Category Archives: Dallas Texas

Hot Camelot Air


Fifty years ago today, the nuns at St. Giles school told us we were to go home when class started after lunch. I had no idea why.

I did know Sister Caelin seemed sad.

When I got home, I found my mother obsessively vacuuming the same spot on the living room carpet. Looking closer, I realized she was crying. It was the first time I ever saw her cry.

I wondered if I was in trouble.

The TV was on. Ma never had the TV on during the day. Simpler times, you know. TV watching was for night time, after work and dinner, school and homework, and all the day’s chores had been completed. Ma noticed me standing there, staring at her.

“Mike,” she said, dolorously, “President Kennedy is dead.”

Then I cried.

Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza Today

I knew who President Kennedy was. He was the boss of America, a man bigger even than Chicago’s Mayor Daley, a fact I was just starting to wrap my mind around.

I knew Mayor Daley could tell my Dad what to do. It was very difficult for me to grasp that someone could tell Mayor Daley what to do.

That night, I was sorely disappointed to learn that regular Friday night TV programming would be suspended in favor of wall to wall assassination coverage. I found it very unfair.

As the weekend went by, I came to understand the gravity of the killing of a president. I also came to understand how fragile all our hierarchies, relationships, and systems were. I saw Lee Harvey Oswald get whacked by Jack Ruby. I tried to get used to saying President Johnson.


The President?

I began to get that everything in this weird world — save the world itself — was temporal.

In these more hyper-sensitive, more protective days, a lot of parents might advocate shielding seven-year-olds from jarring news like the murder of a president. Kids have plenty of time to grow up, they might say. Kids aren’t prepared for that kind of reality.

To which I’d reply, no one is prepared for that kind of reality. And, I’d add, the weekend of John F. Kennedy’s assassination was the first and most effective introduction to the real world this little kid could possibly receive.

I have a lot of issues with the things my parents did and didn’t do in raising me. But the fact that they never shied from telling me the unvarnished truth about world affairs or family secrets wasn’t one of them.

For that, I thank them.

And On And On And On And….

The WFHB soap opera continues. As recently as Sunday, for instance, acting general manager Cleveland Dietz was pondering what he might do with the rest of his life.

Now, he knows where he’ll be spending his days at least through the end of the year. This week Board of Directors president Joe Estivill as well as regular Board member Richard Fish have approached Dietz, asking him to remain on the job through December 31st.


Estivill & Fish

The Board will vote on the extension at Monday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, insiders are certain the board will start the entire GM search process over again, meaning the community radio station won’t have a permanent boss until April.

Which is ludicrous.

This latest development, following the withdrawal of controversial choice Kevin Culbertson earlier this week, would mean WFHB will have gone almost an entire year without a general manager.

A state the size of California can pick its governor in less time. And, in case the Board doesn’t know it, California is bigger with a far vaster budget, and hundreds — perhaps thousands — of departments, bureaus, and offices. Plus, the job pays a hell of a lot more than WFHB will pay its future leader.

This whole “national search” business is a pretense the station can no longer afford. WFHB is a community radio station; its leadership should come, naturally, from a local pool of people numbering a minimum of 200,000, if the latest census figures are to be believed. If the Board can’t find a GM in that crowd — which, by the way, includes the students and faculty of a major university — they’re not looking hard enough.

In fact, the three finalists for the job from which Culbertson was plucked include a former GM of this very station and a proven fundraiser for non-profit organizations. Even if the anti-Chad Carrothers sentiment is deep enough to preclude him from ever getting the job again (a situation that, too, is ludicrous), why can’t the Board fall back on Dena Hawes?

The argument against her that she has no media experience is a red herring. Hawes can raise dough. That should be of paramount concern. Jim Manion can continue to run the Music Department and Alycin Bektesh can keep News humming. They’re both good at what they do. WFHB needs a top dog now. People with money burning holes in their pockets just might begin to wonder if this rudderless ship is worth investing in.

The Board Monday ought to commit itself to finding a general manager within a month. That’s it; 31 days. It can be done. Big organizations, corporations, and even governmental agencies do it all the time.

The Board would do so if it was smart. My guess is when Tuesday midnight rolls around we’ll still be looking at an April target date.

Word Trivia

Do you know what a snowclone is? Neither did I until just the other night, when I came across it somewhere, somehow.

It’s something you and I probably have used a dozen times recently. In fact, if you’re a fan of narrowcasting comedy-dramas, you likely have watched Orange Is the New Black. The title of that Netflix production is itself a snowclone.

From "Orange Is the New Black"


Here’s the definition, according to Know Your Meme®:

Snowclones are a type of phrasal templates in which certain words may be replaced with another to produce new variations with altered meanings, similar to the “fill-in-the-blank” game of Mad Libs. Although freeform parody of quotes from popular films, music and TV shows is a fairly common theme in Internet humor, snowclones usually adhere to a particular format or arrangement order which may be reduced down to a grammatical formula with one or more custom variables. They can be understood as the verbal or text-based form of photoshopped exploitables.

In common English, that means you can take a familiar meme or trope and substitute words that make it into a whole new cliche. One of the earliest examples was If Eskimos have a million words for snow, then [some other folks] must have a million words for [something common to them].

BTW: the Eskimo trope is false; they don’t have a million or however many words for snow. Nevertheless, that cliched statement spread like wildfire a few years ago.

Anyway, Orange Is the New Black morphed out of the original fashion world pronouncement, grey is the new black, after many generations of variations.

Hot Air Today

Barack & Me

Here’s a chuckle: Yesterday I portrayed Barack Obama as a paper tyrant. This morning I checked my email and — whaddya know?! — I got a message from none other than the President of these United States.

Yup. The sender line read Barack Obama. And the first sentence of the message was Michael: I wanted to talk to you directly.

Now, don’t get your shorts in a bunch over this, natch. He didn’t go on to say, Listen here, jerk, if I were wearing jackboots, I’d plant one right in your vast ass.


I assume. I didn’t read the missive. I’ve been getting emails from the Leader of the Free World ever since he began running for prez back in 2007.

The funny thing about getting so many campaign beggings and exhortations from the Obama camp, many of which are purportedly signed by the Kenyan-in-Chief, is that if the man himself ever did really send me a personal email, I’d ignore it out of hand.

So, personal to Barack Obama: If you need to contact me, call me. You’ll have to leave a message because I never answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize.

Forgotten Fact: Ernie Banks Was Black

The single greatest Chicago Cub of all time is being honored at the White House this afternoon.

Ernie Banks — originator of the sobriquet, The Friendly Confines, the poet who sang, Let’s play two! — will receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

I loved Ernie Banks almost as much as I loved Ron Santo. He was the personification of optimism itself. Before his 15th season in the big leagues, he announced, “The Cubs will be in heaven in 1967.” The next season, he predicted, “The Cubs will be great in 1968.” The season after that, he said, “The Cubs will be fine in 1969.”


Ernie Banks

These pollyannish pronouncements, mind you, came after a two-decade run of utter incompetence by his beloved employer, the Chicago Cubs. Hell, the city would have thrown a parade down Michigan Avenue if the Cubs had even achieved mediocrity.

Ernie’s spirit was never broken, though. Playing baseball even for a lousy team and earning a hefty paycheck for doing so must have seemed as sweet a deal as any kid who grew up in the Jim Crow South could have imagined.

Ernest Banks was born January 31st, 1931, in Dallas, Texas. His hometown was ruthlessly segregated in those days and for many, many days thereafter.

Dallas Morning News columnist Kevin Sherrington has a nice piece this morning about what Ernie Banks meant to Dallas, and what Dallas meant to Ernie Banks. On the one hand, neither meant much to the other. Then again, Dallas and Ernie meant everything to each other. Read it to get a little picture of Dallas’s — and Texas’s — enduring relationships with its black daughters and sons.

By the time Ernie was 24 years old, of course, he’d become the toast of the nation’s second city. He never spoke about the prejudice and bias he experienced in Dallas. Then again, he never spoke much about anything negatively.

Banks preferred to look on the bright side. He might have been characterized as an Uncle Tom in the strife-ridden ’60s, if only the militants and radicals who threw around labels like that had thought for a moment about him. Ernie never really was seen a a black man in baseball. Bob Gibson was black. So was Curt Flood. Roberto Clemente. Even Willie Mays.


Curt Flood

Ernie? He was Mr. Cub.

No, he wasn’t a civil rights trailblazer. No one ever knew where Ernie stood on issues like voting rights, open housing, integration, and so on. No one ever asked him. He lived in a world that seemed to be higher than that, a world where blacks and whites played a kid’s game together in the sunshine.

The rules were the same for a cracker from the South and a skinny but supremely powerful Negro from Dallas.

For a few hours each summer afternoon, Ernie made us forget about racial bigotry, interposition and nullification, law and order, poverty, and cities on fire.

I idolized the militants and the radicals, sure. But Ernie provided me a regular, albeit brief, respite from all that was ugly in a very ugly time.

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