The District Manager Pt. 14

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“Pretty much, Mason.” There is a pause. It’s time to get down to business. “So what’s been going on?”

“Well, not a lot. However, I was alerted to an interesting situation in Bowers this past week.”

“Bowers. What’s going on down in Bowers?” he asks, sit-
ting up.

“Well, sir, it appears there’s an illegal dog fighting operation going on.”

“Dog fighting, what kinds of dog fighting are we talking about?”

“If you are referring to what types of dogs are being fought, then it’s pit bulls.”

“Pit bulls, aren’t they super-vicious, with jaws like goddamned bear traps?”

“They definitely have bad ass jaws, but I think they are bred to be vicious because of that very fact. I don’t think they are necessarily vicious by nature.”

“Well this is terrible, Mason! How in the hell did you find out about this?”

“A constituent: a man by the name of Julius Reynolds. A coon ass from the swamp lands.”

“Coon ass? Reynolds doesn’t sound like Louisiana to me.”

“Yeah, I know. By the sound of his voice I thought he was a Yankee, but he’s from New Orleans.”

“That’s an easy mistake to make, Mason. They sound similar. So tell me about this Julius Reynolds fella.”

“Well…”

I proceed to tell my boss all the details, including the part about Bowers Power, Inc.

“That’s interesting, Mason, very interesting indeed. I suggest you proceed with caution. But definitely proceed.”

“As I’ve told you, sir, I don’t know how to proceed, as all other governmental avenues have been exhausted. I guess we are Mr. Reynold’s last resort.”

“Have you tried the attorney general’s office?”

“No. Do you think I should?”

“Not yet, Mason. Before we do that we should try to figure out all we can ourselves…with the help of Mr. Reynold’s of course. Such as, who licenses dog kennels? That might be a good place to start.”

“Well, it would have to be the TDLR.”

“I’m not as good with these damn acronyms as you, Mason; who is that again?”

“The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.”

“Good thinking, Mason. See what they have to say. And remember…be discrete.”

Something’s been eating at me since I left the apartment; that something is Keith. I change the subject—again.

“We wouldn’t need so many of these acronyms if we legalized drugs.”

“The TD—whatever the hell they are—they don’t regulate drugs, do they?”

“No sir, if it’s legal then it’s the FDA, with edicts occasionally from the DEA. What I’m talking about is illegal drugs.”

“Christ NO! Jesus, Mason, we can’t do that. Are you out of your mind?”

“Not in the least bit, sir. Think about it…think about all the agencies that exist in law enforcement specifically because drugs are illegal.”

“Well, I know the DEA is a huge cost to the federal government.”

“And a fucking failure!”

“I love your passion, Mason. It’s one of the things that makes you so good at what you do, but no. It won’t work, think about the unintended consequences.”

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The Art of Orlando Reyna on display at B R Vino’s in downtown Rosenberg

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lightning-strikes

Originally published in the Fort Bend Herald July 19, 2016.

ROSENBERG –

The evening of Saturday, July 9th I popped into B R Vino in downtown Rosenberg’s Cultural District. The atmospheric wine bar doubles as an art gallery. On display was local artist Orlando Reyna.

Reyna’s art varies from multi-medium pieces to traditional canvas paintings. He has found his niche in the painting and resining of old acoustic guitars. Reyna’s palette offers the eyes a mixture of the bizarre, and dare I murmur…even the beautiful.

Reyna’s virgin offering in the guitar series is titled Lighting Strike. Imagine an eighties L.A.-style abstract fashioned in the underworld, roughed out over a macabre background of dark blues and purples. The patches of red, magenta and yellow serve not to brighten but to burn. The single coil of copper that snakes its way up the fret board is a fitting garnish.

Other standout guitar art pieces are Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead.) The background dia-de-los-muertosfrom which the painted guitar is fastened is in the shape of a jet black coffin. Night of a Thousand Drunken Vatos is as colorful and crazy as its title suggests. Lluvia Purpura (Purple Rain) is a tasteful tribute to the late Artist Formerly Known as Prince.  These guitar art titles are just a sample in a collection of many noteworthy pieces.

The bulk of Reyna’s canvas paintings, set against the guitar pieces, serve largely as filler. There are several worth citing due to their individual merit though. Sin Sentido (meaningless,) has a portal effect reminiscent of Mark Rothko. Breath of Fire, with its diagonal brushwork and vivid colors is engaging, as is Mascara Rojo (Red Mask.)

The center piece which ties the entire exhibit together in a loose theme is the canvas painting, Cabeza Loco. With its large, scribbled, skeletal-like visage and graffiti scrawled backdrop, it would hang perfectly at home in the dungeon of one of Walter White’s competitors.

Reyna’s brush technique is a self-taught, largely staccato application. His style is notable for his ability to lift dark undertones out of even the brightest of colors.

Orlando Reyna’s art collection will be on display at B R Vino’s through September. Stop by for a drink, a bite and a gander.

www.brvino.com

www.estudioorlando.com

Matt Minor is a culture columnist for the Fort Bend Herald.

The District Manager Pt. 13

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I have to meet my boss at his place of business in Wagoneer County. The Rep is a financial advisor by profession and his office is across from the county courthouse. When I get there, a strange car is parked where I usually park. I grab my briefcase and hurry inside. I’m late.

“He’s got somebody in his office. I have no idea who he is,” The secretary informs me as I dart past her.

“Ah, Mason, come on in,” he says, standing up from his desk.

“Have you ever met Jack Clark? Jack is a political consultant fresh back from Europe.”

Clark stands up to greet me. He is frighteningly thin and nearly bald. He’s wearing an American flag tie.

“I don’t believe I have. How do you do, Mr. Clark?”

“Call me Jack, Mason. You don’t mind if I call you Mason
do you?”

“That’s the handle they gave me, Jack.”

I take a seat next to Jack. We both sit facing the Rep., who sits behind his sprawling, messy desk.

“Jack here was just telling me about England and Amsterdam and…where else did you work?”

“Bulgaria. I worked on the presidential election in Bulgaria. That’s one of the Balkan states.” He turns and addresses me.

“Yes, I know my geography,” I answer.

“Fascinating stuff!” My boss declares. “By the way, Jack and I have been discussing a possible run for Congress.”

“Congress?” I ask. The remark startles me.

“Yes, Congress,” Clark interjects. “The incumbent is very weak. Terrible really. I think your boss has a good shot. Besides, this redrawn House District 100 could revert back to what it was previously if the state loses its lawsuit with the DOJ.”

“That’s right, all these redistricting legal fights with the federal government make campaigning almost impossible because you don’t know where you’re at. That said…Congress is all about raising the money!” the boss interjects.

“We’ll work on that, sir,” Clark concludes. Standing, he shakes our hands, and then excuses himself, leaving the boss and me alone.

“You know, Jack was partners with the late Warren Jenkins.”

“You mean the consultant who was murdered by the cartel a couple of years ago?”

“The very one, although the cartel part was never proved.”

“If I remember correctly, that was pretty gruesome, wasn’t it?”

 “Oh yeah, they dressed the sad bastard up in some strange clothing and cut off his balls. Tried to make it look like some deviant sex thing—I don’t really understand. People of your generation know about that kind of shit better than mine.”

“Yeah, that’s right…some kind of S&M thing, but it was a diversion.”

“What the hell does S&M mean?”

 “Sadomasochism.”

“See what I mean…?”

“Yeah, I see. The world is pretty sick.”

“It’s always been sick, Mason…it’s just gotten sicker… and perverse.” He adds, “Jack might have suffered a similar fate if he hadn’t been hired across the pond. I think it was good for him all the way around. He used to be kind of chubby.”

I’m tiring of this tragedy turned self-help story and want to discuss what was just actually brought up by Jack Clark.

“So what’s the deal with this congressional run?”

“Oh, probably nothing. Just something I’m entertaining; probably a pipe dream.”

“Not if you can get the cash. I agree with Clark, our guy in the Federal House sucks. He’s a fucking patsy for the establishment. And I think you would have difficulty in the old HD 100, that is if it reverts back to the old lines.”

“It’s a two million dollar race, at least.”

“Holy shit!”

“Right.”

“What a joke. Don’t talk to me about representative government and democracy. It’s representation of the wealthy by the wealthy.”

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The District Manager Pt. 12

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Chapter Three

A Meeting With the Boss

It was hard sleeping without Ann. It still felt unnatural even  though I was now crashing on a fresh, smaller mattress. The fact that I knew where she was sleeping every night made it that much harder.

I’d been having some pretty gruesome dreams, of late. But on this night, it was over the top terrible.  It was like one of those campy horror movies—only it wasn’t campy.

I awake like I’ve woken from a bad dream. The bad dream I awake from… I don’t remember. Upon waking I turn and find Ann’s softly curved naked body. Her hip is warm and she starts to moan as I caress its crescent. I nestle up against her and we lie in the spooning position. Her bare bottom is pressed against my groin and I’m getting hard. She releases herself from my right arm, which is pulling her tightly into my erection.

She turns around and looks me in the eyes, studying me. After some silence, she speaks in a strange repetitive tone, “Don’t worry, Mason…you’ll get your revenge. I promise, baby, you’ll get your revenge. I promise you, baby, you’ll…” But before she can finish she starts to profusely vomit chunks of blood.

Horrified, I wake. I sit up. This…this was a bad one.

I feel like I’m steeping in something…a hot dampness, not like sweat but more like…!

I fall out of bed and hit the flea infested carpet face-first. I can feel the little fuckers tugging on my legs.

The light through the blinds has faded into a paler shade of purple. I look at the clock:  6:15 a.m. It’ll be light soon. I realize that Keith is in the den. I can hear music faintly playing. He’s passed out with the stereo on.

“Mason…” Keith asks. He’s sipping a cup of coffee as I hurry about, getting ready for work, “Do you know anywhere I can get some weed?”

“What?” I ask, flabbergasted. I emerge from the tiny bathroom with a mouth full of toothpaste.

“Some weed?”

“Jesus Christ, Keith, you know I can’t do that. If I got nailed, not only would I lose my job but I would damage my boss big time!”

“Yeah, I suppose.” He sounds dejected.

“What do you need marijuana for anyway?”

“It helps with the pain.”

“What pain?”

“Why do you think I have those prescriptions, Mason? I live with chronic pain. It’s a medical condition.”

“So weed is supposed to help with that?”

“Yes. It helps more than anything; and, it doesn’t constipate me.”

“I knew you did drugs before prison…but how do you know it works on this pain?” I swish water in my mouth.

“Because I smoked in prison.”

“What?” I ask, spitting into the dirty, cluttered kitchen sink.

“That’s right. I smoked in prison. It helped with the pain. It helped a lot.”

“Goddamn, these places are worse than even I thought. How the fuck did you get weed in prison?”

“The guards.”

“The fucking guards?”

“Yeah, that’s right. They sold it to us. It was one of the only things they were useful for.”

“Is this how you used the money I sent you… for drugs?” I ask rhetorically, then comment, “I don’t know, Keith, I was there yesterday and they looked like they wanted us for lunch.”

“Not all the guards sold, only a few. One or two.”

Before I bolt out the door I tell him, “I’ll think about it.”

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The District Manager Pt. 11

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I arrive in Bellville, which is south of San Antonio, after a few drab hours. I’ve never had to pick up a released prisoner before and don’t know what to expect. Everyone is curt, if not hostile. I sign some papers, they give me several prescription bottles full of meds. I wait for several hours.

Doors clang with metallic urgency. At last a haggard figure is rolled out by one of the guards. The red hair is going gray and the face looks like an old baseball glove. The only thing I really recognize is the John Lennon-style rims of his cracked glasses.

“Keith, God bless you, man!” I declare, genuinely glad to see him. But his appearance ignites my spleen. “What, they couldn’t at least get you some new glasses?” I ask verbosely, looking around the room at the stagnant prison employees. “Why didn’t you put this in your letters?”

“Save it, Mason,” Keith demands, under his breath.

But I’m not finished. “What the hell am I paying taxes for anyway?” I ask angrily. The guards have turned and are looking at me hungrily, like wolves on a hill surveying an outcast. “I guess to pay your salary!” I say, looking right into the eyes of some bitch with a badge.

“Get me out of here, Mason. Please, let’s go,” Keith pleads. There’s a genuine fear in his voice.

“Don’t worry, bro, they can’t hurt you anymore.” And with that comment, the guards start laughing as they look at each other.

Once out to my car, I discover a problem: I’ve never had to get someone crippled into an automobile. It ain’t easy.

As we head east towards H-Town, Keith and I sit silent. We listen instead to the Drive-By-Truckers, a favorite of his. When he doesn’t respond I throw on Son Volt. Still nothing. I roll the volume down after we pass Sealy.

“I got that Butterscotch Strat out of hock several years ago. It’s been sitting in my closet for quite a while. I bet you’d like to sink your fingers into that fretboard, huh?”

“Yeah, maybe. My hands burn all the time now. Nerves.” Not only do I not know what to say but I feel guilty for even bringing it up. Luckily, Keith continues. “I remember you telling me about that. I really appreciate it, Mason. I really do. You’re the only real friend I have. You really are…” Keith starts to tear up and now we both start feeling really uncomfortable.

I stop at a liquor store and buy the sad bastard a cheap bottle of vodka. We continue to my place in silence.

Getting into my apartment is our next challenge, as I’m on the second floor. There is a ramp, but it’s difficult to negotiate. The doorways of my apartment are not cut to accommodate the handicapped.

Keith sits up all night listening to music and quietly weeping. I have to get up for work in the morning so I go to sleep. But before I close my eyes… I worry about how I’m going to tell him about Ann. He thinks she’s away on business. He’s really looking forward to seeing her.

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The District Manager Pt. 1o

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Wednesday, an old musician friend of mine is getting out of prison. He had been accused and convicted of intent to sell a controlled substance. It was bullshit. He actually was in possession of less than an ounce. But Keith had had a few other lesser charges, and that, combined with the fact that he was poor and something of an insolent smart ass, the judge sentenced him to three years. During the sting, the cops threw him to the ground and kicked him in his lower back, so as to keep him on the ground. This, in-and-of-itself, may not have caused lasting harm to the man. But given the fact that he has a congenital birth defect in his lumbar spine, the jack boot exacerbated an already deteriorating condition. It didn’t help that the bastards in the McConnell Unit refused him a simple orthopedic pillow. Luckily, with the cooperation of the district office where the prison sits, I was able to negotiate some basic care. But it’s apparently too late. Keith is now in a wheelchair.

State prisons are a crime. Underfunded and run by questionable creatures themselves, they are at best a petri dish of potential life-long, expensive health problems; at worst, a recruiting center for drug cartels and gangs.

The criminal justice system is never wrong. The Corrections Committee in the state legislature is apparently powerless. All they ever say is, “There’s nothing we can do.”

State prisons are a death sentence one way or another.

So I get a call from Jules as I’m driving down to Bellville.

“Mason, I’ve been looking into the ownership of that property.”

“And…?”

“It’s interesting, when I went down to the appraisal district they were really rude.”

“Big surprise, but you need to go to the county courthouse.”

“Yes, I figured that one out. But anyway, the Chief Appraiser came out and confronted me, asking me why I was inquiring about the land.”

“Yeah, that woman, she’s a liar and a cheat. That place blatantly violates the law and no one will do anything about it.”

“Sounds familiar.”

“Yeah right!” I confirm with a chuckle. “So what happened?”

“I went to the courthouse and I got the information, but it reveals very little.”

“Oh?”

“It’s in a company’s name: Bowers Power, Inc.”

“That’s catchy. Sounds like it has something to do with that power plant down there.”

“That’s what I was wondering, so I called the plant.”

“You called the plant? You love to entangle yourself in the web of bureaucracy, don’t you?”

“Ha, ha. Maybe so, Mason, maybe so.”

“And…?

“Oh, nothing yet. Left a message with some secretary. She was very nice, I must say. Had no idea what I was talking about.”

“Big surprise. The truth is, Jules, whoever this company is, they probably know nothing about this. That arena is so isolated that I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s being used unlawfully by someone who thinks they can just get away with it. If that’s the case, it’s worked so far.”

“Perhaps, but if someone were to bring it to their attention…”

“They might remove the dogs.”

“That’s right, Mason, they might remove the dogs.”

“I understand.”

“What troubles me is that no one who I have contacted in local government has researched this. I mean, regarding who owns this property.”

“I’m not surprised. That requires work, Jules. Look, the reality here is, this isn’t drugs, there’s nothing to be seized in this particular case that benefits the police or prosecutors. Dogs? They don’t care about a bunch of mutts. No benefit. They’ll just have to pay to put them down or have them sheltered!”

“You are cynical, sir. I hope that you are not right about that.”

“I hope not either, Jules. I hope not either.”

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Thinking Person’s Classic Science Fiction

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Emissary by Chris Rogers – Five Stars

Emissary is highly original science fiction novel in the vein of Robert Heinlein and Stanislaw Lem, with a nod to Bradbury.

Ruell, the ‘Emissary’ of the title, is a fascinatingly original character. Author Chris Rogers does not waste her time diminishing her odd protagonist’s otherworldliness by pandering to our present societal, self-absorbed prejudices. This entity is an alien. It reads like one.

Addison Hale is the President of the United States, and she is one tough lady. While reading the novel, the image that my mind continuously referenced, was not that of any current politician, but rather Chrissy Hynde of the band The Pretenders: a strong woman who carries her burdens without a chip on her shoulder. She manages this even in the face of a very reminiscent VP. This temperance lends her a certain grace.

And the way she and Ruell connect is nothing short of brilliant.

Filled with an assortment of well-developed supporting characters, the novel continuously switches gears at instinctively the right moment.

There are scientific references that sound utterly learned. And through her natural dialogue, Ms. Rogers even throws an occasional bone to current affairs junkies, policy wonks, with dashes of popular culture; melding the unreal and the real together seamlessly.

Emissary is a commitment, intricate and complex, it moves at its own convincing pace. And Ruell’s journey can be very disheartening at times. But the destination most definitely justifies the travel time.

Chris Rogers’ rise among the book world had the good fortune to occur in that last decade before all our art and entertainment fell to corporate mediocrity and the subsequent catering to an intellectually compromised America. Her craft has the rare privilege of existing as just that, a craft. She’s an artist.

When you’re ready for a literate book that will at some point be considered a classic of the genre, sit down with Emissary. It’s a read that will stay with you.

Matt Minor

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Books & Booze

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Join me at BR VINO in Rosenberg’s Cultural District this Saturday the 13th from 6 to 8 PM.
I’ll be selling and signing copies of my latest novel, The District Manager.
www.mattminorauthor.com

BR VINO wine and craft beer bar
1917 Avenue G & 3rd Street
Rosenberg TX 77471
Inside the Vogelsang Building
(832) 595-2881
www.brvino.com

The District Manager Pt. 9

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“How tall is this ladder?” I ask, wiping the perspiration from my eyes.

“Forty-foot.” There’s little breath behind his answer.

“No wonder it’s so heavy.” The metal ladder makes a hard clank as it hits the metal rail.

We survey the monstrosity of this place, aided by his high beam flashlight. The pictures were bad enough, but this…this is flesh and blood. The whole arena smells of shit. The pit bulls, some two dozen of them, have left their pathetic dwellings and are on alert. But not all. Several have not moved since we arrived and I fear they are dead.

“Have you noticed any changes?”

“No. Not since I’ve been aware of this.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Oh, a week ago, last Thursday—over a week now, I guess.”

“In that time you’ve noticed no activity?”

“Someone has to come here at some point. They are fed regularly. This is the third time I’ve been up here and there is always food in the bowls. But I haven’t actually seen anyone. Of course I have to work too, you know.”

“I got the impression you were retired.”

“I am, from the Marine Corps. But my wife got sick last year and my pension isn’t enough. I do consulting work on the side.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your wife. And I thank you for
your service.”

“Oh, she’s doing better—Lymphoma. It’s in remission—experimental drugs. No cure though.”

“So no one you’ve contacted, with the exception of me, has found this even a little disturbing?” I ask sarcastically.

“Oh, they find it disturbing. But everyone says there is nothing they can do, because…”

“Because they have shelter, are on chains, and have adequate food,” I rudely complete his thought.

“Because they have shelter, are on chains, and have adequate food. You are correct, sir.”

“My God, it’s obvious they’re being fought!” I state emphatically. Now, something dawns on me, “Wait a minute, the other day, when I was driving to work, I saw numerous dead dogs lying in ditches, here and there. I couldn’t say for sure, but come to think of it…they could’ve been pit bulls.”

“Well, there you go, Mason.”

“We should inform all parties of this fact. I’ve seen it with my own eyes!”

“What does that prove? No, it won’t change their position, but regarding what you said before your epiphany, and then confirmed by it, yes, they are fighting them, possibly breeding them. If you’ll observe, as far as I can tell these are all females.” He shines his light on the mass of hanging teats.

“The question is who are, ‘they?’”

“Yes, that is the question.”

“Another question is, ‘who owns this property?”’

“I was going to look into that this week.”

“Amazing. No one can do anything. No one sees anything. Are the cops even interested?”

“Sure. There’s even a sheriff’s deputy who lives up the road.”

“What does he say?”

“Oh, how terrible it is…”

“But nothing can be done?”

“No, nothing, nothing can be done. That’s right, Mason.”

I deal with a lot of bullshit problems. So many that the magnitude of any issue I have before me can diminish itself pretty quickly; overshadowed by the next fucked up situation. And…I have a pretty fucked up situation I have to deal with this week.

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The Tarnishing of Texas; (Cowboys in the White House)

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No state has seen their reputation tarnished to such a degree, due to its nationally elected native Presidents, more than the Lone Star State. None.  The Chief Executives in question: Lyndon Baines Johnson and George W. Bush; the 36th and 43rd President’s respectively.

Granted, both men took office in the midst of national upheaval: Johnson upon the death Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.32.02 AMof Kennedy and Bush Jr. in the midst of a disputed election with Al Gore, his Democratic opponent. And no doubt things began to unravel domestically and globally shortly after both these men began governing. Johnson had Vietnam and Bush 911.

Both situations arguably made worse by their ensuing policies…and personalities.

Even taking into consideration the dark cloud under which Johnson entered office, the tall Texan was in fact the heir to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Great Society expanded the welfare state into nearly every nook and cranny of our culture. Particularly with regards to African-Americans. It is Johnson who solidified the black vote for the Democratic Party in perpetuity.

And yet the Left all but hate the man.

He was, as James Michener expressed so perfectly in his epic historical fiction novel, TEXAS, quite unacceptable to the eastern establishment. Johnson got the blame for Vietnam, no doubt…but it runs deeper than that. Johnson’s White House briefings on the state of South Asia only served to exacerbate the issue as the first ever televised war waged in America’s collective living room. Had the war broke out under Kennedy, it might have gone a bit better. It was Johnson’s style that was the problem. A cowboy at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. did not connect. Lyndon Johnson’s legacy was in the crafting of modern political tragedy.

Fast forward to the turn of the millennium and the election of yet another Texan, George W. Bush.  Unlike his northeastern father, George Jr. was a real Texan, and this was the problem. Only those motivated by malice towards the man would refute that he was not tragically at the wrong place at the wrong time. After the felling of the Twin Towers the nation was sad and angry. They needed consolation and action. But Bush not only possessed Johnson’s colloquial defects, he did it with his own particular inarticulateness.

We’ll never know how Al Gore would have actually handled the situation post 911, had he prevailed in the disputed election of 2000. The press would have treated him better, but perhaps he himself would have suffered the same fate as Johnson (unlikely). The reality was that once again a Texan was the leader of the free world in a time of great tumult, and the free world couldn’t connect.

A cowboy in the White House doesn’t work.

The state as a whole has suffered immeasurably from this. Texas was never going to be a darling of the northeastern establishment, but it could have had a seat at the broader table. As it is, the state’s immense cultural achievements remain largely on the periphery. That’s unfortunate for the state, the nation and the world, because Texas has lots to offer.

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