Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My kids ain't Candyass Yalies

My Grandfather Elmer Elton Savage was born to sharecroppers in the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. He attended school right over the border in Elgin, Kansas - he and his brothers would avoid walking two extra miles by taking a rope swing Tarzan style over the Caney River. He graduated the sixth grade before beginning his career as a "roustabout" on oil rigs. Difficult, dirty, dangerous work and my Grandad started when he was 13, ending his career some 50 years later as Regional Production Superintendent in the Permian Basin. In a real sense he was a key man in the industry that makes our cars go. So you can understand why when one of his Grandsons (moi) matriculated University he would refer to me as a "Yalie" (particularly when I would say "who? Moi?") even though I never got near Yale, attending Tulsa and Chicago (now my father nearly became a Yalie which may have influenced Grandad's rhetoric - sort of a retrospective warning). When I said or did something particularly egregious (which you'll be shocked to know actually happened) he would call me a "candyass Yalie" .

But I think if Grandad had witnessed the utterly unhinged howling and shrieking on display at Yale this last week he would have apologized for associating me with any of them.  Because if I had displayed that type of childish - no toddlerish - behavior in front of him he would have kicked my ass all the way to El Paso.

And so I must take some modest credit (jointly with their mother, Diane) for saving my children from the Yalie fate.  You see I'm a libertarian conservative and by and large I taught my kids to interpret the world that way.  So when they toddled off to school and now University (not Yale, thank God and Man) they had a proto-world view that their much more left wing teachers and professors constantly challenged.  They never had the luxury of having their every bias and whim validated for them in every forum they attended.  And while I don't think they were ever taught by avowed Marxist Leninists or Radical Islamists, I believe they were exposed to some of the widest range of worldviews available in America today. Which will serve them in good stead as they navigate life's slings and arrows (Is that a mixed metaphor?  How can you navigate slings?  Or arrows?  Oh well).

The problem with leftish thinking in America today is not so much that the left critique of our society is all wrong but that because of the nature of our educational system and news media it's the only meta narrative that you tend to hear in public (outside of churches and Fox News, that is) and going through childhood without ever having your preconceived notions challenged makes for very weak and emotional thinkers. I have great, guilty fun debating friends who have been marinated their whole life in the standard vaguely leftish received wisdom.  I flummox them, I rabbit punch them, I pull the Ali "I am the greatest rope a dope" on them.  It is so much fun but quite illegitimate.  Because I'm no smarter than them. It's just that I've  spent most of my life sparring with teachers, professors and Phd candidates and doing lots of two and three on me's with friends.  It makes you tough and teaches you your opponents' weaknesses and most importantly:  your own.

And that's what I did for my kids - not because I thought of it but because it's who I am - I'm stupid lucky that way.  Look, I don't know where my kids are going to end up on the political spectrum but I know they won't ever behave like the panicked, shrieking, cursing, spitting leftists at Yale.  They're too tough for that.

So Grandad, I guarantee that your Great Grandkids will never, ever be "Candyass Yalies".

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Chicago Cubs and Isomorphic Mimicry

I've been reflecting on the Cub's recent success and their ongoing campaign to become a "championship" team. I'm afraid it will end in tears.

I say this not as a resentful Cardinal fan but as a concerned citizen who wants to help others avoid terrible, humiliating mistakes.  Because I've been reading Frank Fukuyama (of Fuk! It's the End of History Fame) and I've learned a Big Word - well actually two: "Isomorphic mimicry" which he nicked from a gang of developmental economists gone bad. IM refers to the tendency of less developed non western cultures to adopt the forms of western institutions (parliaments, bills of rights, welfare states and so on) without possessing the underlying cultural attributes from which these institutions sprang. Which results in a mess. I suppose the answer is for everyone to live their own lives and quit sticking their noses into other people's business which of course is the answer to most things. But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

What I wanted to say was this: I'm worried that the Cubs and their legions of Old Style besotted fans are committing the mistake of sports Isomorphic mimicry. You see the Cubs have recently advanced to the National League Championship series - which is a form characteristic of championship cultures like the St. Louis Cardinals. And the problem is that the Cubs represent a "loser" culture. According to developmental economists, trying to graft a championship team onto a loser culture is destined to fail. Recall the last time the Cubs wandered into the playoffs: they had almost won their first trip to the World Championship since God knows when and what happened? A desperately loyal fan reached out and interfered with an easy pop foul which resulted in their loss. It's almost as if the loser culture as embodied in that hapless pawn of a fan reached out and thwarted the attempt by Cub elites to impose an inappropriate isomorph on an institution known the world over for hopeless haplessness (or is that hapless hoplenessness, hmm).

It's better if indigenous cultures develop their own organic sports team forms. For example the Cubs could really build on their league leading "Worst Franchise Ever".....franchise. It is so much easier to go with the grain.

What? You come here and say that! Well then back off man, this is science!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The trials and tribulations of arboreal diversity

There's some early fall color from Red Maples on our street. Of course "Fall" is more a state of mind than a fact of life this time of year on Houston. In fact these maples celebrate fall in the same way that folks from Greece or China celebrate their ethnic festivals. They pick out a time in October when the trees back in the old country are celebrating and go all red themselves. The orange, grapefruit and lemon trees do the same thing around Christmas, turning their fruit bright citrusy  colors that celebrate the season just kust like dear old grandad did. The tropical palm trees (who are also botanical immigrants, more and more coming every day) disapprove of all this polyseasonistic behavior. They hold that "there is no Season but Hot Season and the Date Palm is its Prophet". Occasionally this leads to violence where Maples and Oaks have their tops lopped off. Which ticks off the native Texan Live Oak trees who get all up into the foreign trees' grilles while the Arizona and California Ash trees plead "dudes! Can't we all just get along". Such are the trials and tribulations of arboreal diversity.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Eulogy for Hugh Warren Reeves

"Are we true to ourselves, or do we live for the expectations of others? And if we are open and honest…can we ever truly be loved? Can we find the courage to release our deepest secrets…or in the end, are we all unknowable? Even to ourselves."
Believe it or not, that's a quote from a TV show. It gives voice to one of the great philosophical questions of all time: can we really know someone? Even ourselves? It's an argument that Augustine the famous third century Roman theologian took up. He proposed that only God can know us completely and I suppose that's true. But I knew my father - at least I knew him from the facets that I could see. Because like all of us my father was a precious stone fashioned by God and God's world into a many faceted jewel. A jewel of great complexity and beauty. I could see him only from my perspective - as a son and perhaps a friend. I could not see him as a husband, or a brother, or a colleague although I believe that in the way light shines into one facet of a diamond and refracts out the others I could get a glimpse of my father through your eyes and you of him through mine.

So today I am going to tell you about my father as I saw him, through the facets he presented to me. I hope that my memories shine through him and illuminate your memories of my "pop" Hugh Warren Reeves.

First and foremost my father was True. I have never and suppose I never will meet a truer man. He was honest when it mattered and honest when it was hard - I know there were times in his career where his unwillingness to shade or obscure the truth cost him professionally. Sometimes his truth could be irritating, even in my estimation petty but at crucial times he served me brutal honesty when I needed it so very much, I recall a time when I was in college and described to him a 'prank' that some of my friends had committed and that I thought was so very clever. We were walking together at the time and he stopped, looked me straight in the eye and said "anyone who does that is a blank" stating a certain word which I won't repeat. I had never heard my father use that word before. But it was the right word and I needed to hear it. He was true to his standards and true to me. I have never and could never live up to his.

My father was indega, indegaft, indefatigable - well, I really can't pronounce that word - he was relentless, he never gave up or gave in. Never gave up on himself and he never gave up on us. He had setbacks and frustrations like we all do but they never appeared to affect his efforts on behalf of those he had made commitments to - he just kept on plugging away. When we moved to Singapore my brother and I signed up for little league. We were without a doubt, the worst baseball players on our respective teams. So rather than let us languish on the bench between short stints in Right Field pop got up before dawn to go to work so he could come home early and practice with us before it got dark which in equatorial Singapore was at six PM sharp, every day of the year. In all the months he did that I can't recall seeing any other parent doing the same for their children. Pop didn't give up.

I could give you many more examples of his relentlessness but I would be remiss if I didn't tell you about the one, single, solitary time that I am aware of that pop did throw in the towel. My father was a great golfer and he wanted his sons to enjoy the game he loved. So he paid for years of golf lessons for us at the Island Club in Singapore and took us 'golfing' in the same way that he helped us with baseball. Many years later when my brother and I were home for Thanksgiving he took us out for a round here in Houston at Quail Valley. After I had shanked, topped, sliced or plopped my seventh in a row into a pond or someone's yard he turned to me and said "You know, you're never going to be any good at this game". It turns out that pop could also be a realist.

My father was loyal - to us and to the rest of both sides of our family. Pop was the go to guy when people ran into trouble, when they needed help. Once in a while back when I was making a lot of money I would get a call from him giving my 'subscribed' amount to help out another member of our extended family. Despite the fact that I made more than him back then I always knew his number was bigger. And in the fullness of time when things got hard for me, he stood there to help us too. Sometimes his loyalty got the best of him. In particular he did not respond well when he thought someone was failing to show appropriate respect to his family. One time on our way home from Jakarta we laid over for the night at a Hong Kong hotel. It was rather late when we arrived and the desk clerk apologized and said that there were no rooms left but not to worry if we would just follow him and the porters they would walk us to another hotel nearby. My father was having none of that. He could sense that his family was being treated without the respect that we deserved. So despite the clerk's protestations and assurances he demanded that they call a cab to drive us to the new venue. When we got in the cab, the bellman gave directions in Cantonese. The cabbie turned and looked at us quizzically and then shrugged his shoulders and put the car into gear. If you've ever been to Victoria or the Hong Kong Island side of Hong Kong you know that it is very hilly, crowded and back then constantly under construction with many one way roads. So long story short, we spent about fifteen minutes driving in dense traffic up, around, back and then down to other side of the city block where we had started where the porter was waiting with our bags.

But my father always fought for us. He was always on our side.

My father loved his family deeply. He didn't show it much in public but among us, at certain times his love blazed through. When my son - who was his first grandchild - was born he and my mother were with my wife's parents at the hospital waiting for the blessed event. It was quite the scene with the grandmothers unable to abide by hospital rules and constantly making unauthorized forays to the birthing room for a peek and being thrown back with increasing stridency by the staff. But eventually Sam came - he's the large bearded one up front - and after all the post birth details were resolved he was plopped into my arms to carry out to meet his grandparents. I knew my Father so I gave Sam to him first and almost immediately his tears began and didn't stop for quite some time. It was very characteristic of him to love so openly. And so very beautiful. And when he was sick, particularly when he was suffering the indignity of one of the many painful procedure he endured, he would always tell me just how much he loved us and how grateful he was to us for what we were doing for him.

One other important thing about his love: he and my mother had their 'moments' of conflict - we all did with him - and sometimes the insensitivity of his truthfulness could wound. But I will say this with absolute certainty: my father never, ever said a disparaging word to me about my mother. He invariably praised her and told me how grateful he was that she had married him. As he proudly told anyone who would listen, she was the love of his life.

My father didn't talk of faith much but later in life I know that he reflected upon it a great deal and that he was a Christian in the traditional, orthodox sense that he placed his faith wholly in Jesus' substitutionary atonement for his salvation. He said that he most felt God's presence when singing with the choir. That one: behind me and I can believe that for my father experienced things of the heart so very deeply.

So that's the man I knew and grew up loving. He wasn't always easy but he was always true. His relentlessness often irritated me but he would not let me give up. His stiff backed Anglo Scottish loyalty to kith and kin sometimes embarrassed me but he showed me how important family is and in his tears and in his life he showed me what it is for a man to love.

To end I'd like to do something that I think my father would have done had he had my literary bent. You see, I write poetry. There I said it. Not only that but from time to time I write love poetry. I know, I know but still (at this point my kids are probably rolling their eyes in the same way that I used to roll mine at my father. And all I can say is be patient, you'll get there). My love poems aren't usually targeted at any particular person, and I used to think that was odd. Yet after quite a bit of reflection I have concluded that what I'm really doing when I write about love is reflecting on all of the love that I have experienced up to that point in my life. And without a doubt one of the great loves of my life has been my father.

So I have a poem. Now most of this poem is irrelevant to Pop, simply the sort of stuff you would expect from a third rate hack like me, but as I reread the last stanza of it yesterday, my father's love suddenly shined through. So if you'll indulge me, I'll recite the last few lines that contain so much of my father's love as my last formal tribute to this great man that I loved so very much. The poem is entitled "To Know You"

And when our time is done

in death, despair or ruin.

I am more for knowing you

and you for knowing me.

And in the end when life

has no more time to run,

You are more for knowing me

and I for knowing you.

To understand you,

Love you,


To live so that at the end of days,

when all this world is done.

All of time cannot deny

that I knew you.

And was found,

known and


by you.


And that was my father, my pop. Thank you so very much for coming

Saturday, August 29, 2015

In Memory of Hugh Warren Reeves

Hugh Warren Reeves passed away on Sunday, August 23rd at 11:04 AM CDT after fighting a glorious eleven year war with cancer. Hugh was born to a noted Wichita oil man and his secretary - after she became his wife, of course.  Being the eldest son of a successful oil man, Hugh was sent back east to the Taft School for his education. But rather than march lockstep with the rest of his classmates to Yale and then Wall Street, Hugh chose to follow his father's footsteps into the oil business, attending the University of Oklahoma and learning to sing "Boomer Sooner" rather than "Boola Boola".  This choice was instrumental in making him a lifelong Sooner fan and a skeptic of all things Longhorn.  In his later years he would  frighten his sons by walking up to very large men who were dressed in University of Texas burnt orange and saying:  "Boomer Sooner".

Hugh was also an outstanding golfer. It is a testament to his commitment to the Game that despite holding a student deferment by the skin of his teeth during the Korean war, Hugh chose to focus on his golf rather than his studies. Fortunately for him, the Army sent him to Germany.  As he told one of his sons much later, he spent far more time on the frauleins than on the front lines. But all that was forgotten when he returned home and met the love of his life - Betty Jean Savage.  In his telling he fell in love with her on first sight and in the fullness of time made her his bride (after he had demonstrated the ability to graduate college and get a job that paid more than an itinerant golf pro) . He never looked at another woman.
Hugh and Jeanne married on December 23rd, 1959. And as is traditional among oil explorers, Hugh promptly dragged his new bride and eventually their two sons off to a seemingly never ending series of the oddest, most out of the way places in creation:  Big Lake, TX, Roundup, MT, Glendive, MT, Williston, ND, Casper, WY, Rifle CO, Red Deer Alberta and so on. This was in spite of his sons' desire to remain in a single location that had quality Saturday morning cartoon programming and large supplies of reasonably priced Dr. Pepper. In fact Hugh helped explore what is now known as the Bakken, the first and one of the largest of the oil fracking plays in North America. Unfortunately at the time they lacked the technology to exploit the find. A fact that - reflecting back on their time in North Dakota - his family looked upon with great relief.

Eventually Hugh's career took him and his family overseas, first to Abu Dhabi back when it was so primitive it didn't even have Dhabis and from there to Singapore during its first great burst of growth and thence to Indonesia where he explored for oil in the wilds of Borneo and Western New Guinea. Eventually Phillips Petroleum called him back to Houston where he retired and where Hugh and Jeanne chose to make their permanent home.  Blessed with health and free time he devoted himself to golf and good works, principally within the Methodist Church, eventually alighting at Christ United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, Texas.  A frustrated artist, Hugh eventually gave in to the siren song of one of the best Church Choirs in the greater Houston area, touring around the world with them several times.  He said that he felt God's presence most deeply when singing God's music.

Eventually illness caught up with Hugh in the form of a series of cancers.  He reacted in his typical “never say die” style by entering an experimental treatment study and outliving every single other member of the program. Saturday before last he was with his family celebrating his younger son's birthday.  It is a testament to his long and varied life that a man who had been born in the radio age was greeted by grandchildren via iPhone video chat.  Late that night Hugh began encountering serious difficulties attributable to his illness and a short time later entered the arms of the Savior that he trusted wholly for his salvation.  He is survived by his Wife Jeanne, his Sons, Bill and Todd, his Granddaughter, Amelia, Grandsons, Sam, Jake and Miles and his Sisters Nancy and Martha and their families. Hugh was a special man from a special time and we shall not see his like again.
Requiescat in pace

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My father died this morning. And I shall never have another.

My father died this morning. And I shall never have another.

He awoke in the wee hours with trouble breathing so we had the ambulance take him to the ER. I rode along. During the trip I had a suprisingly beautiful conversation with the young ambulance driver about life and death and loss. I guess being so close to so much death and pain gives one perspective.

Not long after we got to the ER dad lost consciousness and his vitals began to crash. We had specified do not resuscitate so the ER staff turned off all the beeping cacophony, turned down the lights and left me alone with him and my memories. For four hours I watched  as his breathing got slower and shallower until it finally stopped. I spent those hours alone with him in that dark, quiet room. I held his hand and over and over I told him how much I loved him and how very proud I was to be his son. I told him it was OK to stop fighting, to go into that good night. And then it hit me: I would never hear my father's voice again. There would be no more talks with "Pop" about the weather or the Sooners or the lawn or life. And that's when the tears that had been bottled up in me for him for so long came pouring out. Alone with my father in a dark room as the last grains of his life slipped away.

For my father died this morning. And I shall never have another.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ode to My Larger Brother on the Anniversary of His Birth

Oh larger brother!
Monstrous, looming force from God,
with capacious jaw and large scale nod.
You envelop us in your great embrace,
as we disappear 'neath your solemn face.

Oh larger brother!
Giant of our time!
You expand, back, front, side to side.
Waxing ever greater, ever wide.

Oh larger brother!
Beast of great burden - save when it hurts your back,
hauling kegs and cases home - whatever you lack.
Tap them, pop them,
Drink them, quaff them.

Oh larger brother!
Once you sheltered in my shadow,
now in yours I cower below.
You blot out the sun,
spreading shade from which no one can run.

Oh larger brother!
With booming voice and balding pate.
Friends ask "Is that your big brother?" and I say "yay".
May you always be greater, larger, more.
May I always be the "little" bro that you adore.

Oh larger brother!
On your fifty second year of birth.
At fifty four I marvel at your girth.
Thank you brother, for being so large.
I couldn't have bettered it had I been in charge.


I was rambling around the local strip shopping center when a came upon a Karate studio. Actually I'm not sure if it was Karate, Tae Kwan Do, Ninja Masters or whatever, but you get the picture.  It's the sort of place where the bullied are supposed to go to get the mojo to bully their bullies like they do in all the movies. Although I've never seen it work that way in real life, probably because the bullies get to these places first.  It has always seemed to me that taking fencing or an NRA marksmanship course would be a better approach to making bullies scarce.  Although applying what you've learned in those courses would to tend to attract the police.  Life is full of trade offs.

So like I said, I was walking by this joint early in the morning and the Sensei or the apprentice to the Sensei was washing the inside windows in preparation for the wimps du jour. And me being me I simply could not resist.  I stopped, rapped the window to get his attention and in my best Karate Kid went with my right hand "wax on" and then with my left hand "wax off".The Sensei - having no idea what I was doing smiled and waved at me. "No!" I said urgently, "wax on, wax off!" which perplexed him, so he went back to his washing.  I rapped again and gesticulated more aggressively "I said wax on, wax off!".  At that he turned around and walked off into the back of the store. I think he may have misunderstood what I was telling him to do as he ended up going into the toilet and closing the door.

But it's obvious that this joint is not run by legitimate Karate experts nor aficionados of late 1980s youth cinema.  Fakers.