Monday, April 23, 2018


Grandson Jack in Market Square

Walking with grandson Jack downtown is a challenge.  He frolicks, skips, cuts in front of you, runs ahead, then backtracks.  He has a certain frenetic energy that caused some 80's kids to be prescribed ritalin.

His kindergarten teacher at Champion Elementary, Mrs. Cano, seriously considered putting his feet in tennis shoes bolted to the floor, so his movements wouldn't disrupt other kids.

Nena and I laughed at that.  Jack is simply the victim of bad DNA, not just Nena and I, but his dad, the counter-culture Diego Lee Rot.  

During his first grade half year at Skinner, his teacher Mrs. Perez, used an app to explain to Jack's dad how Jack was falling short.  She never realized that it was Jack himself responding to her emails.  LOL.

Nena told Jack before she died that she no longer worried about him.  She knew he was going to do great.

I've always trusted Nena's judgement.


Grandson Jack, Grandma
A friend in my youth, George Pringle, always searched for the answer, the cure, the final solution.  His enthusiasm was contagious, even if, back then, most of us knew his searches were fueled by the manic side of his diagnosed manic-depressive condition..

Up to this point in life I've found no answers, rejecting even some partial solutions I embraced some time ago.

Yet, in home schooling a grandson just turned eight, little formulas sometimes taken for granted, come back to mind.  Yesterday, Jack and I were reviewing the answers to a reading comprehension lesson.

The multiple choice possibilities were a little tricky, some with partial truth, others obviously off.  It was then that a simple formula, learned decades ago, came back to me.

"Jack, look for the stupid answers first," using a word he likes.

"Throw them out.  Then, see if the answer left standing makes sense.  It's called the process of elimination."

The process of elimination, such a simple, but beautifully workable concept.

Jack laughed at the prospect of kicking stupid statements to the curb, a fun, light-hearted moment in the otherwise dreariness of school.

Friday, April 20, 2018


"If a dog's gonna bite, he'll do it as a pup!"
(Legendary Texas Coach Darrell Royal)

Jim Barton,  Carlos Rios
24 year old Carlos Rios is a mere pup in terms of running for office.  Rios readily admits to a learning curve if elected as a Texas Southmost College trustee in Place 6.

"I certainly don't know everything," he admitted to an audience at The Dive Bar, a lively new hangout just off Pablo Kisel Blvd. in Brownsville.

"Not all local students will become doctors or lawyers," Rios continued.  

"Many want to work with their hands making vocational training very important."

Attorney Jerry Danache & The Dive Bar crowd
In contrast to Rios' vigorous youth, incumbent Reynaldo Garcia is 78 and somewhat of a roadblock to TSC gracefully transitioning from the ill-suited Dr. Lily Tercero as president to Dr. Jesus Roberto Rodriguez.

The sentiment exists that replacing Reynaldo Garcia with Rios makes possible a progressive board majority.

J.J. De Leon, Jr. is yet a third candidate for Place 6.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Two issues can pack a room in Brownsville, Cameron County without the enticement of a free chicken plate;  what to do with racist rocks and LNG, liquefied natural gas.

The LNG issue was definitely on the minds of those who filled a side room at Brownsville's Southmost Library Tuesday night for a Brownsville Navigational District candidate forum as evidenced by the fact that most of the questions in the Q&A part of the forum dealt with LNG. The event was co-sponsored by the Brownsville chapter of the League of Women Voters and Mary Helen Flores' Citizens Against Voter Abuse, CAVA.

Two candidates for the Brownsville Navigational District were no-shows, District 4 candidates Steve Guerra and Javier Vera.  Vera sent his wife Nancy Vera, who showed up in culottes to read a statement on her husband's behalf.  Mrs. Vera, describing her husband as a "good guy," stated that he had worked as an auditor at the port and favored "new growth that does not impact the environment."

Nancy Vela, Patrick Anderson, Cesar Lopez, John Wood
Patrick Anderson, a single Los Fresnos teacher and the lone District 4 candidate to make the forum, confessed to having a stack of unwashed dishes in his sink due to the press of the campaign, stating that his campaign centered around public safety and ethics.  He feels the Port of Brownsville's infatuation with fossil fuels ignores the profit and environmental protection of renewable energy. 

Anderson feels that community leaders like Los Fresnos' Val Champion fail to look beyond the "facts" companies present, ignoring pollution issues.  Anderson estimates that one LNG plant alone will emit 500,000 tons of pollution annually into the Cameron County atmosphere.

Cesar Lopez, currently president of the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees, is seeking BND District 2, along with former city and county commissioner John Wood.

Lopez, who obviously favors the LNG plants, believes that the federal government will "properly vet" those companies.

After the meeting, Lopez and I briefly tussled about how many local jobs the LNG plants will create.  I said that the industry was so safety conscious that they would ONLY hire those with LNG experience with locals relegated to janitorial, landscaping and security jobs only.

Lopez disagreed, stating that "hundreds of jobs" would be given to locals in constructing the plants.  

John Wood, Lopez' opponent for District 2, states that the LNG companies are not "like the chemical plants of 40 to 50 years ago," but much safer and more conscientious with respect to the environment.

Wood said that LNG's safety record was "very good in the U.S."

From the editor:  This was the first event I've attended since losing Nena.  I deeply appreciate the kind words of condolence spoken by several in attendance.  

Yesterday, my sister dropped off the picture below, taken 50 years ago in front of a building on Coria Street in Brownsville:

Jim and Nena Barton

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


My wife, Eloisa "Nena" Barton, died yesterday, April 9, at Valley Baptist Hospital in BrownsvilleOut of respect for her longstanding request, there will be no memorial services.

Friday, April 6, 2018


The Model Laundry building at 314 West Elizabeth is being demolished.  While the brick walls are being bulldozed into a pile, the red roof tile is being carefully removed because of its historical value.

As I explained to Grandson Jack and his dad, Diego Lee Rot, Grandma worked at the laundry as a secretary in the mid-60's.


Blake "Pajama Boy" Farenthold

Blake hasn't paid back the $84,000 in taxpayer money he used to pay off a sexual assault case.  Deadbeat Blake!

Thursday, April 5, 2018


Martin Milner, Route 66 TV Show
Had Paul Sanders been a bragger, I would not have believed his story.  But Paul didn't have to exaggerate to impress.

Closely resembling actor Martin Milner of the Route 66 TV show, with a gymnast's body, four years of Spanish at Oregon State, Paul got noticed at the desk of the V.I.C.C. Motel on Central Blvd.

Brownsville Observer Editor, c. 1966,
wearing my Mr. John's suit
Alongside Paul at the V.I.C.C. night desk was another blonde guy from the Pacific Northwest, the current editor of this blog.  

While Paul reconciled the books, I managed the switchboard, not just for the motel, but for all the V.I.C.C. homes and condos, connecting callers with a long distance operator or another room, condo or the restaurant  or bar.  In the morning we gave verbal "wake-up" reminders, using a mechanical timer to remind us of the guest's request.(If someone in one of the condos left their phone off the hook, I had to drive over there and knock on their door as they had tied up a line.  (A much older lady did this several times, answering the door in bra and panties, but I never succumbed.)

I also dealt with complaints, typically about the air conditioning in the VICC's poorly constructed and maintained buildings.  When country singer Rusty Draper and his wife got stuck in a "hot" room,  I moved him to a condo.  Flipping me a quarter, he said:  "Get yourself a beer kid!"

Oh, Paul's story?

Paul left Oregon State two credits short of his degree, leaving behind a college classmate fiance' and his Lutheran minister dad.

He bolted to the Gulf Coast, letting his hair and beard grow out.  He wanted to "taste life," he told me, before living out his predictable one, "the treadmill" as he called it.

At some unidentified place, he launched his kayak into the gulf, carrying food for several days and a pistol, not for self-protection, but to kill himself in case of shark attack.  He likely overestimated his kayaking skill and the suitability of his vessel for the gulf.

But, it was a sudden storm, not sharks, that threatened his life and eventually dumped his limp, unconscious body on a remote shore along the Yucatan peninsula.  Local indigenous people found Paul, mistaking the blonde, bearded 25 year old for the reincarnation of the great god Quetzalcoatl, giving him nourishment and shelter.
Universidad Nacional de Mexico

When he gained strength, they brought him into the village to meet an attractive female professor who taught at the Universidad Nacional de Mexico. The pair became lovers and she introduced him to academic Mexican society.  Paul eschewed formal wear normally required of dinner parties and met the federal district's intellectuals in tee shirt and jeans. His fluent Spanish, intelligence and long blonde beard added credibility to the role of "El Profesor Americano" that his new girlfriend had created for him.

Paul tired of that scene and the woman, confiding in me that even their lovemaking had grown stale.  He took a bus to the closest entry into the United States, Brownsville, filling out several job applications after cutting his hair and beard.

Paul took the worst paying, but for him, most interesting of the job offers: working alongside me as a night desk clerk at the VICC for $1.10 per hour. 

Either of us could check up in an hour or so, barring some huge discrepancy, but Paul's main focus was conversation, interviewing people who came through our lobby after traveling through Mexico and Central America, shrimpers, local entertainers, prostitutes and pimps. Paul was not only bi-lingual but conversant on many topics, considering himself a citizen of the world, who enjoyed ethnic and other diversity. I was similarly loquacious, despite being four years younger.

We dealt with some strange requests.  During one shift, well after midnight, a guest called the switchboard requesting a Mercedes mechanic poste haste to give his vehicle a tune up.

I called Hector at the Philips 66 station on Central Blvd. and he actually came out to check out the Mercedes.  

Minutes later, I got a call from the room with a lot of screaming.  Checking things out, I found the guest, pulling a complete set of Mercedes tools out of his trunk.

"I'll do the work myself," he shouted.  

"Thanks for nothing!"

Another night, the switchboard lit up with complaints about loud screaming in the pool.

I found an extremely drunk guy treading water in the middle of the pool.

When I asked him to quiet down, he shouted:  "Let's get to the bottom of this.  Who's making all this god damn noise?"

When I mumbled something about letting the cops deal with this, he got out of the pool, running to his room totally in the nude.

We had several regulars like Santiago Name.  He pronounced his name as Na.may, but I suspect he'd just answered "yes" to his name being Name to the police or Border Patrol and so had to go by it.

Santiago was a classical guitarist and singer, who played in the bar, then typically serenaded a lady customer in the garden area between the bar and office. We would give Santiago an unoccupied room the maids had not cleaned to entertain his lady friend. 

We registered a guest as Mr. Fried Chicken several times a week, as he would never give his name.  He checked in around midnight two or three times a week, always accompanied by a different lady.  By 1:30 am  he would call the desk requesting two fried chicken dinners.

I would drive downtown to Higgies Cafe, the only restaurant I knew to be open all night, picking up the dinners.

A shrimp boat captain, Albert, from Houma, Louisiana, about 5'3", built like a truck, entertained us with various displays of strength. He kept a wash cloth and 16 penny nail in his back pocket.  To any who would watch, he would cover his palm with the wash cloth, then drive the nail into a 2 X 4 with his open hand.

Paul and I got intrigued by the idea of becoming shrimpers, Paul more than me.  We had an offer to join a boat as headers, the entry level job of taking of the heads off the shrimp.

The motel manager called us into her office, trying to dissuade us from going out to sea.  She wasn't concerned as much about replacing us as she was about one or both of us succumbing to the notorious shrimper lifestyle of "wine, women and song," ruining our lives.

We thanked her kindly for her concern but scoffed at the idea we could be corrupted.

Paul went.  I didn't.

Months later, while Nena and I were on our first date at the Texas Bar in Matamorosa drunken, dirty man with a ZZ Top length beard stumbled toward us.

"Do you know WHO I AM???" he shouted as he pretended to vomit on our table.

"I'm Jesus Fuckin' Christ!"

It was Paul.  He was now a shrimper.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


Rosalio "Chalio" Rivera was not a subservient Mexican.  His pride prevented him from sucking up, even to Mr. Whitman, who owned Whitman's Army Store on E. 11th Street, near Market Square.

So, it wasn't big surprise when Chalio got fired from Whitman's about the same time I got fired from the VICC.(a story to come)

Chalio was dating my sister Sandy, as well as other girls including his eventual wife.

It was both annoying and hilarious to ride along with him in his small Japanese truck.  His driving was herky-jerky and he rolled down his window to whistle at EVERY pretty girl he saw on one side of the street, then looked directly away to the other side of the street as if he was actually whistling at someone else.  Chalio did that twenty times a day, cracking himself up every time!

I got a phone call from Chalio asking if I'd found work.

"Not yet!" I answered.

"Well, they need guys to help unload a boat tomorrow at the Port of Brownsville.  They pay $10 per boat.  Are you interested?"


"Ok, I'll pick you up at 6:00 AM." he told me.

When Chalio arrived the next morning, the cab of the truck was full.  I jumped in the bed of the truck.  Chalio handed me a tortilla with beans.

About ten of us showed up for the job, all Mexican-Americans except for me and two very tall Nigerians.  The ship, named the "Red Diamond," had its belly full of 60 lb boxes of shrimp on ice.  

One person was sent down into the hole of the ship with a crowbar.  His job was to pry a box out of the ice and throw it up through the hole.  

The two Nigerians were placed on deck above the hole to catch the boxes and put them on the conveyor, giving them a push up into the trailer.

Other workers took the boxes at the end of the conveyor stacking them in the trailer all the way to the ceiling. 

I started on the trailer, then made the mistake of asking if I could try it down below.  Someone handed me a crowbar and I jumped into the hole.

The 60 lb boxes were hard frozen.  It took real effort to free them from the ice.  And, some of that ice stayed attached to the box, making them even heavier.

I lasted about an hour and asked if I could go back into the trailer.  Request granted.

Back on deck, I noticed the Nigerians were gone.  I asked Chalio:  "Where'd those guys go?"

"Oh, they went to eat breakfast."

A couple hours later I asked when the big black men were coming back.

"They're eating soup with a fork," I was told.

At the end of the day, we lined up for our pay.  The Nigerians were in line to get theirs, despite only working an hour.

We were handed new crisp bills, a five and two ones.

"I thought we were getting $10?" I asked Chalio.

"Well, the Red Diamond is a smaller ship.  They pay seven," he explained.

I was dropped off at my apartment.  Totally exhausted, I literally fell into bed.

After what seemed like a few minutes, the phone rang.  It was Nena.

"Jim, the Steiners want to take us out for pizza, their treat.  I told them "yes,"  I hope that's ok."

"Oh, damn!"   

I sure didn't feel like it.  Gideon Steiner had a job repairing and installing marine radios.  I did not particularly enjoy the know-it-all's company.  His wife was nice, but on the mousy side.
Today's Version of Gio's Villa

We met at Gio's Villa,Gideon's favorite place, certainly not mine.

We listened to Steiner talk about his job for an hour and then he surprised us, saying he had to split.

Nena and I looked quizzically.  We finished our portion of pizza and walked toward the door only to be met by the cashier.

"Here's your check," she said.

"Gideon didn't pay?" I asked.

"No sir."

I looked at the bill.  Seven dollars and change.  I found the new five and the two ones I'd earned that day.  Nena found the change in her purse.

Within that same week, I found gainful employment at Glen's Supermarket on Boca Chica Blvd. and the north end of Palm Blvd.  

Glen Herman was a staid, conservative, active with the Chamber of Commerce and always wore a bowtie. 

Mr. Herman's frenetic son Elwyn acted as assistant manager, building displays, cashing payroll checks when Mr. Herman wasn't there, almost always singing or humming the song Ricochet Romance:

"I don't want a ricochet romance, I don't want a ricochet love
If you're careless with your kisses, find another turtle dove"

Glen's Supermarket Ad in
Brownsville Herald
Elwyn and his dad frequently clashed, sometimes exchanging angry words in the store.  They were actually polar opposites.

One evening, as Mr. Herman was leaving the store, a shrimper approached him about cashing his large payroll check.  Mr. Herman shook his head.

"I'm sorry, but we don't have that much money in our safe," said the elder Herman.

As Elwyn walked in, the shrimper tried again.

"Sure," I heard Elwyn say as he walked upstairs to the safe.  

Walking by my checkout counter, Elwyn whispered:  "He'll spend a lot of that money in our store."

Days later, Mr. Herman approached me:  "Jim, we need to hire another cashier.  Do you have any friends that are looking for a job?"

I thought of Chalio and recommended him to Herman.

The customers seemed to love Chalio, especially the ladies.  He was a cut-up with the gift of flattery.

Mr. Herman was not as impressed.  One day, Mr. Herman approached me with something on his mind.

"Jim, I've always appreciated your work here.  I hope this doesn't come between us, but I no longer have hours available for your friend.  I'm going to have to let him go."

I understood.  There were two other Hispanics who worked at the store, Tony, the meat cutter and Santos, who stocked groceries, but both were from Matamoros and deferential with Santos even doing carpentry work and repairs at Mr. Herman's house after hours.

While Chalio did his job and was well-liked by the customers, he was not a "kiss up."

Over time, Chalio and I lost touch.  I heard he joined the Navy.  I''ve often wondered how that worked out.

Monday, April 2, 2018


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Pussification of Maclovio O'Malley

The Maclovio O'Malley Show, livestreamed to Brownsvillians via Spreaker, puts local politicos on the proverbial hot seat of sexual innuendo, buttons that release barking sounds and a sidekick and moderator who can incorporate every Spanish expletive into sentences as a noun, verb, adjective or adverb.

A candidate considered a friend of the show, like Armando Villalobos pictured left, is served t-ball questions and given several chances to swing.  In the tradition of shock jocks like Howard Stern, the goal of any guest has to be survival with their reputation semi-intact, and a performance that hopefully will not be replayed for their grand kids or employers.  If your goal is to promote a candidate as Melissa Zamora attempted last year, you come off looking like a good sport, while your candidate is described as "effeminate."

Considering the format, potential guests for the show are not standing in the hallways of the Dancy Building, waiting to catch the eye of Maclovio O'Malley, a talk show host in real life who plays the part of Chris Valadez, administrative assistant to Judge Cascos in his alternate persona.

So, when a fan of the show recently presented what she thought was a bombshell show idea, Cata Presas-Garcia and Mary S. Rey on the same show, she was somewhat bemused when Mr. O'Malley rejected the concept.

Here is a cut and paste of the conversation between the local shock jock and the fan with a show idea.  Maclovio's initial  response is to the fan's suggestion of including Mary S. Rey on the show with Cata Presas-Garcia:

Maclovio O'Malley



The Fan


Are you serious well then why have a show then let everyone go on and duke it out! C'mon good for your ratings right?



The Fan

i know i am

call me please



The Fan

call me



Fear can be a powerful emotion, but not one normally associated with a playful, irreverent, gutter-hugging comedy show.  The Smothers Brothers, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, etc. were seemingly never paralyzed by fear.  It's doubtful any of the above would reject a show,skit or comedy routine concept based on the fear that a senior citizen would rattle the cage of a semi-articulate, bungling RICO felon bent on manipulating the local school district.  But then this is Brownsville, where a self-proclaimed hispanic messiah can mesmorize the local politicos and their administrative assistants with promises of calabaza and paradise.

Sunday, April 1, 2018


From the editor:  Minimalist living has appealed to me since I saw a newsreel decades ago featuring a French artist living in a small space after crafting wood furniture with multiple uses.

Years later, in the 80's, a two story "tiny house" was constructed inside a North Little Rock mall.  It had all the typical amenities, just in a small space.

While I don't begrudge JayZ and Beyonce's 30,000 sq. ft. mansion, it's not for me.  

As many of you know, Nena and I have lived in a 38 ft travel trailer for the last 14 years, 1 year in Port Isabel, 5 years in Arroyo City and, now, these 8 past years in Brownsville.  Our home, with two extending "sides," has just under 400 sq. ft. of living space, more than enough for the two of us.

In the last few days, our son, Diego Lee Rot, has given our home sort of an "industrial look," applying a "smoke gray," oil-based enamel to the exterior.  

I'll be redoing the flooring in a few days once Nena and I agree on the style we prefer.

The Back of Our 38 ft Park Model

Below is a blog article from 2015 about this style of living:

Living Off the Grid, Solar, Tiny Houses, Stealth Camping

A Small Lot in the Rurals, Off the Grid

Perhaps, not yet in
Brownsville, but certainly out West, and even in the South in rural Arkansas and Tennessee, retirees, young families and single folk are gravitating away from what they designate to be "debt slavery."

It's not simply as we used to say, "getting away from the rat race." Nowadays, even the old standby "making a living" is under review. Proponents of this alternative lifestyle question spending 30-50 years on a job, working for someone else, when, with some foresight, skill and knowledge you can make provision for yourself and your family while doing whatever it is you really want to do.The alternatives vary. Near San Francisco, where a crummy two-bedroom home rents for $4,200 per month and a tent is advertised on Craigslist for $899 per month, a young couple has created a small settlement of eleven dwellings built out of steel cargo containers. They call their rental units "cargotopia."

Tiny House
A variation on the same theme is the tiny house, a domicile ranging from 120-400 square feet, containing smaller versions of the normal amenities, all riding on a work trailer chassis. In some areas, these can be parked in someone's back yard, but certainly on some federal lands. Washington State and Montana, in particular, are open to applications from would-be settlers. While tiny houses can hook up to traditional utilities, the so-called grid, many revert to solar panels, rainwater collection, chemical toilets and built-in generators making it possible to live practically anywhere.

More Elaborate Container House
Many have sold there existing homes, shedding the burden of the 30 year mortgage, high property taxes and utilities to go off the grid. Others try to create an "off the grid" account, by foregoing cable TV and other non-necessities, while saving for their tract of land. A senior citizen from New York sold his home, buying a forty acres spread in arid west Texas. Even with only two inches rain this year, he says in a You Tube interview that he still has over 11,000 gallons of water collected. The retiree has a majestic view, no close neighbors and no real bills.

Stealth Camper
Dozens of You Tube channels feature the lifestyle of stealth campers, typically men living in a camper van that resembles a contractor's van. Some are employed in construction or manufacturing, while others simply travel around the country, parking in industrial areas, side streets or parks for free. The outside appearance of the vehicle and the low profile kept by the resident inside allows it to blend into its surroundings.


Grandson Jack in Market Square Walking with grandson Jack downtown is a challenge.  He frolicks, skips, cuts in front of you, runs ahead,...