Tag Archives: American culture

Here’s My Wish List for the New Mayor of Houston

It’s been full of junk and dirt so long there are flowers sprouting.

I was thinking about running for mayor of Houston. I’m so not political, but the currant national contestant we shall now refer to as The Hairmaster has a commanding lead in certain polls and this has got me thinking about what it takes to get people’s attention these days. It certainly isn’t the yard signs, or the email campaigns, or the phone calls. Drat those phone calls. The yard signs are an eye sore. The emailing will never get my attention, Sylvester Turner.

So maybe the way to get people’s attention is to say something outrageous. So, are you ready? I’ve got my outrageous all lined up.

I thought it would be nice to work for the city of Houston. They have great benefits, and the pension can’t be beat. I know, I know, I write as a job, too. But writing doesn’t always pay the bills. “The average civilian city worker earning $32,000 per year could get a million-dollar payout for spending an entire career with the city – plus a 90% pension.” says an article from the Houston Chronicle: Confusion surrounds city workers pensions vote – HoustonDAN FELDSTEIN, Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle Published 5:30 am, Sunday, May 9, 2004

But hey, the whole pension scheme sounds great to me, so I sent in my resume and took my entrance exam. I am horrible at taking tests, so I was nervous. But by the third question I wondered if the purpose of the exam was to see if I was smart enough to catch on to their little trick of making it seem overly easy. Ha, you can’t fool me, says I. Question after question was all about alphabetizing names or putting numbers in sequential order. I kept waiting for the hard ones. I came to the typing test, took it, and then the test was over. What? That can’t be right. I made 97% and 50 WPM. Everything was electronic so the results were immediate. I thought, okay, I’m a “shoe-in”. I waited a few days without hearing anything and then contacted the city and was told that I was to wait four to six weeks before being contacted for an interview, if they liked my resume and test results. This is how to run an efficient city government?

A square peg in a round hole?
A square peg in a round hole?

So I come to the outrageous part. Wait for it … Balance the budget!

Yes, I said it. Let’s change the way pensions are paid to city workers. Let’s cut them in half. Let’s cull out the deadwood in the system by putting performance back in the standard of qualification for raises. That’s right, you do a good job in a timely manner and you get a raise. And I’m not just talking about performance from one day of observation. AND bosses do not need to send out notification about performance observation dates. Surprise observation days work every time. In no way will this make everything with the budget deficit right, but it will help. The firemen need to stop threatening to stop putting out fires if their pensions are cut. Get over it! If the status quo remains there won’t be funding for any pensions. A smaller pension is better than none.

One street, one name.

I’d like to see certain long streets renamed. What’s wrong with one name to cut down on confusion? Now that the discussion is about culling certain war hero’s names (I’m agin it) let’s just, instead, change some street names to make sense of our maps. Westheimer should be Westheimer for ever.

Street signs. Period.

More importantly I’d like to see street signs in legible English on every street around town, both coming and going. Just how much money did the city spend to put street names in Vietnamese? That’s fine. Leave them. It would cost too much money to touch them. But we need some names on the same street that the rest of us recognize, too. I’m appalled at the number of intersections with no street names. A lot of them blew away during Hurricane Ike and have never been replaced. Others disappeared ages ago (perhaps during the 70’s when it was cool to hang street signs in the living room?) and these have never been replaced. Case in point: Milam at Tuam. At least I think it’s Tuam. How am I to know?

The laws should be changed to allow bicyclists on the sidewalks.

Too many cyclists are getting hurt or killed on Houston streets. I’m not saying it’s all driver-fault either. I was in my car, stopped at a stop sign and just pulling out, when a cyclist ran his stop sign and nearly clocked my car. He wouldn’t have hurt my car, by the way, but I could have ended up in the hospital with a heart attack. I miss riding my bike, but I’m not going to do it around Houston. There are too many crazy drivers on cell phones. It’s bad enough walking with my neighbor in the evening. These newer cars don’t make a lot of sound, the streets are narrow with cars parked both sides so only one car can get by, and the sidewalks are too narrow for two people to walk side-by-side. New sidewalks slated to be added need to be widened about a foot and a half and a line painted to indicate a bike trail while allowing a safe margin for pedestrians. It shouldn’t cost too much. Let’s take some pension money. Better yet, I’ll get out there with a can of paint myself.

Get serious about fixing the potholes.

The pot-hole-filler-truck comes around our street sometimes. I watch as the metal arm contraption is hoisted out (all automatic like our garbage trucks) and a thin layer of tar goop is sprayed on the hole and then another hose sprays the hole with pale stone. Depending on the placement of the hole in the street this fix may last a week or a few months. I say fix the holes by digging them out and filling with reinforced cement and putting enough barriers up to keep people from running over it until it has dried. Done!

Add enough city workers to the roster when there is an emergency.

Are there any people able to work part-time for the city to help in an emergency? I called 311 four weeks ago for someone to come clear out my street drain and it hasn’t been done yet. My street floods in a heavy downpour. Six years ago if I called 311 they were there the next day. What has changed? It certainly isn’t city pensions.

That’s my plan as mayor. Except I’m not running.

So I suppose after nine weeks of not being contacted by the city I should not hold my breath. In the event the city finds my job application (with my 97% test score, call me Mme Makutsi from The #1 Ladies Detective Agency) fallen behind the third metal filing cabinet on the left, and then they see this post on the web…well, I guess I won’t be getting that phone call. Goodbye sweet pension. *sigh

Back To The Ol’ Texas Homestead At Last! 18

Six Flags over Texas
Six Flags over Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From My Mother’s Journal 1970:


Monday August 24


Finally got a good night’s sleep. We have officially been on the road nine weeks. After breakfast drove and drove and drove around Dallas to get to 6 Flags Over Texas. $24 cash to get in.


The Chevy Show was misnamed. I thought it would be about cars but instead you sit in a seat and the screen in front of you showed a front view from a helicopter, fast cars, boats, planes, and a snowmobile as if you were a passenger in these. It almost made me seasick.


The run-away mine train was an honest to goodness roller-coaster, which Jon, Becky and R enjoyed. Jeff and I went on the “Mine-Train”, a bit tamer ride.


We had thought that 6 Flags Over Texas would be a lot bigger than AstroWorld, but it isn’t true. Besides, AstroWorld is constantly adding on new rides and growing bigger.

English: Texas Cyclone at Sunset. Taken 1 day ...
English: Texas Cyclone at Sunset. Taken 1 day before the closing of Astroworld forever. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We did notice that 6-Flags was very clean and appreciated the nicely cooled bathrooms. I guess my favorite ride was the spelunkers’ Cave with its splashes of cool spray.

The kids liked the Spindletop.


With meals, snacks, parking and entrance fee the day costs us over $40. I can’t imagine what a larger family would cost. That was for four people and a child.


We spent Sunday and Monday night at the Holiday Inn. R remarked that for 2 nights, 2 breakfasts, and 1 supper, it cost about $22.00 a day less than the Holiday Inn in Chicago.


Tuesday August 25


We heard on the news last night that Houston ranks #6 in nation for population and Dallas was #8. I’ve been thinking about the kids going to school next Monday August 31st. We’ll have Jeff in Elementary School, Jon in Jr. High, Becky in High School, and Bobby in college.


On Highway 75 going towards Houston I’ve noticed how dry and brown the grass is along the roadway. A big truck was spraying water on the trees in the median – I guess trying to keep them alive. The stretch of road between Streetman and Buffalo was not highway and seemed very dangerous – with cars passing too fast or cars moving too slow, dangerous driving. There were signs that said “Daylight Test Area – Turn On Headlights” on this stretch. We stopped at one Nickerson Farms that had a sign that said “Shirts and shoes required inside”, so I guess they’d had some problems.


It has been our experience on this trip that some places should have a sign that reads “only those who bathe daily and use deodorant will be admitted.”


Stopped at Huntsville State Park for 1 hour between 4 & 5 PM. It is not crowded today. Apparently there have been two days of rain here added to the fact that all school districts except Houston Independent School District began yesterday. The park was great, not too hot. Jon and Jeff went fishing but didn’t catch anything. It made a nice break to rest even if it cost $1.00 just to get in. I approve of this entry fee as it does eliminate some undesirables (those who would trash up the park and not bathe).


We would have used our camper exclusively if 1) all parks had clean, working showers, and flush toilets. And plenty of them. It is ridiculous to find one shower for women and one shower for men in a camper ground that is housing three-hundred campers. And wouldn’t it be nice if those showers had hot water as advertised and not SUN-WARMED water available at 3 in the afternoon only. WHY do females throw their personal sanitation wear in the toilet and block up the sewer system for an entire campground?


We would have used our camper exclusively if 2) the camp ground guide-book had been more explicit as in if there are TWO campgrounds with the SAME name within a few miles of each other this was made known so there would be no confusion.


We would have used our camper exclusively if 3) our tent had been more waterproof.


We would have used our camper exclusively if 4) we hadn’t been so crowded. As the kids have gotten bigger so there just wasn’t enough room. Even though our camper sleeps six, it was elbow-to-elbow all the time. Cramped space makes for gripes and complaints from everyone.


One thing that we noticed, during this camping season, was that common courtesy and decency were sadly lacking. What happened to “regard for others?” The experience was so unlike past years. Why was this year so different? True, there were a few friendly campers, but as a whole those were the exception rather than the rule. This was strange. We all noticed it.


As we get closer to Houston the grass is greener along the road. We just entered Harris County at 5:40 PM. Mileage 59,569 Gas here is 31 cents a gallon. Good to be home!


Noticed a sign in Houston “Time ripens all things, no man is born wise”. In other words like the Pennsylvania Dutch saying “Too soon old – Too late smart”.

They say things in a different way up north, they drive faster and with less regard for other drivers, they act abruptly toward each other and strangers, but we found the exceptions to those generalities, too. We aren’t that much different, them and us.


My Mother’s Waterloo 16

From My Mother’s Journal 1970:

My mother (on right) and her sister Kay
Saturday August 8

We arrived in Waterloo, Iowa by the afternoon and went to a Howard Johnson’s Motel to rest and get cleaned up. The kids loved the indoor heated pool. I called sister and she said she’d see us at Meeting tomorrow morning. I don’t know why Kay doesn’t want us to come over tonight. She knew we were coming, I called from Chicago.

Sunday August 9

After the meeting at Downing Street Chapel (Plymouth Brethren church) we went out to eat with Ann and Al Nesbit. Then we went to Kay’s. We put the camper in her back yard. The apple trees are loaded with apples. Went to the night meeting. The kids love to see the ponies. Kay was fussing about the ponies getting in the yard and eating the apples. Too many will make them founder. (Get really sick)

Monday, August 10

This morning we first went to visit my mother in the nursing home. I don’t really like the place but as mother is unable to walk at all now, there is not much choice. Dad takes good care of her.

The Lockard’s invited us for supper. They had a big corn roast in their yard beside the river. They dig a big pit and put the fresh ears of corn in and it slow roast all day. By evening (they had invited several families) everyone gathered with their pot luck dishes to go with the corn and burgers. What a wonderful time, seeing a lot of old friends I’ve known since childhood. The kids were invited by some friends nearby for tomorrow.

August 11

Jeff was not invited with Jon and Becky. Apparently they were going out on a boat and to swim and ski on the river.

Wednesday August 12

Went to visit an old school friend who has a store and spent a few minutes reminiscing about old school friends.

In the afternoon we visited the nursing home where my mother is again. Dad visits her Monday, Wednesday, and Friday every week and makes sure she has clean clothes. She is very weak and doesn’t remember the kids’ names. 

Thursday August 13

We got up early and went out to visit the Lynchs on their pig farm, not far from Waterloo. It was mid-day for them as they get up before dawn to milk the cow and make sure all the livestock has food. The kids had a grand time jumping into the grain stored in the silo. They climbed to the top and jumped from the rafters. They had a new batch of baby pigs and it was hard to part the kids from the pigs. We made it back to Kay’s just in time to go out and eat with Kay’s in-laws.

The Lynch Family
Friday August 14

We packed up and went to see my father, he is looking well, though tired. We went back to Kay’s to eat lunch and help her husk corn, then went by to see Mother again and bid Dad goodbye.

Left Waterloo at 3:30. Mileage 58,176 filled tank with 17.13 gallons

Drove down to Gladbrook, Iowa to see the Lynchs again. Their two big dogs ran to greet us like we were old friends. The kids enjoyed the day yesterday. Today, they sent their son with us to lead the way to the Pine Lakes Park ($3.50) Ice (.75) groceries ($15.00)

We were able to park on a hill overlooking two lakes. We started a campfire and put the coffee on. The Lynchs joined us. They brought hotdogs and some hamburger meat to grill. It was great. Afterwards we roasted marshmallows. The moon hung over the lake like a painting.

Saturday August 15

We got up with sun but the sky soon clouded over. The Lynchs came and again brought some good breakfast meats and some ice-cold milk. After dishes we watched the kids work a paddle boat out on the lake. Then we took them swimming. By this time it was 1:30 and we hadn’t made up out mind if we should pull up and move to a park closer to a meeting hall or stay put. R voted to stay. So we went to town and got a small roast to barbecue, and some ice. After getting the grill started, the rain began. We moved the grill under the tarp and endured the smoky tent while we waited for it to heat up. It was touch-n-go avoiding the rain and getting the cooking done.

After supper the rain seemed to worsen so we packed up and left, rather than go through another night of leaking canvas and soaked bedding.

We made it to Des Moines (used 17 gallons of gas) and stopped at a small motel(Beacon $18.54) just finishing up a fire-remodeling. However, new paint and carpet did nothing to remedy the smell of scorched furniture.

Sunday August 16

We survived the night of heavy smoke smell and went to Ramada Inn the next morning for breakfast ($9.18). We went on to the Central Gospel Chapel (Des Moines) and met many people. They showed us what their Daily Vacation Bible School children had been doing and there some pretty handicraft projects. A couple from the church took us out for lunch. Noticed that the large department stores are open. This is unusual as it is Sunday.

We drove on, using our maps and signs for Nine Eagles State Park and got there about 3:40. Despite all the signs leading to it, when we pulled up the sign on the gate said “closed”. A guy came out of a guard-house and said it had been closed all summer but was opening up again next week. This was really aggravating as there was no other sign leading to the park to say “closed”. We needed to air out the wet trailer and get ice for the milk and bacon in the ice box.

We drove on to another park but it looked desolate. There were no other campers so we didn’t trust it. It is always good to trust your instincts on things like this. We figured there was something very wrong or there would be people. Perhaps the bathrooms were disgusting (as we’ve experienced at other campgrounds).

Entered Missouri at 4:10 P.M. Stopped at Cameron, MO at a small motel (Tiara Inn). It would be more economical than the larger ones but just as nice. The stay and the supper and breakfast we charged ($31.82).