Posts Tagged ‘From A to Zowie’

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 


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.”…

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.

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What to do with Tony Romo?

November 24, 2016 Leave a comment

2016 might go down as one of the Dallas Cowboys’ best drafts. How often do you draft a running back and quarterback and have both tearing up the league? Most rookie quarterbacks spend their first season on the sideline with a clipboard. In five years, many of them are out of football. As for running backs, many spend their first year enduring the brutal reality that the NFL defensive linemen and linebackers are far bigger, meaner, faster and stronger than their college counterparts.

Let’s face it: Dak Prescott isn’t just the future of the Cowboys, he’s also the now. Originally intended to back up Tony Romo for a few seasons and then step in and start as quarterback, Prescott was forced into the starter role when Romo went down in preseason with a shoulder injury. Prescott’s touchdown-to-interception ratio is mind boggling (currently 17 TD passes, two interceptions), and he set the record for most passes to start an NFL career without an interception. He’s poised and is a rookie who acts like a veteran who craves pressure.

Prescott is doing so well that Romo is currently serving as a backup.

What to do with Tony Romo?

Word is, he wants a trade to the Denver Broncos. Other teams are said to be interested. Romo is 36, and if he is traded, he’ll want to go to a team with a shot at the Super Bowl.

I’d love to see Dallas keep Romo for this reason: the team needs two solid, reliable quarterbacks. Romo knows the system and has shown that if given decent protection, he’s almost unstoppable. If he’s traded and Prescott goes down with an injury, then Dallas would probably be stuck with another Brandon Weeden Problem–having a terrible quarterback who’s not cut out to lead a team and move the ball, much less win football games.

A co-worker said Romo will probably have to be traded or cut at sometime. He signed a huge contract a year or so ago, and it probably doesn’t make sense to the Cowboys to have a high-priced backup quarterback.

Regardless, I’ll say this: Tony Romo belongs not only in Dallas’ Ring of Honor, but also someday in the NFL Hall of Fame. He’s had an awfully good career for an undrafted free agent who’s had no help for most of his tenure. Yes, he’s a gunslinger who can throw frustrating interceptions, but that often happens when you have no help on defense and know you have to do it all yourself. Yes, he’s had a lot of injuries. That often happens when you absorb a lot of heavy hits.

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Remembering my drill sergeants

November 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Veterans Day is gone, but I’d like to make a belated post about the topic. For our newspaper, we did a special section of various stories on veterans. One was where the vets reminisced about their drill sergeants.

So, I thought I’d reminisce about three I remember well. Alas, I have pics of only two…

Drill Sergeant Richard Kenner


I went through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, from February to April 1996. It began cool, became cold enough for snow, then ended with temperatures that almost hit 90. That’s probably typical for the Show Me State.

My company was Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment. We were the last to pass through, as 5-10 was reclassified as 2-47.

Sgt. Kenner (a few cycles after us, he would become Staff Sgt. Kenner), had this steel, blue-eyed gaze you could see from about 500 meters away. We were all afraid of him at first as he seemed very no-nonsense and sarcastic. One soldier complained about him to a female cashier at the commissary, not knowing the cashier was MRS. Kenner. Thankfully for them, Sgt. Kenner found it too funny to get angry.

He made us do pushups and other punishment and had no tolerance for mottos yelled wrong, cadences out of step, rifles not taken care of, barracks not kept neat. Whenever he’d have us do pushups as punishment, he’d always yell, “Just freakin’ DROP!”

I tried to avoid getting his attention, but once on the rifle range, he looked at me firing a rifle and said, “Private Zowie, are you a WRONG hander?!”

He’d seen I was a lefty, but before I could get too indignant, a left-handed drill sergeant interjected and made it clear there was nothing wrong with being a southpaw.

Towards the end, of course, we could see that Sgt. Kenner really cared for us, and I grew to where I actually looked forward to having him around.

Before graduation, he came up on his off-day as he somehow knew many of us wanted him to sign our yearbooks. He signed mine as well. “Be hard or be gone. No room for wimps.”

That phrase has helped me get through some rough patches in my life.

Drill Sergeant William Thompson

Sgt. First Class William Thompson was my drill sergeant when I was at AIT at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, from February to April 1998. Like Fort Lost-in-the-woods, it was bitterly cold and then became scorching hot. I’ve often thought if a person wanted to invest in wind energy, they should set up those towers in San Angelo. Each day, it seemed, it was windy enough to blow off Burt Reynolds’ toupee.

I expected to have a sadist for a drill sergeant, but Drill Sergeant Thompson was fair. He was tough, but he made it clear: don’t give me a reason to be hard on you, and I won’t. He had a family that he loved to spend time with, and he made it clear he’d rather spend weekends with them than having to babysit us due to some punishment.

The first time I met him, he saw my wedding ring and asked about my family. I told him my wife (now my ex-wife) was pregnant.

“Is she having a boy or girl?”

“A boy, drill sergeant,” I said, noting it was best to address them at least every third sentence.

“Outstanding, PFC Zowie,” Thompson said, smiling. “I told my wife she wouldn’t be able to quit child bearing until she gave me a son, and now I have three!”

When we did PT, Thompson encouraged us to use proper form on pushups. “If you do pushups incorrectly, you will become an expert at doing pushups the wrong way, and on the day of your APFT, you will be one very sorry soldier!” he said.

Thompson’s PT sessions often left me tired, but I easily passed my APFTs and I even lost more weight while at Goodfellow: I went there at 165 pounds and left at 158.

When the day came that I finished AIT and was able to exchange my generic U.S. Army brass pin for a military intelligence pin to officially become a careerist, I chose Thompson to pin me on.

Drill Sergeant Larry Gilman


How does Sgt. First Class Larry Gilman look in the picture? No smile, mean, you say?

He was 6’4″, around 220 pounds, deep, gravelly voice, used profanity in almost every sentence and seemed well-read about the world from a military perspective.

One day, he looked at us while we were in formation. He saw my nametag, which read ZOWIE.

His dark brown eyes had this look that seemed to say, “I’d thought I’d seen it all.”

“You’ve gotta be [EXPLETIVE] me!” he said, almost as if trying not to laugh. “Is that really your last name, private?!”

I assured him it was and offered to let him look at my driver’s license.

Shortly after that, Gilman was reassigned to be an interim first sergeant at another company. “They gave me a big pile of [EXPLETIVE] and told me to make it smell nice!” he told one soldier.

The last I heard of Gilman was from a copy of Army Times. He’d been promoted to master sergeant. I’d love to meet him again someday, as I’d often think he probably had a million stories to tell.

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Netflix: please continue ‘Longmire’

October 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Several weeks ago while bored and looking for an instant view show on Netflix to binge on, I joined the “posse” and became hooked on Longmire.

For those not familiar: This show centers around Walter Longmire, a sheriff in the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming. He doesn’t like technology, but he’s great at solving murders and other crimes. His best friend is Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyenne who owns the Red Pony bar. He has a tumultuous relationship with Mathias, the sheriff on the Cheyenne reservation (on the show, they call it “res” or “rez” for short). It seems that neither Mathias nor other prominent Native Americans Jacob Nighthorse or Malachi Strand seem too friendly with Longmire. We can attribute this to America’s often less-than-honorable dealings with Native Americans. He also seems to have a surrogate father relationship with his deputy, Victoria “Vic” Moretti.

Season five is done, and I finished watching it about a week ago. I am left to wonder, will there be a season six? Will this be yet another show, such as That 70s Show, where I didn’t get into it until after it was over? How is Vic handling her pregnancy? Who’s the father? Will Longmire survive the lawsuit? Will Nighthorse and the mayor enter an alliance? Will Standing Bear survive his ordeal?

Finally, why on earth didn’t Standing Bear and Nighthorse kill Malachi* when they had the chance?

As I watch the show and see the ongoing whites-versus-Native American interactions and conflicts (Standing Bear refuses to serve turkey at his bar, saying that turkey was served at “Thanks-taking”), I often wonder why A&E chose to drop this show. It’s now exclusive to Netflix. So far, Longmire has remained fascinating after five seasons, the kind of fascination where some may desperately turn to non-canon fan fiction to get an idea of what happens next. This is in contrast to show I’ve enjoyed, American Horror Story, that seems to have lost itself in a dreamy landscape of the same themes.

* I may not like Malachi Strand the character, although as a Caucasian of only trace Native American ancestry, I’d prefer to be slow to judge. But, Graham Greene does a brilliant job portraying him. If you’re reading this, Mr. Greene, good on ya, sir.

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