48 Hours in London 


​In 1979, when my brother was sixteen he went to London and got detained for two days at Heathrow.  I  was fifteen,  but it was up to me to find out what happened to him because I’m kinda gifted in that area. 
He wasn’t permitted to use the phone, so I had to figure out what happened with no clues. After many phone calls to airport security,  American Embassy,  and the airline,  I was able to pin him down at the airport detention center. 
I learned the reason he was detained  was because he told customs he planned to live there. They never told me they were sending him back, but on a hunch, I thought they might be planning to do that.
For no particular reason, I  suspected he would be on a  flight from JFK that  was arriving at Will Rogers the second night.  We hadn’t spoken to him since before he left, but I talked my mother into driving to the Oklahoma City airport  airport from Altus on nothing but a hunch. 
I was nervous while watching the passengers getting off the plane. I was afraid my hunch might be wrong  since it was a long shot. 
As it turned out,  he was on that flight,  and he bounced into the terminal with his Gilligan hat and a huge smile. That made me angry. How dare he be so carefree and oblivious to what he put us through for the last 48 hours. 
The phone bill was over a thousand dollars that month.  Doc had given me a sailboat, that I was looking forward to trying out at the lake, but hadn’t yet been out in it. Doc sold the boat to pay the phone bill.
My brother soon became a world traveler. He has visited over fifty countries.
I have never been sailing.

My boat was a 12′ Challenger,  but it did look a lot like this one.

You Need a New Lens


I’ve been patient, polite, and tolerant in extreme measures to people who support Donald Trump, but to be honest, Trump supporters are not just wrong about him. These are people who are looking at life through one hell of a distorted lens. Not everything is subjective. Bigotry is never okay.

If you think there are certain groups of people who are less human than you, the lens from which you see the world is distorting your view. If you think you’re superior to people of color, to women, to gays, to Muslim or Jews, or any marginalized group, you’re a racist, a misogynist, and a bigot.

If you think this country needs a wall along the Mexican border, that undocumented immigrants need to be rounded up and deported, that Mexico sends us their rapists and murderers, that Muslims should be banned, that sexual harassment is not to be taken seriously, and that Donald Trump speaks for you, then you are in the lowest common denominator. Trump isn’t appealing to your intellect. He’s appealing to your emotions and fears. It’s a cheap shameless way to get a vote. The masses have always been upset about generalized issues, foolishly believing there is an easy solution to the problems in our country.

Now, there’s a narcissistic demagogue named Donald Trump, who’s clever enough to convince you that he alone can fix all your problems. But the more I hear him speak the less clever I think he is. He really just views the world the same way you do. So you, the lowest common denominator, and Donald Trump relate to one another over these biases.  I get that you think someone is finally speaking for you, but he’s really only saying what you want to hear, so you’ll vote for him, chant his name, and feed his ego. You are being used and manipulated.

I don’t think Trump supporters are necessarily stupid, but it’s not your intelligence at work here. It’s your fears and hatred of all of the terrible ways you think your country has let you down–and along comes this larger than life figure who understands you like no one ever has. Only Trump can’t fix these perceived wrongs any more than anyone can. Some problems are a matter of perspective. The country isn’t broken. Your lens is broken.

If Trump is elected, you’re still going to see the same problems you see now because that’s the way you view the world. Donald Trump doesn’t care about what is going to happen when you finally figure out he can’t fix all your problems because his only mission at the moment is to win at all costs. He won’t know what to do when he gets there, but for now, he doesn’t care. For him it’s about the win.

 

 

Best Laid Plans


I am learning that folks in the Northeast are not as impressed with my qualifications as I had hoped. So after months of a disappointing job search, I decided to take a different approach.  Actually, I’m just going back to my original plan to become a teacher.

 

To become an alternatively certified teacher in Oklahoma, I will be required to take at least one credit hour of post graduate coursework. So here’s what is going to happen. I am enrolled at Cameron in the graduate program to study to become a reading specialist. Sometime after January I am going to take the OSAT for English teachers. If I pass, I’ll be alternatively certified. I will take the OPTE last.  That’s the Oklahoma Professional Teaching Exam. When I finish grad school, I’ll be able to take the test to be a reading specialist. Then I will be considered standard certified which means my certification will be reciprocal in Virginia.
Then I can go to Virginia, take their certification and reading specialist test, and boom! I’ll be employable in Virginia, and I can finally get out of Oklahoma.  I think I can get it all done in less than three years. I wish Cameron had a concentration in adult literacy since I want to work with adults. I am hoping that as a reading specialist I will be skilled in working with adults.
So I will start classes in August. I’m not super excited. At this point I am just doing what I need to do to become employable. I will probably substitute teach along the way.

Success isn’t a Secret, it’s a Decision


Back to school one last time started on May 29, 2014. I was more afraid I would quit again than I was fiercely determined to press on.

Billy came home in October that year, and I was afraid he would derail me. Later he became very supportive, which helped me to start believing I might really graduate.

Then our dog died, Billy got a brain bleed, refused treatment, moved out, decided to come home, but died only a few hours after we decided he should come home, in December 2015.

I don’t know how I got through the spring 2016 semester. Billy died only three weeks before the semester started, and I was consumed with grief when I returned to school in the spring. I was very afraid I would quit again, since in the past I usually quit school whenever life got overwhelming. Dr. Hodgson, the department chair was also concerned I might drop out because it had always been my pattern.

It took me over fifty years to learn that successful people are the ones who choose a path, set goals, and keep going no matter how hard life gets at times.

I missed out on a lot by not learning the path to success a long time ago. Yes, it’s good that I figured it out, but not nearly as rewarding because many opportunities were squandered.

Life really is very short. We have to make the most of every moment we’re given to live the best life we can live.

 There are Certain Things Every Educated Person should Know


Three college professors influenced me the most of every teacher I ever had in my life. Donna Evers taught me how to write a news story.  I liked her because she loved newspapers like me. She taught us to report the news, when not every story was breaking news. You could smell the ink as soon as you walked through the doors of the Lawton Constitution. The newsroom energy was exhilarating with desk phones ringing, typewriters clanking, and reporters hurrying to meet deadlines.  News was Donna Evers world, and in 1983 she taught me about that world in Intro to Journalism at Cameron University. Journalism has changed a lot since then, and I am grateful to have been taught by an old school journalist, and to have been a part of that exciting vibrant culture for a moment in my life.

Larry Shanahan taught me how to write an academic paper. He had to, really. He already liked the way I wrote, and had recommended me for his wife’s honor’s English class when he found out I didn’t know how to write a research paper. In those days the university didn’t even have a writing lab, so he tutored me. He is the reason I know how to research and write an organized paper.

Mary Shanahan taught me how to analyze literature. She believed in authorial intent. She said the writers had a specific message in mind when they wrote a story.  When she first walked into Comp II class circa 87, her stance was commanding and fierce. The chatter among the students stopped, and we all looked at her because we could tell she was going to say something we needed to know.  She said,

“What important event happened from 1914 to 1918?”

She expected an answer. To everyone’s relief one student knew the answer.

“World War I,” he said with confidence.

“That’s right,” she said. “Do you know why I asked you all that question? Because there are certain things that every educated person needs to know.”

These three professors taught me how to think, so I could filter through the sludge and find the truth.

Mary Shanahan died on May 11, 2016, six days after I finally got my bachelor’s degree in English literature. I would come and go from Nance Boyer hall at Cameron University so many times in 33 years. My memories walked those halls with me every time I was there. I ran down the stairs with Susan Jackson, hurrying off to somewhere, laughing about something. I watched Kevin Bartram develop photos for the Collegian in his darkroom. The Center for Writers is located in the old Collegian offices now. Kevin’s darkroom is their break room now.

I don’t know when the Shanahans left Nance Boyer for the last time. I was gone to Tulsa by then. I walked out for the last time on May 4, 2016. My memories walked out with me. Mary Shanahan ‘s voice always echoed in Nance Boyer. Her presence resonated in the halls and classrooms. I imagine she’s enjoying a dry martini right about now. Thank you, Mrs. Shanahan. I’ll see you when I get there.

Go here to read a poignant tribute written by a family member.

 

Rudy Ramos opens Solo Fest at Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks, California with “Geronimo, Life on the Reservation”


If you live in Sherman Oaks, or happen to be in the area, Rudy Ramos is opening tonight, Saturday, January 3, 2015 at Whitefire Theater,  with his one man production of  “Geronimo, Life on the Reservation.”   Solo Fest is a popular event in the Los Angeles area, and  Ramos is thrilled with the opportunity to open the festival with his play. Whitefire Theater owner, Bryan Rasmussen invited Ramos to open Solofest with “Geronimo,” and has also scheduled the play to be performed on January, 10, 17, 24, 31, and February 7.  All performances will be on a Saturday night.

If you don’t live in the LA area, new tour dates are opening for “Geronimo” all the time. Take a look at the schedule to see when the production will be near you.  You may also book “Geronimo, Life on the Reservation” at a venue in your area. Since its opening last March in Tucson, at the High Chaparral Reunion, the requests for bookings have been steadily on the rise.

“Geronimo, Life on the Reservation picks up the story of the great Apache warrior from his surrender in Arizona in 1886, and continues through his death in Lawton, Oklahoma in 1909. This is a part of Geronimo’s story that has never been told, and Ramos portrays Geronimo with honesty, humor, and compelling perspective that has the audience believing that they are watching Geronimo himself.

Here is a video of Ramos as Geronimo that was recorded at the High Chaparral Reunion in March. This clip is the opening of the play:

Author, Janelle Meraz Hooper, wrote the script for “Geronimo, Life on the Reservation,” and you can look at her website here.

2015 is going to be a big year for Ramos, and “Geronimo, Life on the Reservation.”  Be sure to check the schedule to find out when there will be a performance in your area.

Nearly 105 Years after Geronimo’s Death, Rudy Ramos Gives a Voice to the Great Apache Warrior


Geronimo has been the subject of movies before; Chuck Conners played Geronimo in Geronimo 1962, and in 1993 Wes Studi took on the legend in Geronimo: An American Legend.  In the 1950’s  Desilu western television show,  The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Earp befriends Geronimo.  But no one has ever resurrected the Spirit of Geronimo, and allowed himself to become the embodiment of the Great Apache Warrior turned prisoner of war… until now.

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Rudy Ramos, a Lawton, Oklahoma native, returned home to perform his one man stage production of Geronimo, Life on the Reservation, written by Janelle Meraz Hooper on Saturday, May 3, 2014.  Ramos has been on the road touring with his live production of Geronimo, Life on the Reservation since March 22, 2014 when the show premiered in Tucson at the annual 2014 High Chaparral Reunion.

Ramos’s performance before a hometown crowd at The Lawton Community Theater did not disappoint.  A full house eagerly welcomed the actor home.  While waiting for the show to begin, the local audience chattered amongst themselves about “how they knew Rudy.” Image

The chattered died down when Ramos took his place on stage for act one.  The play begins in 1886 Arizona as Geronimo prepares to surrender to the US government, and Ramos’s audience travels back in time and becomes Geronimo’s audience.  As the play progresses, it becomes apparent that Geronimo takes great pleasure in entertaining an audience.  An enraptured crowd who thought they came to see Rudy Ramos play Geronimo is instead taken on a journey through time, hosted by Geronimo, that begins at the warrior’s surrender in Arizona, and ends in Lawton, Oklahoma, 1909, shortly before his death.

Through Ramos, Geronimo is allowed to share his innermost thoughts with his audience.  We see more than just another side to Geronimo.  We are given access to his mind and his spirit so that we are able to understand who Geronimo really was and how he made the decision to surrender, not to give up, but to preserve the future of the Apache tribe.

Ramos’s brilliant performance was unquestionably worthy of the approval of Geronimo, himself.  To no one’s surprise, Ramos received a standing ovation, and afterwards was mobbed by audience members who wanted the chance to get autographs, pictures, and meet the man who took us all on a riveting journey that left every single person spellbound in the end.

To find out more about Geronimo, Life on the Reservation click hereTo learn more about the author, Janelle Meraz Hooper click here. To find out about the next High Chaparral Reunion click here.

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