Day: February 10, 2018


Giant, Hairy, Dinosaur like, Abominable Creatures

As I have grown up I have become an extreme dog lover, but I have not always felt that way. When I was a little girl of about 6 years old, I was just as every young little tom-boy is, outgoing, energetic, constantly moving, always talking, and especially, never listening to my parents. We had a golden retriever dog that had long golden hair, hence the breed, with solid white paws, and who would always great me with a big slobbery kiss.

When Bubba, that was his name, said hello, he would not just come up and lick my face, he would come up, jump, and put his huge paws on my shoulders and end up knocking me down because my scrawny six year old body was not very sturdy.

Being as I was so little Bubba was very intimidating, instead of looking like the nice, gentle, soft, and friendly dog he was, to me he looked like a giant, hairy, dinosaur like, abominable creature, waiting to swallow me alive at any second. I know that is silly to say but as a six year old the imagination is an incredible thing. Now, I did not just one day look at Bubba and think, “wow he is a giant, hairy, dinosaur like, abominable creature waiting to swallow me alive at any second.” My fear of dogs, not just Bubba came from my mother. My mother is the greatest woman in the whole world. She is this little short Mexican woman, who is extremely beautiful with her dark eyes and dark hair, stealing the heart of anyone she came in contact with. She is a great mom and I would not change anything she did to raise me and my twin sister. I mean seriously, it can not be easy raising twins! Even though she is this great woman she is the reason I am just now at twenty years old becoming ok with dogs.

When my sister and I were little we were spoiled-brats, that is the only way to put. My dad was never around during the day because he was working so it was just my mom, my sister and me at home. Unfortunately my sister and I are not identical so we could not play the switching tricks on anyone. We did how ever cause as much grief as we could. My poor mom stuck at home everyday with two wild, extremely talkative, know-it-alls. In order to get us to take naps, go to sleep, eat our food, play quietly, clean our rooms, or do anything besides what we wanted to do, she of course would start out by asking us nicely. That never worked so she would raise her voice, mom did not seem to understand that because there was two of us we thought we could gang up on her and form and alliance with each other and stand up to her by both disobeying. We never listened, so after repeated failures mom finally resorted to that giant, hairy, dinosaur like, abominable creature waiting to swallow me alive.

That’s right, mom would say, “If you don’t do what I say I am going to put you out side with Bubba.” Of course she never did she just threatened it. One day though, my family was playing outside in the back yard, and that is where Bubba stayed. He was okay if my strong, brave, super man of a dad was out there, because he could protect me from ol’ Bubba.

One instance in particular that I remember very clearly, is what I believe started my extreme fear of dogs. When it came time for dinner one night I did not want to get off the play ground that was in my back yard. It was the greatest thing ever with a humungous yellow slide that I flew down and felt like queen of the world sliding down it. It also had two of the fastest, highest flying swings that made me feel like I was a bird flying so high in the sky I could touch the heavens. With a play ground like that what little kid would want to go inside for dinner? Anyways, I decided to make my own rules and stay in my own little world and continue playing.

Having a blast gets tiring so when my stomach was rumbling like the clouds do before a storm hits I decided to go in for dinner. There was only one problem standing in my way, Bubba. There he was lying in front of the door to the entrance to my safe haven. He was breathing so hard I could hear him as though he was inside my ear. His drool had made a puddle underneath his sloppy tongue. He was sleeping but I just new he had to be faking it, just so I would walk over there thinking he was fast asleep and he could finally get his chance to swallow me alive. All that was going through my mind at first was how my mom always threatens to put us outside with Bubba when we are bad. I was thinking that she surly would not threaten that if Bubba was a sweet dog right?

After sitting on my swing thinking of how I could some how lift Bubba up with my mind and move him across the yard and put him at the top of my slide so he would get stuck and not be able to chase me, I went with plan B and took off sprinting for the door. My little six year old legs were moving as fast as they possibly could. It felt like a life time before I even made it passed the sand box. I forgot the one golden rule that everyone always tells you when it comes to dogs when I decided to go with my plan B, “NEVER RUN.” Bubba thought I wanted to play with him and chased after me. They say when you are faced with a life threatening accident or you are in a situation where you almost die, that your life flashes before your eyes.

When Bubba was chasing me around the yard, my life flashed before my eyes. I saw all my toys; I saw bubble baths, chocolate cake, and ice cream Sundays and of course my play ground. I thought for sure my short little life of six years was about to end with one quick swallow of a dog.

I must have been screaming as loud as a fire truck sounds his horn because my neighbors came over to see what had happened. My parents came running out side thinking they are going to see their little girl laying on the ground with a broken leg or guts spewing out everywhere. Instead they came out to see me running around a tree, and Bubba lying underneath our patio furniture. It turned out Bubba was just as scared of me as I was of him, and my loud screaming was too much for him so he went to hide. My parents must have thought I was crazy but every time after that terrible incident my dad would tie Bubba up in the backyard so I would feel comfortable.

Years later after Bubba grew old and passed away, we decided to down size and we got a Chihuahua. Her name was Tiny. Pretty clever because you think she would be tiny since she is a Chihuahua. Wrong! Tiny was the fattest Chihuahua most people had ever seen. She weighed about 30 pounds; her poor little legs could barely hold her up. Of course she was not always like that. When we first got Tiny she was so small like the size of a q-tip. Well, not really that small but she could fit in the palms of my hands. I was about 12 when we got her. She was cute, she had light tan color hair and she had little white patches of hair on her feet and on her belly. She was anything but scary. There was no way my mom could threaten us with Tiny. Although mom was pretty much passed the threatening stage, after all I was twelve, now she just grounded us and it was a lot harsher considering at that age your friends are more important. Tiny, as most dogs do, grew, and when she was a healthy adult she was about the size of basketball. She was not round like a basketball but she was about as tall as one.

At the age of twelve you would have expected me to already out grow my fear of dogs, but I didn’t. I was scared of Tiny. It is pretty embarrassing to say. I mean really, I don’t usually tell people “Hey when I was almost a teenager, I was scared of a little Chihuahua.” Someone may think that is funny but a fear is a fear whether it is of a dog, or a snake, or bear. It is all the same. Anyways, Tiny never really did anything to me to make me afraid of her. I did not have a life threatening experience that involved her trying to eat me like I did with Bubba, my first dog, but I was still afraid of her. You know when dogs get excited and they run around the house as fast as they can dodging couches and coffee tables and just barely miss the wall they are moving so quickly? Well when Tiny did that it made me so nervous, I guess it subconsciously brought back memories of when Bubba was running after me.

I hated that; I would jump on the couch or stand on a kitchen table chair so I would be certain to stay out of her way. I know, it seems so silly, but it is said that animals are animals they could attack at anytime. Seriously though, when a small weird looking dog is running around like a maniac, identical to what I imagine a chicken with its heard cut off would be doing, it can get a little frightening.

This is when my fear of dogs experience gets really embarrassing. I have a little brother who was four at the time we got Tiny. He loved her! He would play so rough with her. Tiny was just the perfect size dog for my little brother because she was perfect throwing around size (not literally, we don’t need animal cruelty called on us). He would make her growl and grunt and bark. I would get so intimidated by her fierce yelping. Now that I look back on it, it should not have been scary at all. It sound like “Yip, yeep, yup, yip, yeep, yup.” Tiny’s bark pretty much sounded like a bird chirping, just louder, but at my ripe old age of twelve it was the second scariest thing, Bubba being the first scariest thing. When my brother had her going chirping and all, I could not stand it! I would pretend to stay calm and use my older sister authority and tell him to knock it off because he was being too rough with her. Little did he know I could cared less how rough he was being with her, I was just so worried she would jump up and bite him and even worse I thought she might attack me because I was sitting in the same room as her. My parents thought it was the funniest thing that I was scared of our little Chihuahua dog Tiny, but I could not help it.

At this point in my life, my mom started to realize that maybe it was all her threatening me with Bubba that may have caused my fear of dogs. I never really blamed her; I just accepted that I was afraid and probably will always be afraid. The most embarrassing part of my fear was not that I was afraid of my own Chihuahua but that I was afraid of every dog. When I would go over to friends house’s they would have to put their dogs up. And they could not just hold them while I walked through the house, they had to physically restrain the dog, pick it up or just walk it outside or to a whole other room and put it in a place where their would be NO way for the dog to escape or a place where there was no chance we would be entering at any point during my visit. I was the annoying friend that everyone always wanted to have people over to my house instead of going anywhere because there might be a stray dog somewhere.

As the years went on I finally started to realize just how ridiculous this was. I was never really embarrassed about the fear of dogs until after the fact. For example, if there was a dog, I would run and scream and hide and make a huge commotion, look like a complete mental patient and think nothing of it until it was over and everyone around was starring at me like I needed to committed, then I would get embarrassed and try to play it off, but there is really no way to come back from that. Once you look crazy and act crazy in front of strangers, you pretty much just have to accept the fact that those people are going to think you are a weirdo. Finally when I was known as “the girl who freaks out around dogs,” I decided it was time to get over it.

I just sat down one day and asked my self why exactly I was afraid. That is the day I realized it was probably my mom threatening me when I was little. I no longer let my self act like a baboon in public places when I was frightened. After that I worked on staying calm at friends house’s where dogs were present.

Finally by the time I was about a sophomore in high school I had almost completely conquered my freakishly extreme fear of all dogs. I still had the occasional scare of a certain breed of dog that most all people are a little weary of such as, Doberman pinchers, pit bulls, etc.

Well as time went on I got more and more used to Tiny, she was a great dog and a huge part of our family. It is easy imagine how devastated my family was when we found out that she had developed a brain problem which would take her life. After Tiny we all swore we would never get another dog again, but I was a dog lover now, I could not imagine what it would be like to not have a little chirping dog waiting at the door when someone came home. My family went about four months with out a dog and then we realized we need one. We got another Chihuahua, except this one was even smaller then tiny was and she is a long-haired Chihuahua. She has long black hair with a few white and light tan patches in it. I am proud to say that I have had her for six months and have not had one experience or even a moment where I was even a little bit afraid.

I think it is safe to say that I have come along way from thinking that my childhood golden retrieve was that giant, hairy, dinosaur like, abominable creature waiting to swallow me alive at any second, to making a fool out of my self in public because I was death afraid, to being able to walk down the street, go in a house, or play with my own dog, and not be afraid at all. I tell you fear is a funny thing, and if you let it, it will get the best of you.


A Dream In Lights

My first visit to Austin was in the early seventies. My sister, Esstine, had won Miss Black Teenage Texas and Austin’s black community invited her to be their guest at a festival in Given’s Park. Black people from all walks of life were having a ball. It was a good day.

My two brothers and I would visit Austin again in the mid-seventies when Esstine was attending UT. We were teenagers hanging out with big sis. She’d take us everywhere, even back to that familiar place, Given’s Park. But the inevitable happened. Esstine left UT, which cut off my visits for some years.

It wasn’t until the early eighties, when my younger brother, Winston, attended UT, that I began revisiting Austin. But this time around I was older and the sights to see were the clubs, the bars, and the bands on Sixth Street. It was these visits that set me on a path to becoming a musician.

On one particular visit, I recall us stumbling into a bar. Understandably, I can’t remember the name, but there was this band jamming smooth soulful songs. The lead singer was a black guy who was lean and swage with a well-seasoned tone. I remember just standing, watching as he glowed in the stage lights, commanding the crowd. At that moment I was convinced that I wanted to be on stage singing in those lights.

Another significant visit to Austin came as a result of me calling Winston informing him I’d written three songs. He was majoring in music and persuaded me to come and let him put music to them. When my wife and I arrived, Winston took us to UT’s music department. The ole’ high school band room couldn’t even compare. The building had many floors and a lot of small rooms. Winston found an empty one with a piano and the art of crafting my songs began.

The following Thanksgiving Winston announced that I had written some songs. With a little persuasion from the family, before I knew it I was singing, which was something I’d never done in front of them. When I finished, everyone was stunned and clapped. At that moment, Esstine jumped to her feet and demanded we do something with the songs.

From those songs, I would travel to travel to LA, which lead to Esstine and I setting up a production/record company in Houston where she lived at the time. It seemed we were on our way. Artists were calling, wanting to be signed with our company. But that endeavor was short lived. Esstine was diagnosed with breast cancer and died within two years. The devastation was tremendous for the whole family.

My sister had died but the dream of being that “guy” on a stage singing in those lights was still alive. Winston had graduated from UT and was urging me to move to Austin. I was living in Bryan and working at a computer company, which is where I established great friendships. One friend in particular was Mark, a drummer. He and I hung out a lot, dreaming, making plans to be big stars. He finally got tired of dreaming, quit his job and moved to LA. During his stay he’d write me. First his letters were filled with excitement, but after several months the excitement turned to gloom. LA had disappointed him.

Time went by and Mark’s letters had stopped coming. Then, out of the blue, I got a letter from him telling me that he’d moved to Austin and he wanted me to come and start a band with him. There were all of these forces coming together pulling me towards those lights. My sister had passed, Winston and Mark were insisting I move, plus there were Austin musicians on MTV and Stevie Ray Vaughn was on a path to take over the world.

So the day finally came. The thinking, analyzing, and worrying was all be hind me now. Ahead of us was a journey down a stretch of highway, would lead me to those lights.

My sister, Viola, once dubbed me, “Man of a thousand songs”, a summation she derived from a road trip we once took from Marlin to Oakland, California, me singing radio songs the whole way. For years I had been learning and singing songs and had become good at it.

My wife and I and our two infant children started out, both cars packed with whatever we could carry. As we drove away from Bryan on Highway 21, me driving the worst of our two beat up cars, again I sung every song that came on the radio. It helped me not to worry about breaking down somewhere along the way. In my mind, I had mapped out a marker. A spot along the highway we needed to reach. With my wife and kids driving ahead of me, I spotted the marker. There they were, tall and green. We had made it to the stretch of pine trees just east of Bastrop on Highway 21. My singing grew louder, bolder, losing its nervous tone. My voice sang of conformation. It was strong, assured in the hope of making it the rest of the way. And we did.

There’s nothing like the feeling of being in a new place. Though I had visited Austin many times, I was no longer a visitor, someone just in and out leaving the damage behind. We were now residents taking up roots.

Mark and I began meeting right away. We had settled in South Austin and Mark was living near IH-35 and Highway 183. This was before Austin’s traffic problems, but the daily pilgrimage would soon destroy both our cars. But I was determined.

First musician to join us was Robert, a keyboard player and the first vegetarian I’d ever met. After that came Johnny, a guitar player with New Orleans roots. Finding a bass player was as hard then as it is now, but then came John, looking like he’d just rode in on a Harley. And so it began. We practiced for months getting our chops down. Then, off to the bars and clubs we went looking for a place to play. We had no idea how difficult it would be. We tried them all but none would bite. Finally, a new club opened on Sixth Street and in charge of hiring bands was this wiry ambitious guy named Billy. Billy gave us a shot, a Friday night gig, which was rare for new comers.

Finally, the night had come. The night I’d be in those lights. I was so nervous I was sick to my stomach. Never before had I used a club restroom like I did that night, but I did. And there we were, on stage. Mark counted off and my dream came to life. I was now that guy, on stage, in those lights singing songs. Overall we sounded a little rough but the night was a success. After that we were able to get more gigs and played often.

Time has moved on and so have I. My dream of being in a band lived for nearly two years, finally succumbing to the financial inflation of Austin‘s cost of living. Eventually I stopped going to the bars and clubs, worked more, and stayed home to help with the kids and homework. But life can be a unique experience. Over the past five years I’ve been revisiting those places where I once sang. These days I’m back in the audience looking to the stages, seeing musicians playing in those lights I once dreamed of. This time one of those musicians is our son, a drummer.