Remembering Jennifer the gentle messenger

September 17, 2017 Leave a comment

“Hello, I’m Jennifer,” said the lady, who looked to be in her late 20s.

She had long dark hair and looked stylish, a lifetime meticulous dresser, in her blouse and miniskirt. As pretty as she looked, she would’ve been perhaps beautiful if not for being about 50 pounds underweight. Her frame, what little flesh remained on her face, arms and legs, looked skeletal.

“How many of you know someone who is HIV positive?” she asked.

I was an Army soldier in a group of service members from various branches. Maybe three out of the 25 raised their hands. This was intended to be an HIV briefing when I was stationed in 1998 at the Lackland Air Force Base Annex.

Seeing only three raised their hands, Jennifer smiled and replied, “Well, now, all of you do.”

Jennifer was with a San Antonio HIV foundation (I believe it was the San Antonio AIDS Foundation) and briefed us on the latest on the deadly STD: that any potential “cure” was still in the infancy stages, that retired NBA star Magic Johnson wasn’t cured of HIV despite being in excellent overall health, that HIV is the virus, and AIDS means the virus has wreaked such havoc on the body that the body’s immune system is now fatally compromised.

She also told us that AIDS was not just a homosexual disease as many thought in the Eighties. Heterosexuals could also get it, and not only through sexual contact. Some got it through tainted blood transmissions.

Yes, of course, someone’s curiosity got the better of them. “How did you get HIV?” they asked.

Without batting an eye, she told them a sexual partner gave it to her.

That was almost 20 years ago. There’s no Jennifer listed on the Website, and the gentleman in charge of public relations there tells me she doesn’t sound familiar. My intuition tells me she’s no longer with us. She was a nice lady in spite it all. To borrow a powerful line from the movie Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior: she now exists only in my memory.

If you know about Jennifer and where she is, please email me at richardzowie@gmail.com 

Advertisements

School names, school names…

September 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Last we checked in with San Antonio public schools, administrators voted to rename Robert E. Lee High School to something ostensibly more politically correct and less likely to cause violence. Some consider the name an embarrassing nod to America’s “racist past,” and others feel it honors Lee, whom they consider “an officer and a gentleman.”

Others have wondered where it will end. Shouldn’t Jefferson and Jay High Schools change their names, since their namesakes were slave owners? Perhaps Kennedy High School, named after serial skirt chaser JFK should receive a name that’s less misogynistic.

The Hispanic news website News Taco suggested the new name perhaps should be named after someone Hispanic, since no high schools in San Antonio are named after anyone who’s Tejano.

As I pondered this, a few names came to mind of Hispanics who’ve had big influences in San Antonio. Even though my politics are different from theirs, I thought of Henry Cisneros (the city’s second Hispanic mayor) and the late Carlos Guerra (a longtime newspaper columnist who campaigned for Hispanic rights and educational opportunities) and the late San Antonio Archbishop Patrick Flores.

There was also another name I thought of, a well-known San Antonian who’s still alive. When I messaged him, he thanked me but said there were others more deserving.

One friend made yet another suggestion: why not name high schools the way New York City does? P.S. (Public School) 1, P.S. 2, P.S. 3, etc.

That’s a harmless compromise–unless you hate math and find numbers offensive.

A few musings on Aug. 27, 2017…

August 27, 2017 Leave a comment

…I love watching football and have been a staunch Dallas Cowboys fan since 1979. However, I have no plans to watch any games this season until ALL NFL players stand at attention during the playing of the National Anthem and give the U.S. flag its due respect. Yes, I know Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has ordered his players to do so, and I know that Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown gave the Browns a pre-game speech that resulted in all standing at attention after not doing so a week ago, but unless the respect is league wide, I’m not interested. There are plenty of other things I can do with the three hours a game normally takes…

…While the conservative side of me supported some parts of Texas’ “bathroom bill,” the practical side of me believes the priority was in school finance reform. One school board trustee in Fredericksburg ISD said we’re still trying to manage budgets on using dollar figures from several years ago. What good are bathroom laws if schools are going broke because the funding formulas haven’t been updated?…

…Speaking of bathroom bills, why not this compromise of three different bathrooms: Male, Female and None of Your Business…

…I was reading some debates recently on the intelligent design debate, and saw an atheist talking about how there was no “scientific evidence” for God. That, of course, is highly debatable. I do think part of the problem is that atheists use finite minds to try to understand an infinite God. Finite cannot understand infinite. Never has been able to, never will…

…Among the unpublished short stories I have includes one based on my misadventures in online dating. I will say this: the great irony is that women are perfectly capable of doing exactly to men what they hate men to do to them…

…One of the greatest gifts you can acquire is knowing who is worthy–and who isn’t–of the dignity of a response. These days, if I don’t always reply, it sometimes means, “I’ve said all I can say. Believe what you want.”…

Steve Gehrlein, in memoriam

April 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Steve Gehrlein

For those of us in San Antonio, Steve Gehrlein needed no introduction. He owned Cambridge Auto Center and had a car talk show on AM 550 KTSA on Saturday mornings. When not talking cars on the air, he was testifying in court about them. That man knew everything about engines.

And if you think I’m exaggerating, you would be badly mistaken.

Before moving to Michigan in 2004 for what would be a nine-year sojourn, I spent a few months screening calls for Steve at KTSA. Being the son of a mechanic, I loved being around him.

Steve was indeed a unique person. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he moved to Texas as a youth and had a strong Texas twang. He was colorful when not on the air, but he could take it as easily as he dished it out. When I counter-teased him about finding his toupee on Eharmony, he didn’t get upset in the slightest.

I remember once needing caffeine one morning and seeing him in the breakroom. I asked him if I could borrow 50 cents from him. He pulled a dollar out of his thick wallet and gave it to me and then shook off my promise to pay it back. “I have plenty of money, Richard,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.”

On the air, Steve would also make jokes about his intelligence in all issues unrelated to cars. He was actually very sharp. Politics, social issues, common sense, he mastered them all. I often thought that if Ricci or Trey Ware ever needed the day off from their talk show, Steve could’ve filled in and easily held his own on any topic.

Steve also talked about his faith also, and I thought that in Michigan in 2013 when I was making plans to return home. I googled him to see how he and his show were doing. As it turned, out, he’d passed away in 2011 of a heart attack.

Until perfection is restored to the world, there will be tears and heartache in heaven. For Steve Gehrlein, there will also be boredom, as there are no more cars to repair.

R.I.P., Steve. See you someday on the other side.

Post comments here or email them to fromatozowie@gmail.com.

Speaking Chinese in Fredericksburg, Texas

March 30, 2017 Leave a comment

In one of my recent assignments for the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, I spent time reporting on a group of Chinese tourists who were in town recently. Having spent eight months from 1996-1997 studying the Chinese Basic Course at Defense Language Institute (Mandarin Chinese, specifically), it was a thrilling assignment.

As I took pictures, I listened to them talk. My Mandarin is very rusty, even much more so than my Russian, but I could pick up words here and there as they tried on cowboy hats. I would learn during the interview that cowboy hats aren’t common in China. They’re mostly worn for fashion purposes by women, and among men, they’re more popular among the artistic types. Surely, there are cattle in China. It makes me wonder what the niu zai in China wear, and, looking back, I regret not asking. Interviews tend to be quick and to the point when you’re doing it mostly through a translator.

Still, a few times I got to show off what Chinese I can still speak — much to the group’s satisfaction:

你们好!

How you’d say hello to a group of people. They immediately smiled and responded back, “你好!”

They sounded pleasantly surprised that an American could speak Chinese.

So, I decided to introduce myself…

“我叫 Richard.”

Later, they wanted me to tell them how I could speak Chinese, but they wanted me to speak in Chinese.

Here’s what I said, for better or worse:

“我学了中文在国防语言学院在一九九六年.”

It’s supposed to mean: “I studied Chinese at Defense Language Institute in 1996.”

And they sounded like they understood it.

“What’s your favorite Chinese phrase to say in America?” the translator asked me.

I said: “请你给我筷子.”

They all laughed. Heartily. It’s a phrase you say to a waiter in a Chines restaurant when you’d like to have chopsticks.

Finally, I wrote down the name I was assigned when I studied Chinese. My given first and last name is Richard Zowie, and in Chinese, I was known as Zuo Ruicha. Or:

左瑞查

Side note: one of my teachers at DLI at the Presidio of Monterey, California, was Wang Lao Shi (Lao Shi means “teacher.”) Her full given name, last name then first name, was Wang Manglin. She would probably be in her sixties now. If anyone knows where she is, please let me know. I’d love to chat with her again.

Richard Zowie studied Mandarin Chinese at DLI from 1996-1997, before transferring into the Russian Basic Course. Post comments here or email fromatozowie@gmail.com.

Missing people and unsolved mysteries

March 19, 2017 Leave a comment

I recently wrote a story about a filmmaker who made a documentary about a 90-year-old cold case. In 1927, a young girl’s body was found in Fredericksburg, Texas. Ten days later, after nobody claimed the body, she was buried in a local cemetery. Boy Scouts went door to door to collect funds.

In 15-plus years I’ve been a journalist, it was one of the toughest stories to write. The young girl was murdered, and her assailant has never been found, nor does anyone know why she was murdered. Her name remains a mystery. She never grew up, never got to live a life, get married, have kids, grow old. She remains a young girl, frozen in time.

Her story reminded me of some creepy stories I’ve heard over the years from friends and acquaintances…

…The lady whose aunt, in 1982 in Los Angeles, walked to a grocery store. She never returned home. I first heard the story in 2002, and after 20 years, police still had absolutely no clues…

…An actor friend who acted in a horror movie based an abandoned car on a California highway. The car was registered to a woman, who had disappeared. She was never found.

The case gets especially heartbreaking when you go to the FBI website and look up missing persons reports. You will drown in the results.

Lord willing, that little girl’s mystery will be solved.

Post comments here or email them to fromatozowie@gmail.com.

Post coments here or

Adventures in geocaching

It’s been tough to geocache lately, since I’ve gotten most of them where I live in Fredericksburg, Texas. The most recent one was fun: you had to find the sun and planets and use the numbers on each planet to solve a puzzle that revealed the coordinates for the geocache. The person who created that was kind enough to include Pluto among the planets.

After finding one in Falls City, Texas on Saturday, I noted with dismay of all the towns in the Slavic corridor of Highway 181 in South Texas, only Poth has no geocaches. One friend, a lover of puns, called it, “Pothetic.”

I’ve found several in Beeville, Texas (where I grew up) to take my total to 131.

One I’ve not been able to find is somewhere in downtown Beeville near a store that has since closed. The description includes a staircase that leads somewhere unknown. Perhaps it was muggled.