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.


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