Making New Friends In TexasSunday, August 08, 2010
I (Class of 1961) met Mike O’Connell (Class of 1967) because Mike was putting up a web site for the now defunct St. Edward’s High School which had opened in the 19th century and closed just about when Mike graduated. He was researching Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. and he found my blog postings on my former religion teacher. We began to communicate via email and we found we had lots in common. His St. Ed’s website has become a useful tool in getting students (and in some cases their former sweethearts) together. The site is here.
In last year’s all classes reunion we chatted briefly since we were both attached to our own classes. At the time Mike had had hip replacement surgery and he was not too mobile. But our emails continued and we found that we even had more things in common. When I told him that I was taking Rebecca this last July to Austin he suggested we meet. I told him we would be having barbecue with Brother Edwin at the County Line. I asked him if he would want to come. He told me that he would have to bring his wife. Since both my friends (Class of 1961) John Arnold and Howard Houston were bringing their Carolyn and Lynn I told him I did not see the problem. Then Mike added that if his wife would come then his children, Kristen and Stephen would have to come. Since Rebecca was coming along I told him this was fine. It was here that we realized that his Kristen was just 13 and going into the 8th grade and my Rebecca is 12, almost 13 and going into the 8th grade!
Seeing that Mike had invited his whole family to the barbecue I was bold, too and suggested that we spend a whole day together with the kids. After all in a parallel education there has to be some fun, too.
Mike with his son Stephen and daughter Kristen picked us up at St. Joseph’s Hall on Saturday, July 24. The first place we went to was a great ice cream legend in Austin called Amy’s. Next to the ice cream store there is a park with strange but wonderful life-size cow stone sculptures. After the kids played (while Mike and I connected on our experiences in school) we walked down to a lake. Before we could sit at a lakeside picnic table we had to shoo away some geese.
From there we picked up Mike’s wife Cathy and we all went to a Tex/Mex restaurant, the Iguana Grill which had a splendid view of Lake Travis. We took Cathy and Stephen home and that is when the day became serious business. We went to the Barton Creek Mall and dropped the two girls at Macy’s. Outside Macy’s in the mall there were some comfortable leather sofas in which Mike and I sat down to chat about digital cameras. After over an hour, by then the mall was closing, the girls appeared and Rebecca had spent all her pocket money on Keds and stuff. We in the front row just smiled as the girls in the back talked about young celebrities we old fogies had really never heard of (except of course for Jen as we knew who she was). They discussed all the wonderful qualities of Justin Bieber. Earlier in the day Stephen had been our designated hired gun who would say such things as, "Why would anybody like someone who sings like a gir?" Whereupon the girls would say, "Anybody who looks like Justin can sing in anyway they want." We kept our mouths shut and the arguments in the went back and forth.
Both Mike and I hope that Rebecca and Kristen might just connect and inneciate a long distance friendship that could be cemented with mutual visits to Austin and Vancouver.
The day had begun with Rebecca and I going to the State Capital. Brother Edwin dropped us off in the Toyota Matrix and we returned via the South Congress Avenue bus. From the Capitol we went for Shirley Temples at the Driskill Hotel Bar and Grill. The big bar was closed as it was 10:30 in the morning.
At the bar a man in faded jeans and bright blue shirt and a cowboy hat sat down next to Rebecca and ordered a Scotch and soday. He opened a copy of the New York Times. On his left wrist he wore a Rolex and on his hand several large gold rings with large diamonds. On his right wrist he would have given Liberace a run for his candelabra.
I could not resist so I asked him, “Sir, have they recently changed the drinking laws in Texas that you are able to have a drink before noon?” He looked at me with a gentle smile and with a Texas drawl told me that in this bar as long as he ordered food he could drink at any time in the morning. Since I saw no food anywhere near him I decided to drop the matter but I asked him if he were a rancher. “I own several ranches in Texas and one in Wyoming. In the 1970s I owned this here hotel for three years.” I decided to pursue the matter of goading the man so I asked him, “I thought that the Texas folks were conservative and here I see you reading the New York Times.” The barman came to the gentleman’s defence. “Here in Austin we are liberal not like those who might live in San Antonio.” At that point the former owner of the Driskill Hotel said, “This paper does not even have the baseball scores. Who won the game?” The barman (who must have known the man quite well, went off and came back, “The Rangers won, one nothing.” The rancher looked at us and said, “Now, that’s a ball game”
We left but not after the rancher insisted that the barman wrap and carefully put Rebecca’s unfinished turkey sandwich in a box. I decided not to tell the former owner of the Driskell that it had been a prom from St. Ed’s High School that had finally broken the colour barrier policy of the hotel in the 60s. It seems that when the hotel had found out that there were several “coloured” boys in the graduating class they informed the school that the prom could not be held at the hotel. The Roman Catholic Bishop called the general manager and that was that.
Back at St. Ed's I took Rebecca to visit the Old Main. She told me she had already seen it two years before. I took her anyway and made her run up the iron stairs that I had run up as a boy. This time around I walked up. And when I went to my room at St. Joseph's Hall I saw the view from my window and it seemed that it was 1957 all over again and nothing had changed. The presence of Rebecca seemed to bring me back to the reality that I was an old man.