I remember the day that my little brother came over to my place just before he was to leave for New York state. This was back when we both still lived in Corpus Christi. He wasn't even 20 yet. My parents were still in shock and pissed that he had decided to go to college away from home. My Mom didn't agree with his decision, especially since he was going away with his girlfriend. My father understood, but he wasn't happy either.

He had decided to go to school for veterinary medicine. Dee always loved animals. Young and idealistic, he packed his bags and moved to Buffalo to study. His girlfriend had relatives there who could lend a hand, should the need arise. It would make them both feel less alone.

I knew why he was leaving. And I was glad that he was. Corpus Christi drains a person's will to leave. And before long, if you're not careful, you become part of the scenery. People seem content to stay there and see the same things everyday. Dee wanted to see as much as he could and there was no way he could do it from his bedroom at my parents' house.

I never told him that the day he left, I cried. I cried both tears of joy and sadness. My brother and I had never been apart for very long. In fact, my brother was as much one of "the guys" as all my other friends. I remember him wanting to hang around with me and Bob and Ariel and LeRoy, my closest friends from high school. We'd break his balls and often that courtesy was extended to his friends, Austen, Tim & Miguel. He grew up listening to the music I listened to and watched the movies I watched.

We didn't always get along given the age difference. Ten years between us kept him from going out with me and my friends. But he was always around when I had them over to my parents' house.

Dee was always a good kid. Smart. Crafty. Funny. Passionate. Kind. Slowly, the young, chubby kid who followed me around started to grow up. Little by little he turned the things I gave him into things of his own. He explored books and music and movies developing his own tastes and expanding his individuality.

One year, I used my income tax money to buy him a Super Nintendo. He used to play Street Fighter so often that he eventually could kick someone's ass with just one button. He used to torture a college buddy of mine, Mike, with that trick. Mike would come by to pick me up and head to the bar and Dee would purposely play SF when he'd show up. Mike couldn't resist playing. Dee would taunt him.
"Wanna play?" he'd ask Mike.
"Okay." Mike would reply picking up a controller.
"Pick a button." Dee would say holding up his controller.
Dee would repeat it. "Pick a button."
"Cause I'm gonna kick your ass with just one button." Dee would giggle.
Mike was locked in. He couldn't play games worth a shit and the fact that this high school kid was teasing him just made him want to play more. And no matter what button Mike picked- kicking or punching -Dee would always kick his ass and send my into a huff and out the door.

One of the loves we both shared was our love for Apple computers. My Dad had gotten us an Apple IIc. It had a whopping 512k and a crappy little green screen. We owned that computer for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, we had to upgrade to the Mac Classic II. Then the iMac. In college, I used the LC and the Performa. An outfit in town called Computer Command Corporation was the only authorized service center and retail outlet. The original Apple Store. Dee made friends with Rene, one of the service techs who's brain I'd often pick. I knew Apple computers backwards and forwards. Dee wasn't far behind. He ended up working for Computer Command. That's where his love for Mac's began.

When he was in Buffalo, he had decided against veterinary medicine and wandered from career to career trying to find his niche. He always loved Apple, but there was no place for him to explore job opportunities. He worked for Pottery Barn, Toys R Us and Blockbuster successfully moving up corporate ladder at each place. And then he found out the new incarnation of the Mac retail shops, the Apple Store, was going to build a branch in Buffalo. His first attempt to get into the store was unsuccessful. But that didn't deter him. Eventually, he was able to get his foot in the door and he realized his ultimate dream. He was working for Apple Computers. I remember when he told me that he had been hired. He was ecstatic. He left most of the other jobs, save one, I think, and started on the road to his dream career.

Now, maybe this is where his idealism served him well. Anyone who knows the story of Apple knows that it was the idealistic dreams of Steve Jobs that made the company what it has become. His knowledge of the products and his devotion to the brand made him the perfect salesman. He was charismatic and handsome and well spoken and that didn't hurt him either. 

He had already grown to know more than I EVER knew about Apples. And after I had left Fort Smith, AR, to take the job at Rumbo, he had begun to make plans to transfer himself to the new store that was opening here in San Antonio. Moving here would afford him the chance to start to make his charge towards bigger and better things. And it allowed him to be closer to me and to Mom & Dad.

Today, Dee is a Genius. In all senses of the word. He bleeds Apple. I dare ANYONE to love, honor and respect the silver fruit like he does. For Christ's sake, he's got Mac logos tattooed on his arms. A gift from me. He has traveled to the Mother Ship, the company headquarters in Cupertino, CA. He repairs machines with lightning speed and knows the layout of his store like no one's business.

But more importantly, my little brother has, well, ceased to be little. He is a giant among men. He still has the same fire for his job that he had when he was a chubby little kid punching the noisy keys of the IIc. His tastes in music and film have evolved. But the core of the boy who loved playing video games and basketball and grilling in the backyard haven't changed. It has only gotten better with age.

Its hard for me to be mad at him when I can't get him to answer my calls or text messages. I know what his life must be like because I was there once too. He hasn't quite found himself yet, not completely. In a few more years, things will be clearer to him because I know they were clear to me. So I write this now to tell my little brother how much I love him and that I'll always be here for him. I write this to tell him, if he doesn't already know or refuses to believe, that Dad is just as proud of him as he ever was of me. That Mom champions his every move, no matter how crazy it may seem.

Happy Birthday, kid. You got me in your corner now and always. I love you.


This is Jack Waldhelm. He was one of my journalism mentors. A great man.

Now, maybe it's just me, but these cotton swabs can't be that good.

Won all 4 victories on King mode with the Romans on CivRev.

Our resident 8-yr-old made this for me. Best bday card ever.

Denna & I got this @waterloorecords in Austin during ACL 2008. Love it!

When a real leg humping dog just won't do.

Tackled fixing our leaky shower. Fixed now. Works like new.


It was hard to walk into the funeral home to see Joe, the war vet I met over a year ago. He looked so still. I haven't been to many funerals in my life. Some I've stayed away from and others I missed. Joe looked very peaceful. I'm sure I'm not the first to say this, but I almost waited for him to wake up and smile at everyone.

I must admit, for not having known him well, I felt so much grief. Which just goes to show you that anyone you meet can affect your life in ways you'll never thought of or fully understand. I knelt at his coffin and said a short prayer. His portrait from his Army days was displayed next to the coffin. He was a strapping guy.

There weren't many visitors to the viewing. The majority of them were friends and his only blood relative was his son, Michael. I guess at 93, most of your friends have gone before you. What was most important was that those people who loved him best were there to say goodbye.

Tomorrow is the burial. The last burial I went to was my uncle Raul. I had to travel back to my home town for that funeral. But before he died, I was able to speak to him over the phone. My Mom prompted me to call him and tell him that I'd be coming home and that we should plan a fishing trip. My uncle was very excited at the prospect of taking me fishing and said he'd have a fishing pole ready for me. I didn't get to take that rip as he died before I could come home.

In college, there was this advertising manager at my college paper, Jack. Jack was a big dude, over six feet tall. He had this commanding voice and a very direct demeanor that sometimes left you in shock. Like when I was training to design. I would fly that computer like Fats Waller flew his piano. Suddenly, Jack would scream, "Boy, slow down. You're gonna mess up." Jack would use one of those old, wooden rules with the metal guide on one side to measure things on the screen when at 100% magnitude. They tell you NEVER to do that because, like in side mirrors in cars, "Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear." You can't trust anything you see on the monitor, no matter how good or properly balanced it is. Jack would NEVER get a measurement wrong. He and I grew to become great friends. He even started to like some of the same music I did. Once, while playing an Eagles tape, he asked me to make him a copy of mine because he really liked it. Jack contracted cancer just before I left Del Mar College for Texas A&I in Kingsville. And one day, at school, a mutual friend came to tell me he had died. I found out later that Jack thought well of me. Often. His wife told me that on more than one occasion he spoke of this really great kid at the paper. We established a scholarship at Del Mar for Jack. And each time I was invited to introduce the scholarship, I cried. Every time. I never got to give Jack that tape.

Even though Joe was a new friend, the imprint of his life will have a place in mine.



In about 15 days I'll turn 37. Distant seem the days when I would burn the candle at both ends. The bottom of a beer mug was all to familiar. I remember being 10 or 11 years old in Corpus. Going home from elementary with my cello on the bus. Then high school driving my Dad's 1981, lima bean green Buick Electra. That car was built like a tank.

I'm not trying to be dramatic, but I bring up age because of the passing of someone I only met almost a year ago. His name was Joe, a 93 year old man who's greatest passion, it seemed to me, was eating. The times I'd see him, he always had himself a two-piece & a biscuit. He talked about his meals very fondly. He was a kind man, I thought. We had a few conversations here and there at birthday parties or at his home. I should explain that Joe was the companion of a close friend. I would rather not say much more about her, but that. Moving on.

I didn't know Joe like I would have liked. But everyone always spoke and thought well of him. One afternoon, I was told something about Joe that just blew me away. Apparently, Joe was in WWII. Landed in Normandy. Without a weapon. When deployed to Omaha beach, his superiors informed him that he would not be given a weapon, but instead, he would collect it from the beachhead from any one of the dead soldiers that came before him. He was a radio operator and a Sergeant. And he went undercover in a German concentration camp that also held American prisoners. I'm actually in the process right now of trying to look him up on the Web.

You would never tell it from looking at him. You'd never know Joe was a war hero. And I say that not trying to be patronizing or with any hint of cynicism. He had two children; a boy & a girl. He'd been married before he met my friend. And I thought it was something that he learned to square dance so he could dance with my friend. There's a ton I don't know about him, but that I'm looking forward to finding out.

Joe was born in 1916. Monet painted 'Water Lilies' that year. Paris is bombed by the Germans in The Great War, World War I. The Chicago Cubs played their first game at was is now Wrigley Field (it was called Weeghman Park then). The Saturday Evening Post published its first Normal Rockwell cover. And President Woodrow Wilson sent some 12,000 U.S. troops to the Mexican border to chase down Pancho Villa. We should all be so lucky as to live 93 years. I'd trade any fame or fortune for that kind of time.

And this brings me back to 37. I think I was a little bit bitter a day ago when I Tweeted in anger. I was pissed because the Express-News had cut me and the subsequent loss of income has put me in a corner several times since. Hey, I'm still angry about that, but with Joe's passing, it kind of put things into perspective for me.

After a year in exile from my own home, I've returned. New furniture and fresh paint have turned the house around. And much like the house, Denna has turned my life around. And while I still don't have a job, I have my health. I have Denna & Thomas in my life and that makes me so happy. I'm making movies. I'm living my life the way I was supposed to. And even though I'll be 37, I'm doing pretty well.

Joe was lucky to live through Omaha beach to make it to the ripe old age of 93. I think he enjoyed his food so much because every day after the war was a gift. And in his senior years he learned to love life and everything it had to offer. Especially a two-piece and a biscuit.


I'll be back with a new post soon stay tuned.


End of an Era

I've been working in journalism since I was in college back in 1993. I started out as a reporter, but eventually found my niche in design. My mentors, Dr. Manuel Flores & Jack Waldhelm, brought me in from the rain one afternoon after they saw me walking across the campus looking dejected. I don't clearly remember what was going on in my life at that time, but I know Manuel & Jack both saved my life that day.

After that day, things weren't the same for me. The lost and angst-ridden high school graduate who couldn't decide what he wanted to do with his life finally found a purpose. I hadn't yet found myself, the person I wanted to be, but I had found out what that person- whoever he might be -wanted to do with his life. I wanted to design newspages. And I did. Well. I was part of a weekly college newspaper that one year decimated the major university dailies. Division I newspapers are now all daily papers, but back in my day, we were one of the few weeklies who could go head to head with any Texas university daily and win.

I was in heaven. I mean, there I was, doing what I loved and doing it well. I worked hard and partied harder. And with each passing day I grew to realize that all the art classes I'd ever taken, all the drawing and sketching, all the visually oriented things that struck my fancy all could be used in my chosen career. I even took side jobs and did them for free- that's how much I loved what I did back then.

My first job in design was working for an ad agency in Corpus Christi. I was an assistant production designer who worked mostly at night. The job was great, but our boss was a bit...intense. While I got to do lots of interesting things, the job came with a rather sharp and pointy thorn that eventually drove the creative director away and later me. I worked freelance during that time and got a few gigs doing posters and corporate ID. Eventually, I moved on to working for a Naval museum, the U.S.S. Lexington Museum on the Bay, for a couple of years. I also worked in ad composing at the Caller-Times for a few months, in tandem with the Lex job. I almost burned myself out doing that, but it was great money while I did it. Eventually I left the ad composing job, then later left the Lex for a job at a print shop. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but after a few months, they cut me loose.

I went on unemployment for a while, not knowing what I should do. My exit from the Caller-Times wasn't good and it prevented me from getting hired on there for some time. After taking some temp work and trying once again to get on with the Corpus paper, I decided that maybe what I needed to do was find a place to start new.

Eventually, I moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where I would land a copy editing/design job with a medium circulation paper. It was a great job and I made some of my closest friends while I was there.

After a year or so, thee paper in Fort Smith started to go through some managerial changes that would eventually land me in hot water. Maybe I was just too combative with the new regime, but after a few scrapes with the "design coordinator," I began to realize that my job might be in jeopardy. So I started to look for a new job and found it in the form of a Spanish-language paper that was about to launch in San Antonio, Texas. They offered me great money. Three days after I announced I was quitting, I was in San Antonio and on the job.

The first few months in that job were hard. Long hours and lots of work, but it was rewarding because it was a new publication. We were creating something from scratch and it was something revolutionary. Everyone who worked there agreed- it was a labor of love. But after the first year, the company lost its funding and I almost lost my job. It would be another tense year before a second round of layoffs would come and I would be given my release.

I was angry, mildly heartbroken, but anxious to find another newspaper job in the city. I applied at several places before making into the Express-News. It was just the break I had been looking for. I felt my skills were getting a little stale and I needed to get reinvigorated. It did the trick. For a while. But the young man who would do his job for free was long gone. Replaced by a cynical designer who didn't care about the art and only the money. There had been so many little things about the business that I hadn't anticipated. It sure didn't help my self-esteem any. I had started to shoot independent film, a long standing passion of mine, and was starting to come into my own. With three films under my belt, I felt good about myself again. And slowly, I realized that my time in newspapers would most likely be drawing to a close. I was plotting to get out. I wasn't sure how or when or how, but I wanted out.

I would be moved all over at the Express-News. I was doing the business section when I started, moved onto sports for a time and then to news. My final move would land me in the company's Latino-centric, weekly publication, which I had been hoping to work on someday. It came at the right time and helped put me in a better frame of mind career-wise. I started to feel good about the job again, about my skills, about my career. I began to think about ways of improving my skill set and began to really get myself into a proper mindset to be as effective as I could be. And while I had plotted to get out of the business, each day that I walked by the press I would once again be reminded how much I loved it. I think maybe I romanticized it all so much that when the bottom fell out again, so did my heart.

I arrived at work almost two weeks ago to find that a large chunk of the editorial team had been layed off. It was a slaughter. They said it was a 15% cut in the workforce. I think it was more than what they said. Regardless, I was called into talk to the design director and the deputy design director where I was informed that I had been given my release. The business had been in a state of flux for quite some time and with other papers all over the country either folding or slashing their staffs, ours was no different.

I won't lie. I cried in that office, in front of my boss and the deputy. I had taken a 50 caliber round to the chest and the round broke my heart into a thousand little pieces so jagged and tiny that I couldn't put it back together. I put my sunglasses on and walked to my car, fighting back tears which would eventually flow the minute I sat down and closed the door. At home, in my girlfriend's arms, I cried some more. From time to time now, my eyes well up with tears that I fight back or wipe away before anyone can notice. I'm not sad about losing my job. I've lost jobs before. I'm sad because a decision was made for me the day they let me go- I would leave the business. Forever.

Before I moved to Arkansas, I was made editor of the college paper that I had worked on, on and off, throughout the years. I was only editor for one semester before leaving, but I remember thinking back then, "This what I love. This is who I am." I love the newspaper business. In Fort Smith, we had to drive over to the press to check the edition for head busts or mistakes. The last line of defense. I remember that sometimes I would get there and it was still being printed. I remember standing at the doorway to the press room, watching the spool of newsprint fly through the rollers and get inked. I remember the smell of the ink and the paper. The way it was still damp when they handed you the copy fresh off the press. I remember the staff at RUMBO, the Spanish-language daily, hustling and working in that big newsroom at our downtown office. The phones were ringing and people typed furiously on their machines, cranking out stories. I remember, way back in my formative college years, how tensions would run high between reporters, photographers and editors and we would yell at each other and call ourselves names and be angry with one another. But by the end of the night, we would be at a bar, enjoying a beer and laughing about the entire day. I remember the feeling of looking at my work, on the printed page, and realizing that, for better or worse, this was my life. And I loved it.

I was hoping that my new place at the paper would allow me to revitalize my career goals. But I think in the back of my mind, my love for the business had started to fade. I had even told a few people that from time to time. Each time someone would say to me, "Don't give up on it." And for as much as I loved it, each day that a paper would close or some company layed off a bunch of people, I lost a little more love for the business.

So here I am now. Waiting for my last day. I am still heartbroken over having to go. Day by day, I was starting to see major improvements in my work and I was feeling good about my path. But now, I have to focus on using what I've learned in order to get myself into a new line or work.

I'm not scared or worried about the future. I know my future will be full of really great things. And much like the life I had before the newspaper business, I await the new challenges and new experiences with great anticipation. I saw a post about a major player in the design universe at Newsweek taking a buyout. And something he said has really suck with me:

"I defined myself by the job. Now, just gonna start looking for a new definition."

I realized, just now, that I will never stop loving this business. Never. I'm just gonna have to love my next gig with the same kind of passion.

Good luck to all my friends in the business. Good luck to all the reporters, photographers, copy editors, designers and illustrators out there who are still in the business. And to those of you who are young and idealistic and want to be in the business, just makes sure you love it.


New Year

Well, here we are now in 2009. One more year until my 20th high school reunion, which I will most likely count myself out of. I have no desire to go back to that shit.

A new year means new movies to make, goals to achieve, books to read, concerts to see and movies to watch.

I don't usually set any kind of resolutions on New Year's, but this year I've just resolved to be a better person. A better man.

I'm in a great place in my life. My job is good. I feel complete, which is something that I hadn't felt in a long time. I think that the changes I made to my life had to be made. I lied to myself about where I was and about where my life was going. And in the process, I not only lost my direction in my family life, but in my personal life too. Over the course of the last few months, I've been able to really find myself and feel more secure about who I am, where I'm going and who I want by my side.

Its weird to be posting again after so long. I've wanted to come on here and spill my guts, but it just didn't feel right.

I'm a 9 to 6 worker now. A daywalker. I have evenings free and weekends off. My work is now in a better place too. I've started to really retool my craft and find myself designing some really great pages. And it helps that I have an entire week to mull my stuff over. Reminds me of being at the ad agency years ago. Except without all the crying from our boss and the uncashable paychecks.

I also get to review DVDs and have a blog I share with a coworker. We both do it for free, working only to keep the movies we review. Actually, we review the extras- the special features. And we don't always get the ones we want, but most often, we get a good selection. Its hard work. Much harder than I had anticipated it would be. I guess I always took a critic's job for granted and now I do it so often that I feel better about my writing. I try to write with a tongue-in-cheek style that's funny and informative.

I've gone down to visit with the family in Corpus Christi. I was there for Christmas with Denna. It was a good time. Got to see my dog, Domino. I miss that goofy, fat bastard. We were only there for a few days, part of which my brother was there for too.

My folks finally finished the kitchen they had started on all those years ago. New stove hood, new sinks and granite counter tops. They're in the market for a new fridge and dishwasher to complete the room.

I've kind of been out of the scene since last summer. I feel like I should be back with greater force, but right now things are tight monetarily. I've got to projects that I'm gonna need a little funding for, so I'll have to save and scrape what I can. Which will mean that I won't be able to shoot anytime soon.

Denna and I are doing great. Better than great. Its not always easy. We have our rough patches from time to time, but we're learning to talk about things and to be as open and receptive to everything. Its sometimes difficult for the both of us to come clean about stuff, but in the end, we're better for it. I'm determined not to make the same mistakes I made before. She is too. Which is really lending itself for lots of good communication. We aren't perfect, nor do we wish to be. We just want to get it right.

There's a lot more to tell. And the year has just begun. I have lots of great feelings about this year. I think its going to be a great one.

Cheers and good tidings to all!


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