Tag Archives: Houston

Showing Love For 100 Losses

10 Sep

It’s inevitable. The Astros will be watching the post-season at home. Sigh. Okay, now let’s try to turn the rest of this miserable season into something memorable.

Losing more than 100 games does not need to be the only way this team goes down in history. There is time to rebound and provide some last-minute excitement for the fans and the franchise. There is a way to better represent the city of Houston. In fact, there are 10 ways:

1. Provide free parking at every home game until the end of the season. Sure, someone has to pay but it shouldn’t be the fans. Issue parking vouchers—or send an intern from the front office to buy a ton of money orders.

2. Name a celebrity co-manager at every home game. Get Houston’s best and brightest stars in the dugout for a day. Can you imagine Carolyn Farb wearing the uniform?

3. Add some surprise promotions. Have Wandy Rodriguez sign the left arm of everyone in attendance or 10,000 of his baseball cards. Give away the bat of any player who hits a home run. Let one lucky fan shower with the team. Actually, save that idea for one of Carolyn Farb’s future fundraisers.

4. Create special 100-loss t-shirts to give away to fans. On the front, show a Texas-themed thermometer with the mercury at 100 degrees. Give it a caption like, “100 means it’s hot!” On the back, use an image of cartoon-looking ballplayers in a state of chaos. Make the caption say, “100 means we’re cold.”

5. Pay 40,000 out-of-work Houstonians to fill the seats one game. Coach them to cheer no matter what happens on the field. Keep them at the ballpark through the 9th inning by offering to pay them immediately following the game.

6. Select one lucky fan to host an Astros player in his or her home for a day. A solid day. 24 hours. Showing up at noon and leaving at three is not acceptable.

7. Add a twist to #6. Shoot a commercial showing the ballplayer doing housework for the host fan. Explain how helping the fans one at a time is the team’s way of making up for the 2011 season.

8. Take every fan out for dinner after a night game. Thank goodness Katz’s Never Kloses. They’ll still be seating fans days later, but the Cheesecake Shake will be worth the wait.

9. Fly 500 fans to Chicago for the series against the Cubs. Instead of randomly selecting fans, choose a deserving group, such as volunteer firefighters, although many of them will be busy responding to the wildfires consuming much of Texas.

10. Offer season tickets to any Houston area family that names a newborn child after any player currently on the roster. In two weeks we may want to take note of how many expectant mothers demanded c-sections on September 28.

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Ten Years in Texas

1 Sep

September marks my tenth year in Texas. The actual arrival by rental truck came on Sunday September 16, 2001. I had never been to Texas, although 2 years earlier the news director at KVIA in El Paso interviewed me by phone for an opening in the weather department. I began thinking I was destined to live here when, in the summer of 2001, Houston became a place for possible relocation.

At the time I was married and my radio news anchor wife interviewed for a job at KTRH. We didn’t tell many people about it. We had already moved so many times in the five years prior.

Ogdensburg to Watertown

Watertown to Rome

Rome to New Hartford

New Hartford to Albany

So we did our research of Houston, and didn’t make it known to most people that we could be leaving New York State soon. When the actual job offer came, and she accepted, then we shared the news. Some people we knew were happy for us. Others thought we were just moving on a whim.

In between her accepting the job and us moving, some significant things occurred. My grandfather passed away. Her mother’s health began noticeably failing. And then there was 9/11. The timing of our departure suddenly seemed horribly inconvenient, but there was no looking back.

Okay, there was some looking back after we arrived. On numerous occasions, my wife applied for radio jobs in cities such as Boston, New York and Chicago. I also applied for jobs that would have brought us closer to home again. She and I even developed a pitch for a TV show that would be shot in her hometown of Alexandria Bay, New York. So we weren’t exactly settled here instantly and planning to stay forever. But the move out of Texas never happened, although a move within Texas did occur—first by her and then by me.

Ten years later, I can look back and examine my choice to move to Texas. I wanted a change, a big one. I was not satisfied with where I was, working as a noon news producer at a local TV station. It wasn’t my dream. It wasn’t even my chosen profession. It just happened.

Houston seemed promising in 2001. In many ways, the promise paid off. Opportunities that previously appeared out of reach were realistic in Houston. I discovered new professional challenges and creative endeavors. I stepped away from TV news, except for one part-time stint that lasted a year, and produced TV shows. I wrote my first TV commercials, and began acting in commercials and films. I even started writing books, which may turn into a lifelong pursuit.

My time in Texas has also provided me with another life-altering experience. The birth of my daughter in 2005 is the most memorable moment of my life, and the joy of raising her overpowers any other experience, personal or professional, in my life. As the family’s only native Texan, she is in a class all by herself.  For her, Texas will always be home.

There is also one more valuable aspect of my Texas experience that I must acknowledge. Since arriving here a decade ago, I have met some of the most inspirational and supportive individuals in my life. Some have served as role models and mentors—even without knowing it. Others have provided support in the form of kindness, praise, friendship, even transportation. Their devotion to bettering their own lives and the lives of those around them underscores an important point for me to reflect on as I celebrate ten years in Texas. In the words attributed to Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo, whose controversial and comical works as a playwright and theatre director are popular in Italy: “know how to live the time that is given you.”

The Redefined Addict

25 Jul

The day after Amy Winehouse’s death became international news, a client of mine emailed me. He works at a long-term rehabilitation facility for addicts and alcoholics in Texas called Burning Tree. He wanted a 300-500 word article about the Grammy award-winning singer’s drug addiction and chronic relapse. I wrote it immediately.

While I enjoyed some of her songs, it wasn’t my appreciation of her talents that motivated me to start writing so quickly. Her death reminded me of an addict who spent years in my life, providing some of the worst experiences I remember in two cities: Albany, New York and Houston, Texas. One of the Albany incidents involved discovering him unconscious in his bedroom and struggling to open the door because his body was blocking it. I remember rushing to the phone to call 9-1-1. A 5 am phone call alerted me to an incident a couple years later in Houston. During an apparent drug deal, he had been beaten badly and was in the hospital.

At times, I felt like I hated him. He once “borrowed” some of my clothes and left them at a girlfriend’s apartment. She broke up with him and threw out “his stuff” one day, including a pair of slacks and leather shoes that he took from me.

At times, he inspired me. He often made gourmet meals for my wife and I, entrees I felt compelled to take photos of because they looked so lovely. And he would make these delicious dishes using whatever we already had in the refrigerator and cupboards.

Like Amy Winehouse, his life was like a rollercoaster ride through those years. In addition to taking him to detox, rehab, AA meetings, I accompanied him to court and visited him in jail. He eventually got out, left town, came back, left again, came back, and finally left for good.

If he had been a friend, the relationship with a chronic relapser would have ended a long time ago. But he was my brother-in-law. His sister spent years trying to save him, and finally accepted that he wasn’t willing to save himself. He’s still alive, and although I don’t keep tabs on his arrests and jail time anymore, there is a part of me that is still very concerned. That part of me is my daughter. As her uncle, he will always be part of her family story.

He’s still an addict. He will always be an addict. Yet knowing that my daughter would benefit from seeing her uncle clean and sober helps me redefine him and the experiences I had that were created by his substance abuse and dependence. Even the most difficult moments become stories I can share with Aidan in the coming years, and provide lessons from which to learn.

Meantime, his own life continues somewhere several hundred miles away. I hope he’s okay. I hope he figures it all out. 28 days were not enough. Jail time only helped while he was behind bars. Perhaps finding the means (and funds) to commit to a long-term rehab would have provided a solution years ago. It may still be his only hope.

Houston Is (Almost) Over

17 May

This post was originally written May 10, although it wasn’t published for another week.

My time in Houston is almost over. While I’ve been living in Lewisville officially since November, I return to the Bayou City this week to move the rest of my stuff there into storage and help my brother move into an apartment.  The house we shared since June 2008 will be empty by Friday night.

Aidan got one more visit to the house in March during her Spring Break. She’s spent very little time there since she started school last August, but her attachments to specific things run deep. When I mentioned her uncle’s upcoming move, she expressed concern about the computer she uses to play her games, and the cable channel (Nick Jr.) she watches a lot when she’s there. She also wanted to make sure I wasn’t throwing away (or giving away) her toys.

Listening to her reactions to the move reminded me that we’re always present and absent in different places. When I leave Lewisville this week to go to Houston, I will be absent here for a few days but present there. My life here will continue without me, but I will certainly miss spending time with Aidan, taking her to school, packing her lunch, walking her dog, etc.

For the last several months while I’ve been in North Texas, my life in Houston continued despite my absence there. Many of my clothes still occupied a closet.  Tapes from my work in radio, TV news, producing and acting filled multiple shelves.  A poster of the Subway Series of 2000 adorned a wall in the living room.  Memories of happy times and sad times lingered as well.

The most profoundly sad time was the loss of our beloved dog Emma. Our sweet and cheerful Thai Ridgeback was taken from the yard in July 2009 while I was in Florida for work. Despite making every effort to find her, she never came home. We can only hope that someone kind and loving has her now.

It’s also the house we lived in during Hurricane Ike. Thankfully, the house sustained no damage even th0ugh two trees on the property came down. We weren’t home to see that happen because we were staying with a good friend in another part of town.

On a happier note, it’s also the place my brother, Aidan and I watched countless movies and TV shows, including the Monsters vs Aliens Halloween special. Thanks to permanently saving it on DVR, we not only watched it when it debuted in October 2009, but we also watched it well into 2010. It was like Halloween was always a current event when Aidan was at the house, even in the midst of the hottest weather that  Texas offers.

I started transitioning to life away from the house last summer, spending the bulk of my time in Lewisville to be close to Aidan. When she started school, I became a long-term guest at my ex-wife’s apartment before moving into a place of my own in November. But that meant trying to balance life in two places, which frankly I wasn’t doing effectively.

Soon the ongoing absence there will be over. I won’t feel divided. But even as I move forward, the connection to Houston will remain strong. My brother will still be there. I’ll return for work whenever an opportunity comes up. And most importantly, it will always be the birthplace of my daughter, a place she will feel attached to for the rest of her life. I imagine returning to Houston with Aidan once she’s all grown up and taking her to the places she saw and experienced as a child.

We could make it a long weekend and visit St. Luke’s Hospital, watch an Astros game and go to the zoo. Here’s hoping Katz’s Deli is still open when we make that trip. That’s the first restaurant we brought her to as a baby, and it would be a special stop in 2027 when she’s 22.

“Two cheesecake shakes, please.”