Dallasites are hereby encouraged to join the Run Against Violence 5K Thursday evening. It’s to benefit the family of David Cunniff, victim of one of the more outrage-inducing incidents of violence Dallas has seen in years.
(He’s a dad who took his two teenaged daughters to an Old 97s concert in Deep Ellum — not exactly some anarchist punk band. Anyway, a skinhead started messing with one of his daughters, dad tried to defend her, and the skinhead bashed his head in. Now he’s paralyzed from the neck down. More here.)
Assuming I’m not detained by breaking news, I hope to be there.
Speaking of 90-something retired diplomatic correspondents: Chalmers Roberts faces death.
Today, I received what may have been my first ever request for ChandaWatch, my quarterly updates on the Grand Slam tournament progress of Chanda Rubin — world-ranked tennis star and former high school locker-neighbor of yours truly. Since I value the needs of crabwalk.com readers so highly — particularly after imposing nothing but Wilmer-Hutchins stories on you poor folks the last week or two — I accede to the public’s demands.
Chanda won her first round match with ease Tuesday, 6-2, 6-2 over the sultry Maria Sanchez Lorenzo. Chanda’s recent knee injuries have dropped her seeding to No. 20, which lines her for for a third-round battle with…Venus Williams, her ersatz Olympic doubles partner. Godspeed, Chanda.
One of the greatest men I have had the pleasure of spending time with has died at age 93. His name was Fernand Auberjonois.
I visited Fernand in his Ireland home in October 1999. At the time, I was a reporter for The (Toledo) Blade with an interest in foreign affairs. Fernand had, for decades, been The Blade’s European correspondent, based in London. But to just call him a reporter doesn’t give him his due — this man truly lived a life.
Among the things he did in his 93 years: Helped start what would become the Voice of America; helped plan the Normandy invasion; was targeted by Joe McCarthy in the 1950s; became one of Switzerland’s best-selling authors; gave French lessons to Katherine Hepburn; helped develop the theremin, the cult electronic instrument; translated John Dos Passos and befriended Walker Evans; became publishing director for Time-Life Europe; and inspired the character Odo on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
Now that’s a life. And he was just the sweetest old man you could imagine. (His wife Helga is great, too.) As I’d go on various foreign adventures through the years, he’d write me little notes of encouragement.
The Fernand Auberjonois brand of foreign correspondent is largely dead now. Fernand wrote primarily about diplomacy, wearing dapper suits and interviewing powerful functionaries; modern correspondents tend more towards a more populist style. But the lesson I take from Fernand’s life is that if you’re going to have to wake up every morning, you should at least try not to be boring.
“I never had the feeling I was having a hard time then, because it was all far too interesting,” he told me back then, talking about his days living hand to mouth in New York City. “That’s what life does.”
Here’s the story I wrote about Fernand back in 2000.
Here’s an appreciation of Fernand (with pictures) written by Jack Lessenberry, another old Blado.
Here’s the obituary linked above.
In other news, tomorrow night will be the one time each year when I descend into a zen-like calm, focus my energies, and direct all thoughts to a singular goal: my annual fantasy football draft. Longtime readers may remember that two years ago, my team (the Bobby Heberts) won the league, thanks to a stirring Amani Toomer effort in the finale. Last year, my Clubfoot Dempseys fared less well, although the fact I was in Zambia for most of the season certainly played a role. (As did my burning a first-round pick on Donovan McNabb when Shaun Alexander was available.)
This year, I have poured my hopes into the Bum Phillippi. (A free cola beverage to the first reader who can figure out the three Saints references in my team names.) The cheat sheets have been constructed, the rotoreaders have been scoured, and I’m ready for battle. Gooooooo, Bum Phillippi!
I’ll be on TXCN tonight talking about Wilmer-Hutchins.
The White Shadow! Wackson Jackson! The Thrilla With Hands Like a Caterpilla! And other potential new nicknames for Michael Jackson.
An album I can strongly recommend: Apollo Sunshine’s Katonah. It’s highly grinworthy — a little Flaming Lips, yes, but a lot of Beach Boys and some Neutral Milk Hotel, too. And the band sounds like they just got the best birthday present ever.
It’s no fun to spend a whole weekend designing a new web site on a Mac, then go to work and find out it looks kinda krappy on Windows IE. Screw Windows IE.
I had another story on today’s front page — this time a profile of Wilmer-Hutchins superintendent Charles Matthews. Turns out this isn’t the first time he’s presided over a district’s financial collapse.
I had another Wilmer-Hutchins story in Saturday’s paper — about how the district now says it won’t be able to pay its teachers for two more weeks.
Check Monday’s front page for what should be another fun Wilmer-Hutchins tale. Collect them all!
Also, some of you East Coasters may be interested to note The Gray Lady herself, The New York Times, decided to poach my stories of the last two weeks for a Sunday article of its own. It’s always fun to see one’s work, er, repurposed by another outlet of fine journalism (even if at least one error was introduced in the carbon-copying process). Since the NYT seems to operate on the assumption that all evil in the education world originates in Texas, I’m sure the story was a pretty easy pitch to editors.
Will this streak ever die? Wilmer-Hutchins, Day 5, in which the district fails to meet payroll, leaving teachers wondering how they’ll pay their bills, and the district appears to take out an illegal loan to pay short-term bills.
If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly — always a risky bet — the streak should go to six tomorrow. But it might end there.
Want to have fun? Tune into the Fox local news tonight (in Dallas). You’ll get to see video of a disheveled me knocking on the car window of Wilmer-Hutchins superintendent, as he speeds away in his Cadillac moments after his district went into financial default.