We have a new son

We successfully got the petitions filed, the judge signed the orders, and this afternoon we legally have a 16-year-old son with a new name: Alyksandr Isaac Dawson Waring.

Everyone at the courthouse was helpful, and rather cheerful about getting our work done. I suppose when your work often involves things that leave people unhappy (e.g., divorce or child custody), doing something that somebody wants and makes them happy gives the day a little lift.

There were a couple of snags: the Gender Marker project hadn’t given us a draft the formal order for the judge to sign, I’m not sure why not. Fortunately, the clerk of the court said “let me see what I can do with the online law library” and in a few minutes he had pulled together a serviceable two-page order, using one that had been filed in another county as a template.

Then we got to sit and wait, while he found an associate judge to review and approve all the papers, and then get the district judge to finally approve and sign the order. It was an hour or more of sitting, and we had another trans woman in the office with us who had come up from San Marcos and was getting HER papers done, and she was excited and wanted to talk and talk AND talk. Fortunately L is gregarious and engaged her in chat, while Alyks retreated into the book he’d brought with him. I tried to do the same (Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States), but the prose was dense and the other woman was full of political naïveté and fatuities (she’s a college student, bless her heart, hasn’t yet had time for Life to knock some of the nonsense out of her) and my hip got to hurting, so I went out and stood in the hallway for a while, where it was cool and dim and people didn’t try to TALK to me.

Still, the waiting came to an end and the court clerk walked back in the office with our signed order making Alyks legally a boy, and sent us downstairs to get the district clerk’s office to make a bunch of certified copies we can wave under the noses of various fonctonnaires to change all his records. A and I went to the Social Security office this afternoon and applied for a new card for him, while L went to tackle the health department for a new birth certificate and the registrar at his school to change all his school records. I phoned my employer to get insurance and things changed. I’m sure we’ll have other places we have to go and things to do, but with the legal papers done it’ll be much less messy.


Mike Pence pretends to be the calculating sex toy. Fnord.

Posted in Family, Personal History | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Cooking Things: Spicy Chicken Capellini

It was time for dinner, and I had a pound’s worth of slightly-freezer-burned chicken breasts and a pound’s worth of pasta, and some peppery breading left over from a bunch of buffalo wings last week.  From this I needed to make a main dish.  So I did that.

Spicy Chicken-Strip Capellini

Recipe By     : Sam Waring
Serving Size  : 4     Preparation Time 0:30
Categories : Chicken, Pasta

  Amount  Measure       Ingredient — Preparation Method
————————  ————————      ——————————————————————————————
  1              pound  Chicken breast, boneless, cut into strips
  2                     Beaten eggs, reserve remainder
                        Spiced flour
  1              pound  Angel hair pasta
                        Peanut oil, for frying
                        Grated Parmesan cheese

                        —————SPICED FLOUR—————
  1                cup  Flour
  1           teaspoon  Kosher salt
  1           teaspoon  Smoked paprika
  1           teaspoon  Cayenne pepper

  1                cup  Evaporated milk
  1                cup  Water
  3                     Garlic cloves, pressed
     1/2      teaspoon  White pepper
  1           teaspoon  Thyme
  1           teaspoon  Nutmeg
     1/2      teaspoon  Turmeric
     1/4           cup  Flour
  2             ounces  Pistachio nuts, minced

Cut the chicken into strips of about 1 cm by 3 cm and lay into the beaten egg. Set aside.

Mix together the spiced flour ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

Toss the marinated chicken strips in the spiced flour and fry in hot peanut oil in a medium to large skillet until done. Set aside to keep warm.

Mix the evaporated milk and water and pour into a medium saucepan over a medium-low flame. Simmer to reduce. While the milk is simmering, add the pressed garlic, white pepper, thyme, nutmeg, and turmeric.

Add the flour to the remaining egg from the chicken marinade and whisk together well. Increase the heat slightly under the sauce, and add the flour-egg mixture while whisking VERY briskly to prevent clumping. The sauce at this point should be thick, smooth or nearly so, and a pale golden colour. Stir in the chopped pistachios.

While the sauce is cooking, cook the capellini in boiling salted water, and drain as usual.

When the sauce is done, toss it with the drained capellini in a large bowl. Plate it in 2-ounce portions, top with several strips of chicken. Garnish with grated Parmesan.

— – — – — – — – — – — – — – — – — – —

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 596 Calories; 14g Fat (22.1% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 83g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 122mg Cholesterol; 427mg Sodium. Exchanges: 5 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Non-Fat Milk; 1 1/2 Fat.

This turned out to be a really great combination of spicy Tex-Mex and classic Italian-American.  It was warm enough to make me sweat while I was eating it, but not so warm that A and L refused it outright.  A sounded downright pleased by it, saying he didn’t recognize the breading as the same as on the hot wings I’d served up last week.


A soft and but signal get a they swimming more can but get its combination. Fnord.

Posted in Food and Cooking | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Movie Night

Friday and Saturday nights of last week turned into Movies Night at The Old Gray House.  A and I went to Comanche a couple of weeks ago to see Mother, and while there I dove into cleaning out the living room corner cabinet.

It began as rearranging some books on top shelves because it’s better that I climb ladders to shove books around than my agéd mother be doing it.  So I did books on the 9-foot ceiling height shelves for a little while on the north wall, then got over to the cabinet corner and my curiosity got the best of me.  I climbed down, opened it up, and found a jumble of Stuph and So. Many. Cockroach turds.  I vacuumed up the cockroaches, pulled out the Things that were in the cabinet (Christmas ornaments, a couple of Mexican wooden vases for displaying arrangements of paper flowers … you know, the things you find in a hundred year old house that your family has lived in for more than 60 years) AND I found two boxes, one of slides and another of 8mm home movies!

I’d known the movies must exist and had been hoping they hadn’t been thrown away.  I remembered the place where I had last seen them (in a different cabinet of the living room), but someone had moved them in the intervening years.  And now I’d found them again.

With Mother’s permission I lugged movies and slides home, and Friday night I dug out my Bell & Howell Filmo Master 400 projector (made in the mid-1940s and still ticking along without a hiccup, as long as I can still find NOS bulbs for it; Sylvania and GE both quit making them in the 1970s).  I set it up on a card table, took some pictures off the wall to improvise a screen, called in L and A, and cranked the projector.

What I’d hoped for turned out to be true: I had another big archive of family stuff from the mid-1950s, a couple of years before I was born, up into the mid-’60s.  I think the newest reel (and unfortunately the most damaged) was my birthday party out at Windy Hill farm about 1966—I look to be eight or nine.  We watched trips to Monterrey and Horsetail Falls, bullfighting on the Mexican border, going out to the trans-Pecos region, to the beach (I think both Port Aransas and Port Isabel), Williamsburg and Washington DC on the way home from Dad’s insurance summer school in Hartford, and family Easters and Christmases.  We saw my brother Chris as an infant of a month or two, my brother Joe as a toddler … ALL the people and places, even celebrations with all of my grandparents (who notoriously didn’t like one another) in the same room together.  We got to watch me playing with PUPPIES! (so yeah, I did do that when I was five or about and our dachshund Willie had a litter) and drumming with my feet on the swing set to make a racket, and mostly the kind of things you got in home movies of that period.  Now that we’ve seen everything, I’m going to lug the whole box down to TAMI and get them to digitize it, which they will do for free if you allow them to keep a copy for their archive.

I went and bought a hand slide viewer Saturday morning so I could check out the slides, and they look like gonna be a trove too.  I found pictures of my uncle and cousins from before I was born, pictures of how Windy Hill (our family farm/ranch from 1933 to 2006) looked, pictures of even more trips including one from about 1974 to Puerto Rico when Dad won an insurance-company sales contest.

All the gods be thanked that mostly Dad shelled out to buy Kodachrome film instead of Ektachrome. Ektachrome’s blue and green dyes were unstable, and after sixty years nothing but the reds are left.  Fortunately I only had two small boxes like that which I had to discard; everything else is Kodachrome and probably stable for another thirty to fifty years (Paul Simon was right; it does “give you those nice bright colors”).  I haven’t figured out yet how to digitize those, or even to show them to anyone but me.  (Anybody out there still got a working Kodak Carousel projector?)


How can one get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms, everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic, Europeanized, enervated?  Fnord.

Posted in Comanche, Family, Personal History | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Capital/Capitol Trip – Days 2 through 4

Sunday we planned on a “short” day, only 350 miles or so from the first Springfield (Missouri), with a stop to see the Missouri capitol in Jefferson City and the transportation museum in Saint Louis.

Missouri state capitol at Jeff City. Comes complete with a statue of Mr. Jefferson out front, and a construction project fixing the front steps.

One of a pair of very pretty fountains on the capitol grounds; I believe they’re a war memorial.

However, L mis-reading the map led us off the trail onto a chase after Laura Ingalls Wilder’s final home in Mansfield. (She thought it was on the interstate; it turned out to be fifteen or twenty miles off.) Discovering this killed an hour or two that we hadn’t budgeted for—and we still didn’t get to see the house; the grounds didn’t open until noon and we got there at nine-something in the morning. By the time we got back to the interstate and then to Saint Louis, it was only an hour until the museum closed (they keep short hours on Sunday) and I decided to forget about it, since I wouldn’t have got my money’s worth of looking in just one hour. That can go onto the list for another trip.

Instead, we drove downtown to the Arch, which A wanted reference photos of for some Percy Jackson fanart he’s planning. Downtown turned out to be crammed full of people going to a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium a few blocks away as well as the normal Arch tourists. A took some pictures, I took a few myself for safety, and we passed on the visitors centre (so help me, the Park Service wanted to charge three dollars a head just to visit the gift shop!)

The Arch and the Cathedral Church of Saint Luke

Busch Stadium, taken via telephoto from the safe distance of a block or so

We walked back past the old Catholic cathedral, where I obligingly translated the French inscriptions for A since I can remember enough Latin to stumble along with cognates, up to the Jefferson Westward Expansion Memorial, in the old US court house, which didn’t charge for its gift shop. A was hoping to find some souvenir stickers to put on his new sketchbook’s cover, but they didn’t have anything worth mentioning. Instead we bought a couple of pamphlets about growing and canning fresh berries and some chocolate-mint fudge, which L and A shared. (I think mint is an awful thing to do to a poor, unsuspecting cacao bean.)

The Old US Court house, now the Jefferson Westward Expansion Memorial, run by the Park Service

The memorial’s cast-iron fence had ornamental land turtles. (The Turtle Moves!)

From Saint Louis we ran on across the line into Illinois and stopped for the night at Springfield to catch another capitol building for A on Monday. (Other kids catch Pokémon. Alyks catches capitols.) The Springfield capitol, while smaller than Austin’s, was quite pretty in a Corinthian-Revival way.

Illinois’s capitol, a bit crowded by state-complex office buildings

A complex and well-executed stone-and-bronze memorial to fallen Illinois firemen

Right next to it was the Illinois State Museum, which L had planned on and I’m glad she did. It was small but extremely well presented, understandable but not written down to the school field-trip level of literacy. The first floor was all natural history, beginning with the Cambrian and Devonian, and including a life-sized Dunkleosteus bursting through the wall, which L called a “basilisk,” after Harry Potter, and which unnerved A. One display case contained half a dozen complete mastodont mandibles, and another had scale models of an elephant and a mastodont together so you could compare sizes: the mastodont is shorter nose-to-tail, but significantly taller at the shoulder.

The Illinois Hall of Dinosaurs, permanently closed because nobody has ever found any dinosaurs in Illinois

Upstairs was devoted to human cultures of the state, beginning with daily-use tools and crafts, well presented and clearly laid out. I did scratch my head over staff’s decision to include clay figurines from the Four Corners area; that connection seems kinda tenuous. Much better was an exhibit of quill work, with some beautiful weaving and dyeing and an explanation of how weavers used different thicknesses of quills. Beyond that we found a hall with dioramas of the region’s Native nations ranging from the early Woodland period (ca. 1200 A.D.) to the early 1800s. Thankfully the museum administration seem unafraid of showing buck-naked children and women with bare tits, as Natives would have been prior to Columbian contact. I thought the curators’ attention to detail was impressive; one scene of a couple working in a cornfield even showed trickles of sweat running down their chests.

The next gallery was devoted to American cultures beginning with the territorial period. In the earlier eras, the labels presented viewers with a set of purchase choices among three things a person (farmer, housewife, child) would have wanted or needed, and asked us to decide which the person might have bought, then see whether we second-guessed right. The farmer, for example, had a choice between paying down the mortgage on his land, buying better farm equipment to improve his efficiency, or buying more land to increase the acreage he could plant. (He bought the better farm equipment, both because he could improve his own output and because he could hire out the machines to neighboring farms for cash income.)

In the 20th-century exhibits, we got to look at all the modern labor-saving and technological improvements. Wonders of a 1930s kitchen included an original Waring Blendor, slant-front toaster, original Silex, and dual waffle iron with its woven-cloth power cord, and a scale-model kitchen planner so a housewife, guided appropriately by a decorator or appliance salesman, could try different arrangements of cabinets and appliances to see what would work the best. (My grandmother had one of these; she and I spent several evenings in 1969 and 1970 trying this and that configuration out before my grandfather charged ahead and remodeled the whole house, including the kitchen, to suit his own ideas.)

Beyond the labor-saving 1930s kitchen, we saw a early-1960s living room with commemorative plates of Ike and Mamie on the wall, a rack full of folded-up TV trays, and an astonishing hobnail milk-glass table lamp with a frilled shade that L said looked like a square-dance petticoat. The March of Progress continued on to a 1970s den complete with an original Lava Lamp and console “hi-fi” stereo cabinet, and ended with a stereotypically catastrophic teenage girl’s room circa 1990, clothes strewn on the floor, band posters covering the walls, and a boom box with a stack of cassettes on the dresser. (T had a room like that once.)

By the time we were done, and I had tasted a crabapple off the many trees that dotted the grounds (they were as alum-y astringent as I’d thought), it was past noon and we hurried on to Indianapolis, where we hoped to arrive early enough to look in on their state history museum—but it didn’t happen because time change. The clock said 5:20 as we got to downtown, which meant we’d missed them by a lot, so A and I took pictures of (you guessed it) the capitol building and then threw in the towel.

The Indiana Capitol building, an island in a sea of asphalt

The (non-)majesty of capitol workers’ parking in Indianapolis

I don’t know whose decision it was to pave over nearly all the Indiana capitol’s grounds for parking, but he could just as easy gone and ruined some other piece of the planet for all of me. There’s nothing left but a postage stamp of a lawn directly in front, which only calls attention to its own pathetic state. If I ran the zoo, I’d eminent-domain a couple of adjacent blocks, dynamite the whole mess, and make a respectable park to go around the building that anyone could enjoy.

We couldn’t think of any other reason to hang around Indianapolis, as we were unlikely to run into John Green, so L pointed us toward Springfield, Ohio (our third Springfield in two days) so we could hop into Columbus Tuesday morning and … what were we going to do, boys and girls? Anyone? Yes, that’s right, Susie. We took pictures of the state capitol, which Ohio calls the State House for some reason. Parking in downtown Columbus on Tuesday morning was impossible, so we let A out on the curb to take pictures while I made a block—or tried to, anyhow. I got tangled up in a bunch of one-way streets and had to drive a dozen blocks before I got turned back around right.

The State House looks strange, like they started out to have a dome but lost interest halfway through.

And we have to have a statue of Ohio’s famous son, President (and shooting-gallery target) William McKinley.

Getting lost did have one good effect: I found myself driving past an enormous old-style neon sign for the Columbus Dispatch that I would never have found if I’d been looking for it.

Huge neon sign (which wasn’t lit because daylight) for the Columbus Dispatch

Eventually I got going the right way again, collected A who thought we’d abandoned him, and got out of town after turning the wrong way down only one one-way street.

The rest of the day involved driving and driving and more driving, across the rest of Ohio, all of Pennsylvania, and a bunch of New York before we hauled in at the house of L’s friend Mitchell, our base for doing tourist-in-New-England things.

And in honor of Ohioan John Scalzi, I leave you with an Ohio sunset picture by Alyks.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Capital/Capitol Trip – Day 1

Our vacation this year is another cross-country trip east, this time to go to my niece Kelly’s delayed wedding reception and to meet my great-niece Sofia, but of course we can’t leave it at just that. Come along with us.

Most of Saturday, when we left, was about fighting traffic. Because this time we were more interested in getting where we were going rather than how we got there, L sacrificed travel on the red and blue highways, which I prefer, to the interstates. Going up I-35 toward Oklahoma City, we ran into more damn wreck delays than any four people ought to. In Fort Worth, where I-35W was already bottlenecked because of construction, someone had been knocked sideways into a barrier and cleaning up that mess had the entire northbound freeway choked down to a single lane; inching through that burned most of an hour, and then a second wreck outside Tulsa burned another half hour. We didn’t reach the hotel in Springfield, Missouri (our planned stop) until after 9:00 PM.

Our main concession to sightseeing on the way was to plan stops at several state capitol buildings for Alyks, who has a bucket-list ambition to see all fifty of them. We made stops in Hillsboro and Denton to see those courthouses (both late Victorian, both restored and pretty, and something A and I both like) and had lunch at a pub (the Abbey Inn) on Denton’s square. A wanted to go to Recycled Books, which I’ve written about before, but after the Fort Worth delay that just wasn’t gonna happen.

The reconstructed Hill County courthouse, built in 1890 and burned down on New Year’s 1993. Heavy fundraising, including a benefit concert played by Willie Nelson, funded restoration and the courthouse reopened in 1999.

Denton’s Courthouse-on-the-Square. (The county built a new courthouse but kept the old one.) Built in 1895, it is a W.C. Dodson design as is Hillsboro and Granbury.

Hillsboro has also turned the old post office (1912) into the public library, which I feel is much better than tearing down a beautiful public building. Not losing a stout Renaissance Revival-style building with big painted terra-cotta medallions is a Good Thing.



Every post office should have wyverns to hold up the flagpoles.

We got to Oklahoma City after six, which left plenty of sun for taking pictures of the Capitol and the oil derricks and pumps on the grounds (Oklahoma, as an oil-producing state, has both). Oklahoma, being Oklahoma, passed on statues of Liberty or Justice for their dome and instead put a Seminole warrior up there, spear in hand, facing east to guard against invaders.

The statue, executed by a Seminole sculptor and state senator, was put up in 2002 upon completion of the dome.

Next time:  we visit three Springfields.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Things that happened and didn’t happen today

  • Things that happened today:
    1. Ordering a ceiling fan and light kit for the kitchen (the old fluorescent light fixture has nearly given out)
    2. Making bread
    3. Catching up on YouTube video subscriptions
  • Things that didn’t quite happen today but probably will tomorrow:
    1. Repackaging hamburger into half-pounds for the freezer
    2. Figuring out what to do with a whole pork shoulder and a crockpot
    3. Catching up on podcast subscriptions
  • Things that probably will not happen today:
    1. The heat death of the universe
Posted in Minutiae | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Things that happened and didn’t happen today

Day Trips: Visit to a Coleman drug store that was closed

Several weeks ago, I read an article in the Austin Chronicle talking about a day trip to Coleman and stopping in at the Owl Drug Store there, which is an old-style drugstore with soda fountain like the Service Drug of my childhood. I thought it would be fun to show this to Alyks, and put it on a list of things to do for a day trip at some point. L decided that the Monday of Memorial Day weekend would be a good time for the two of us to go, because she wanted to make a mess in the house while re-organizing things and not have to worry about annoying the two of us with the mess. I decided the idea had some merit, but didn’t bother to check to see whether the drugstore would be open on the holiday. (That was a mistake.)

Monday morning Alyks and I got up and went out for breakfast, then went back to the house to pick up a few essential things we forgot like a camera, and finally started out in the middle of a rainstorm. To get to Coleman, you go north on US Highway 183 to Brownwood, then turn left on US 84. 183 turned out to be no fun in the rain; between the worn road surface and Quinn’s worn tires, she was hydroplaning every mile or two and I fought her continuously. (It’s past time for a new set of tires.) Fortunately, the rain let up and went away before we reached Lampasas, the road dried out and driving got a lot less nerve-wracking.

For the entertainment value of it, we turned off in Brownwood to hunt up the 1912 courthouse for Alyks to add to his courthouse collection. When we got there, he agreed that my recollected impression of it as looking like a brown-brick school was an accurate one and that it was completely boring. (Wasn’t even worth taking a picture of. That’s how boring.) I did stop for long enough to read the state hysterical marker describing who the Mr. Brown was for whom Brownwood is named (he was a rancher who donated the town site).

Box ticked off on the courthouse list, we got onto Highway 84 and headed west. We ran through Bangs and Santa Anna, where my grandfather once owned a movie theater. Neither has more than a thousand people in it; more Texas towns dying by inches on the vine.

Coleman, when we got to it, was bigger (4,500 people) but no more lively. Having gambled on holiday activity, I found I’d rolled snake eyes. The entire downtown was shut up tight as a drum, including the drugstore we had come to visit. Rats.

Since we couldn’t do what we came for, we stopped at the courthouse to look at the monuments on the lawn. They had several, the best of which was the bell from the original 1884 courthouse. Later I looked up the bell founder, Henry McShane, and discovered the foundry is still in business though not in the same location. I had a momentary thought of whacking the bell with a mallet to see how it sounded, but then remembered I didn’t have a mallet.

Coleman County courthouse bell

The 1884 courthouse “great bell”

Next to the bell was a bronze tablet commemorating the Western cattle trail of the 1880s and 90s, put up by the D. A. R. A pink granite bench was covered in cattle brands, which I guessed belonged to early settlers of the county.

Cattle Trail plaque

Cattle Trail commemorative plaque

The courthouse itself was even more boring than the one at Brownwood; Alyks said that it looked like his elementary school and I can’t disagree. The cornerstone (really more of a plaque) gave a construction date of 1952, which I would totally believe. It was just about that ugly.

Coleman courthouse front door

Coleman County courthouse front entrance. Yes, it is that dull.

That about exhausted the minimal charms of the courthouse, so we got back in the car and started driving around to see what there was to see downtown. A few blocks away, we came across an excellently restored Sinclair station, something that I might have seen myself when I was young. It had a fine pair of replica Erie 700 series pumps, or possibly even the repainted originals. (Things don’t get thrown away in the country as much. You just stick it out behind the barn in case somebody might need it.) The free air and mechanic signs, however, are pretty certainly replica. No original would look that good after 75 years. The same goes for the neon clock inside the station office, which I had to take a picture of through the door since it was all locked up.

Sinclair gas station sign

Sinclair filling station sign, ca. 1955

Sinclair gas station medallion decoration

Dino medallion embedded in the gable of the porte-cochère

reproduction vintage gasoline pump

Replica Erie 700 gas pump. They are making some killer reproductions these days.

Free air sign

“Free air and water”. Remember when that used to actually be a thing, instead of a revenue center?

Gasoline lead warning sign

A warning that somehow you just don’t see any more.

It happened that the owner was there mowing the grass, and came over to talk to us for a few minutes. I complimented him on how well he had done the work, which seemed to please him.

There were a number of commercial signs painted on buildings around downtown, both ghosts of originals and complete repaints. Repaints included the Piggly Wiggly (or as I used to call it in my childhood, the “Wiggle Piggle”) and the steam laundry and dry cleaner; the Odd Fellows lodge included not only a ghost of the lodge’s name, but a palimpsest of a Coke advertisement overlaid with a furniture company sign.

Piggly Wiggly grocery sign

Sign on the side of the Wiggle Piggle

Steam laundry sign

A “steam” cleaners and laundry

ghost Coke sign

A ghost Coke sign overlaid with a later furniture company logo

Odd Fellows ghost sign

Ghost sign for the Odd Fellows lodge (betcha the lodge itself is a ghost, too)

I caught a glimpse of the county jail behind the courthouse which, unlike the courthouse itself, was actually a nearly original structure; it was built in 1890 and replaced a rickety 1879 structure. Unfortunately between the razor wire and fencing surrounding the exercise yard and the trees, I didn’t get a very good shot of the building although it certainly looks like it would be worthy. Older photos make it look a little bit like a school, as long as you ignore the barred windows. (Come to think of it, maybe you don’t have to ignore the bars ….)

Coleman County jail

Best I could do with the jail; maybe it would be better in the winter with the leaves gone.

Also hiding behind the courthouse was a very typical 1920s Commercial Style building, brick with Sullivanesque decorations around the parapet. Some philistine in the 1980s covered over the front with sheet metal, but fortunately left the side alone so we have an idea of what the whole building looked like originally.

1920s Commercial Style building

These 1920s commercial fronts get covered up way too often and you lose the nice decorative bits.

More local cattle brands appeared on the side of the Chamber of Commerce building, several dozens of them. (I wonder whether anybody has documented who they all belonged to, the way my mother did for Comanche County.) The last thing we admired was the post office, built in 1931 and in fine shape. By that point I had figured out that the only place to get anything to eat in Coleman this day was at the 7-Eleven on the highway, and that didn’t really appeal. Alyks said he had a yen for a good hamburger, so we turned around and went back to Brownwood to look for one.

A wall of cattle brands

A wall full of cattle brands at the Chamber of Commerce

Post office

SRS BSNS Neoclassical Revival post office. I’m glad it’s still extant.

I’ve been gone from the area too long and don’t know where the good places are to eat any more (except not at Underwood’s Cafeteria, unless you want fried chicken and peach cobbler, and we didn’t), so I decided to try driving toward Howard Payne University on the theory that there are eateries around any college. We didn’t find any on the main stem, so I gave up and went back past Dugout Doug’s (the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom to outsiders) and over the railroad overpass, where I got a glimpse of what looked like a restored train station.

Something there is about me that can’t ignore a train station, especially when it looks like someone is taking care of it. So I turned off in that direction, and a couple of blocks of following my nose brought me to the station which was indeed very well restored, with a Santa Fe passenger locomotive on static display in a small park out front. We got out and I took some some pictures, then stopped to read the historical markers on the buildings. I was surprised and delighted to discover that one of the two buildings was an original Harvey House hotel, beautifully restored! In my enthusiasm, I ignored fences and warning signs and squeezed myself out onto the right-of-way to get pictures of the train side of the building. (Alyks said “I’m gonna leave you to that” and stayed behind, in case I ran into a railroad bull and needed to get bailed out of jail for trespassing.)

Brownwood train station

The Brownwood AT&SF depot, about 1909 and in excellent restoration

Kansas paving brick

One of the depot paving bricks, marked with the Coffeyville (KS) Vitrified Brick and Tile Co. brand. Shipping bricks from Kansas to Texas was cheaper and easier for the railroad than trying to buy local.

Brownwood Harvey House

Harvey House, 1911, from the street side

Brownwood Harvey House

Harvey House as arriving passengers would have seen it (I risked falling foul of the law to get this shot for you)

Again, everything was closed tight because of the holiday but I went and peered through all the windows, and could see enough to know that I want to come back on a day when they’re open. (I’ve since discovered that they have one of the waitresses’ dormitory rooms preserved as it would have been about 1920.)

The Santa Fe locomotive, a 2-6-2 Prairie type, is in overall okay condition, though showing some rust pox on the boiler jacket and smoke box door, which was distressing. Also, all the glass in the lamps was broken as is so common with static outdoor displays, and one of the running lamps was completely missing. Damn the vandals, anyway.

Santa Fe locomotive #1080

AT&SF #1080, a 1902 Baldwin-built Prairie

Santa Fe locomotive #1080

1080’s nose; showing the smokebox rust, busted headlamp glass, and missing portside running lamp

Engine builder’s plate

1080’s builder’s plate, saying she is factory project #19723, built in August 1902

Alyks was patient with my enthusiasm, but still we were both hungry so eventually I surrendered and, after a trip around what I thought might be the old Andrew Carnegie library building (it wasn’t; that building was demolished in 1965) we went back out to the highway and stopped at Chili’s. This solved the issue of burgers, but some kind of crisis in the kitchen meant that our order was badly delayed. Without asking, the server brought us chips and salsa as an appeasement but I still counted points off against the kitchen (and not the server) on the customer survey at the end.

We came home SORTA the way we had come, down 183 through Zephyr where I stopped to take more ghost-sign photos at an old general store, but at Goldthwaite I took a wild hair and turned off onto Texas 16 for San Saba, the “Pecan Capital of the World,” and somewhere I had never been, I don’t quite know why. We stopped for pictures of the pretty 1911 Texas Renaissance style courthouse (another box ticked for Alyks) and a quick swing around downtown, then ran across US 190 to pick up 183 again at Lometa and come home.

Zephyr Texas general store ghost sign

Zephyr, Texas general store ghost sign for Limited Coffee (and I cannot find ANY information about that brand at all)

San Saba courthouse

Back door (west) view of the San Saba County courthouse

San Saba clock tower

Clock tower for the San Saba courthouse, still keeping the right time


A man walking is cut in half by the window. Fnord.

Posted in Texana, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our family is different now

Last Friday week, M walked into the room while L was telling me about stuff that happened during the day, and over her shoulder casually said, “Oh, bee tee dubyew, I’m using male pronouns now.”  Lowest-damn-key coming-out I ever saw or heard of, when that sentence really means “hi, you have a transgender son now.”  (The names and pronouns are going to get confusing at times here, and I can’t help that very much. Transition is confusing.)

This is not at all a sudden thing, nor a surprise to us.  It’s a point in a journey that began a full year ago, at the end of eighth grade.  At that time M began to use the name “Alyks” (you pronounce it “Alex”) as a way of leaving behind some of the baggage of junior high school, much as T did before her.  Over last summer Alyks did a bunch of thinking and talking and reading about identity, and by spring had begun to identify as “non-binary,” somewhere in between male and female on the gender spectrum—and gender identity is a spectrum, just as sexual identity is, ask your local psychiatric professional for details—but leaning toward male more than female.

Alyks started by asking us to use the pronouns “they” and “them” instead of “she” and “her,” which is common with non-binary identifying people.  They all have to fight against the male-female binary assumption that’s built into the structure of English, though not all other languages.  A also asked the same of their friends at school and elsewhere and most of the friends did, though there are still a few stick-in-the-mud holdouts who are now getting themselves onto the list of “used to be friends.”

I made a conscious effort to comply with what Alyks asked, as a mark of respect for their identity and feelings; L has had a harder time in giving up the old names and pronouns.  Alyks allows us some slack because we are Mama and Daddy and we aren’t being actively hostile to it, unlike the parents of some of their LGBTQ friends at school.  (A’s descriptions of how a few of these parents are behaving frankly horrify me.)  Still, using the “right” pronouns is a HUGE deal to all trans people, which is a thing to remember.

This is the situation we’ve lived with during A’s freshman year of high school, and it has been hardest on them; hard enough that A asked me in March to find a therapist they could safely talk to about feelings of anxiety and depression arising not only from the gender identity issues but from struggles with schoolwork.  A doesn’t find that schoolwork comes nearly as easily as T or L did, and their grades show it.  (We also discovered a daily casual Daddy check-in asking “what homework have you got tonight and in the next few days?” helps remind “oh yeah, I have this to get done” and things are getting completed and turned in more timely which avoids points-off. I’m like that too; that’s where A got it from.) Through friends I did find a therapist who specializes in teens with gender identity issues and gender dysphoria.  (That’s the currently accepted name for the condition—and it is a condition and not a mental illness.  This is also something to remember always.)

I wrote the first draft of this post sitting in the waiting room while A was talking with his therapist.  A likes Ryan a lot and wants to keep working with him, which we will make happen.  Working with Ryan is making a positive difference, the more so because he does specialize in teens and gender dysphoria, which is still an uncommon thing to find—or to need to find.

Alyks has been fortunate in finding a group of friends who are largely OK with people who don’t understand themselves as being the same gender now as the sex they came out of their mothers with.  There are two support groups for non-straight students at his high school (yes, I’m switching from “them” to “him” at this point), one for the whole LGBTQ spectrum and one specifically for non-cis students.  (Digression: “cis” in this context means identifying as the same gender as the sex you were born with, like L or me; “trans” is everything else but.)

I sent this information last week to all the immediate family and godparents, because we are expecting to go to a party for my oldest niece, her new husband and new daughter in July and didn’t want to show up with A wearing a chest binder and male-looking clothes (and we expect he will be doing that) and having to explain it all on the spot. And we are also not treating this change as “a phase” or any of the foolish euphemisms that people have used in the past for other people whose sexuality and gender didn’t conform to the majority opinion of what people do.

A knows this is a big change for everyone to process and is willing to allow some slack for us sometimes saying “she” or “M” since that’s how we’ve known him for the past fifteen years … but things are changing. So L and I now have a son and a daughter and not two daughters, and we’re asking everyone to start working on using the right name and pronouns. We’re all willing to accept mistakes, but we’re not going to put up with wilful ignorance. A’s life and our lives are too short to put up with shit like that.

If anyone has awkward questions to ask after this, please direct ’em to me in comments. I’m more comfortable than you might know at dealing with transgender issues, and A doesn’t yet need to try to cope with with well-meaning but difficult inquiries.

At the coachmen’s rendezvous the aperitif is orange-coloured. Fnord.

Posted in Family, Personal History | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

We will never be a normal family

Never.  It just won’t happen.  For an example, consider this:

It’s 10:00 Sunday morning.  L is lying on the living room sofa under a quilt but otherwise buck naked.  I’m in the kitchen at the stove, making an omelet, buck naked.  Alyks is sitting in the book chair, fully dressed, laptop open.

Our topic of conversation?  Richard III, Henry Tudor, the Princes in the Tower, and the Cousins’ War.

This was prompted by Alyks’s homework, which was: “using the excerpts provided by the teacher from The Prince, explain two things Richard did right and two things he could have done differently to hang on to the throne.  Illustrate with two quotes from The Prince and two quotes from Shakespeare’s Richard III.”  L’s opinion was that he should have found a way to assassinate Henry, to deprive Margaret Beaufort of a candidate for the throne.

I mentioned this later at the Land of Færie, and the baleboosteh said “It sounds like a normal Hyde Park morning to me …”

Posted in Minutiae | Tagged , , | Comments Off on We will never be a normal family

Breaking radio silence

Yes, I’ve been on radio silence for months.  I’m tired when I get home every evening, and I just don’t feel the cacoethes scribendi.  I lie in bed and listen to podcasts, follow my Twitter feed, and watch YouTube videos.  It hasn’t helped that for the last month I was in a cash crunch and couldn’t afford to refill my Brintellix prescription for three weeks.  Brintellix is a crazy effective antidepressant, but it’s also crazy expensive.  On my less-than-optimal Imperial prescription coverage, I have an $80 co-payment just for that one drug.  (I finally got paid and refilled it, but it’s still a drain.)

My neck surgery happened in early May.  It went very well—so well that I’m practically pain-free in my upper body for the first time in decades.  I was away from the Empire for two weeks; one in a neck collar and one without it.  I got to spend only one week in the collar rather than six because I agreed to let the surgeon put in a plate to stabilize the fusion site.  (This means I am now eligible for manual screening at any metal detector.)

That was the good medical news.  The less-good medical news came in July, when my ophthalmologist finally got pressure readings confirming I have early glaucoma in my right eye only.  (Obviously I have a Lopsided Anatomy.)  He gave me Lumigan drops to put in daily, which have worked excellently.  At the beginning of August my right eye pressure was at 21 mm/Hg and the left at 17.  Last Wednesday he measured my right eye pressure at 14 mm, while the left (which I haven’t been treating at all) dropped to 15 mm in sympathy.  ExpressScripts, of course, is fighting him about covering the prescription because they reflexively fight covering any brand name drug.

And surgery crashed and burned the household budget.  There’s the surgeon’s bill I don’t have money to pay, there’s the remaining anesthesiologist’s and radiologist’s bills I don’t have money to pay, and the summer heat has cranked up the light bill to obscene amounts (the current one is for $571) and I can’t pay that either.  And never mind needing money to replace the stove, and to get a chunk of sewer pipe replaced underneath the house that has a dime-sized hole eaten in it, and get the toilet in our bathroom that hasn’t worked in eight years hooked up again, and get the toilet in the third bathroom, which is leaking and rotting the subfloor underneath it, fixed, and spend $600 or so putting a new catalytic converter in the car so it will pass inspection, and and and …

We’re two weeks into the new school year, and M is far far happier being at McCallum and back among her friends from Lee than she was at Kealing. She’s not near as comfortable walking the multi-cultural line as T is. And the teenage search-for-identity thing has kicked into gear; recently she started asking her friends to call her “Alyks” rather than her birth name. L ignores this, and I’m trying to program myself over but fail about half the time. I’m more apt to call her Alyks when her friends are around or within earshot; something about their presence prompts me to remember better.

There are more things that have gone on which I could tell, of course, but if I told everything I know, then whatever would I have to talk about?

Posted in Current Events, Eyes, Health, Minutiae | Comments Off on Breaking radio silence