Singapore Airlines launches new services

October 31, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

NEW YORK, October 31, 2016 – Singapore Airlines has launched new services from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport and Manchester, U.K., continuing to Singapore, from October 30, 2016.  The new Houston-Manchester flight represents SIA’s first-ever U.S. to U.K. operation.

 

SIA will operate the route using a 278-passenger Boeing B777-300Extended Range aircraft, configured with 8 seats in First Class, 42 in Business Class, and 228 in Economy Class.

 

“We are excited to offer Texans the only nonstop flights from Houston to Manchester,” said Mr. Sek Eng Lee, regional vice president for Singapore Airlines at the company’s festive gatehold send-off for the first flight yesterday.  “Houstonians now have the option of the industry’s most awarded inflight experience, not only to Singapore and Southeast Asia, but also to Northern England for the first time.”  The company’s previous flight operated from Houston to Singapore via Moscow, which was discontinued on October 29.

 

SIA offers five weekly flights from Houston to Manchester, each with continuing service to Singapore Changi Airport, where travelers have convenient connection options to more than 50 destinations throughout Asia.  Travelers flying SIA to Manchester can also take advantage of new connections to Paris, Milan and Amsterdam via the carrier’s partnership with Flybe, providing seamless single-ticketing to these three popular European destinations.

 

The new Houston-to-Manchester service is being launched concurrently with SIA’s resumption of nonstop flights from the U.S. to Singapore and expanded operations in Los Angeles.   SQ31, a new Airbus A350-900 aircraft and the 10,000th delivery from the manufacturer, debuted on October 23 with a nonstop, daily flight from San Francisco to Singapore.  The company’s new Los Angeles-to-Seoul flight also launched on October 23 utilizing Boeing 777-300 Extended Range aircraft.

 

Consistently rated the world’s best airline by the readers of both Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines in their annual surveys, Singapore Airlines strives for industry-leading excellence in passenger service.

 

Visit SingaporeAir.com for more details. Join us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/singaporeair and follow us on Twitter, www.twitter.com/singaporeair.

 

 

ONE MAN, ONE VOTE, ONE STATE

October 31, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

We are constantly being told to vote in this Presidential election. Do we have to? We already know the outcome because the vote is rigged. Donald Trump said so. But there are several interesting down-ballot elections that might change the future — just ask Henry Shoemaker — which means taking a fresh look at an old story, because it affects the way we live in Texas today, pilgrim.

Shoemaker was a simple farmhand from Smithfield Township, DeKalb County, Indiana. On the first Monday of August, 1842, elections were held for local offices. In addition, reapportionment had given DeKalb and an adjoining county, Steuben, a single representative to the Indiana House. The two candidates were Enos Beall, a Whig, and Madison Marsh, a Democrat. On Election Day Shoemaker remembered that he had met Marsh during the campaign and had promised to vote for him, so Shoemaker saddled up a horse and rode 12 miles into Kendallville, arriving at the polling place late in the afternoon.

“When he applied to vote,” the Indiana Committee on Elections later reported, “the inspector handed him a sheet of tickets, but as all of them contained the names of Enos Beall for Representative, he enquired (sic) for ‘another kind,’ and the inspector handed him a sheet of tickets with the name of Madison Marsh for Representative, that he then enquired of the same inspector if he ‘had scissors or a knife to cut them with,’ and the latter handed him a penknife.” Not wishing to vote the straight ticket of either party, Shoemaker proceeded, quite literally, to split his ballots. As the voting officials looked on, Shoemaker cut out the name of Marsh from one ballot along with the others he wanted, then cut other names from the second sheet.

He handed the clippings to the inspector — four separate pieces of paper, three small sheets inside a larger one. The inspector accepted the papers without a word, and put them in the ballot box. Shoemaker hung around the voting site for an hour or more, but no one said anything about his unusual ballot. Later, however, when the tabulation began, the voting officials threw out Shoemaker’s ballot. On the next Sunday the sheriffs of the two counties met at the Steuben County courthouse to compare the certificates for the election for state representative. The final results were 360 votes for Marsh and 360 votes for Beall. The sheriffs “by casting lots” chose Beall as the winner. Marsh immediately appealed to the Committee on Elections, which held extensive hearings on the matter. (It is from the Indiana Commission on Public Records and the Library of Congress that I dug out this story.)

The committee found that in Smithfield township only 16 votes were cast for representative, all of them for either Marsh or Beall; that there was only one person named Henry Shoemaker in the township, he was a qualified voter; and he had voted “openly with no appearance of concealment or subterfuge” and had not tried to vote more than once, that the inspector had accepted Shoemaker’s ballot had put it in the box himself; and “we have the uncontradicted oath of Henry Shoemaker, that he did intend to vote for Madison Marsh for the office of Representative.” Also, the committee noted that it was the inspector’s own knife which was used in the surgery.

“In summing up the whole matter, your committee find (sic) that Madison Marsh has received a majority of the legal votes, if they had all been counted, and the voice of the ballot box had been properly regarded, and that he is therefore entitled to the contested seat.” The Indiana House agreed, and Marsh — a Democrat — took his seat in the Legislature by a single vote.

Prior to the 17th Amendment, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures. In 1842, the main candidates for the U.S. Senate from Indiana were Oliver H. Smith, the Whig senator who was up for re-election, and the Democratic candidate, Gen. Tilghman A. Howard. Another candidate, Edward A. Hannegan, was a dark horse. The Indiana Senate joined the House and on the first ballot, to everyone’s surprise, neither candidate got a majority. On the sixth ballot Smith got 69 votes. Howard got one vote and Hannegan, the dark horse, got the magic 76, making him the new senator from Indiana. Hannegan’s winning vote was supplied by Madison “Landslide” Marsh.

Four years later, in 1846, the U.S. Senate was bitterly divided over whether to declare war on Mexico. A caucus of the Democratic senators, which comprised the majority, was called to determine which way they would vote, but the vote in the caucus was a tie. Then it was determined that one senator was not present: Edward Hannegan of Indiana. He was sent for and promptly voted “Aye” for war. It broke the tie, fixed the Democrats’ decision, and war was declared – by one vote.

That is how Shoemaker is best remembered in Indiana, yet there is one more point to be made. The war in Mexico was touched off by the U.S. annexation of Texas one year earlier. John Tyler was president, having taken office upon the death of William Henry Harrison. That left the vice presidency empty. The move to annex Texas had failed as a treaty, which needed a two-thirds vote in the Senate, so Tyler tried again — this time as a simple resolution, which needed only a majority, not two-thirds. It passed, 27 to 25. If any senator supporting annexation had changed his mind, there would have been a 26-26 tie. There being no vice president to break the deadlock, annexation would have failed and Texas would have remained an independent republic. For the record, Sen. Hannegan voted for it. Thus we see how that one vote put Texas in the Union and put us under Washington, which is why to this day, Texans shout as one: “Curse you, Henry Shoemaker!”

 

Ashby votes at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ICE OF TEXAS

October 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

 

THE RESTAURANT – Food was good, service, too. Price was right. Quiet, no kids running berserk. What a rotten meal. Why? Because I was freezing the entire time. I had asked the waiter to turn up the temp. He nodded and did nothing. Then I asked the manager if the fan above me could be turned off. No, the fans are controlled by NASA computers at the Johnson Space Center. Maybe a good, hot potato soup served in a cauldron large enough for both feet. Restaurants in Houston must have a Celebrity Chefs Contest to see which restaurant dining room can be the coldest. There is no other explanation for my potato soup becoming vichyssoise. I didn’t order ice tea, it just froze before my eyes. (Incidentally, in Texas it’s called and spelled ice tea, not iced tea, and I don’t care what you called it back in Ohio.)

Eateries across Texas could save a bundle on their electric bill if they just set the thermostat a few degrees higher, but they won’t. And it’s this way year ‘round. Indeed, the coldest times in a Houston restaurant are June through August. Of course, our diners are not the only culprits. Ever go to a movie theater in July? Bring along a sweater, gloves and maybe a ski mask. Check into a hotel room during a Texas summer and note the bar’s ice bucket doesn’t need any ice. My neighborhood grocery store varies in temperatures from zero to 30, but the wind chill factor in the bread and buns aisle makes it worse. Warning: don’t lick the cover of the fish case. Actually, I refer to the entire store as the frozen food section. Customers must have complained at one of those boutique (read: overpriced) grocery stores because there is a big sign hanging from the ceiling explaining the snowdrifts and ski lifts are necessary to keep the produce fresh. OK, keep the kale crisp, and there is even an explanation that restaurants could double as a set for “Ice Station Zebra.” The thermostat on the wall is controlled by the bus boys and waiters who are either running around bringing out food or taking away the dirty dishes, or is controlled by the cooks back in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove. They are perspiring, as would we all, but we are paying them, not the other way around. Just don’t drip sweat into my jelled consomme.

Many northern cities have giant underground tunnel systems in their downtown for the convenience of shoppers and office workers to stay out of the cold, ice and slush. Houston has a cobweb of tunnels downtown, but it’s so that pedestrians don’t have to go out in heat and humidity. For some office workers, getting out into the August heat feels great, because, just like restaurants, the offices are kept so cold that employees are numb. Look at any secretary’s post after work and you will probably spot two items: a small heater under the desk and a sweater hung on the back of the chair. Even our huge malls and stadiums are fast frozen. It is for these reasons that I always keep a sweater in the trunk of my car, year round, and take it with me whenever I enter certain stores, eateries and theaters. Years ago the GOP held its national presidential convention in Houston, and beforehand l warned my visiting colleagues when they came to town in August, dress warm. Those who ignored my advice were shipped home, no embalming needed.

But now we must do a 180 and recognize that obviously no one can live in Texas during the summer without air conditioning. As bad as over-cooling can be, a life without air conditioning is no life at all. Look at those old photos of Texans standing on the Galveston beaches in July, the men in their suits, ties and hats; the women are cloaked from high collars to skirts touching the ground. How did they survive? Houston was laid out by the Borden brothers, Gail and Thomas, with the streets running northeast to southwest so that the houses, built perpendicular to the streets, would catch the Gulf breeze. It didn’t work. Some say oil was the juice that made the bayous bloom. Others credit another factor. The Harris County Historical Society’s Guidebook opens with, “Our story begins in 1922 when the city’s first air conditioning was installed in the Rice Hotel cafeteria. Before that, Houston was totally unlivable.”

Today, Houston is called the most air conditioned city on Earth, but just how anyone can figure that out is unknown. In any event, we do love our a/c. (Under “air conditioning,” the Houston Yellow Pages has 1,006 listings.) When outsiders ask, “How do you stand living in Houston in all that heat and humidity?” I reply: “I don’t. I go from my air conditioned home to my air conditioned car to my air conditioned bar. Besides, you don’t have to shovel heat.” Judge Roy Hofheinz secured a major league baseball franchise for Houston only with the promise to Major League Baseball that the game would be played in an air-conditioned, covered ball park. The Houston Texans will play an entire season without ever opening the roof at NRG Stadium. (We must suspect that it is no accident the stadium’s naming rights went to an electric company.) It was long a rumor that the British consulate in Houston was considered a hardship post as its climate was similar to that of Bombay (now Mumbai), India, and Accra, Ghana. So I asked the then-consul about it. He replied, “It was a rule that three years in Houston counted as four years in diplomatic service towards retirement. I wrote the Foreign Office, ‘My God, haven’t you people ever heard of air conditioning?’” The rule was changed.

The next time I go to a restaurant. I’m going to shovel in some heat.

 

Ashby chills out at ashby2@comcast.net

Scott Young, DDS

October 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Top Docs, Young, Scott, DDS

Scott Young, DDS
Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry

youngscottAt the offices of Scott Young, DDS you are not just another patient; you are treated as a prominent guest from the moment you walk through the door. Dr. Young’s practice is based on a foundation of providing personal attention to every guest. Personalized treatment plans ensure your comfort at every level of service including sedation dentistry, a serenity suite for relaxation, pillows, blankets and noise cancellation headphones.

“It is my goal that our patients—our guests—have no anxiety while they are under our care. We utilize advanced technology such as the 3D CT scan for planning and placement of implants,” says Dr. Young. “For those who are a little more apprehensive about visiting a dentist, we have sedation dentistry available.”

A graduate of the University of Texas Dental Branch, Dr. Young focuses on cosmetic and implant dentistry while offering the full spectrum of dental services including teeth whitening, implant supported prosthesis and full smile makeovers. Dr. Young has completed all core courses at LVI for Advanced Dental Studies. In addition, Dr. Young holds fellowship status with the American Dental Implant Association and was named a Super Dentist® in Texas Monthly.

“With the most advanced dental technology, a warm and knowledgeable team, and all the amenities necessary to help you feel relaxed and comfortable, our office is the place to receive five-star cosmetic dentistry treatment along with the smile you’ve always wanted,” says Dr. Young.

SCOTT YOUNG, DDS
6769 Lake Woodlands Drive, Ste. G
The Woodlands, TX 77382
Toll Free: 877-492-4579

www.woodlandsdentistry.com

LOCKER ROOM? NO, LOCKER UP!

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

 

Dear Patriotic American,

We at the Republican National Committee (RNC) are writing you as a leader in your community, to plan for the Trump administration. Please fill out the accompanying form and mail it to us so we can include your brilliant ideas. Also, because we need money, specifically for the Donald Trump Presidential Campaign & Hair Salon franchises. Yes, we know that he said many times that he would finance his own campaign, just like he said a lot of things that turned out not to be true, oh, that silly, silly Donald. Besides, you know how tapes can be edited.

Because you are so important to this campaign, here are some talking points plus some snappy retorts when those Godless Democrats insult the Trumpet: Refugees are ruining our country and must be stopped, except for the Bernie Sanders supporters seeking safety with another candidate. Trump will put our entire military on the border, although he adds that he has nothing against the Canadians personally. Health care is important to many poor Americans who are suffering in pain because they can’t afford medical help. Our candidate will make aspirin free to everyone, or at least until supplies run out at the local CVS. Trade agreements are another major plank in our campaign. Trump is against all foreign trade agreements except for the Chinese-made steel he used to build his casinos. Incidentally, don’t bring up casinos. It’s a sore subject, especially among the vendors he stiffed.

On foreign matters, Vladimir Putin and Trump are simply old frat brothers at Trump University. “Once a Delta Grabba Thi, always a Delta Grabba Thi.” And Miss Venezuela really is fat. Now as for Trump’s feelings towards women. (Caution: Do not talk to any reporter on a bus while he is holding a tape recorder.) Trump loves women and often gives them extreme attention. You may wish to purchase this bumper sticker (only $50): “Locker room? No, locker up!” With Donald, it’s not so much the GOP as the GROPE. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested the slogan. Score points among your right-wing friends by blasting the press, especially The New York Times, but don’t mention it was the Times that exposed Hillary’s private emails. That undercuts your argument. Only watch Fox News and listen to like-minded radio talk show hosts, like Sean Hannity, but hurry. Hannity has become such an embarrassing shill for Trump that, after the election, Rupert Murdoch’s two sane sons may fire Hannity.

About Benghazi: although 10 different Congressional committees have held 33 investigations and hearings on the matter, questioning 252 witnesses over 62 hours, costing the American taxpayers $7 million, and have turned up nothing linking Crooked Hillary to the terrorists’ raid, keep bringing it up. If someone mentions The Don’s finances, reply: “He’s solvent, and you can take that to the bankruptcy.” Oops, bank. As for his tax returns, fire back: “What about Monica Lewinski?” When some commie says the GOP has a quorum when Trump, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich get together with their total of nine wives, reply: “Emails for Hillary. Females for Trump.” Trump’s strongest supporters are white males with only a high school education who drag their knuckles. Reply: “What about Benghazi?” Even more incriminating emails shall be made available as soon as they are translated from the Russian. Bring up a possibility: When Hillary discovers she doesn’t get paid $250,000 for her inauguration speech, maybe she’ll drop out.

Polls show most voters don’t like either candidate, but we’re stuck with The Donald, and have to swallow our pride and back him. We are still working on excuses to give our children the rest of our lives. When some Hillary zealot says you’re “a basket of deplorables,” retort that you’d rather be in a basket of deplorables than in a casket of explodables. (The RNC has generously sent gifts to Hillary’s campaign plane: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones.) If you’re handing out political material, ask if they are going to vote. If the answer is, “Si,” or: “Yes, at my mosque,” move on.

This the most important election in American history, maybe in all the world. OK, we say every four years and we’ll say it again four years from now, but it makes you feel important. Please fill out the enclosed survey, because we want your advice – and money. Finally, when going to the voting booth, try not to drag your knuckles

 

 

Ashby writes-in at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOUSTONIAN THANKSGIVING

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Events

Celebrate the holidays at the Houstonian

Celebrate the holidays at the Houstonian

On November 24th, let the Thanksgiving festivities begin by dining in the elegant Grande Ballroom at The Houstonian Hotel, with selections such as Sweet Herb Roasted Turkey, Prime Rib, Bourbon and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham, Smoked Salmon and Caviar Service, Hill Country Benedict, Marshmallow-Stuffed French Toast w/ Chocolate Banana Caramel and more Classic Brunch Selections. Top off your bountiful meal with Delectable Bourbon Bread Pudding, Pumpkin and Pecan Tarts, Banana Foster, Tiramisu, and other treats from The Houstonian’s Pastry Shop. So many choices, plus Complimentary Champagne and Signature Mimosas, all for $79 for Adults and $35 for Children ages 5 to 12. Children 4 and under are complimentary. Brunch prices are subject sales tax and service charge. To make reservations in the Grande Ballroom, call 713-812-6932, or visit www.Houstonian.com.

A DIFFERENT TRAIN OF THOUGHT

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

 

CHAMBERS COUNTY – “Good morning, America. How are ya? I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans,” as Willie almost sang. Actually, this is the train they call the Sunset Limited, but it’s going to New Orleans, and that’s close enough. We’re headed to the slot machines and roulette tables, but let me explain: Most of the customers at the Lake Charles-area casinos come from near-by Texas, specifically, the Houston region, which is why the casinos were put there in the first place. But I-10 East between Houston and Lake Charles is a death trap, with huge 18-wheelers, loaded with pipe for offshore rigs and containers from the Port of Houston, careening down the road at Mach 2.

To avoid being a bug on a Peterbilt’s windshield, you can fly to Lake Charles on Good Luck Airlines or rent a shrimp boat or take the train. Yes, the train. Amtrak’s aforementioned Sunset Limited goes from Los Angeles to New Orleans and the other way every other day. So you board at the station on the edge of downtown Houston, stop briefly at Beaumont and get off at Lake Charles, time 3 hours and 15 minutes, about 15 minutes longer than driving. A waiting cab spirits you to the casino and, fresh from a relaxing trip, you are yelling for seven to come eleven.

For details, as usual, I have done the heavy lifting, so clip this column and stick it on your refrigerator door next to those last 67 losing Lotto tickets. First, get some cash, then go on line to tickets@amtrak.com. There, negotiate through a maze, drawn up by a drunken mountain man, to buy a ticket from here to there and back, and put it on your credit card. Cost for a round trip ticket: $44. Go coach unless you are on your honeymoon and need a private room. Trains depart Houston eastward every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at 12:10 p.m. To get to the station you can be dropped off, take a cab, my wife and I took Uber, or just leave your car there. It’s free parking. The station is basic government issue: clean, slightly worn, 1950ish, but – and I like this – long wooden pews from the distant past.

Hooray, here comes the train, silver and shiny. It stops, passengers get off but no one is allowed to board because the crew has to back track the forward coupler to the thru-bolt carrier, or something like that. Since you are traveling light, you don’t check your bag, although coming home you may need an extra sack for all that money. We board, no metal detector, go to our reserved seats which, compared to the airliners, are spacious, the chairs lean back and a foot rest pops up. Two electric outlets on the wall. We automatically try to fasten our seat belts and realize there aren’t any. Precisely at 12:40, the 12:10 moves out. Don’t take this train to look at the scenery. It’s not the Canadian Rockies Route. Trains always go through the ugliest parts of any city, so you get a great view of shotgun shacks, piles of broken concrete and lots of oil field pipe via I-10. Once into the outback, it’s a long, green tunnel, at least before winter. On each side are jungles, until Chambers and Jefferson counties, which also have swamps that are actually kind of pretty. The entire train is double-decked, with some seats downstairs along with the toilets and baggage racks. Upstairs is better. The train is half empty. We stop at Beaumont long enough to toss out a few passengers and board a few more. We’re running late, the ride is very smooth, but no clickety-clack.

Now about the food. We had taken the Amtrak from Montreal to NYC. It was an 11-hour trip. There was no dining car and the snack bar had the worst food I have ever tasted – microwaved pizza and hot dogs for a captive audience. On this trip, to be safe we brought along some sandwiches and such, planning to buy drinks on board. There is a café downstairs selling drinks and snacks, but: “It doesn’t open till later. Just before Houston, she said she was going to take a break.” That was two hours ago. We go to the neat observation car (the bar there is closed, too), and spend the rest of the trip munching sandwiches and sipping water from little paper cups. Later I take a look at the dining car and it seems pretty neat with white table clothes. The menu is short but certainly adequate – breakfast, lunch and dinner. The PA system announces that dinner reservations will be taken, seating every half hour from 5:30 to 7:30, with sleeping car passengers getting first shot. I suppose if they fill up the diner, coach class passengers go hungry. Promptly at 4:30 we arrive at Lake Charles, only one hour late. Before you leave Houston, reserve a ride -– cab or rental. Along the route we called ahead to say we were late, and the car and driver were waiting for us.

After dropping enough money in Louisiana to pave most of its roads and give every school teacher a raise ($2.50) – Texas is SO behind the curve on casinos – we call 1-800 USA RAIL to check on the westbound train coming from New Orleans to see if it is on time. To the minute. We wait in the small but adequate train station for the train, which arrives 20 minutes late. Two get off and eight get on. Amtrak needs to advertise more. The home-bound train is less than half full, and the trip is uneventful except for an extremely rude conductor. We arrive on schedule. So the next time you want to head east to the casinos or even unto Bourbon Street, think trains – no cancelled flights, no trucks, bring food. But I still miss that clickety-clack.

Ashby rides the rails at asnby2@comcast/net

 

SANTA’S FIRST STOP IS AT THE OMNI HOUSTON HOTEL

October 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Events

 

Join Santa for photos and gingerbread house decorating

 

What:                    Santa Claus is coming to town and one of his first stops is the Omni Houston Hotel in Uptown.  Santa will bring his gingerbread houses for party-goers to decorate while enjoying holiday refreshments                          and festive fun. And don’t forget to take a picture with Santa before you head home with your freshly decorated gingerbread house!

Where:                 Omni Houston Hotel – 4 Riverway, Houston, Texas 77056

Date:                     Saturday, December 10, 2016

Time:                     10:00 AM until 12:00 PM

Extra:                    Complimentary photos with Santa, opportunity to decorate gingerbread house, holiday refreshments, complimentary self-parking, $10 valet.

Cost:                      $30 per child and available at http://omni-santaparty2016.eventbrite.com

Parents are free.  

 

For more information about the Omni Houston Hotel, please call (713) 871-8181or visit omnihotels.com.

 

THE PLOT THICKENS

October 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                                      10 Oct. 2016

THE CEMETERY – This is a family reunion, although I shall do all the talking to save your family a lot of trouble and money. My families’ plots hold both my mother’s family next to my father’s. I was just a tad when many of them were laid to rest, so all I remember is the vast amounts of food spread out back at the house. Here is my mother’s father, Walter Lynn Cox. He came to Texas when he was 9 months old in a covered wagon. His wife, Lillian, told me how she used to gather with her little friends on a street corner in East Texas and throw rocks at the “blue bellies” as they rode by on their horses – the Union cavalry. But her tombstone says she was born in 1879, long after Reconstruction was over. Maybe she just bore a grudge.

Have you ever visited your family plot and learned things about your forbearers that you never knew? I knew that my uncle, Walter Lynn Cox, Jr., served in the Marines in WW II, but his tombstone says he also served during the Korean War. I didn’t know that. The wife of a cousin seems to have had a baby who died at birth. My mother was a Daughter of the Republic of Texas, but I see that she was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. That explains the gold teeth, watches and wigs. All told, I count 16 grave sites. There is still room for more. Like me.

Now start taking notes to make things easier: Does anyone know which bank holds your safety deposit box, and where the key is? How are they going to get their hands on all those silver bars Uncle Cosmo liberated from a Nazi coal mine? Avoid the $250 charge for blowing open the box, and there are complicated laws about opening a safety deposit box after the owner has departed. You don’t have a will? The State of Texas has one for you, but the lawyers will end up with most of your estate. Make sure your will specifies exactly who gets what. “I leave to my worthless daughter and her deadbeat fifth husband my razor and toothpaste.” That will save everyone trouble, and it means your spouse doesn’t have to get rid of your razor and toothpaste. Again, be specific. My son the lawyer says the most vicious, blood sports he handles are family fights over an estate.

Money. How many checkbooks, savings accounts and hidden cash in shoeboxes do you have? Does the IRS know about your accounts in the Cayman Islands? No? Keep it that way. Leave a list of where you hid your fortune, with passwords. If you are like most of us, you have 450 passwords on your computer. Make a list of them, too, and tell everyone exactly where you hid it. “Go to the bathroom and look under the razor and toothpaste.” You have a burglar alarm? Does your next-of-kin know how to turn it on and off? (The last burglar to hit my house looked around and left a small donation.) You probably have a private stock of wine at your club, all locked up. How can your children get to those boxes with their little plastic spigots? Put the code on your list.

Let’s back up and consider that you’re not dead yet, only going. Studies show that relatives spend a vast amount on keeping Grand Pa alive as long as possible, so terminally ill patients are a cash cow for hospitals. I have instructed my family that, when I am too far gone to light a cigar, just pull the plug. You want an obit? That’s journalese for an obituary in the newspaper. Don’t leave it to your hysterical spouse (“He kept talking about the Cayman Islands.”) to figure out just when you won the Nobel Peace Prize. (It’s OK to jazz up your life story, who can correct it?) My own obit is modest, limiting my honorary degrees to 43 and explaining that I donated millions to colleges and hospitals under the pseudonym of “Anonymous.” In my obit, I “died.” Others prefer “Gone to her reward,” “Hit his last tee shot,” and “Entered the Pearly Gates to greet the people she never liked.” Honest, I once read: “In lieu of flowers, please vote for George W. Bush.”

Now we must consider your funeral. Your family is so distraught that they can’t think straight, and will spend too much because funeral homes have their business down to a science. When you walk into the display of caskets, most people automatically turn to the right. That’s the most expensive model. In gradual order, as you walk in a semi-circle to the left, they get cheaper and less ornate. Once you have picked a casket – I have chosen a very nice one stenciled “Kenmore Cold King – this end up” — the costs keep rising with flowers, a huge portrait of the late lamented, music and an emcee. Don’t hire pallbearers, rent a forklift. Some prefer cremation, but I think that might hurt.

Specify that after the funeral, you are throwing a party at the local VFW hall with lots of food and liquor. That assures a good attendance. Where to buy a plot? Avoid any place being touted as “with a great view.” Write your own epitaph and, like the obit, keep it mildly truthful. Thomas Jefferson wrote his own and specified that not one word be changed. It does not mention that he was President, but you may. There was a story that a tombstone in Aberdeen, Scotland, read: “Here lies the body of Mary McQueen. She was a virgin at seventeen. A remarkable thing in Aberdeen.” While doing some stories there, I went hunting for that epitaph. The cemetery’s caretaker said it was all a tall tale, but added a lot of people went there looking for it.

Ashby defies death at ashby2@comcast.net

A CLASS ACT

 

 

THE SCHOOL GYM — “Billy Ralph. Good to see you. How’s MinnieMay?”

“She ran off with a shepherd, and left me with our 12 kids.”

“Hi there. Your nametag says Sally Joan Mugwump, but you look, uh nothing like I remember.”

“I’m now George Joe Mugwump. I guess the beard fooled you. Which reminds me, thanks to Governor Abbott, it’s murder trying to use a bathroom in this school.” This is my class reunion. Highland Park High School class of ’56. The January class. The State of Texas did away with midterm classes that started and graduated in January. So our class was only about 90 kids, compared to the June class of 22,000 or so. Most of us began in the first grade in four elementary schools, meshed in junior high, now called middle school for the same unknown reason there are no longer midterm classes, and spent the next six years together. (Actually, I didn’t graduate until June. Something about biology – my fetal pig survived.) So here we are, gathered for our every-five-year get-together, which is more often than most classes hold reunions, but we like to meet. Actually, some even married classmates.

“Studs Studly, president of our class, all-state quarterback, elected Mister Best. How are you doing?”

“If you’ll give me your ticket, I’ll bring your car around. Tips are appreciated.” At class reunions, one must be careful what to say. Across the room I spot Marvin Munchkin. “Hey Marv. Whatever happened to that floozy you went with, Mary Lou Easy? Remember how she, uh, dated almost every guy in school, if you get my drift?”

“We’ve been married for 50 years.” Here comes Sally Shrewd. “Sally, how did life go?” “Not bad. I was no-billed by the grand jury, but the civil litigation took all the money I made from insider trading at Merrill Lynch.” Then there were the failures.

If you are planning to attend a class reunion, here are a few tips. Lose weight. Maybe 20 to 30 pounds. Get a tan, even if it means visiting a tanning lounge that gives you skin cancer in only 10 easy sessions, then explain it by casually mentioning that you just returned from your estate in Jamaica. Don’t explain that it’s Jamaica, Queens. Don’t wear you Vietnam War military decorations, especially if they are from North Vietnam. Every reunion should require nametags, so bring a pen and add: “The Honorable” in front of your name. I suggest you don’t push the matter by sticking in “Pope,” “King” or “Grand Kleagle.” Looking around the room, you will notice how everyone else in your class has aged. You’re the exception, but don’t rub it in by doing wheelies with your walker.

         These many years later, I figured out what we should have done when we graduated. We should have created a Tontine, which is named after an Italian banker named Lorenzo Tonti. In 1695 he came up with the idea of everyone putting in some money and the last person to survive would inherit it. If, say, in 1956 we had each put in $10, today that would be about a half million dollars. The money would go to whomever in this group lived the longest. The problem with that is every time we gathered we would be counting heads. Who would outlast who? We would bring along our food tasters.

Ah, yes, it’s been a while. When we graduated, Bill Clinton was 9 years old. Hillary was 45. Top TV shows included “As The World Turns” and “The Price is Right.” Mothers could buy disposable diapers and Teflon non-stick frying pans. Elvis Presley appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and entered the music charts for the first time, with “Heartbreak Hotel.” Top movies were “Guys and Dolls,” “The King and I” and “Around the World in Eighty Days.” Average cost of a new house: $11,700. Average yearly wages: $4.450. A gallon of gas: 22 cents. Average cost of a new car: $2,050. The first computer hard drive was introduced, and none of us bought stock in Texas Instruments. Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and, for the first and last time, OU beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl 45 to nothing. Here’s the kicker: People born that year have been eligible for Social Security these past two years. Back then we should have told our folks to buy some land. Austin now has more people than Houston did when we graduated. There was no place called the Metroplex, but in these 60 years Dallas population has almost tripled from about 500,000 to today’s 1.3 million. And we didn’t buy land.

Someone asked, “Whatever happened to Crazy Carl?” A good question. Every class has a Crazy Carl – someone who didn’t fit in, hadn’t a clue what was going on and, as a result, was the butt of jokes. No one knew anything about Carl. Suddenly, out front a long limo pulled up, the chauffeur ran around, opened the door, and who got out but Crazy Carl. He had a beautiful wife, he was wearing a $2,000 suit and a diamond stickpin the size of an egg.

I went up to him and said, “Crazy Carl! You’re in the big time, but back in school you couldn’t pass a blood test with a tutor. You had trouble counting past your thumb. What happened?” He said, “Oh, it’s easy. I bought something for $100 and sold it for $200. Then I bought something for $500 and sold it for $1,000. Last month I bought something for a million and sold it for five million. You know, after a while that 10 percent profit adds up.”

In five years, we shall meet again. We should bring our food tasters — and tell our grandchildren to buy land. Finally, we must remember our class motto: It is not enough that you should succeed. All your friends must fail.

Ashby reunites at ashby2@comcast.net