About the blog

Welcome to my blog. This is a place where, as time allows, I will post comments, inspirational words, favorite things and short essays about daily life. I get to meet and interview interesting people through my job, so why not share some of it with all of you? If you like what you see, please forward a link to your friends and family.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Christmas songs

Black Friday aside, the weekend after Thanksgiving signals to me that the Christmas season has officially begun. The first thing I do is move my Spode Christmas Tree dishes from my a china cabinet in my dining room into my kitchen cabinets for every-day use. (They'll go back into the china cabinet on New Year's Day.)

But aside from enjoying dishes, holiday lights and Christmas decorations, I love, love, love Christmas music. It doesn't matter whether it's secular or non-secular - but, please, no "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" or carols sung with a stutter by a Porky the Pig imitator - I love it all. This time of year my favorite radio station is 89.3 KSBJ (http://www.ksbj.org/), where they play all Christmas music the entire holiday season. 

A few years ago a Chronicle colleague, Andrew Dansby, and I got into a conversation about Christmas music. He's a young hipster and I'm, well, not. But we still found that we both love the old traditional songs. He's more tech-savvy than I am, so he burned a CD for me with a bunch of great Christmas songs, song by the perfect artist for each. Here's my list of some of my holiday favorites.

1. The Christmas Song, by Nat King Cole (either the 1946 or the 1961 version)
2. White Christmas, by Bing Crosby
3. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, by Ella Fitzgerald
4. Jingle Bells, by Frank Sinatra
5. Frosty the Snowman, by Harry Connick Jr.
6. Feliz Navidad, by Jose Feliciano
7.O Little Town of Bethlehem, by Emmylou Harris
8. Away in a Manger, Johnny Mathis
9. Little Drummer Boy, by David Bowie
10. Winter Wonderland, by Tony Bennett

What songs do you like?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Me

Even if you don’t know a thing about boxing you’ve heard of its legendary figures, Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Frazier was the man who was built like a bull and had a famous left hook that he himself referred to as a “heat-seeking missile.’ In 1971, in what was called “The Fight of the Century” he won the heavyweight title from the flambouyant and charismatic Muhammad Ali. Frazier, who in September announced that he had liver cancer, died this month. Among the people called on to talk about Frazier was George Foreman, the Houston boxer who took that heavyweight belt from Frazier in 1973.

Their stories have many parallels: Both men were born to poor families and found themselves on their own as teens. Both men were born to box, big men with powerful arms and ferocious focus.  Both won gold medals in boxing in the Olympics (Frazier in 1964, Foreman in 1968) and both were heavyweight champions.

I never met Frazier, though by all accounts he was a decent man, an underdog who captured America’s heart. He was a good friend of Foreman – a man I have gotten to know a little through interviews for the Houston Chronicle – and Foreman has volunteered to pay for at least part of Frazier’s funeral.

Frazier left boxing bitter about losses to Muhammad Ali and badly managed whatever money he won.

Foreman went a different route after becoming a Christian and forming his own church – the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ – across the street from a community center and boxing ring he created for young men in Houston, the city where grew up and where he still lives.

The photos I’ve seen of Foreman in his boxing days hardly resemble the grandfatherly man I know today. He’s one of the kindest and most sincere men I’ve met as a journalist. When he meets children, he wants to know if they’ve had enough to eat. He spent his own childhood hungry for food and a place to call home. He doesn’t want children today to suffer as he did.

“Joe Frazier was comfortable in his own skin. A regular guy and a great champion. All heart,” Foreman told my colleague Jerome Solomon for a tribute column on the boxing legend. “I wanted to be like him. This guy was so kind.”

Foreman said that Frazier changed his life when he agreed to that title bout in 1973. Until then, Foreman had been a formidable boxer. After, he was a champion.

If George Foreman wanted to be the kind, considerate man that Frazier was, he achieved that and more. He brings love to everything he touches. He inspires and gives hope to everyone he meets, including me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


     When I think of the Sundays of my childhood I think of Sunday School, oatmeal cookies and home-canned peaches.
     Early in the morning we’d pile into the car and head to the Christ United Methodist Church where my parents were members and where my two sisters and I were baptized. After church we’d head to a nearby restaurant where I almost always got a plate of spaghetti and, if my sweet tooth was acting up, fresh strawberry pie.
     Then we’d head to the small town – literally a one-stoplight farming community – a couple of counties away. It’s where my parents were raised and where much of my extended family still lives.
     The drive seemed like forever, but it was actually an hour or less from the paved state highways to the dusty gravel roads that took us to either of my grandmothers’ homes or the home of my aunt and uncle. At my paternal grandmother’s home we’d head for her old-fashioned cookie jar, almost always filled with oatmeal cookies.
     My maternal grandmother lived just down the street and we loved going there because her home was more interesting. She had a big, fluffy cat named Snipper that we loved to play with. On a good day she’d pull out a big Mason jar of peaches she had canned.
     Sometimes we’d visit my dad’s sister, other times we’d visit my mom’s brother. They were the aunts and uncles who had kids the ages of me and my sisters, so there was more for us to do.
     We rarely had meals on our visits, but something was always offered, whether cookies or peaches or something else someone had just made or bought.
     I still think of Sunday as a day for rejuvenation. But I’ve moved from the Midwest to Texas so instead of driving to see family, we get on Skype and see each other on computer screens. Visits are more along the lines of brunch with friends or an afternoon outing on a friend’s houseboat. Always we all bring something to eat and we can’t wait to see what shape the buffet will take.
     Wherever we are, whomever we’re with, we’re grateful for God’s many blessings.