First Zerona Treatment

September 13, 2013

Today was my first no booze day in preparation for my Zerona treatments to begin on Monday.  Could I remain alcohol free while I received Zerona treatments three times a week for the next month?  Would I cave and have a cocktail anyway?  No chance that would happen, not after I had already paid the money.

At cocktail time, I poured myself a large glass of ice water and topped it off with the juice of half a lemon, plus a slice on the rim.  My glass looked festive and interesting, but had little kick.  Should have used a lime.

Dinner without wine?  More ice water with lemon plus a dash of fresh orange juice.  Not so bad.

Monday came and I arrived, booze free, at the Zerona office.  Signed in and waited in the spacious lobby.  Even though Miss Jocelyn assured me this cool laser process would not hurt, I had my doubts.

A polite nurse ushered me into a treatment room and explained that I needed to take off my blouse and everything below the waist.  For the required measurements, weight check, and photos, nurse indicated I should slip on the packaged pair of panties on the treatment bed.  The “panties” were tiniest things I have ever seen.  Little more than band of elastic the thickness of dental floss and a scratch pad sized modesty panel threaded through the elastic band.  No competition for Victoria’s Secret.

 After the necessary rigmarole, I stretched out the bed.  Nice nurse wheeled a machine toward me and began adjusting the four goose-necked lights to shine on key place on my torso.

 “Are you sure this isn’t going to hurt?” I asked.

 “Absolutely.  In fact, most people fall asleep during each one of the three twenty minute sessions.”

She gave me a pair of blue sunglasses to shield my eyes from any stray red laser beams.  I waited in anticipation as she turned on the machine.  Those, unlike the demonstration I saw on television, did no rotate but remained stationary.

“Well, how is it?” she asked.

“Don’t feel a thing,” I said. 

“See, I told you,” she said.  “I’ll be back in twenty minutes.”  With that, she snapped off the lights.  There I lay stretched out on a bed, wearing only my bra and paper panties under the glow of the now purple-to-me lasers.  If this didn’t work, it would be one of the stupidest things I had ever done.

After another treatment in which the lasers were aimed at other areas, I flipped onto my tummy for the backside.  Then, nurse wheeled the Zerona machine away while I turned onto my back, ready for the massage I’d been promised.  She flipped on a massage machine while she slathered goopy gel on me.  The machine made noise like the faulty washing machine I’d gotten rid of years ago.  My massage was not the restful kind I received at spas in St. Helena. 

I dressed and moved to the desk in the lobby for my final instruction.  “Now, remember to use the Daily Firming Lotion both morning and evening.  Be sure to wear your compression garment all day.  Sleep in it, if you can.”

“Yep, I’ll do all that,” I said.  “Squeezing into that Spanx thing reminded me of the girdles we wore during the sixties.  I think those things were made of galvanized rubber.”  No laughter.

“It’s very important to drink all the water you are supposed to.  Remember.  Divide your weight by two and that’s how many ounces you must drink every day.  You’re your capsules twice a day.  The Niacin and Ginko Biloba helps the fat release.  And, you need to get at least thirty minutes of exercise as soon as possible after each Zerona session.”

“I’m on my way to the gym right now,” I said.  “Plan to use the stationary bike for at least a half hour.”

“Good.  We’ll see you on Wednesday.”

Was anything magic happening to my blubber?  Was I going to be a slimmer me at the end of these sessions?  What kind of enormous cocktail will I drink in a month? 

Zerona Details

July 30, 2013


Via the Internet I located several Zerona providers here in the San Francisco Bay Area.  When I called, the cheerful service representative informed me that if I signed up and paid for twelve Zerona services that specific month, I would also additionally receive facial exfoliating treatments, and lower leg hair removal included in the price. 

Good, I thought.  A sale.

I scheduled an appointment at a facility in the Park Shadelands area of Walnut Creek.  Armed with a list of seventy-two different questions (including are you absolutely sure this won’t hurt), I headed off to my Zerona consultation appointment.  Miss Jocelyn escorted me to a conference room where we discussed what Zerona could do for me, what it was about, etc.  Not a weight loss program, she said several times, but a mass fat loss plan.  Good, I thought.  Anything so there will be less of me.  Zerona sessions are done three days a week for a month.  I’m retired so getting there posed no problem.


Jocelyn delved into what I had to do to obtain optimum results.  Lots of water every day, she said.  No problem.  I drink lots of water anyway.  She said it is probably more than what you drink. 


Uh, oh. 


Said she, divide your weight by two and that is how many ounces of water to drink each day.  At least.  My real weight, I asked, or the weight on my drivers license?  Jocelyn smiled silently.  OK, I can do that, even though I’ll have to drink enough water to float a small battleship.


After each Zerona treatment, she continued, I would need to get no less than thirty minutes of aerobic exercise.  No problem.  I should be going to the gym more often anyway.  And, you will have to give up coffee.  Fine.  I don’t drink coffee anyway.  And, tea.  Uh, oh.  No tea?  No matter how weak I brew it?  No tea.  All right.  I only drink two cups a day.  I can give that up for a month.  And, she continued, you will have to give up all alcoholic beverages. 


What!  I knew there had to be a hitch in this it—doesn’t—hurt, non—invasive fat loss program.  Are you kidding, I asked?  No, not kidding at all.  Alcohol slows the metabolism and makes fat—loss difficult to impossible.


Thank you very much, I said.  I’ll think about it. 


When I got home, I poured myself a vodka, slouched outdoors, and flopped down at the picnic table.  I should have known this Zerona stuff was too good to be true.  Could I really give up alcohol for an entire whole month? No evening cocktail on our deck with Darlin’ Bruce?  No wine with dinner?  Crud.


 That will Susan do?  Will she try Zerona?  Can she give up booze for an entire month to achieve her goal?  Tune in next week to find out.




Finding Zerona

July 18, 2013

Have to get some of this fat off, still.  I’ve peddled so much on the stationary bikes at the gym, I have clocked in enough miles for a trip to Bangkok and back.  I’m getting good exercise, but I guess my fat has adhered itself to my skin — for life.  I initiated some liposuction research, but decided that was not for me.  First of all, the procedure description sounds grotesque.  Second, I’d have to be under general anesthetic for which there are risks, particularly to the heart.  Not that my health indicates such a problem.  The only heart problems I’ve ever had was a broken one.  Besides, I figure there will be some time in my future when I will absolutely have to be under general anesthetic for some life saving reason.  No need to use up one of my options with an elective surgery.  I began looking elsewhere.

 One day while I began folding my eleventh metric ton of laundry, I flicked on the television and there was Rachael Ray.  My ears perked up when I heard her mention a new fat loss program called Zerona.  The cute doctor in the white lab coat described the process as cool laser, not the stinging rubber—band—snap kind.  The laser breaks up fat globules into the body cavity, he explained, and the patient sloughs it off.  To demonstrate, an audience member volunteered to be the guinea pig.  Out rolled a multiple Hydra snake headed machine.  The victim lay down under the writhing Hydra heads while bright red lights whirled around over her abdomen. (Audience members were handed out special sunglasses so no one would inadvertently get cornea burns.)  When Rachael asked how she felt, the lady said she could not feel anything at all.  Nothing.  The demonstrating doctor said that is the way it works — no pain.

 Leaving my unfolded laundry behind, I raced to my office and initiated a Google search.  Aha.  Zerona is even FDA approved.  And, painless.  Two good things.  But, as I know, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  What was the hitch?  Was there one?

 (Stay tuned for Susan’s search for fat loss continues.)

Searching for Fat Reduction

July 9, 2013

I’m fat.  Well, I’m not Jabba the Hutt, blobby fat.  There is so much more of me than there used to be.  In fact, when I look at my high school pictures, I’m not entirely sure the photos are of me.

I’ve been on every diet there is.  Yep, I loose a few pounds with diets and exercise programs.  Apparently I don’t loose them well enough.  The pounds hunt me down and find me—again and again.  The most maddening thing is when I mention the word “diet” at home, my darlin’ Bruce automatically drops five pounds.

What makes women, mature women, fat, no matter how hard they try to take off weight?  Is there some yet unidentified enzyme, protein, or hormone that older women produce which demands and requires us to store fat?  Is fat production part of a basic survival technique thrust upon us by a quirk of nature?

What if my grown children, long since tired of my whinings about weight, abduct me and drag my fat self up to Alaska?  There my kids would deposit me onto an ice—floe and shove me out into the ocean.  I could live for a long time, they reason, on my abundant adipose tissue.  In the event I encounter a Japanese ship in the middle of the Pacific, I could wave a banner saying, “I know how to cook blubber.”  With such a find, the whaling vessel would have no choice but to take me aboard.  The sailors should be tired of whale sushi anyway, and ready for some hot meals.  Eating blubber, for me, would have its drawbacks.  After all, it is fat.

Isn’t there some way for women to loose wait and keep it off?  I wonder.

[Stay tuned for Susan’s continued quest to abolish her unwanted fat.]


The Field

July 25, 2012

I stepped onto a field used long ago for blimp landings.  The hard, untended, weed infested ground stretched out in front of me.  The nearby lake lay flat and black.  Cheerful yellow dandelion blooms, oddly out of place in that severe setting, peeked out from cracks and fissures in the bleak, stone stadium.  The others on our tour group stood in a semi-circle around our guide and listened to his fact-filled talk.

I turned away from the guide see all that surrounded me.  Even though I stood in the bright sunshine, I pulled my woolen shawl closer around my neck and jammed my gloved hands into my coat pockets.  Cold rippled up from the ground.  Suddenly, other people stood in front of me, clear, see-through people.  Thousands of them occupied the same space, the same field, the same stadium, where I stood, but in another dimension, from another time.  Were these see-through, non-people ghosts?  Spirits?

The field filled with row upon row of male spirits, see-through men.  My throat filled with the stale odor of male over-charged adrenalin surges.  The non-people in the stands around the field screamed and shouted angry words I could not hear.  Hate and loathing swirled around me like a poisonous vapor.

The non-people men on the field stood straight-backed and still.  They stood at attention and did not look at me.

“I want to get out of here,” whispered a wiry, white haired lady in our tour group.  “I’ve seen this place so many times in news reels.”  She shook her head.  “Even after all these years, this place is still teaming with evil.”

“You’re right,” I said.  I turned away from the field and started toward our tour bus.  “I’ve had enough of Hitler’s Nuremberg parade ground.”


Diets and Paris

May 30, 2012

I’ve been on every diet there is . . .with some temporary success.  During a recent visit to Paris (France, not Texas), I’ve developed what I think will be the diet with the best results for anyone who sticks with it.  The dieter, of course, will have to actually be in Paris for this specific diet to work effectively.

First, let me share the diets I’ve tried, my failures, and diets I have developed.

Weight Watchers – I’ve been on and off Weight Watchers so many times, I should have been a stock holder.  My first experience was post Baby-Number-One, which was so long ago, there were even lists of unlimited foods such as raw cauliflower (ugh) and canned French style string beans (dull).  Through the years the program has changed:  exchanges, then points.  No matter what food is called, apparently I eat too much of it, and am blatantly incapable of tracking my food intake honestly.

Adkins Diet – For me, that one lasted five entire days, during which I had a banging headache, a common side effect from eating mainly meat while you avoid all carbohydrates like the plague.  When I found myself with a soon-to-be shop-lifted Granny Smith apple in my hand and an over whelming urge to gobble it down in full view of the grocery store security cameras, I realized that diet was not for me.

Diet Pills –  After one day of the drugstore jewels, I felt as if I’d drunk twenty-nine cups of espresso, jittery and hyped up.  At midnight, I found myself cleaning my bedroom closet with super human determination even though my daily wake-up call came every 5:00 a.m.  Not for me.

Carb Lovers Diet – Unlike Adkins, this one does allow carbohydrates, but healthy ones only.  No matter how I prepared whole-wheat pasta, it tasted like a strips of brown cardboard.  For me, life without good pasta  – isn’t.

Then, there were the diets I made up.

Fear Diet – Since adrenaline is activated by fearful situations and surely that burns up fat faster than, say, being sprawled out on a chaise lounge for the entire afternoon, I developed the Fear Diet.  Imagine how much fat you could burn up when the Internal Revenue Service notifies you that you are subjected to a thorough audit . . . for the last ten years.  How fast will your heart beat when the middle-level-skier you are is erroneously directed to the top of a Double Black Diamond run, and there is only one way down?  (I myself would hold there until the spring thaw.  That should be ample time to shed lots of blubber.)  How much adrenaline will soar through your veins when your doctor informs you that you are a Typhoid Carrier, and you must move into plastic bubble isolation forever?  How will you work and keep your health insurance active?

Only Eat Those Foods You Hate – This one is fairly self-explanatory.  However, I cannot imagine me lasting one day on the likes of liver, beets, quince, kumquats, lima beans, and tapioca pudding washed down with nothing other than licorice flavored ouzo or gin.  (Double ugh.)

Now for the most realistic of all the diet plans I’ve developed – The Paris Diet.

The entire premise of the Paris Diet, other than you must be in Paris for it to work, is that food there is astonishingly expensive, restaurants and grocers alike. (Maybe that’s why so many Parisians smoke – to dull their hunger pains instead of going broke paying for food.)   Some mean, strict individual left over from either boarding school administration, or the loosing side of World War II has to be the administrator.  “Meany” provides the equivalent of $5.00 USA for breakfast.  The lunch distribution is $7.00, and dinner a whopping $10.00.  Based on my recent experiences in Paris, I would estimate weight loss at an astonishing rate.

Following these helpful suggestions, you should get the optimums weight loss results.

Breakfast – Only a small cup of ordinary black coffee and half a croissant someone left on a seat in the Metro.

Lunch – Dressed in business clothes, slip into a hotel lobby where a convention is underway and munch from the veggie tray provided for the conventioneers . . . until you are caught without a badge or wristband declaring you a valid participant.

Dinner – You sit at an outdoor bistro where you sip a $10 glass of white wine.  When a waiter zips by your chair, snag food off the back end of his tray . . . until you get caught.

Warning:  Providing bail is not a provision of this diet.

Note:  Paris jail food consists of only hominy grits and frog legs.

In the event you are not jailed, aforementioned “Meany” will pay for your comfortable hotel, giving strict instructions for the removal of all edibles from your room (instant coffee packets and fake cream) and all leftovers on room service trays in your hallway.

Regrettably, I myself cannot participate in a test trial of my proposed Paris Diet.

Number one – I am not in Paris.

Number two – I don’t know of a “Meany” type administrator in Paris.

Number three – In the event I were in Paris, I still have Bruce’s credit cards, all valid at every overpriced Parisian restaurant.

Good luck with your weight loss.

Earth Day

April 22, 2012

My Muse, and wannabe conscience, Moussaka, shouts me out of bed today.  It’s Earth Day, she rants.  Since you are a passenger on this Space Ship Earth, Moussaka yells, you must do something extraordinarily positive for her today.

Okay, Okay, Moussaka, I whine as I climb out of my sucks-the-life-force-out-of-you-while-you-sleep Tempur-Pedic bed.  I’m up, and I’m moving, slowly, but moving.  But first, a cup of tea, and some email.

When I finish brewing my cup of Lipton’s, I drop the used tea bag into the compost recycle bin.  That doesn’t count, Moussaka yells in my ear.  You do that everyday.  Susan, you have got to do better.

I stumble in to my office, and, without turning on any lights since it is bright outdoors, switch on my laptop.  (Yes, I know I’m supposed to say “boot up” but I like the terms “off” and “on” better.  At least I know what that means.)  No lights?  That hardly counts as an earth-friendly gesture, Moussaka nags.  I ignore her.

Here are emails time-stamped 4:35 A.M.  Who gets up at 4:30, AND sends emails?  Don’t people know they can sleep until, I don’t know, dawn?

Time to get dressed.  Since the weather here in Northern California is unseasonably hot, I dig through my old San Marcos Academy trunk where I keep some of my out-of-season clothes.  I fish out a pair of last summer’s shorts.  Wrinkled.  Do I press them?  That means I’ll have to clean the cobwebs off the iron.  Do I toss the shorts into the drier to shake the wrinkles out?  No, shouts Moussaka, uses too much energy.  I slide into them, wrinkles and all.

Now a tee shirt.  Do I wear the Pueblo Bonito shirt I won playing Texas Hold ‘Em in Mazatlan this last Christmas?  Or, do I wear my “Eyes of Texas” shirt I bought at a thrift shop off the $2.00 rack?  Not a lot of interest in University of Texas here in California.  I opted for the P.B. shirt.  It’s white, reflects the sun better than the U.T. orange, and it was free.  Moussaka almost smiles.

Moussaka wants me to do yard work.  Pull up those nutrient, sucking weeds.  Plant the Cosmo seeds you have in your kitchen junk drawer.  You know for sure they’ll grow in this accursed Moraga clay.  Put the umbrella into the stand, and shade that poor easily sunburned camellia.

But, Moussaka, it’s already hot out there, I argue.  You know my dermatologist told me to stay out of the sun.  But, Mous replies, you spend weeks lolling on the beaches in Mazatlan, right?  Sun hats are in the coat closet, and you have more different kinds and levels of SPF sun block than the CVS drugstores.

Let’s compromise, I say.  I’ll set up a jug of water and tea bags to make sun tea on the back deck.  Then, I’ll go to the new produce market right here in Moraga using as little gasoline as possible.  I promise to buy only locally grown fruits and veggies.  And, I’ll even make sure to bring in and use one of the zillion shopping bags I have on the floor of the front seat of my car.  Tonight, I’ll barbecue chicken on the gas, not charcoal, grill.  Won’t use any electricity.

Moussaka crosses her arms, and taps her foot.

And, because I know it’s going to be hot today, I’ll turn on all the ceiling fans before I leave, and keep all the blinds closed.

Moussaka raises her eyebrows.  She is still not impressed.

And, I’ll turn the air conditioning setting so it won’t turn on until it is 78 degrees inside, instead of 76.

I get a Moussaka eye-roll.

Moussaka breathes over my shoulder as I unpack my shopping bag when I return.  A pineapple, she hisses in my ear.  That came from Hawaii.  What is the carbon footprint for that little buy?

But, it was on sale, I whine.  I’ll grill it along with the chicken and the corn on the cob, killing three birds with one stone.  You know I always cook too much, anyway.  We’ll have chicken, corn, and pineapple again for dinner tomorrow.  (Thank heavens my Darlin’ Bruce likes leftovers.)  Look, Moussaka, I won another tote bag, and this one is purple.

Oh, good, she said.  Are you going into the tote bag business?  Last time I looked into the trunk of your car, you had that enormous Jazzercize bag, the one that’s large enough to hold a dead body, full of folded paper and plastic bags.  That, in addition to that gaggle of totes inside the car.  Keep this up, Susan, and you’ll end up on a reality show for the tote-bag-obsessed.

I’m doing my best for Earth Day, I say as I pout.

Um, Moussaka, says as she looks down at the floor, I goofed.  You see, Earth Day isn’t until tomorrow, Sunday.

Pphhllltt.  I’m going back to bed.



Hotel Humboldt and My Hurting Heart

March 27, 2012

While doing research for my book, “Maracaibo Oil Brat,” I looked up details regarding the elegant and enchanting Humboldt Hotel, Caracas, Venezuela.  Why my corn-bread-and-black-eyed-peas parents, along with my sister Pat, and me, stayed there one night in the summer of 1958, I have no idea.  My parents much preferred a cheap motor court for lodging.  I checked on the Hotel Humboldt’s current status.

What I found made my heart hurt.

Then Venezuelan dictator, Pérez Jiménez, commissioned the building of Hotel Humboldt in the early 1950’s.  Architect Sanabria, responsible for its unique cylindrical shape, suggested a casino in the hotel to draw even more visitors.  Jiménez, ousted in January 1958, flatly refused. 

Un mistake-o grande.

Early on, the Humboldt Hotel was the place for the Latin rich and famous.  Everybody who was anybody stayed there.  From its vantage point upon a peak 2,100 meters above sea level, the Hotel Humboldt overlooked sprawling Caracas one side, and the Caribbean Sea on the other.  The low-to-the-floor modern furnishings, the heated, indoor swimming pool, high vaulted ceilings, and walls decorated in a variety of intricate mosaics combined to convey opulence and luxury.

To add to its drama and uniqueness, two tramways were built to reach the hotel, one from Maiquetía, the airport for Caracas, and the other from Caracas itself.  A guest took a teliférico (tram) up the mountain, which provided a spectacular aerial view.  Near the hotel, guests transferred into a “bubble,” a smaller, round, clear tram, which whisked guests, magic carpet style, straight into the stunning hotel lobby.

As Venezuelan politics, leadership, and economic outlook has changed and evolved, interest in maintaining the once exclusive and luxurious hotel has waned.  The last time all the teliféricos worked was when the Pope last visited Caracas.   

Today, the tram/teliférico from the Caracas airport up to the hotel no longer exists.  The inner workings are rusted, the cable on which the trams traveled is gone, critical machinery is missing, and vegetation has grown high under the former tramway.  From Caracas, tram access to the hotel still exists.  The transfer station now houses an amusement park, a spot for weekend entertainment.  One can take a guided tour of the Hotel Humboldt’s idle and unused lobby, restaurants, bar, and ballroom – all closed for business for decades.  When the guide mentions former dictator Pérez Jiménez’ name, the old-timers spit on the ground.

The tour does not include any of the deluxe guest suites, all of which are now in terrible repair.  Broken windows in the upper floors allow clouds and wind free access to plush rooms once used by the likes of Fidel Castro and Tito Puente.  Hotel Humboldt sits vacant above Caracas, her broken windows gapping like missing teeth, with no chance, no hope of repair.  Don’t leave her on top of a peak in full view for all to gape at her neglect and devastation.  Hotel Humboldt cannot turn away from the pitying stares of those who remember her former glory, her days filled with admiration and awe.  Why hasn’t someone imploded the Humboldt, or razed it to the ground, like Las Vegas has done to her obsolete, older, out-of-date casinos?  Put the once elegant and sophisticated lady out of her misery. 

Hotel Humbolt’s neglect and subsequent demise makes my heart hurt.

Halloween and Halloween Costumes

November 10, 2011

I like Halloween.  I think it’s because it’s an opportunity to become something or someone you are not any other day of the year.  Either that, or I enjoy flights into fantasy.

When I was a kid back in Orange, Texas during the 1950’s, I usually dressed in my dance recital costume from the previous May.  That is, unless I had grown four inches like I did one year.  My dance costumes attached the top to the ruffled bottom by a series of hooks.  If I could get the front hooks to connect, I looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  If I miraculously got all of the hooks, my hinny cheeks popped out from under the panties – not a good look for a child.  If it rained or the weather turned cold, my dance recital costume became an automatic Mother reject.  Then, I dressed in long pants, a flannel shirt, and stuck the made-at-school brown paper bag scary mask onto my head and proceeded to trick-or-treat.  Or, I would wear one of Daddy’s old felt hats, put on a black eye mask, and hang a red kerchief stuffed with newspaper on the end of one of Mother’s yardsticks.  Instant hobo.

When I was in the second grade, our school gave a “Peter Rabbit” musical play.  Each class was a different vegetable in Mr. MacGregor’s garden.  My class was carrots, probably because I was the tallest second grader in school.  In my costume, I looked like an orange colored string bean with a green whiskbroom stuck on top of my head.  I hated the girls in the class next to mine.  They were lettuces with green, ruffled skirts and frilly tops with sequins.  When Halloween came around that year, there was no way I was stepping outdoors in that stupid, straight up and down carrot costume.

When we moved to Maracaibo, I only went trick-or-treating to the few Texas families that lived in our immediate neighborhood.  Venezuelans did not trick-or-treat at all.  Since there were no more dance recital costumes for me, and since Mother had given my sister’s square dance dress to the maid, it was up to me to concoct a costume for my American school’s Halloween celebration.  Once I was a gypsy.  I wore one of Mother’s skirts held up to my waist by several large safety pins overflowing with fabric, a scarf around my hair, and all the costume jewelry anyone would loan me.  Another time, Mother made a costume for me out of an old white sheet.  I was a flapper.

When I attended San Marcos Academy in San Marcos, Texas (where students were under Baptist scrutiny at every moment), we likewise did not go trick-or-treating.   There was a dance-less Halloween party or carnival in our gym.  Our cadet officers patrolled the SMA campus all Halloween night to prevent the townies and the local college students from pushing our canon off its hill.  Nothing’s worse than finding your school cannon has taken a nocturnal nosedive, barrel first, into the ground.  I peeked out my third floor window after lights-out and caught moonlight glimpses of cadets on tour in front of the girls’ dorm, in uniform, with lit cigarette in hand – the epitome of teen “machismo.”

Halloween 2011 brought clever and well thought out costumes to our door – except for the boys who came as soccer or football players.  One leggy high school girl arrived at our door with her friend.  She wore the shortest, smallest pair of cutoffs I have ever seen.  Not only cut high on the thigh, but low-cut on the waistband, front and back.  I paused as I reached to hand her treats.  The “mother” in me got the best of the situation.

“Honey, does your mother know you’re dressed like that?”  I asked.

Without batting an eye, she said, “No, she doesn’t.”

“I can see why,” I said.  Thank heaven our children are adults.

This year’s cutest costume came on a little boy about four years old.  He wore a head-to-toe fuzzy green dinosaur suit complete with spikes down the back and a long, forked tail.  When I opened the door, he looked at me with a gleeful smile, his hands posed in front of his chest like claws.  I waited for him to growl or pounce at me.  Instead, he looked at me with a devilish grin and said, “Roar, roar!”  I, naturally, collapsed in laughter.  That dinosaur kid got more treats from me than anyone that night.



Bye, Bye Bubba

September 3, 2011

Bubba Smith, the football player extraordinaire turned actor, died last month.  When I heard the news, I was zapped back in time, back to Orange, Texas to the Tiger football stadium in the early 1950’s.  Bubba and I shared space in the stadium – at least when colored football teams played.

Yep.  In those days on the Texas Gulf Coast, African Americans were called “colored” – “Negro” if you were being high faluttin’ or putting on airs.  That’s the way it was back then.

Since football is to Texas as the Pope is to Catholicism, everyone went to the football games, no matter who played.  If the Stark High Tigers,  the white team, played, the band and home team fans sat in the wooden bleachers on the announcers side of the field.  The visiting white team and their band occupied the stands on the opposite side of the field.  If colored people attended the Tiger games, they sat in the end field seats, the Crow’s Nest.

If the Wallace Dragons, the colored high school team, played, all the white fans crowded into the home stands.  The Wallace High fans and the competing colored team shared the visitors’ bleachers.  Since Wallace High was the home team, Coach Willie Ray Smith and the Dragon players used the coaches’ bench in front of the packed home team stands.  Coach Smith’s three sons sat with him.  One was Bubba.

Coach Smith’s boys paid rapt attention to the game.  They jumped up, clapped, yelled and all the while fetched errant footballs, and carried equipment where needed.

Mother, a tried and true Texan, dragged me to the football games, even by way of public bus if Daddy needed our car for work.  As a grade school child, I did not share Mother’s enthusiasm for football.  In my opinion, the two most interesting things about football were the cheerleaders and the marching bands.  Once the half time with all its sparkle was over, I inevitably complained of an abrupt onset of an illness with vague symptoms, an overwhelming attack of sleepiness, or a sudden night-air case of Gulf Coast frostbite – all of which Mother ignored.  Pat, my seven-years-older-than-I sister, never sat with Mother and me.  If teenaged Pat had her way, Mother and I wouldn’t have been in the same town, let alone in the same stadium.

I liked the Bengal Guards, the all girls band.  They stepped off in a fast paced cadence even as they formed up under the wooden bleachers.  The Bengal Lancers, the boys band, was not, in my opinion, as interesting.  Why weren’t all those high school boys out on the field playing football like all the other normal Texas boys?

Wallace High suffered under the Separate But Equal Doctrine of that time.  While certainly separate, the shabby school was not at all equal.  I overheard my sister discussing Wallace history books.  According to Pat, Wallace history books did not even mention World War II.  I didn’t know when the war was, other than a long time ago, and should have been mentioned in colored history books like the white ones.  The budget for the band, and most likely the football team, suffered as well.  While the Bengal Guards and Bengal Lancers marched in smart fitting and up-to-date uniforms, the Dragon band uniforms seemed dated, ill fitted, and worn.  However, what they lacked in funding for smart band uniforms, they made up for with enthusiasm, loud cheering, and gymnastic tricks.  Upon leaving the field at halftime, even some of the Dragon football players turned flips or cartwheels, much to my delight.

When one of his Dragons failed to execute a play as expected, or if an official miscalled a play, Coach Smith jumped from his bench to limp up and down the sidelines.  Something was wrong with one of his legs.  The gossip was that Coach Smith had a wooden leg.  Polio, I guessed, caused his limp.

Coach Smith ruled his football players with an iron hand.  During practice, some said he smacked his players with a deflated bicycle tire inner tube as an incentive to better performance.  Many Dragon players held after school jobs – dishwashers and janitors.  If they worked in the evenings, Coach Smith required a written statement from the employer as to what days they worked and until what hour.  Coach Smith made personal visits to each player’s home for bed check.  If absent or unaccounted for, that player risked a beating, or worse, being thrown off the football team.

Soon after my family moved to Maracaibo Venezuela, Coach Smith moved to a better coaching job at the colored high school in Beaumont.  Under his father’s direction, Bubba Smith became a valued player.  Bubba played college football for Michigan State University.  Later he went on to play pro football for the Baltimore Colts, the Oakland Raiders, and the Houston Oilers.

I’ll miss you, Bubba.  Or, maybe I’ll just miss those long ago innocent days when life, as I saw it, was simpler . . . not equal or fair, but simpler.