May 2003 News & Thoughts

Thursday, May 29th, 2003

HostSave is still having problems and service is intermittent. Please stick around and be patient, loyal readers.

I haven’t really typed about my England trip yet. Pictures and news will appear here over the weekend with a bit of luck. Meanwhile, check out Charlie‘s killer golf
Monday, May 26th, 2003

I gave this pot to Mum and Dad a long time ago when visiting from Saudi Arabia. And I’m not surprised that it ended up amongst the rubble of Ricky‘s garage. He decided to return it to me this weekend. David also gave me a bunch of stuff from Dad’s house, including a bag full of sixpences and other assorted coins. I decided to put the sixpences in the pot and put the pot in my travel bag. God, it was heavy as I lugged it across Gatwick’s South Terminal to the Continental check-in desk. I checked the bag in, got my boarding pass, and headed to Gate 19 to board my flight to Houston. Gate 19 was about a fifteen-minute walk, but I arrived in good time. The lady at the desk took my passport and boarding pass and beckoned security over. “We’ve been paging you, Ms. Athearn. Didn’t you hear us? We need to search your luggage.”

I was surrounded by four mean looking people and told to step aside. Meanwhile, everyone in the departure lounge looked up and the passengers in line behind me went quiet. I had no idea what was going on and felt extremely embarrassed. “Please follow us,” said one of the security men.

I was marched back the way I came. The journey was endless. I was trying to ask them what they thought was in my bag, but they wouldn’t enlighten me. “Am I going to miss the flight?” I asked. “That depends,” one of them said. They led me into a small room without windows, and there was my travel bag. Another security officer came in. “We need to search your bag. Please open it.” I started taking everything out. When they saw the coffee pot they realized that it was the culprit causing havoc with their x-ray machine. The officer examined the contents and decided I was harmless.

They escorted me back to the departure lounge and gave me back my passport. Everyone had boarded and the crew was waiting for me. I was sweating and nervous. As I walked down the aisle of the plane to my seat everyone was averting their eyes. It was very weird. I felt like shouting at them, “it was only a damn coffee pot!”

The only positive thing about the incident was that my bag was the first on the carousel at Houston. I went from Immigration to Customs to the AmpCo Express bus without breaking stride.

Okay, so the Gatwick officials were doing their jobs, and I made a point of thanking them for taking care of our safety. But I did feel that once they knew I was innocent they could have said something to make me feel a little better. And was it really necessary to let all the other passengers know that I was a possible terrorist? It was not a pleasant experience.
The rest of my trip went perfectly and I’ll touch on some of it later in the week when I’ve had some sleep and polished that damn pot.

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

On Saturday we will be saying our final farewells to Dad at an ashes committal service in Rotherham, Yorkshire. I’m leaving for England this afternoon and will be returning on Monday. Here’s my itinerary.

I won’t be taking my laptop, so there will be no updates to this page until at least Monday. On previous visits I’ve always taken it with me and signed up for a BTWorld account for a month. I don’t know if any of you have ever tried cancelling a BTWorld account, but it’s next to impossible. After about ten e-mails and three long distance ‘phone calls last time, I ended up having to cancel my credit card just so they wouldn’t keep charging me.

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

In case you’ve been wondering what happened to the website yesterday, the server, HostSave, suffered a DOS (Denial of Service) attack. It still seems to be very slow and I haven’t been able to upload anything. Don’t people have better things to do than go around hacking into other peoples’ business? There should be mandatory prison sentences for anyone who denies access to

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

I got my hands on some Club Level (a.k.a. Sushi Level) seats last night and we met up with the Hummingbirds for an Astros’ game. But why oh why oh why have the Astros turned up the volume at Minute Maid Park? Or has my hearing just got better? It’s impossible to hold a conversation with the person next to you between innings. The only time when it’s reasonably quiet is when the visiting team is at bat. I’m thinking of writing to the Astros and asking for a turn-back-the-clocks night with only an announcer, a manual scoreboard, and an organist. I bet they would pack the place.
The Astros lost, 7-4, but it was exciting to the end, with two runners on in the bottom of the ninth, Bagwell at bat, and Kent in the on-deck circle.

Tuesday, May 20th, 2003

We bought a new mattress. It’s heavenly. I knew our 8-year-old one had got lumpy and uncomfortable, but I didn’t realize how lumpy and uncomfortable until I woke up this morning feeling uncreaky and well-rested and ready to conquer the world (well . . . almost).

Sunday, May 18th, 2003

I’ve stuck with the yoga classes, and what a difference they’ve made. At first I tried Ashtanga, Anusara, Iyengar, and Restorative, but then just one Bikram class had me hooked, and I haven’t gone back to any of the other ones. Bikram yoga is done in a hot room (about 105 degrees)
for 90 minutes. The routine is the same each time: two sets of each pose, beginning and ending with breathing exercises. From the bits and pieces of information I’ve picked up, instructors can only be certified in Los Angeles. I go three to four times a week. It takes a large chunk out of my evening — about two and a half hours if you count the walk there and the walk back. But it’s worth it. Hey, a lot of Houstonians spend that much time commuting. During the class I drink (and sweat) a litre of water. A couple of times I’ve felt dizzy and wanted to throw up, but I’ve found there’s a pattern, depending on what I’ve eaten or how much I’ve drunk the night before! And I’m not the only one. The instructors know who has back, knee, asthma, or other problems and are extremely attentive. They will even order a student to sit down if (s)he doesn’t look good. They have given me modified poses to do and I’m not allowed to do anything that curls my spine forward. Sideways, backwards, and twisting is fine. I can’t do the camel pose yet, and am wondering if I ever will, but I do feel myself making a little progress each visit. Most of all, I know exactly what I can and can’t do. It’s as if there’s a tiny lever in the small of my back, and if I push it the wrong way it touches a nerve and gives me pins and needles in my ankle (don’t gross out, loyal readers — just hope you never get sciatica). When the class is over I feel so refreshed and energized, and those orange slices in the bowl by the door taste damn good.
If things continue to go well I’ll be shopping for my own yoga mat. But right now I don’t want to jinx it. I think it’s worth the $3 rental not to have to carry it to and from classes.

Sunday, May 18th, 2003

Ex-New York Times reporter, Jayson Blair, hasn’t had a mention on this page yet. Habershons of England are probably wondering who the heck he is. If you want to know the story you can read about him here.

I know I always pick up on the insignificant parts, but I’ve just read this MSNBC article, Times Bomb, and find it shocking that when sending out an important e-mail like the one below, Blair failed to edit it or use the Shift key.

“hey folks,” Blair wrote, “this is my new email address. feel free to forward it to anyone who asks to reach me. spread the word to those who still care that i am holding up as well as possible and love so many of you. I [sic] time will come for more, but it’s not here yet. all the best, jayson.”

Along the same lines, I know that none of us is perfect when it comes to grammar and spelling, but I would have thought the Houston Chronicle could do better. On Page Two this morning they have a photograph of a deaf music student. The caption underneath it reads: “Tammie Willis lays down on a piano to feel the music played by Tiara Walker.”

Incorrect use of the verb “to lay” is one of my pet peeves.

smiley-face dancingI think the above bitching session was prompted by the fact that one of Paul’s English students signed the Habershon Guest Map today. Tell him your sister’s thrilled, Paul.

Saturday, May 17th, 2003

Whew! I seem to have packed a lot into the last six days. Nothing bad to report, unless you count our wardrobe collapse late last Sunday night. The shelf fell on the hanging clothes and everything crashed to the floor. It’s really fun getting up on a Monday morning and trying to find something to wear to work when it’s covered in camping gear. Anyway, it was a good chance to sort out all my clothes and ruthlessly discard any that hadn’t been worn for over two years. I took three 30-gallon bags full to the thrift store and now have a nice empty wardrobe with clothes that can breathe (if that’s what they do).

So what else happened this week? I got a raise. I got two As (the professor said all eight of my papers were outstanding – WOW!) for my economics classes and my GPA is now at 3.53 with one class to go. This is good. Thursday evening we went to hear the Randy Rogers Band and Radney Foster at Party on the Plaza
downtown. Last night we saw Randy Rogers again at the Fire House Saloon (Troy McManus opened). Randy gave a very high spirited performance. I’m not sure whether he was happy or depressed, but he certainly opened up towards the end of the show, as noted by Alex.

By the time we got up this morning it was time to head to Minute Maid Park. The Astros lost to the Phillies but still lead the NL Central (Cubs don’t count).

Now I have 24 hours to catch up with stuff, such as washing dishes, doing the laundry, and tending to my fantasy Baseball teams. Nothing will lure me out of the house until Monday morning.

Happy belated 20th, Clare!

Sunday midday, May 11th, 2003

FracassosguitarsatAndersonFair.jpg (341108 bytes)I only got a picture of Michael Fracasso’s guitars last night. Anyone who’s been following News & Thoughts avidly will be wondering about that song below (“Laughing Boy”) and what happened. I’d been curious all week as to who he had in mind when he wrote it. Last night, all was revealed. It was about the fifth song in the first set, and he introduced it, saying, “This is a song I wrote about a man with the middle initial ‘W’.” My heart sank as I felt John tense up next to me. I knew the words that were coming and I knew things wouldn’t be good. We were also bang in front of the stage and within touching distance of Michael.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. John loves a good argument but he’d never grab a musician by the legs and drag him off the stage. He waited until the song was over, whispered in my ear that he was leaving, grabbed the camera, and walked out. Someone in the audience of about 20 shouted “subtle,” and I didn’t hear Fracasso’s next words, but something he said (must’ve been the final straw) caused Callie and Kevin to get up and leave, too.

Yes, you have a wishywashy sister/aunt/cousin/friend. I didn’t follow them out. I play the guitar and had a front seat and wanted to watch Michael play and sing for the rest of the evening. His music is absolutely beautiful. I’d paid my ten bucks and was going to stay. During the break, as I sat at the empty table with half-finished drinks, someone asked me where my company had gone. I told him that my friends were very defensive of George Bush and didn’t like the “W” song.

This individual went and told Fracasso. Fracasso was horrified. He had no idea that three members of his audience had walked out. We ended up talking for the rest of the intermission. The thing about the guy is that he’s already extremely vulnerable looking and I always have the urge to give him a big hug and tell him that everything’s going to be okay. Here’s what I wrote about him the first time I heard him. Anyway, we didn’t discuss politics, but he did mention that he wrote “Laughing Boy” during the Bush/Gore elections but that really it could have been written about any political leader. I don’t know if that makes things any better for the Johns and Kevins and Callies of this world. Probably not. No, make that “definitely not.” Anyway, during the second half of the show Michael was like a wounded puppy dog and kept referring to “the people who walked out on me”. He even played the “1950s” song for John, who’d requested it earlier. It made me want to give him an even bigger hug.

I do, however, wish that musicians and other celebrities would stay away from politics. They should realize that whatever they say is going to offend 50% of their audience. Or perhaps I should say 45%, as there’s always that 10% like me. Call us anything you like.

P.S. If you’re wondering how I got home. I walked. So did John. It was only two blocks. My only worry the whole evening was whether he’d be mad at me for not leaving with him.
He wasn’t.

Sunday at 1 a.m., May 11th, 2003

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Have I had an interesting night out. It didn’t go exactly as planned; in fact, it turned quite sour. I’m a little plastered and will explain tomorrow when I’ve sobered up. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with the words of Michael Fracasso’s song that I was writing about on May 8th. I’ve played it so much that I think I just about know the words:

Who loves you Laughing Boy?
101 jokes up your sleeve
Everybody’s favourite clown
The party’s over
the chips are down

who loves you laughing boy?
all the money in the world
the family name and cunning charm
the diamond beauty on your arm

Where does it say we were meant to love you?
Where is the sky now if it’s not above you
Why do they always say that you’ll grow up some day?

Who loves you Laughing Boy?
all the power at your command
the rules were made for you to bend
with no pretence to make amends
Where does it say that we were made to love you?
Where is the sky now if it’s not above you?
Why do they always say that you’ll grow up some day?
The devil sends you soft asleep
now the world can mend its sheep (??)
by the time you close your eyes
all your dreams have passed you by

Who loves you laughing boy?
when there’s no one up above
raise your glass make a toast
do everybody’s favourite joke
where does it say that we were made to love you
where is the sky now if it’s not above you?
why do they always say that you grow up some day?

And I’ll probably wish I’d never mentioned all this when I wake up in the morning.

Saturday, May 10th, 2003
David sent me a list of the birthday presents he received, but no pictures. He got a jigsaw of Sandringham (visited last weekend), a Panama hat to replace the one he left under the seat at No. 1 court Wimbledon last year, and a big box of little drawers in which to keep nuts, bolts, and nails.

No gardening set? (Habershon joke there)

Friday, May 9th, 2003
Happy birthday Helen and David!

Thursday, May 8th, 2003

Michael Fracasso’s coming back to Houston on Saturday and will be performing at Anderson Fair. The last three times he’s been here something’s prevented me from seeing him. Fourth time lucky. I’ve been listening to one of his new songs on his website. What a great voice! Now if only Will Kimbrough would come back, too. He seems to be href=””>everywhere except for Texas.

Thursday, May 8th, 2003
Decided around 1 p.m. today that I’d like a hotdog for lunch. Left work and headed to Minute Maid Park to catch the last five innings of the Astros game. They have now won seven in a row and are on their way to Philadelphia for a three-game series. Of course, I took the camera. Here’s Wendy posing outside the park, here’s a picture of the outfield (Berkman and Biggio talking, Hidalgo in right, Kent at 2B) and here’s a picture of the outside of Larry Dierker’s new bar, the Big Bamboo. Larry Dierker was the Astros’ manager until 2001.

The roof was closed until the end of the game. It’s hot outside and very windy. The air’s not too fresh either — I think there are fires burning in Mexico. N.B. I still love this town.

Tonight there’s a sold out, yes, sold out football (soccer) match being played at Reliant Stadium, between Mexico and the U.S.

I think that most of the crowd will be rooting for Mexico.

Tuesday at noon, May 6th, 2003

pipeleak.jpg (134628 bytes)Charlie returned with his own ladder. He wasn’t feeling well, but he climbed up into the crawl space and found the leak. Unfortunately he couldn’t get at it from up there,pipeclamped.jpg (131807 bytes) and I whimpered quietly as he cut a hole in our brand new kitchen ceiling. The problem has been solved for now with an emergency clamp (see before and after pictures). We now have to make a decision as to what to do. Get new pipes installed (major job), install a teflon filter (about $600), or leave it as it is and wait for the next leak, which could be tomorrow or in five years’ time. Whatever the case, he won’t do the work until it is cooler (as in 3 o’clock in the morning) and he’s feeling better.

He left his ladder behind so that John can go up and take a look when he gets home, andalso refused to give us a bill. I like Charlie.

Now I need to get to the office and earn some money for my portion of the next plumbing bill. Hey, things could be worse. I could have a broken leg (sorry, Ricky).

Tuesday, May 6th, 2003

pipes.jpg (354852 bytes)Charlie the plumber came by early (before I’d brushed my teeth). He took a look at the crawl space where all the pipes are, expressed horror at the rusty state of our pipes, and then got into a deep discussion with John about mysterious things like corrosion, teflon filters and electrolysis. I don’t know about these things. I just want them fixed. I’m not like Callie who seems to be able to repair
washing machines
and then sit back and polish her fingernails (heh heh!). Anyway, all I know now is that John has gone to work, leaving a signed, blank cheque, Charlie’s gone off to install a handicapped toilet for an elderly lady, and I’ve just taken a glorious lukewarm shower and washed my hair. Charlie switched on the water again so that when he gets back (with a longer ladder) he’ll know exactly where the leak is and can get to work. That’s a picture of our pipes. They were born in 1942.

Stay tuned for the next episode.

Monday, May 5th, 2003

When you don’t have running water you really develop an appreciation for it. I never wake up properly in the mornings unless I take a shower, and felt grumpy and groggy all day today at work. John stayed home to greet Charlie the Plumber. Charlie didn’t want to cut away the kitchen ceiling until he’d made a diagnosis. He felt that the leak could be from the hot pipe of the upstairs water heater. The only way to find out was to disconnect it and turn the water back on, and then give it a few hours. He said he’d be back in the morning. By the time I got home the water was dripping through the ceiling again, so we had to turn it off.

So . . . another night without water. Yuk yuk yuk. I took a shower at the yoga center but then got sweaty again walking home in the 90-degree heat. Tomorrow morning it’s my turn to stay home while Charlie does his work. My boss gave me plenty of stuff to keep me busy.

Sunday (late), May 4th, 2003

I was just thinking how nice it was this weekend to be catching up with stuff.
It felt good to be “between crises.” Then at about 9 p.m., as I sat organizing my Baseball lineups, water poured through the kitchen light fixture and landed on my laptop. When I screamed, John thought I’d seen another cockroach. We went charging upstairs, imagining the apartment in six inches of water. It wasn’t. We switched off the water, dragged the ladder out of the shed, and John hoisted himself into the attic to see if the a/c pans had overflowed. All dry. So . . . the diagnosis is that one of the pipes between the floors is leaking. This means keeping the water turned off until we can get a plumber round tomorrow. It also means that he’ll have to make a hole in our beautiful new kitchen ceiling to get at the problem. (wail, sob, howl)

Anyway, at least John stocked up with bottles of water at the beginning of the war, so there’ll be enough for a pot of coffee in the morning.

Sunday, May 4th, 2003

I’ve just received an update from David on how Dad met Mum. Her fellow employee at the bank was Enid Lake (then Miss Clatworthy), not Esme Davey. he and her husband, Victor, are alive and well, living in Sidmouth, Devon, and they
celebrate their Diamond wedding anniversary in August.

This makes me think of something else. I believe Enid Lake may also have met her future husband, Victor, on that day. I do remember Mum telling me a story that the four of them went out together one evening and had drinks (supper?) in a caravan on Dartmoor. Enid was wearing an angora sweater, and apparently when Victor returned to base his uniform was covered in goat hair. Hope they don’t mind me tattling here.

As for Esme Davey, David advises that she and Fred are also still alive and living in Plymouth. My strongest memory of them was their white cat. We went to visit them one day when I was about seven. The cat was frightened for some reason and disappeared up the chimney, returning covered with soot. I can still see Fred jumping after the cat, trying to pull it out by grabbing its tail.

When I went back to school after the summer we were asked to write about our holidays, and apparently I wrote about “a man called ‘Fred’ who
chased a cat up the chimney.”

Sunday, May 4th, 2003

Our ads in the Houston Chronicle and Greensheet don’t seem to be working. We haven’t had a single call on the apartment. Keep your fingers crossed that this sign on our front lawn will work. We’ve even put the price and our home ‘phone number on it so you can tell we’re starting to panic a little.

Sunday, May 4th, 2003

Today would have been Dad‘s 82nd birthday. I thought you might all like to read a paper John wrote about him back in 1998. He had to interview a war veteran for a history class and they talked for a couple of hours on the ‘phone between Sherborne and Houston. Although it’s not mentioned in John‘s paper, I did want to elaborate on how he first “met” Mum. He’d been on fire duty and had been called to the bombed National Provincial Bank (now “NatWest”) in Plymouth where she worked. She was sitting dejectedly on a still-standing bank counter amongst the rubble of the building with a fellow employee (I think Esme Davies, if anyone remembers her). He was trying to cheer them up, and grabbed a top hat which was still attached to a hook, and an upside down motorbike which actually started. He put on the top hat and started riding along the bank counter, singing at the same time. She noticed him okay and soon they were going out together. They didn’t see each other again until after the war, and he proposed to her via letter from the Indian Ocean. In 1945 his ship returned to Plymouth. An employee at the rebuilt bank shouted to Mum that his ship had been sighted. She apparently stopped what she was doing, grabbed her coat, told the manager she was quitting (tut tut) and ran to the harbour. They were married on June 9th, 1945, and three days later Dad had to leave for sea again.