I was thrilled to see Lucinda Wierenga and the “Amazin’ Walter” McDonald’s sand castle on the cover. I’m glad to see that Texas Monthly is still looking for and honoring our more interesting citizens. We are what make Texas so great.

I recently returned from a five-day visit to Padre Island National Seashore. As you mentioned in “Shore ’Nuff” [June 2007], upon arriving, a visitor is greeted by an active natural gas drilling rig. When visitors go to a unit of the National Park Service, we do not want to see active drilling rigs, especially in Texas, where public land is scarce.

I fully support domestic oil and gas production—in fact, I worked on a Gulf of Mexico deepwater exploration crew with WesternGeco, of Houston. However, I feel strongly that we should keep drilling out of our national park system. For many Texans, the seashore is a vacation home. The location of the drilling rig at the seashore entrance detracts from a visitor’s experience by destroying the natural scenery. Would we allow a drilling rig to stand next to the San Jacinto Monument or operate in Big Bend National Park? I urge our government to manage our state’s unique coastal resources for the benefit of all, not a few corporations.

And the Beat Goes On

It has been many years since I played French horn and even many more years since I was involved in All-State, yet Cecilia Ballí’s words played like a concerto before my eyes [“Sounds Like Teen Spirit,” June 2007]. How true that not all high school musicians will go on to careers in music, but even truer is the fact that those high school music experiences stay with us and creep into our daily lives way into the future. Bravo to the Texas Music Educators Association for encouraging young musicians regardless of where our lives end up taking us. As a 46-year-old man, the memories that Ms. Ballí stirred in me brought a catch in my throat, as I join her in the shared experience of having a random classical piece on the radio bring a smile to my face and an almost inadvertent moving of my hands into playing position on my long-since-sold French horn. Brava, Maestro Ballí. Brava.

This is what I love about Texas Monthly. Just about the time I wonder where you’ll come up with another story, here comes one about something that was profoundly important to me but about which I never expected to see anything written. In the forty-plus years since I went to All-State as a drummer, I’ve met many folks who grew up in other states and played in the band. None had the reverence for All-State band that seems to affect every band kid in Texas.

I wish my memories of the All-State experience were as complete as Ms. Ballí’s. Other than an unrequited crush on a cute flutist and some of the music, my principal memory is taking second chair to a guy who perhaps could technically play better than I but who couldn’t follow the director worth a flip. I tried not to be bitter.

And I learned a great life lesson about pride, having made All-State my junior year, then failing to attain even All-Valley, the first step, as a supposedly more mature, polished, and confident (read: cocky, overconfident, and inadequately practiced) senior. I’m still recovering.

As one who also let the instruments collect dust for several decades, I encourage Ms. Ballí to pick up that clarinet. In just the past few years, I finally fulfilled lifelong dreams of playing in a happenin’ twenty-piece jazz band (composed almost entirely of area high school band directors blowing off steam), a five-piece Broadway musical show band, and a largely professional symphony orchestra. It’s never too late, and it’s exquisite.
Via E-Mail

Tats All, Folks

My son also declared me “cool” when I got my tattoo this year. Coming from a fourteen-year-old, that is pretty good. Like Antonya Nelson, I have a “happy marriage” and “truly remarkable children” [“Inimitable Ink,” June 2007]. I also now have a rose on my ankle. It was my fortieth birthday present to myself. The rose is called Peace. I had thought about it for years and always felt slightly jealous of my sister’s bravery every time she acquired a new tattoo. The store downtown was empty when we went in on a Monday morning. It was all very quick and easy, and in the end the artist declared, “Now you are a woman!” I like to think it is my everyday reminder of what we all need in this life: peace for ourselves and everyone around us. I guess it reminds me of all “the good things that have come to me and are luckily mine, I hope forever.”

Taking Aim at the Lone Gunman

If Bill Paxton is angry that 75 percent of U.S. citizens polled believe the U.S. government was somehow culpable in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, then he needs to get over it, because (a) we live in a democracy, and (b) there are lingering doubts [Texas Monthly Talks, June 2007]. As Bill Hicks once observed, it’s possible that Oswald couldn’t even see President Kennedy’s motorcade from where he stood on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository. Then there’s this $64,000 question: If JFK was shot from behind by Oswald, why did his head fall back? And what about that theory of the single, or magic, bullet, whose traced trajectory defies logic and ballistics? Calling people names because they ask questions and don’t accept official dogma won’t stop the questions.
Buena Park, California

Does This Column Make My Butt Look Big?

As a longtime exerciser, I feel like Sarah Bird is a kindred spirit [“No Ifs, Abs, or Butts,” June 2007]. I’ve experienced all the quirky things described in her article: Hanging Gardens upper arms, Mistress JoJo, the Flabbo Nazi, Kilgore Rangerettes’ being electrocuted. I laughed out loud through the entire article. Thank you, Sarah, for the whimsical look at what women do to fight gravity. I’ll play “Super Freak” and do a couple of fire hydrants in your honor.
Cedar Park