Hoot and a Holler
Vol. 5, No. 6, September 28, 1993 — Nashville edition
Journalism at its finest! — Yearly subscription rate: $135
Vol. 5, No. 6, September 28, 1993 — Nashville edition
Journalism at its finest! — Yearly subscription rate: $135
LATHROP, CA – John, Jeannie, their kids, Tiffany and Thomas, John's sister and Tiffany and Thomas's aunt, Anna, and Anna and John's parents and Jeannie and John's kids' grandparents, Joseph and Tina, (seventeen people altogether) pooled their resources and have purchased a sprawling 5-acre ranch in Tracy, California. It's so big it makes Lucy's ranch in Livingston look small! But, like all ranches, it needs a name. So please call Jeannie and give her some ideas.
There are three buildings on the property: the main house, a barn/garage which will be converted into a second house (we think), and a horse stable. Tiffany will be staying in the horse stable in a “tack” room that has its own bathroom and utilities.
Says John, “We haven't figured out where to put the Ferris wheel yet, but we'll find a spot for it.”
SACRAMENTO, CA – On September 21, Doug flew to Hungary (for the third time!). He will return to Sacramento on October 14. This time, he promises to bring back some distant relatives. “It's basically a recruiting mission for the Hungarian-American Friendship Society,” Doug explains.
See Doug's itinerary below:
With no actual dates set down yet, I plan to research in the local archives and library of Békéscsaba and Szarvas, meet some of the relatives I found last year, and meet new ones. Try to find any relatives living in Mezobereny (where our grandma Liska was born) and where I have some friends.
For those of you who couldn't make it and are now regretting it, we'll give a full report of what happened last month at Bill's going-away/Lucy's birthday party. — — —
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the best of times because Bill was moving two thousand miles away. It was the worst of times because Lucy was another year older.
Throughout the party, Doug had his video camera running; drinks, hors-d'oeuvres and birthday cheesecake were served; tall tales were told (but John eventually stopped); and gifts were exchanged (at the store after the party was over, of course).
Everyone wanted to know why Bill was moving to Nashville, what he would be doing once he got there, and how come he hadn't moved away a long time ago. Bill skillfully dodged these questions using the old ploy of pointing behind the questioner and saying: “Oh look, a water buffalo!”
Dad and Eleanor gave Bill a San Francisco Giants jacket as a going-away present. Mike stared at that jacket like a dog stares at your food. Mike served Bill one beer after another in an elaborate scheme to get the jacket for himself. “I'd wear it more than you,” Mike reasoned. “I'd wear it every day, in fact. Why, I'd sleep with it!” But Bill had left the room by then, leaving everyone wondering what the hell Mike was talking about.
Doug gave Bill some “spending money” for his upcoming drive across the country (a whole dollar, after flashing 20's and 100's in Bill's face!). Steve and Denise gave Bill a care package of chocolate chip cookies and other snacks for the trip (the remains of which Don quickly devoured as soon as Bill got to Nashville).
Lucy's siblings pitched in and bought her a used PC computer, and then watched in amusement as she tried to put it together herself. It was great fun watching her struggle like that!
“I'm working on the story of our trip. When it's ready it will be a Leaky Faucet (or whatever you call it this week) exclusive. If you jump the gun and print something inaccurate, I may have to sue you.” — Greg
[It goes against our grain, not to mention tradition, but we decided to heed Greg's advice and wait and get an accurate story from someone who was actually there. (See page 4.) Next thing you know, we'll be fact-checking, verifying sources, and everything! This is not the sort of thing we want to make a habit of around here!]
For our readers unfamiliar with Diane and Don's cats, I thought it would be a good idea to write a little something about them here.
They have three cats. Two of them were gotten from the Hayward animal shelter; the other one just sort of showed up one day.
The king of this cat house is Conan — aka Kaboodle or Kabuddha — an 18-pound orange tabby. You've probably read in past newsletters of his exploits; most notably that he regularly gets in fights with the neighborhood tomcat, and wins, in spite of the fact that Conan is a neutered male and the tomcat, of course, is not. Conan is everyone's hero. The other cats look up to him with great admiration. And Conan behaves as a true monarch should. He spends most of his time lounging around the house doing absolutely nothing. Diane tells us that adult cats generally spend 80% of their time sleeping. Eighty percent!
The other two cats have no real pecking order. So, I'll mention DOS (pronounced “doss”) next, since he's the most lovable. DOS — aka Dink or Dinko (or Diskette, as I call him) — is a grey tiger-striped little cat that thinks he's still a kitten even though he's three years old. DOS is the one that just showed up one night at Don and Diane's door in Hayward. They're pretty sure he fell out of a passing spaceship. Says Don, “We think DOS was the subject of some sort of alien brain experiment, and he fell out of the spaceship before his brain could be put back in.”
DOS spends most of his time asleep on someone's lap — any available lap, though he seems to like Don's lap the best. DOS is also the mighty hunter in the family. Just tonight, in fact, he brought a very large green bug of some sort into the house and commenced playing with it on the kitchen floor. I tried to rescue the poor insect by picking it up and throwing it outside, but DOS just tracked it down again, and this time he ate it. Bugs are small potatoes to DOS, though. He's been known to bring home live (well, half-alive) birds on a fairly regular basis.
The third and most mysterious cat is Bart. Bart has no nicknames (unless you count “Bartlett”). Nicknames are too gauche for a cat as dignified as Bart. He spends most of his time in the basement. Don and Diane claim that Bart is a thinker and finds the basement most conducive to thinking deep cat thoughts. Bart also happens to be the prettiest, fluffiest and fattest cat of them all. Diane thinks he's part Persian, part orange tabby. His most striking quality is/are his almost human eyes. It can be quite disconcerting when he stares at you. And staring at this author was what he did a lot of until recently when he finally accepted my presence.
So that's a brief look at Diane and Don's cats.
[We were thinking of not using this story, in light of the fact that we're also printing Greg's cross-country trip story. But Diane said we should print both and make this issue a “theme issue.” Of course, had she read the following story before-hand, she may have agreed with our original reluctance to print it.]
At 6:30 A.M., August 24, 1993 (remember this date for historical purposes), after spending a couple of nights at Eric and Kristin McGovern's house in Fontana, my “incredible” journey began.
A few hours later as I was driving through Needles, California, someone on the radio spoke of an organization whose members claim to be immortal. “We have some people here from the 18th Century,” the guy explained. “Immortality is simply a matter of your outlook on life and your diet, basically.” It sounded simple enough. I wrote down their address.
In Kingman, Arizona, I stopped to buy a postcard for a girl in L.A. who is from Kingman. I figured she would probably be homesick and would appreciate it. And since I never gave her my Nashville address, I can only assume she was touched profoundly by my thoughtfulness.
Further east and close to Flagstaff, I found the spot in the road where, in 1983 at the beginning of my arts & crafts touring days, the truck I was driving at the time had stalled as I tried to make it over the hill. (The Flagstaff area is mountainous, in case you didn't know.) With a full-size camper on the back and a fully-loaded trailer behind, it was just too much for the old truck. It passed out about 200 yards from the summit; even started to roll back down the hill! Anyway, this time I cruised over the hill, no problem. It's always encouraging to overcome obstacles that had bested you in the past, isn't it?
Once in Flagstaff, I stopped at a “quickie lube” place for an oil change and lube job. I had the truck done, too. While waiting, I met a girl claiming to be a student at Northern Arizona University. I asked her if she liked Flagstaff and, without hesitation, she said “no.” I told her I was from L.A. and she said, “Yeah, L.A.'s the place to be!” I just nodded, not bothering to explain why I was leaving that town.
On Interstate 40 along the Arizona-New Mexico border there is some incredible scenery (rock formations, caves, cliffs, stuff like that). Just looking at that rugged terrain put me in a rugged, living-off-the-land kind of mood. I drove right past it and spent the night at a Motel 6 on the western edge of Albuquerque.
I awoke at six the next morning to get as far east as possible before the afternoon heat arrived. My first stop was in Tucumcari, New Mexico for more gas and postcards. A few hours later, I stopped in Amarillo, Texas for the same reason. As far as I know, this is the only reason to stop in either town.
In Oklahoma somewhere I saw the first graffiti since leaving L.A. On a freeway overpass, someone had spray-painted “God is not dead.” So, it seems even the graffiti in Oklahoma are religious fanatics.
I had originally intended to spend that night in Oklahoma City, but I got there about 6 P.M. and decided to just keep on driving and spend the night in Ft. Smith, ArKansas. Pulling into the motel in Ft. Smith at 9:30 P.M., it was 90 degrees and oppressively muggy outside. Nine-thirty p.m.!
A couple of hours east of Ft. Smith comes Little Rock. I tried to find some postcards there the next morning, but couldn't. I didn't look all that hard, actually. I was sick of making special stops just to send postcards. And the thought of being so close to “Clinton country” kind of made me nauseous.
Anyway, I kept going east (because that's the way to Nashville). Before you get to Nashville, however, you have to cross the Mississippi into Memphis, Tennessee. The Mighty Mississippi was about a mile wide at that point. I don't know how wide it is when it's not flooding. Anyway, Memphis seemed like an interesting town. I'll have to visit it someday.
Finally, around 4:30 Thursday afternoon, I pulled into Don and Diane's driveway on Ferndale Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee, causing only minor damage.
Now wasn't that an incredible journey? Bill's new phone number is (615) xxx-xxxx.
TV commercial: “If you paid full price, you didn't buy it at Crown Books.”
Doug's retort (circa 1986): “If you were shopping at Crown, you didn't find what you were looking for!”
[The above retort has been reverberating in my mind for the past week for some reason. I figured if I put it in the newsletter maybe I would finally be rid of it and there would be just that much less clutter in my head. That's basically what this newsletter is, you know. Mental house-cleaning. Some have likened it to a bowel movement. But I prefer the term “house-cleaning” for some reason. If you have a favorite retort that you've remembered over the years, please let us know!]
From The Sacramento Union (newspaper) – Monday, Sept. 13, 1993 (page A2) — Michael Ackley's column:
“If you shop at Arden Fair Mall and have wondered about the source of the 'Doug's Mugs' shop title, you will be fascinated to know the proprietor is Doug . But that's not important. The item is we have a copy of Holmes' 'Regi Magyarorszag,' volume one, number one of the organ of the Hungarian-American Friendship Society of Sacramento. If you're of Hungarian descent and want to subscribe, write Holmes at _____ Way, Sacramento 95821. This is fascinating enough, but what is really interesting is the fact that Doug's dad, Lionel Holmes, is very active here in Portuguese-American affairs. Lionel explains that Doug 'is ambidextrous: With his left hand, he's involved with me in Portuguese genealogy. The Hungarian tie comes from his mother, Irene Specht Holmes, whose mother was Hungarian.' Which is enough of the Holmes genealogy for now. If you are neither Portuguese nor Hungarian, kindly disregard the preceding item.”
[How come this guy never mentions this newsletter?!]
Their trip started at 9:00 a.m. on July 10th. They had been getting ready all week, filling boxes and suitcases, stacking sleeping bags in a pile on the living room floor. Then the big day came — it seemed almost anticlimactic. Greg was a little tired after a hectic week at work, but June was ready to take the wheel when the need arose. Out across the Mojave desert, normally a very boring expanse, but Greg had bought a couple of “audiobooks” for the occasion. This didn't help June's boredom, but at least Greg was entertained.
Their first stop was Phoenix. It was about 3:00 p.m. and hot. June's friend JoAnn lived in a small adobe house on the east end of town. There was no air conditioning, but the thick walls kept the house about ten degrees cooler than the outside, which meant it was 95 instead of 105. They were having a birthday party for Niles, Brian's toddler-hood friend. They barely remembered each other, but they all had fun playing Nintendo. After a couple of hours, Greg and family shoved off. No time to waste on this trip.
They stayed in Wilcox, Arizona the first night, after driving through a rainstorm. They had made a reservation at a motel there, the only reservation they would make on the trip. After a pancake breakfast that couldn't be beat (especially since it was included with the room), they headed for nearby New Mexico.
New Mexico was greener than it had been two years prior, on their return trip from Minnesota. The reddish mesas provided a backdrop for the green sagebrush and occasional cacti. It was a pleasant drive, not as hot as Arizona. Before they knew it they were in Texas. No doubt about it being Texas. At regular intervals there were signs warning motorists ominously “DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS.” June and Greg decided it was the Texans' quaint way of asking them not to litter, and since littering was not their habit, they gave it no further heed. Maybe they should have.
They were driving along an incredibly straight interstate in the Texas hill country, between El Paso and San Antonio. The highway is well-maintained, with the grass mowed along the median and along the shoulders. The road takes you up one gently rolling hill and down the other side, on and on. Scrub oaks provide a thick green carpet out to the horizon. June had been cruising along, doing between 70 and 75, when she decided to let Greg take over the driving.
He was at the bottom between two hills when he noticed a police car come over the top of the hill in front him, driving the opposite way. Just the same, he slowed down to 65, the speed limit. Too late! There was the Texas state trooper right behind him with red and blue lights flashing. He announced, “you were speeding.” “How do you know that?” asked Greg. “I caught you on my radar,” said the trooper. He added, “I knew when I came over the hill that you would be my next customer.” Yes, Greg was his next customer, and he was doing a land-office business that day. As Greg and family pulled away, Greg looked in his rear-view mirror and saw that the cop had already pulled over his next “customer.” Who says customers have to be happy? Well, the County of Ingram, Texas should have been happy, having collected $70 from another dissatisfied customer. When Greg mailed in the money order (they wouldn't take a check, the ticket said), he thought of advising the County that maybe they should try to attract some industry instead of relying on speeding tickets for their main source of revenue. But he thought better of it, and decided just to pay the money. Ouch!
Trying to put this unpleasant experience behind him, he headed for San Antonio at 65 MPH. He certainly didn't want to go through that again. Before they left Texas the Holmeses would see more people pulled over by police cars than they had ever seen before. Sure must be safe there with all that law enforcement. Enough! On to San Antone!
They were trying to make it to the Alamo before it closed at 5:00. They arrived at 4:45 and saw the whole fort — the Alamo's not that big. Leaving the Alamo, they overheard a couple ask directions to the River Walk. That sounded good to Greg and June, so they all followed the couple. The River Walk turned out to be one of the highlights of their trip, with its tropical foliage, picturesque cafes and cool breezes. A jazz duo played in one open-air cafe. Traveling along the walk, they came to a boat dock advertising river cruises. They caught the next boat and enjoyed a narrated tour of the San Antonio River, learning interesting facts about the historic buildings along the river. They ended the day at a KOA campground just outside the city. It was a well-developed campground, with two playgrounds and a pool, and they got a good tent site. The cicadas sang them all to sleep.
The birds woke them up — some large birds, resembling magpies except that they were all black, which made the strangest sound. After breaking camp, they headed for the Circus Museum in San Antonio. It was quite interesting, and it was Wednesday, which was a free day. Upon leaving the museum they headed for Rockport, the home of Uncle Lenny. After traveling through mostly flat country, they reached the outskirts of Corpus Christi, passing by some of the huge chemical plants along the Gulf of Mexico. Making a jog to the north along the coast, they entered Rockport, a small town by big city standards. It was humid, but there was a breeze off the Gulf.
They arrived at Uncle Lenny's and Betty's house in the late afternoon. They hadn't discussed where or how long they would stay with Uncle Lenny, but he immediately showed them to their rooms. He lives in a spacious ranch-style house on the edge of a golf course. Greg asked him if he got many golf balls in his yard, and he said, “No, because I live right behind a sand trap.” That made sense. They had a very enjoyable two-night stay at Uncle Lenny's.
Uncle Lenny wasn't feeling that well, since he was battling a recurrence of a leg infection he first got 43 years ago, and he was taking medication through a central line. But despite that, he was cheerful the whole time. He and Betty were the perfect host and hostess. Greg and family also visited his cousin Ellie, who was just laying the foundation for a new house nearby. They also toured the USS Lexington, a World War II aircraft carrier. Leaving Rockport, they headed for Houston to see Space Center Houston, a tourist attraction built only last year, adjacent to the Johnson Space Center.
Space Center Houston is worth the admission if space travel interests you, which it did Greg and family. The part June liked best was the hydroponics exhibit, in which tomatoes were grown without soil. Greg especially enjoyed the tour of the Johnson Space Center, in which they saw the actual Mission Control room used during space shuttle missions. It's smaller than you might think. The tour guide told them that the picture they show on TV of Mission Control are actually taken through a fish-eye lens, so you can see more of the room. Maybe that's to impress us so they get more funding. They announced that a space shuttle would be blasting off the coming weekend. As it turns out, it got delayed five times and finally blasted off in September.
Next stop was Garland, outside Dallas, where June's sister Mitzi and niece Nicole live. They arrived at midnight, driving straight from Houston. The kids finally got a chance to go swimming there, in the townhouse community pool. One night June and Greg went out with Mitzi, while Nicole watched the kids. After dining on Tex-Mex (tastes the same as Mex, as far as June and Greg could tell), they went to Debonair Danceland for some boot-scootin' country western dancin'. It was a huge place, rather smoky, as June would tell you. Haven't they got the word that smoking is bad for you? Not there, apparently. With some apprehension on Greg's part, since he didn't have steel-toed boots, or any boots, June and Greg went dancing. Fortunately for them, there wasn't any line dancing that night, so their toes escaped untrodden.
Who would be the last person you would expect to find in a place of drinkin', dancin', smokin' and carryin' on? Well, there he was — Billy Graham! Well, he wasn't the Billy Graham; just another guy by the same name, who had seated himself at Mitzi's table and was now bending her ear with incessant chatter. For a cowboy construction worker, he had a lot to say, but he couldn't get Mitzi to part with her phone number. She said later, “he talked too much.” Besides, Mitzi already has a boyfriend.
After three nights at Mitzi's, Greg and family headed for Don and Diane's house in Nashville. To get there, they had to pass through ArKansas. A large sign at the state line warned them that speed limits were strictly enforced, without any leniency for offenders. After an audible “gulp,” they entered ArKansas. Well, they didn't see anyone being pulled over in ArKansas. In fact, they didn't see a single cop the whole time they were there. ArKansas was pretty, though, with rolling hills and lots of trees. It was hot, too. When they arrived in Hot Springs, the bank sign said it was 107 degrees. Since it didn't seem quite that hot, Greg theorized that the sign had just been out in the sun too long. Later Don told him that around there, they also factor in the humidity. Anyway, Clinton had just been there the day before. Could he have generated all that hot air? They camped in a national park just outside town. The only problem with national park campgrounds is that they don't have showers. Greg felt so sticky and grubby that the next morning he jumped into the creek, but he couldn't talk anyone else into taking the plunge.
On to Tennessee. As the song “Davy Crockett” says, Tennessee just might be the “greenest state in the land of the free.” Assuming, of course, that this is still the land of the free. They arrived at Don and Diane's not long before dark, and stayed up late talking about their trip and old times. The next day they, with Don, visited a Civil War battleground across the street from a Dairy Queen. The kids had been begging to stop at a Dairy Queen throughout the trip, and they finally got their wish. It came at a good time, since it was a scorcher that day. Later that day, they visited the tourist section of Nashville, kind of a country musician souvenir alley. Don bought something for each of the kids, including something for Aileen that went “moo” like a cow whenever you turned it over. This toy turned out to be a continual source of joy for the family. Not to be outdone, Diane provided free back adjustments to all — what a gal! Later during their stay at Don's, they visited Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, and Don nearly froze. The caves, which are as big inside as a sports arena, maintain a constant temperature in the low 50's. Later, back at Don's house, Don performed an impossible feat, in the rain, no less. He became a human pancake, sliding under the van and loosening the oil pan bolt so Greg could change the oil. The family really enjoyed their stay at Don and Diane's.
To be continued … (hey, it was a long trip!)
Michael has gone and bought himself a brand new red 1993 Mazda 323, 5-speed, 16-valve car! We just thought you'd want to know that.