Somewhere between Kevin Bacon and Andy Warhol is
the land we call Fifteen Minutes of Separation (or Six Degrees of
was that unmasked Man?
by Rufus St.
The headlines announced tuition hikes, but the large photo above
the fold of the newspaper shows a (obviously) good-natured man walking
out of frame, somewhat amused at the attention he’s getting from
the camera. The caption should’ve been: “Can I please get back to
Caldwell and the Great Banana Uprising of Dunedin, Florida
Or God’s Little Acre of Bananas by Rufus St. Claire
in a Town Car Or The Stagecoach Driver Syndrome Revisited
by Luke Warm 5-15-12
Inspired by a True Story in a Real Newspaper
Office Closings in Texas by Brewster Hudspeth
The recent news of some 3,600 post office closing nationwide included
a list of nearly 200 potential closings in Texas. It’s a cost-cutting
40 Best Speed Traps in Texas 10-1-10
It’s the trap part that people object to...
was robbed at GUN POINT in LODON! 9-24-10
We received an interesting letter today. Actually, we had heard
a radio talk-show host describe the letter several weeks ago and
admit to “almost” sending $1000 dollars to the sender. (So much
for the intelligence of talk radio hosts.) Forewarned that it was
a scam, we had a copy boy take the letter to the desk of Luke Warm.
An hour later the copy boy returned with the reply. What appears
below is the original email, followed by Mr. Warm’s reply.
Kindness From The Century Magazine
Reference is frequently made to the peculiar personal attachment
which General McClellan’s troops had for him. The following incident
may be worthy of record as illustrating one of the causes of this
Out in Austin and Thinking Inside the Box
Two Newspaper Rack Stories By Luke Warm 9-8-10
"When you see an empty newspaper rack – someone is not doing
“Backlash” Saves Trees by Brewster Hudspeth
or Love in the Time of Dendrophobia
According to a recent article in the Amarillo Globe, it has been
four years since “state transportation officials” proposed cutting
down both trees in the Texas Panhandle. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration.
There are a few more than two. TxDOT managed to count 1,185 trees
– that were “encroaching” on Hemphill County highways and proposed
to cut every one of them down...
these are ghost towns, why are there so many people here?
While most people associate ghost towns with ruins and desolation
- these ghosts live among us.
Interesting Update of 2009 11-22-09
"Equal Before The Lens" book cover - Louis Escobedo and
the ear of corn.
Paderewski and Amelia Earhart in Toyah, Texas
Trains, Planes and Unexpected Stops
Art of Porch Sitting 11-5-09
Dave Bonta is a poet and a naturalist. He lives on the “eastern
edge of western Pennsylvania” which we suppose is something like
living on the western edge of east Texas. Or the eastern edge of
Guevara’s Neighborhood: Arts Flourish in Midday San Antonio
The original plan was to be the delivery of a few dogs to the vet
(to say nothing of the cat.) But nothing goes according to plan
when you’re in “Mr. Guevara’s Neighborhood.”
without Ships, Tree Surgeons without Morals and Engineers without
In Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, he recalls that his training
as a pilot demanded his memorization of every landmark, sandbar
and snag on the more than 1,000 mile route from Cairo, Illinois
to New Orleans. To compound things, he had to mentally record the
entire trip (both up and down the river) in daylight, moonlight
and in total darkness. It was a little like being both Fred Astaire
and Ginger Rogers...
in a Car at Night 9-21-09
"All the King’s Men" by Robert Penn Warren
Samuel Clemens met U. S. Grant 9-17-09
or Whoever the Twain Shall Meet
From Mark Twain’s Autobiography
MINUTES OF SEPARATION
the Title Came to Be
The Editor’s Column
(The Long Version*)
in the late 1970s when I was traveling to Mexico
five or six times a year – I decided to buy a guidebook. It was a
luxury that I had somehow managed to travel without on previous trips.
Those were the days of travel titles like Mexico on $10 a Day,
Guatemala on $6 Dollars a Day and We’ll Pay You to Go to Belize.
(I’m happy to report things have improved in Belize over the last
The book itself was around three-fifty so I figured it could pay for
itself in no time. I was right. I deplaned in Merida where a graveyard
of broken and cannibalized DC-6s brazenly occupied the end of the
runway. Sort of an aviation-themed memento mori.
In the category of next-to-useless knowledge: Mexican movie star
/ singer Pedro Infante died in a self-piloted crash here in 1957.
As the plane touched down, I dog-eared a page in my new book citing
the impish behavior of Merida taxi drivers who were then known for
removing the airport bus stop sign and throwing it into the weeds
adjacent to the terminal. Bus fare to town was the equivalent of .25
cents (or any reasonably-flat round metal discs). Taxi fare, on the
other hand, was something like $1.50. A serious bite out of the $10
traveler’s daily budget.
It wasn’t the money but the choice of driving in a car with the windows
up (showing that the car had once had air conditioning) or an open-windowed
bus trip smelling of Jacaranda blossoms and the heady mix of rose
water and fruity hair pomade. I had come to Mexico
for quiet adventure and time travel. Both of which were offered by
the bus ride. It was a no-brainer.
But as I waited for the city bus, I wanted to check the accuracy of
the book. I walked past the three or four taxi drivers who were lined
up waiting for fares. The second driver in line was under his car
changing his oil. (Did I mention this was Mexico?) The metal pole
that my book had described was indeed right where the book said it
would be. Two empty holes showed where the PARADA sign had been attached.
Further examination revealed the sign - thrown face-down in the weeds,
exactly where the book said. I was impressed.
The first driver in line assumed I was his fare and smiled as he asked
my destination. He was about 55 years old with the blue-black hair
once popular with superheroes. He also wore a contrasting gray mustache.
A pair of needle-nosed Vice Grips peeked from a back pocket of his
knockoff designer jeans – but I may be making that up. He admitted
that the bus “used to stop here” but lately the driver just coasts
past since everyone takes a cab. He allowed that if I wanted
to wait, a bus might appear “even chili.” I’m sure he meant eventually
but to my ear it sounded like “even chili.” I showed him the entry
in my new friend and translated it as best I could. I pointed to the
sign. He shrugged, moving his eyes left and then right in the internationally
understood: “Don’t look at me.” But then he did something unexpected
– he called to the other drivers to come look. They had made Fodor’s!
I eventually rode the bus into town – a ten-minute trip – and then
back to the airport and back downtown that same night, waving to the
taxistas when we coasted by their stand and receiving their amused
waves in return. It’s the sort of thing you can do when time doesn’t
My second guide book (A humorous and general historical guide by Kate
Simon) included a tip on the best way to eat ripe mangos (Remove all
clothing and sit in your bathtub). After this tidbit I was hooked
on Guides. Frommer and Fodor became constant companions. The People’s
Guide to Mexico (“Wherever you go – there you are.”) encouraged
me to drive down to Yucatan on the first of what would become five
or six Gulf Coast trips. The authors’ hit of washing clothes in a
trashcan and allowing the highway be your agitator was a winner, as
were their tips on catching iguanas and hiring a maid. The book is
still a joy to read and has never been out of print.
Getting to the Point
can’t remember which book had it, but one extremely useful bit of
advice (for the bus traveler with limited communication skills) was
to sit close to the bus driver when meal stops were made. It figures
that if the driver stays in sight you’ll be forewarned about early
departures (a rare occurrence in Mexico
– but as you know, in Mexico
anything is possible). The particular stop where I put this tip into
action was a town in southern Veracruz not far from Catemaco. Catemaco
is famous for an annual gathering of "witches."**
If you happen to drop the fact that you’re even passing remotely
near Catemalco to a Mexican audience, your listeners will fall silent
and start crossing themselves and generally behaving as if you just
told them you have the weekend booked at Castle Dracula.
Anyway, this particular rest stop was to be 15 minutes. After my driver
announced as much, he walked into the restroom. So did I. He then
walked into the restaurant. So did I. As he ordered it was obvious
he was known to the waitresses. It was like the opening of Cheers
when Norm walks in – only in Spanish. I marveled at how relaxed my
driver appeared. He settled down and read a paper. I read a paper
too, but with me it was more like looking at the pictures. I immediately
regretted it since the first four pages covered a horrific bus collision
in neighboring Hidalgo state.
Keeping one eye on the driver - my other eye (yes, it hurt, thanks
for asking) spotted a maintenance man boarding “our” bus with the
self-assurance of a veteran driver. He also wore a bus driver’s uniform
– but then again, so did a lot of policeman. He drove it in the direction
of the rear of the terminal. Routine maintenance, I figured. As I
ate my meal, I mused that we would all (driver, bus and passenger)
arrive in Vera Cruz filled with (reasonably) fresh oil.
Strangely, my driver’s food hadn’t even arrived.
I started feeling something was wrong when I didn’t notice any of
my fellow passengers dining. I rationalized by telling myself this
town was their destination (all of them?) and that by now they were
all eating at home, surrounded by loving families and recounting tales
of their trip. Like the one about the foreign passenger who kept staring
at the bus driver.
Rationalization was already fading when my driver’s family came up
to his table and his wife kissed him hello. It was fleeing pell mell
when their order arrived and the family took it and started walking
home. It was a beautiful scene. It was a lonely scene from my point
of view – but beautiful, nonetheless.
with its abundance of buses, it was only a two hour delay and I really
didn’t need my luggage anyway. I was given my old assigned seat over
the rear wheels. I later discovered that these are “especial” seats
reserved for tourists so they can enjoy the nosiest part of the bus.
The lesson learned was that you can have the
best advice available and even if you follow it to the letter - Life
will find a way to torpedo it. Bullet-proof advice, horse’s-mouth
advice, even Martha Stewart insider-trading advice, there are no guarantees.
Somewhere between Kevin Bacon and Andy Warhol is the land we call
15 Minutes of Separation (or Six Degrees of Fame).
* There is no short version.
** Officially known as the "Congreso
Internacional de Brujos."