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4-26-05  -- Back from Texas

Arrived at Dallas Fort Worth Airport mid afternoon on the 14th met by friend Kate Wyatt (not maiden name) from my HS class. At home she said hello to my mother who she's close friends with. Kate was president of the George Carlin fan club in the eighth grade, about '57. He was a 20 year old DJ at KXOL and the coolest cat in town. And he'd talk to her when she'd call him up. She left her memorabilia for him in Vegas and he used it for an Actor's Studio bio of him or something like that and when she got back from a trip to Ireland she heard her membership card had briefly been shown on that TV show with her name on it.

I talked about how I'd hung out with a DJ at KXOL a few years earlier, John Gilliland who was much later in SF as Johnny Land. I called him up at the station making a request and he talked to me and invited me to the station. He had a sort of salon going on. There was a catholic priest and occasional youngsters like me. I was with him in the back by the cheap thermometer on the wall he used to give the official weather report as he went through the newly arrived 45s one day, playing a few seconds of this one and tossing it into the waste basket then a few seconds of that one and saying he'd give it a try - no formatting there - he made the decisions as far as I could see. Then he stopped and looked at one and said, "Elvis Presley. I like him but I can't play him cause he's too country." I'd never heard of Elvis. He put it on. Heartbreak Hotel. We listened to the whole thing. "That'll be number one," he said. Elvis had a new sound. I experienced the birth of a whole new type of music - rock 'n roll - with John and saw rhythm and blues come to be loved by whites. I remember my father driving me at the age of ten to a record store where I'd be the only white person there. I bought whatever was new in the top ten of rhythm and blues every week. I don't think my parents knew it but they were awfully permissive. I went to concerts where I'd be one of the only white people in the audience of thousands and one of the only kids. They'd drop me off at ten and eleven years old by myself to go stand on chairs and scream when Little Richard and Fats Domino came on stage. I saw the Clovers, the Drifters, the Turbans and Nat King Cole though I bet he was singing to a white audience - I can't remember though. I got his autograph and the others' too. I remember a crowd of women hanging outside of Little Richard's dressing room and I opened a door nearby where nobody was and there he was and I ran in and jumped into his arms and told him I had all of his records though I didn't know if that was true. His manager laughed and picked me up and led me out.

But I diverge from the subject which is what happened in Texas which was, namely, getting my mother's boyfriend's apartment cleaned out. It was a big job and we worked at it for three days together with the help of friends who drove us from Fort Worth to Dallas and picked us up when we were through and helped us work and brought their trucks and SUVs. Mother is 90 and she's a bundle of energy. The first day we went non-stop for six hours. The place smelled awful. Her boyfriend's (don't you love that usage) not so well and he hadn't been there in sixteen months. The fridge was wide open and running and full of mold. The freezer was frozen solid. I wondered about the electric bill. I almost threw up cleaning that up. Had to get the bathroom cleaned up too so we could use it. I remembered a delivery man who came to Page Street once and told me about his six months of cleanup in Korea turning over jeeps and removing the rotting corpses. He threw up all day every day. But with the cleaning and one opened window it was better each day. The phone would ring. It worked. I wondered about his phone bill. The whole ten days had an impractical other-worldly aura to it.

Then I spent two days in FW organizing what we had and cleaning out the garage of leaves, dust, and cobwebs and displaying stuff on the sides so the cars could go back in at night (two years ago a tire had been stolen off of a car outside in this low crime neighborhood so that now it was feared that might repeat).  I emptied the stacks of boxes of their packing pellets and took them in bags to a package store. Then took the train to Dallas in the dark morning for one last day and met the Salvation Army who took a sofa that should have gone to a toxic waste dump. They also took other furniture and twelve bags of clothes leaving me with five and a big mirror and some other stuff because I'd estimated ten bags and they were into their list of what I'd said was there. Didn't matter. Neighbors took most of what wasn't wanted and a few gifts to the Super made him a pleasant ally. There followed three days of giving away and selling and setting aside stuff for mother's maid and keeping not much of it. There was lots. Her beau had been lonely when his wife left him and had filled in the blank with shopping. It was a bit Imelda-ish. There were hundreds of shirts, suits, jackets, a garbage bag of ties. I had a box for reading glasses, one for sunglasses, one for gloves, one for pens, and on and on. They didn't want a yard sale but I put an add with a phone number in the paper and sold some. Friends, neighbors, a Persian rug salesman, a mailman took some of it.

By midnight my last night there the garage was clean, four large moving boxes outside awaited Salvation Army. A painting, prints, a vintage Uncle Sam poster, a starfish, and a Civil War sword hung on the wall. Mother went to bed. I rested and watched two shows on the Court channel about psychics solving crimes - pretty neat - and got more little loose ends tied in the garage so that the job would be perfect and we'd be filled with satisfaction. It was great, I loved it, it was a wipeout. Mother had worked non stop the whole time too.

I'd seen friends as well in the evenings and they'd dropped by or we'd met at the country club for breakfast or lunch or dinner. I'd walk there and the doorman would greet me and I'd pass by the Ben Hogan trophy room and read the paper and drink tea some mornings and watch the early golfers. Great view.

On the last day's breakfast Amrita from India and I caught up. She'd reviewed all three of my books for the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I told her about my oldest friend from India, Bodhi, a monk at Sogenji in Okayama where I lived next door. Bodhi was from a fairly well-off untouchable family and he always said that Gandhi was the enemy of the untouchables. I've heard people argue with him on that but he never budged. She told me her family too was not keen on Gandhi though they kept it to themselves because of how universally revered he is there. She said that Gandhi had spit in her grandfather's face when he wouldn't let the students at his college protest with Gandhi. Poor guy lost his job as well. She said that Gandhi publicly humiliated his own wife and forced his son to forego a scholarship to an English University and the son became a sort of bum. We talked about how the public and private faces and effects of people can be so different.

I had a great time in Texas with all my friends - Ward, Jim and Ann and their son James, Barry and Dotty, Warren and Betty, Jerry and Colleen, Susan whose husband Mike we miss. Missed Ray and Johnny and Carl but said hello on the phone to Langdon in meetings and on the way to NY and Gayle in from England to promote a book.

At two in the morning Dick got up to get some orange juice in the kitchen - with his diabetes he needs to it seems - and he thanked me so sincerely for helping him and mother. He felt a little bad that he couldn't do much more than sit on the couch and go through things. I wished him good health. Mother drove me to the airporter building whatever it's called at five in the morning. It's located at 1000 E. Weatherford. I remember the last time she drove me there - when I was on my way to Singapore almost two years ago. She looked at the address and said that that was her address till she was eleven, that that was the spot where she was born and spent her early childhood. I asked her where her elementary school was and stuff like that. The church across the street was there then too. I get the neatest feeling being there. We hugged and I was off.

Flying back I realized that I was returning to a life without Lola, my dear friend of the last seven years, a boxer. She had died a couple of days before. She'd been skin and bone from lymphoma when I left and I thought I might not see her again. Elin called me and said that Lola was gasping for air and that she couldn't wait for me to return to take her to the vet. Elin and Clay took her to behind the barn wrapped in a sheet. Dennis was already there digging a hole. They did a little service and Clay made a cross to mark the spot. Maybe I'll plant a tree there.

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