An Infatuation (2 versions)

G.M.C. "Cade" Massey

G.M.C. “Cade” Massey

Our guest blogger, my grandfather, G.M.C.Massey wrote multiple versions of some of his stories in the various manuscripts of his memoirs. Here is an instance of 2 versions of the same events — with only one significant variation, leaving the reader with one simple, but central, question:

Who planted a kiss “where it would do the most good”?

My grandmother, My father’s mother, was very sick, and we went to her aid and assistance, and while I was there I got acquainted with two very fascinating girls:

One a very large Blonde, And the other was a very nice small brunette: and She was more aggressive than the other, and as you might say she took over, And I was already engrossed in the Girl that I afterward married I took no delight in either one of the girls, only as a passing fancy; And just for the fun of the thing as the saying goes, I just let her do the sparking. And she was up to game pretty well; For in the two or three days that we stayed there; She engaged us, as she proved it; For she encouraged me to go back down there in about two weeks; and she met me at my GRAND-Mothers, and tried to make me believe that we would have to hurry and get married before her DAD found out what it was all about For he was a dangerous man and had to be watched; But I told her that I was not entirely satisfied about the matter; and would have to write her my decision when, or if I wanted to go through with her arrangements. I would let her know what the arrangements will have to be made; But when the day was far spent; I told her that I was going to have to start home as I was driving a Young Animal, and I had better start in time to not be too far in the night getting home; And that I was going to take her home and meet her parents, and get acquainted with them; And she very reluctantly agreed to my terms, and we went on to her place, only a mile and 1/2 or two miles at the most, And it was not long till we arrived at their home; And about a quarter from the house, we went through a gate that let us out of the Old “Biggerstaff estate”, and I opened the gate, and she drove through, And she proposed that I go home from there, and let her walk on to the house; But I overruled that as I got in the buggy, and drove up to the house, and when we arrived, I jumped out, and tied my mare to a tree, and went in with her, and met her parents, and they seemed very proud to meet me, and invited me into their front room, and insisted that I spend the night, as it was a long distance to my home; And the day was far spent; And as I had to drive a young mare, that was not very well trained between the Shafts; But when I explained the matter to them; they were very well satisfied to let me go: And as I went out the GIRL went too, and when I went to tell her good-Bye; She held on to me till I planted a kiss right where it would do the most GOOD: And that was the last time that I saw her: And The day that she appointed for she and I to get married; I married the woman of my choice.

And from there we move to another of my infatuations: I was 21 years of age when my Grandmother (Father’s Mother) was taken very ill and we went down there. She lived South of Mt. Vernon in Franklin County And there I met with two girls that seemed very devoted to my Grandmother, and they each one played up to me; But one, A brunette seemed more aggressive than the Big Blonde did. And I did not care for either, as I had my mind made up as to a mate for life in another direction. But I just gave her the reins, and she led on towards an engagement, and she sure engaged us before we left for home, as we stayed there till Grand Mother had made a definite turn for the better, But I had to agree to come back to see her In a couple of weeks, and she held out that she would have to meet me there at my Grand Mothers, And as she had done all of the sparking, I just let her have her way about the matter.

So after two weeks I went back down there, and she met me, and wanted us to get married on that trip. But I told her that I had other arrangements, and that there was a time to assert myself, and that I was not going to go into a life long arrangement without knowing all the surrounding details. And as I was several miles from my home, and I was driving a young animal to the buggy, and needed daylight to make the drive of 18 miles, I told her that I was going to take her home and that I was going to get acquainted with her mother and Father, and she fought the Idea, and said that it would be very unsafe for me to attempt such a thing, So I just said nothing more about it till we got out at the big gate, down from the house about a quarter, and as she had driven through the gate, I just got in the buggy, and drove on up to the yard gate, and got out, and went in with her, and she made me acquainted with her parents, and they invited me in to the parlor, and treated me just as fine as I could ask for, and wanted me to stay for the night, But of course for the reason I have given; I could not, and as I left, I had her to go with me out to the buggy, and I told her that the underminding holt that she had tried to take on me about hurrying up the matter was why we were not going any further in a rush. And then she said that we would put it off till the first day of September, And I consented with the understanding that if I wanted to still stand, That I would let her know before that date, and that I would not see her before that time, And then I drove off But not till she had planted a kiss where it would do the most good. And on the date that she had set I had already engaged for my wedding to the girl that I married, And that was that.

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Countdown Commencing…

Less than 2 weeks remain until I return to SXSWedu again.

I’m excited about returning to what I describe as the “Land of A-Ha’s” where creativity and learning come together in a dazzling display of keynote talks, featured speakers, panel presentations, interactive playground, pop-up bookstore, and social gatherings of educators and learning specialist from all over the world.


Here’s how they put it officially:
“The SXSW EDU Conference & Festival cultivates and empowers a community of engaged stakeholders to advance teaching and learning.”

Me & LeVar Burton— SXSWedu 2012

Me & LeVar — SXSWedu 2012

Past SXSWedu conferences have featured keynote speakers like LeVar Burton in 2012, when he spoke of re-introducing the classic Reading Rainbow TV show as an interactive app. After his talk on the importance of storytelling, he greeted any and all fans wanting a photo, so I overcame my shyness to get one. When I gushed about his talk, saying I, too, was a storyteller, he grinned and said, “You look like a storyteller, Alan.”

Me & Jane McGonigal — SXSWedu 2016

Me & Jane McGonigal — SXSWedu 2016

That same year, Jane McGonigal spoke on her then-current book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and  How They Can Change the World. She also introduced her SuperBetter game, a “role-playing recovery game” created in response to her major concussion, designed to build resiliency. When the book came out, she returned and held a book-signing — but spoke instead of futuring about a Bitcoin-like learning exchange for a project called Learning is Earning 2026.

Sunni Brown: Visual Thinking for a Better WorldOther speakers that stood out have included Goldie Hawn, Temple Grandin, Tim Ferriss, and Brené Brown (links open video of each talk). My favorite, by far, though, was getting to see Sunni Brown (The Doodle Revolution) from the very front row, and getting a hug afterwards.

Though I’ve been attending SXSWedu regularly since its second year, this will be the first time I will attend from afar. I’ll be curious to see how this might impact my experience.

Looking at the amazing schedule, I’m reminded of a friend who loved opening the new course catalogue each semester at college. She would get excited by the course titles and brief descriptions and sign up for more classes than allowed, somehow talking her way past the advisors, and register for all of them. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of classes to attend (and underwhelmed by the reality of them compared to what she’d envisioned from the title and description), she drop the classes, one by one, until once again, she had dropped them all.

I won’t do that, but when I took a quick spin through the schedule and start creating a list of my “favorites’ on the schedule, the initial results were quite similar. After a quick spin through a lot (not all) of the schedule, I clicked on “My Favorites” to see my compiled list of sessions to attend.

Sure enough, for some time slots, I had selected as many as 7 different possibilities. Add in the factor that sessions may last as long as 2 hours (for the Forums) or as short as 20 minutes (Future 20) and you face a challenging juggling act. I mean, which would you choose: “Students Can Build the VR/AR Worlds of the Future” or “Five Design Questions to Empower everyone with Design Thinking“? Oh, wait a minute, there’s an overlap with “Creative Education in the Era of AI: Beyond Arts” as well.

So, you see, any pre-planning has to be done in a very loose sense. And I already know 2 additional factors will likely impact my final choices. First, I want to be able to chase after emergent interests that I discover while down there. To preemptively eliminate last minute substitutions is not the right approach for this conference — too many last-minute opportunities can arise.

There’s also the fatigue factor involved — more cognitive fatigue than physical, but with each passing year, the physical wear and tear of a 4-day conference does take its toll on my energy level.

Guess I better start resting up right now!

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Goodbye and Godspeed, Gwen

Gwen Frances York, 1956-2018

Gwen Frances York, 1956-2018

words won’t bring her back.
tears can’t wash away the pain.
a hole in my heart…

My sweet, wonderful cousin, Gwen died this past week, and is winging away from us now. She had just traveled to San Angelo for the funeral of our uncle, Tom Massey, and fell backwards down stairs at DFW while returning. sustaining a traumatic brain injury. She lingered in a coma, unresponsive for over a week, and then died last Wednesday, devastating all of us who loved her.

Today, family & friends bid farewell at a memorial service in Dallas, that we will, unfortunately, be unable to attend. Our thoughts are with everyone remembering Gwen today, wherever we all may be.

Our two families were particularly close. My mom followed Gwen’s mom, her older sister Marion, to the University of Texas in the late 40s. They both got degrees and married UT students, and started families. The Buller and Williams families spent a lot of time together growing up, bonding me and my brother closely with our cousins, Gwen and her older sister, Wanda. Our two families had also shared the heartbreak of losing a child: Marion & Willie’s first-born, Chuck, was run over by a car as a toddler, and my youngest brother, Brian Craig Buller, died 2 days after his birth.

Though they lived in Dallas (Garland actually) and we lived in Houston (Hedwig Village, actually), the families visited each other often. We shared UT football games in Austin, as well as the annual UT-OU weekend in Dallas, and more than a few Thanksgiving Day games. They owned a beach house on the Bolivar peninsula east of Galveston, and that was my childhood beach experience. Growing up, us kids shared the 60s, from the Beatles and rock & roll through the tumultuous times of civil unrest, riots and the Vietnam War. Then the 4 of us each had our own UT experiences. We all grew up, and eventually started our own families. Though we did not see each other as often any more, those close ties remain even today.

My memories of Gwen are long and extensive, stretching back to childhood and up through watching her career blossom at Southwest Airlines and raising her beautiful daughter, Alyson. My heart aches for Alyson especially, and my thoughts are with her during this painful time. The day a parent dies, the world changes forever in ways we can never really imagine. I hope her memories of her mom can help carry her through this time.

When we first heard of Gwen’s injury, my heart sank into the deepest, darkest pit. I had spent a dozen years working with survivors of traumatic brain injuries, and knew all too well the devastating possibilities. When they said she’d had 2 surgeries to relieve pressure on the brain but remained unresponsive, I feared for the worst.

And I thought of her lingering in that nether region of consciousness deeper than sleep but short of dying, an unknowable state between coma and consciousness. Within that twilight dimension, I felt I could see Gwen visiting with Tom  — not just “old Tom” who had just died, but 14-year-old comatose Tom awaiting his awakening. And then I thought of all the spirits she might encounter from the “Other Side”  — her beloved parents, the older infant brother she never knew, lovers and friends and acquaintances lost along the way through the years. It is hard not to think that such a host of loved ones might serve to beckon one closer to that edge.

Knowing all too well the bleak outcomes faced by many traumatic brain injury survivors with residual deficits, I worried not simply whether she would survive but whether she could ever recover. Too many survivors suffer far beyond the original injury. When we received word that she had died, there was that strange mixture of sorrow tinged with a hollow relief, knowing her suffering had ended.

Each death serves as a reminder that we are all temporary here. We must love everyone every day as long as we have the chance.

me & Gwen laughingThe last photo I have of Gwen and me shows the two of us laughing. Taken 3 years ago when we managed to meet up with her for a quick dinner in Austin, this is forever how I will remember Gwen — enjoying our time together, whenever and wherever we could get together. That memory will never fade.

Finally, I am reminded of something that Gwen had shared on social media not long ago, a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was one of the last things I remember her posting, and I saved it at the time, thinking what a perfect summation of a good life he had made. Thinking about it now, I see how perfectly he described Gwen’s life.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived…

This is to have succeeded.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yes, that’s Gwen, through and through — we are all richer who knew her, and we will carry her forward forever in our thoughts.

Gwen Frances York — obituary


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heartbroken — no words

Heart broken with tears

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“Let the words be yours — I’m done with mine.”

John Perry BarlowA modern American hero died this week — farewell to John Perry Barlow: poet, essayist, cyber-libertarian, song lyricist, cattle rancher and all-around amazing adult.

I’d rather not try to write any more words about such an incredible writer. There are eulogies and memories aplenty out there now, and, after all, he left so many great words for us already. So, I’ll simply resort to repeating selected words of his — starting with a list he compiled on the eve of his 30th birthday.

Principles of Adult Behavior

He has explained that he wrote this list on his impending “adulthood” because he wondered if “my wariness of the pursuit of happiness might be a subtle form of treason.” Though penned for himself, the list eventually went into circulation on the internet and remains one of his lasting achievements.

  1. Be patient. No matter what.
  2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him in the same language and tone of voice.
  3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
  4. Expand your sense of the possible.
  5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
  6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
  7. Tolerate ambiguity.
  8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
  9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
  10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
  11. Give up blood sports.
  12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
  13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
  14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
  15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
  16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
  17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
  18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
  19. Become less suspicious of joy.
  20. Understand humility.
  21. Remember that love forgives everything.
  22. Foster dignity.
  23. Live memorably.
  24. Love yourself.
  25. Endure.

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Embodying the fierce independence of a Western lifestyle, Barlow saw the advent of the new communications media of the internet opening up a whole new frontier, fraught with peril and opportunity. In co-founding the Electronic Freedom Foundation, he pioneered the concept of an independent cyberspace, putting forth his beliefs in the bold Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace published in 1996.

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather…

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Later, he would also co-found the Freedom of the Press Foundation when he saw how new media threatened our old liberties.

Of course, it was the lyrics that lead me — and a lot of us — to John Perry Barlow in the first place, and it is his lyrics many of us will most remember. Starting back in 1972 with Bob Weir’s “solo” album, Ace (solo in name only really, since the Grateful Dead played on all tracks), the album showcased the first collaborations between Barlow and his high school buddy, Bob Weir. That first outing writing together produced several lasting Weir-Barlow gems, such as Black-Throated Wind, Mexicali Blues, and Looks Like Rain.

Walk in the Sunshine —Weir/Barlow (Ace)

One of my favorites from that album stands out in a singular way: the Grateful Dead never performed this song live — nor, as far as I know, did Bob until Ratdog played it in 2010.

Try not to hurry
It’s just not your worry
Leave it to those all caught up in time…
You got to deep six your wrist watch
You got to try and understand
The time it seems to capture
Is just the movement of its hands

Cassidy —  Weir/Barlow (Grateful Dead)

Another classic from the Ace album now firmly enshrined in the canon of Grateful Dead songs — written in tribute to legendary road icon and Merry Prankster, Neal Cassidy, as well as for the infant daughter of the Dead family’s Eileen Law.

Faring thee well now
Let your life proceed by its own designs
Nothing to tell now
Let the words be yours, I’m done with mine

Just a Little Light — Mydland/Barlow

Barlow also co-wrote a series of songs with the Grateful Dead keyboardist, Brent Mydland, producing a string of powerful performance pieces throughout Brent’s time with the band, from 1980’s Go To Heaven up until his death in 1990.

So you know I’ve been a soldier in the armies of the night
And I’ll find the fatal error in what’s otherwise all right
But now you’re trembling like a sparrow,
I will try with all my might
To give you just a little sweetness
Just a little light


It Is What It Is — Mydland/Barlow/Kang

Not all of the songs that Barlow wrote with Brent Mydland were recorded or released. This is a set of lyrics originally set to music by Brent but never recorded. Years later, Michael Kang of the String Cheese Incident, would revive the tune with additional music to make it part of the SCI song catalog.

It is what it is, what it might have been, it isn’t
An infinity of mornings, and only one shines through
It is what it is, gonna grab the day we’re given
‘Cause it is what it is, and what it is will have to do.

Waiting for the Song to Come — Welnick/Barlow

Vince Welnick replaced Brent Mydland in the Grateful Dead’s “hot seat” on keyboards (the 6th player there, including occasional sit-in Bruce Hornsby — 4 had died) for the final years before Jerry Garcia’s death ended the original “Long, Strange Trip.” After Jerry’s death, Vince suffered  depression after receiving a diagnosis of cancer and emphysema, and attempted suicide in late 1995. Barlow visited him shortly after to write some songs. He describes writing this one, “He was still in a heart-rendingly desolate state. We wrote a song the lyrics of which went like this…”

Waiting for the song to come:
When it does, there will light again
There will be colors in the world and birds across the sun
And everything that’s been going down so hard
Will be coming right again…
But I’m still waiting

Despite the title of this entry, John Perry Barlow is not done with his words. Not only will only those words ring down through the ages, but he’s getting one last word  — actually a whole set of words — in this summer with the release of his memoir, Mother American Night: My Life in Crazy Times — can’t wait to hear even more from his fine fellow.


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Sick Call

I hate being sick.

That’s exactly what I have been since Monday. And while I may have thought it was just a sinus infection or a cold at first, it seems all too obvious by now that I am battling the flu. My wife, Sara, started showing symptoms Tuesday evening, so we’re doing our best to take care of each other.

I thought of this song from David Wilcox, oddly appropriate since we were planning to see him tomorrow night but will be unable to attend the Denver show despite our plans. While we have some strain of the flu, even the Common Cold can lay you low and remind you of our fragility.

“Ever wonder why you get a cold?
Look at the word: spell it C-OLD.
C-OLD? You’re pulled over by the Reaper
For a warning…”



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Memories of my Uncle, Tom Cade Massey

My uncle, Tom Massey, died this week at age 86, another reminder that we are all temporary here. His memorial service is being held today in his native San Angelo, Texas where family and friends will gather to see him off, but I am unable to be there.

I read once of a culture that believes everyone dies two deaths: the first when our physical body dies, but another, more permanent death the day our name is uttered for the last time by the last person to have known us. Then, and only then, does our spirit fully depart from this existence. I have no idea what happens when we die, but I have long believed that we keep our loved ones alive through sharing their stories with others.

Here, then, are just a few stories that cross my mind today about Tom Massey.

Young Tom Massey

Young Tom Massey

My mom once explained to me why she never learned to play piano. It seems she took lessons as a young girl, but it never came easily to her. After she would struggle to learn a new passage, Tom would waltz in and say, “Oh, it doesn’t go like that — it goes like this.” Then, he would play the basic melody of the passage with additional flourishes, displaying what turned out to be a lifelong ability to immediately play any song he heard. And that’s why Mom didn’t play piano — it was that pesky little show-off brother of hers upstaging her early attempts at practice.

Tom’s dad — my grandfather — wrote of the time Tom had his life interrupted and put on “pause” once when he was 14, which I’ve shared previously:

I feel that my family history would not be complete without the storey of our baby boy’s accident that happened just the day before Thanksgiving when he was 14 years old.

Though this experience happened long before I was born, it left an indelible mark on my mother, so my brother and I grew up strictly forbidden to ride on motorcycles. While we may have bucked the folks on many other things, mom’s constant warning seemed to have sufficed to keep us both off motorcycles.

Tom & Mary Anna wedding Running across this photo of Tom’s wedding to his first wife, Mary Anna recently, I realized some of my earliest visual memories come from that wedding day. In my mind’e eye, I can see this same picture, but in color. And I remember walking down an outside sidewalk with pillars that I would later recognize from my days on campus at UT as part of the grounds of the United Methodist Church at 24th and Guadalupe.

Tom entered politics about the time my brother and I were at UT in the early 70s, a time of political tumult. “You boys can just call me ‘Tom’ now, okay?” he told us, aware of the sound of the phrase “Uncle Tom,” even for a white politician.

One of my favorite stories with my uncle was likely one of his least favorite experiences dealing with me. When he got elected to the Texas State Legislature in 1973, I was living outside of town with my dog, Squirrel. Another uncle from San Angelo, Uncle Bill, knew I had a big dog and little money, so he would snag torn bags of dog food about to be thrown out by the grocery store where he worked as a butcher. He’d get Tom to take these bags down to Austin to pass on to me — which made for an errand of me picking up the dog food from the state capitol. I would park in the “Official Visitors” lot, tell the attendant, “I’ll be right back — just gotta pick up the dog food,” head into the building, pick up the bag of dog food, get my parking ticket validated, and head back out to the car. I am quite sure Tom hated dong this little errand for me — but he rarely turned down a family request.

Tom served two sessions in the legislature and headed home to become a County Judge, becoming a pretty big fish in his region’s not-so-small pond, a role he seemed to relish. Years later, when Sara and I were newly married, we ventured out to Big Bend National Park in far west Texas. On our way home, we routed our journey to visit Tom and Mary Anna overnight in San Angelo. When we headed out to dinner that evening at a fancy local steakhouse, the staff greeted Tom warmly and escorted us over to the large table at the far end of the main room, just in front of a massive fireplace — obviously his usual table. As we sat there visiting, I realized this gave Tom a perfect vantage point to observe everyone entering the restaurant. Mostly, he didn’t react, but very so often, he’d nod or wave to someone. Once or twice, he excused himself from our table to go over and visit more directly with whoever had just come in. It was quite revealing to watch Tom sort of “holding court” there in the San Angelo steakhouse.

Years pass and the miles somehow grow longer. Visits happen less frequently. Mary Anna preceded Tom in death but he found good fortune again with the love of a second wife, Pat. Our Massey Family Reunions, held semi-regularly in the 70’s and 80’s, and then again in the early 00’s  kinda petered out again a few years back as another generation hit the “busy years” of high school and college. I hadn’t seen Tom in several years, and I guess we last spoke about 3 years ago.

A handful of “snapshot” memories like these hardly tell the tale of a lifetime. But it is through remembering little moments or times like these — and there are far too many to share with you here — that I will keep Tom Massey alive in my heart and mind.

Now, he’s off to join his parents and siblings, the last of his generation of the G.M.C. Massey family, leaving the rest of us here, remembering him as we grieve.

G.M.C. Family, 1931 — infant Tom in front row

G.M.C. Family, 1931 — infant Tom in front row

G.M.C. Massey's offspring, 1991

G.M.C. Massey’s offspring, 1991 — Tom second from left

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