Monthly Archives: January 2011

Thunderbolt P-47

Standard

I recently read Thunderbolt!, an autobiographical story of Robert S. Johnson, the first United States Army Air Forces WWII fighter pilot in the European theater to surpass Eddie Rickenbacker’s WWI score of 26 victories.

Johnson was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, the son of an automobile mechanic. He first became interested in airplanes when he was eight years old.

That was on a morning in the summer of 1928, in the town of Lawton, Oklahoma. My dad shouted for the kids to pile into the car.

His father took them to Post Field at Fort Sill to see a United States Army Air Corps barnstorming team, “The Three Musketeers.”

There were three of them. Each with double wings and a whirling propeller flashing in the bright Oklahoma sun. I first saw them as they rolled on their backs, arcing over to inverted flight…

The air show captured the imagination of young Johnson, who could not stop dreaming of airplanes and flying, and eventually an Oklahoma boy’s dream became an American hero’s story.

Thunderbolt! will propel you though the skies above Europe, chasing fate with great courage, at several hundred miles per hour.

Every Oklahoman should read this book. Every American should read this book.

Somebody Famous

Standard

No trip to Amarillo would be complete without a stop at a bookstore. Our Super Walmart Store in Guymon, Oklahoma, has a nice little book section, but the operative word in that description is “little.” Other than Wally World, Guymon currently offers no other options for bookworms like my wife and kids. Not being an avid reader myself until just recently, I too have always enjoyed looking through the many books and magazines available at a full-fledged bookstore. Our trip to Amarillo last week was to be no different.

Before heading back to Guymon on Wednesday night we stopped to get a Starbucks at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore and spend a few minutes looking around, knowing, full well, we would need to leave ahead of the impending winter ice storm that had been heading for the Panhandle. With soy mocha in hand, I hit the bestsellers rack.

I felt such pride when I picked up and held Unbroken, a book I had read on the Kindle such a short time ago. Thumbing though the pages of a copy I had pulled from the shelf, I read a paragraph, put the book back on the shelf, and took a step backwards. “I belong here,” I thought to myself. “I read that book. I am a reader.”

The real treat for me was when I found the book Dark Prophecy. My nephew’s wife, Angie Bare, is the photographer who took the cover photo for the book, and the man pictured on the cover is my nephew. I was in the process of reading the book on my wife’s Kindle, and had only viewed pictures of the book cover online.

Read the article on Level26.com web site about Angie Bare at http://www.level26.com/post/interview-angela-bare-photographer

This was the first time I had seen the actual dust jacket itself, live and in person. I flipped to the back of the book, where I knew I would find the credits for Angie, and ran over to show my wife. I felt as if I were a relative to somebody famous.

I guess I am.

Beaucoup Starbucks

Standard

According to Wikipedia there are over 16,858 Starbucks in 50 countries, including over 11,000 in the United States alone. No wonder it seems as if there is a Starbucks on almost every corner. But all Starbucks are NOT created equal, as I learned the past week.

I was in Amarillo, Texas, and just happened to stop in at the Starbucks on S. Soncy Road around noon. I was a little taken back by the uncleanliness on the outside of the premises as I approached, seeing coffee stains on the sidewalk leading up to the building and a dark soiled pathway on the concrete leading into the front entrance. Maybe it had been too cold to power wash the exterior. I would soon find out.

I stepped up to the counter and ordered my usual. “I’ll take a soy mocha with non-dairy whipped cream. Vinti.”

“We don’t have non-dairy whip cream,” the lady taking my order quipped.

“You’re kidding me?” I gasped without even thinking, the words popping out of my mouth like an involuntary audible reflex reaction. Regaining my faculties, I remember thinking to myself that even McDonald’s probably offers non-dairy whipped cream, but keeping my thoughts to myself, I politely passed on the whipped cream answering, “I’ll just take it plain then.”

“That’ll be $5.25”

There were only a few customers inside the S. Soncy Starbucks, but the drive-thru appeared to have a pretty steady stream of traffic, so I had to wait awhile while my drink was prepared. I passed the time by watching the other clerk as she hurriedly filled orders. Whipping up exotic coffee drinks seemed to be the last thing in the entire world she wanted to be doing. I caught her eye once and smiled, but she remained ridged and looked right past my glance.

“Vinti soy mocha, no whip cream,” she hollered out as she sat my cup down hard on the customer pickup counter, and then while turning away, almost as an afterthought, tossed an unfolded cup sleeve onto the counter next to it and walked away.

I fought with the sleeve a moment, finally getting it unfolded and slid onto the hot cup. Off I went.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I pay over $5 for a cup of coffee, I like the sleeve put on the cup for me, like they do in every other Starbucks I’ve been in before or since. Lucky for me there is another Starbucks just a few blocks from there inside a Barnes & Noble Bookstore, because I will not be going back to the S. Soncy Starbucks.

Lucky for me there are… beaucoup Starbucks.

Who’s Your Daddy?

Standard

When asked, “Who’s your daddy?” I know of only four children, two sons and two daughters, who can rightfully claim to be a child of Yours-Truly. On the other hand, if you listen to my wife talking to our house cats, you would think I had fathered THEM too.

At times, ‘tis true, I am affectionately referred to as “the mean man,” serving as a firm reminder to the cats that they had best stay out of trouble and off the dining room table. But when the cats are behaving themselves, and they become accepting of their role in life as one relegated to being cuddled, coddled, cradled, and baby talked to, it is then that I am simply “Daddy.”

So how is it that a guy like me, that doesn’t even like cats, ends up being “daddy” to a pair of misfit, no-good, spoiled and lazy felines named Calvin and Beau?

One word…

Daughters.

 

Unbroken

Standard

I grabbed my wife’s Kindle and a piping hot cup of coffee early Saturday morning, slid sideways onto the loveseat in the corner of the drawing room. The sunlight poured in the eastern windows against my back as I pulled my feet under me and began reading the last chapters of Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I had to take a few short breaks from reading to respond to some emails from work, and used the occasions to warm my coffee. Before I realized it, it was past lunchtime. I just could not make myself put the book down, and finally finished it just before evening.

Throughout the day, I had some trouble keeping my trifocals dry as I read this true and remarkable story of Louie Zamperini written in astonishing detail by Laura Hillenbrand, also the author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend. Deployed as an Army Air Force B-24 bombardier during World War II, Louie Zamperini’s aircraft went down due to mechanical failure in May, 1943. Thirteen months later the United States War Department declared Louis Zamperini dead.

Mark Twain once wrote, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” Unbroken is an unbelievable, yet true saga, so unreal that it truly is a perfect example of fact being stranger than fiction. Twain also wrote, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” And so were the reports of Louie Zamperini, who was thought to have been killed in action, but eventually returned home to a hero’s welcome.

This book is a page-turner, overflowing with skillfully organized well-documented details of extraordinary events in our county’s history and in the life of Louie Zamperini.

Read it.

Miracle on 4th Street

Video

If you have stopped by my office recently, you may have noticed a cane leaning against the wall over in the corner. The cold snap that blew through the region this week left my lame hip a bit stiff and not always able to bear my full weight. Embarrassing as it is for such a young man to be walking around with a cane, it was my only reasonable option. The other day when I glanced at my own cane leaning there in the corner, it reminded me of the closing scene of Miracle on 34th Street.

Unlike Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle put a Kindle in my wife’s stocking. Not getting the house of our dreams, I guess we will just have to stay in our old house on 4th Street. But this new Kindle might be the real miracle anyway.

I knew ahead of time what Santa Claus was planning to give my wife, but I told no one as not to spoil the surprise. Keeping this a secret might not have been such a brilliant idea since everybody gave her books. I even gave her a book, wrapping it in a way to make it obvious, just to throw her off and dispel any suspicion she might have about getting a Kindle.

Christmas morning was great fun at our house, and the wife got lots of books. Lots! So many that when she took a trip to visit her sister that next week, she left the Kindle home with me, giving me permission to play with it. So, “play with it” I did.

I can only remember ever reading one book in my entire life, “Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine.” I was in the 5th grade.

I downloaded the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation. Not actually a book per se, but I read them on the Kindle in no time. I then decided I was ready for something more, something greater. Pride and Prejudice was at the top of the free downloads list for the Kindle, so I downloaded it. I am not a reader, and when I do read, I read slowly. But in less than a week, I had finished the book. I loved it. I am now half way through Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I love reading!

I am sure glad Santa Claus got my wife a Kindle.

And… I am sure glad she got so many books for Christmas too.