Thursday, June 14, 2018


Self-Portrait by Josie del Castillo


William A, Garza
While Brownsville never got on board with recycling plastic, glass and aluminum for pickup, the city's aging politicos keep reinventing themselves for yet another run at public service.

Why, even Ol' Ernie Hernandez, former mayor and county commissioner, came out of Ha.des to make some noise about running for a position at the Port of Brownsville in the past election.

This season's prospective "Comeback Kid" is William Garza, city commissioner in the late 80's, former campaign manager for hotelier P.K. Patel, but also 5th place finisher in a 6 person run for mayor in 2015, just behind Robert "Captain Bob" Sanchez, who finished 4th.

Garza has recovered from a 1998 incident where he was discovered by a constable in the nude near Los Fresnos, after reportedly being kidnapped by two Hispanic males while canvassing for votes for county commissioner.

Garza is running for City Commissioner, District 1, although he does not live in that district.

"No one said anything to Alex Dominguez about carpetbagging!" Garza was quoted as explaining to a confidant.(Currently, Rick Longoria, Jr. holds the seat in District 1.)

Carlos Elizondo
Raising the bar for brazen shamelessness, disgraced and indicted former fire chief, Carlos Elizondo, is seeking the position of City Commissioner, District 2, a position currently held by Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa.

Tetreau-Kalifa herself, along with ancient retread Butch Barbosa, attorney Trey Mendez and former city manager, Charlie Cabler, reportedly are considering running for mayor.

Cabler abruptly resigned last year after his connection to the city's ambulance fiasco was discovered, leaving with nearly $250,000 in severance pay he can now use for campaign signs.

Friday, June 8, 2018


OK.  I'm reminiscing, not exactly worried about pageviews.(I could post a current article about a politico and those pageviews would soar back to my typical daily 2,500-3,000, but a mere 1,000 is fine for now.)

Jimmie Rodgers
Jimmie Rodgers, born in Meridian, Mississippi(1897-1933) sometimes called the "Father of Country Music," wrote the beautiful "It's Over," that's been playing in my head for days.

The Elvis Presley version from the Hawaiian concert is very emotional for me.  We watched that performance on the RCA color TV of Leroy and Bernice Dennis in Danville, Arkansas while Diego Lee Rot crawled around the floor in his onesie.


Anthony Bourdain
"I guess you know Anthony Bourdain died?" asked Diego Lee Rot, when I stopped by to see him and Jack this morning.

I did not know, even though I considered Bourdain influential in my life, Bourdain, the articulate wordsmith of Anthony Bourdain; Parts Unknown on CNN, bestselling author, celebrated chef, former dishwasher and drug addict.

"They say it was suicide," Diego commented.

My son knows I have a similar travel gene.  Nena and I saw everything we wanted to see in the U.S.  using my allotted six weeks of vacation annually for travel the last 15 years of employment.  

Nena was not comfortable leaving the country, although I talked her and Diego into a tour of Mexico's silver cities in the early 90's.  Nena argued vociferously with a cop in Zacatecas who wanted to ticket Diego with the officer eventually relenting.

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station
Running scared,
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places
Only they would know

Paul Simon
"The Boxer"

While Bourdain dealt with royalty and poverty, working class and the famous, I usually sought the poorer quarters.

At 14, "I left my home and my family" temporarily, taking a bus to Los Angeles, ending up at a flea bag hotel on Figueroa Street for 80 cents per night.  After witnessing my first knifing from my hotel window, I headed off to Hollywood & Vine, knocked on the back door of a Chinese restaurant that served me a huge bowl of rice with soy sauce for ten cents.(Years later, I realized they thought I was homeless.)

The evening desk clerk kept challenging me to a wrestling match, claiming he could put me in a "sleeper hold" in 30 seconds.  I awakened to a lobby echoing intense laughter as I was given smelling salts and helped up off the floor. (Bourdain, a martial artist, typically got on the mat with locals he met in his travels, usually holding his own.)

The day I turned 16, I got my drivers license and headed for downtown Seattle, First Avenue, where drunk Eskimos wandered the streets proving the urban legend that they came from Alaska, drank one bottle of Rainier Beer and never stopped drinking.(As a kid, it never occurred to me that beer was readily available in Alaska and whatever the descendants of indigenous people drank once in Seattle, they'd likely drunk before.)

Anyway, Anthony, you had a skill beyond cooking, writing and narrating.  You made people comfortable, folks of all ethnicities, cultures, languages.  I'm hoping to emulate some of that with my planned trip to Southeast Asia this fall and to Havana, as a Friend of the Cuban People, next spring.

RIP, my brother!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


Diego Lee Rot

by Diego Lee Rot, Music Writer, Brownsville Observer

Death is often described as untimely, a word that especially fits the loss of a musician, as it breaks the rhythm, the flow of music as well as the keeping of time.

As reported in local media including El Rrun Rrun, Jimmy Gonzalez of Grupo Mazz passed away Wednesday in San Antonio, while visiting relatives on his way back to Brownsville.

Grupo Mazz won a total of six Latin Grammy Awards, all for Best Tejano Album.

The group was scheduled to appear in Brownsville for the Hernandez-Brownsville Music Fest 8/11/18 at the Kraken Lounge and Market Square.

Hernandez Family/Grupo Panteon

Grupo Panteon and the Hernandez family issued this statement:  
On behalf of the Hernandez family, we would like to send our sincerest condolences to the Gonzalez family. No words can describe how sorry we are for the loss of our beloved Jimmy Gonzalez. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Gonzalez family, grupo Mazz, his friends and fans. Jimmy always represented Brownsville,TX. with class and honor, his music and legacy will live on forever.

Jimmy Gonzalez, Grupo Mazz


Trump's Phony Flag Love

Thirteen of the forty-five U.S. presidents served during my lifetime, 29% of the total.  I've no personal recollection of Harry S. Truman, but I've heard the proverbial buck stopped at his desk and that he ordered up the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to save lives.

About the time I was asking for a Davy Crockett coonskin cap, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.  The Weekly Reader, distributed to all the kids in my school spoke of Eisenhower's victory over Adlai Stevenson while Life Magazine quoted Eisenhower's warning about the dangers of the "industrial-military complex."

Those were years of compulsory patriotism, saluting the flag, standing for the national anthem.  Before the wide use of motherfucker, the worst thing you could say about a person is that they were a communist, with nigger and nigger lover coming in second and third.

Yet, as much as we thought we knew about democracy, freedom, the First Amendment and the Constitution, we knew nothing.  Our understanding of what freedom, patriotism, civil  and First Amendment rights actually included was greatly expanded as millions protested a war based on lies and millions of others asserted their right not to be judged solely by the color of their skin.

Donald J. Trump wants to take the U.S. back to that time of ignorance, prejudice and lies, hypocritically wrapping himself in the sacred cloth, while displaying zero understanding of the values represented by that emblem.

Make no mistake: when Trump wages a daily war against a free press, embraces neo-Nazis, consistently spouts racist views, insults military heroes and Gold Star families, lies daily to the American people, tramples on the First Amendment, advocates torture of political prisoners, he SHITS on the flag.

Monday, June 4, 2018


Within two notes I realized    Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" was playing over Burger King's sound system, not the vocals, just the back beat.  

I could visualize patrons at the New Orleans BK snapping their fingers, whole booths swaying to the Musak                                                 

At the Memphis Burger King, someone is breaking out into falsetto, while in Chicago, they are moonwalking across the Whopper floor space.

In Brownsville, at the Boca Chica store, the customers are oblivious to the King of Pop, there to eat, not sing, dance or even hum along.

A tough looking guy with tattooed arms, a wife and three pre-school kids doesn't even blink when Nikki at the cash register charges him $31.00 for assorted junk food.  Minutes later, he smiles, when he lifts the wrapper on his Whopper, seeing its been done his way.

Two heavily-stomached P.U.B. workers get in line, both with plasticized I.D. cards around their neck and a huge key ring on their belt.  Grandson Jack thinks they are police.  I tell him police are fatter than that.

"April Is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Proclaimed at Burger King June 4
Fifty-one years ago KRIO in McAllen, the valley's only rock n' roll station, had a Beatles vs. Monkeys contest.  The Monkeys got a lot of votes with the soon-to-be departing disc jockey mumbling "only in the valley."  KRIO gave us a taste of the outside world, but not a very large dose.

That was 1967. The next year, Tom Robinson, now an administrator at the Southmost Library, stayed in his car until the last note of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" played on the radio.  That same year Tom also gave Nena and I a low-numbered copy of the Beatles White Album for a wedding present, then knocked on our door wedding night to hear the record.

That was a time of innocence for Brownsville.  No Jerry McHale,  No Bobby Wightman-Cervantes.  Juan Montoya was in junior high.

At night I tuned my radio into Larry Lujack of WLS Chicago or to Radio Belize tracking Hurricane Beulah in the Gulf.

Saturday, June 2, 2018


It's no secret that Nena was the photographer for the Brownsville Observer the last seven years, but also the videographer.  With one decent eye, the other lost to glaucoma years ago, Nena usually captured the image first seen in her mind's eye.

Grandson Jack, the photography heir apparent, always seems to get what he's after in one take.

Jack will whisper:  "Tell me exactly what you want in the picture."

If I say: "Get both men in the picture, plus the desk they're sitting at and the sign behind them on the wall," he fulfills the request and takes his seat.

Who knows if the kid will actually pursue photography as a craft or vocation?  Perhaps, he will do that along with other things.

Images can also be created by computer programs, such as Microsoft Paint.  Recently, I've given my grandson a day off from grammar or spelling to spend some time with the app.
Art Created on Microsoft Paint

Jack was even prouder of a working drum machine he created on Minecraft.  It is not just a picture of a drum machine, but a working machine with an actual drum loop.  Don't ask me how that's done.

Jack's drum machine pictured below:


Elizabeth Street, Brownsville, Texas

When Joe Kenney asked me a year ago for a photo of Elizabeth Street before paving, I looked, but I simply couldn't find it.

Yesterday, I located the pic I think Joe wanted along with some other pics I hadn't seen in a while.

Thursday, May 31, 2018


Self-Portrait by Josie del Castillo