I lived nine years with my second ex-wife before she tossed me unceremoniously onto the cold, dank pavement.

She lives there to this day, thanks to me. She’s done a lot with the place. When we bought it, the kitchen cabinets were the original knotty pine from 1955, which is when the house was constructed. I really liked that knotty pine, but she had it all torn out after I departed, and now it’s modern. I’ve seen photos. She also constructed an enclosed “sun room” out back. If I’m ever in Houston again, I’m gonna request a tour.

But I doubt I’ll ever be in Houston again.

As Thomas Wolfe said, well, you know …*


* Likely the first literary reference that’s ever appeared in The Unseen Moon. Tip of the sombrero to Steve Cotton, a maestro at it.


Update: Here’s a more recent photo that I grabbed off Google Street View.

And in 2020.

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 …

New Image

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.