This episode is easy as Sunday morning. That’s what time it was in Seattle when I spoke to my cousin Jackie Micucci. Jackie is originally from Long Island, New York. She’s one of my many relatives that I know, but I don’t know that well, and I certainly don’t see very often. But even though I’ve only been in the same room with her a few times, I’ve always felt an affinity to her… probably because of her snarky comments on Facebook. But the snark is a bit misleading. As you’ll hear she’s practically a Pollyanna!
I met Chris Flemmons while I was living in the college town of Denton, Texas. He’s a talented singer and songwriter. He has a band called the Baptist Generals. He’s also a filmmaker. He was Director of Photography on a short film I made called “Kung Fu Teenage Bigfoot” the trailer…and he also did the voice over.
I’ve always liked Chris’ demeanor. During this conversation, he mentions he sometimes feels like a crotchety old man, but the thing is, he had that vibe even in his twenties…he wears it well, it suits him. Anyhow, I always get a lot from his point of view. I hope you do too.
Alvin Oon is a very positive, upbeat guy. Usually, I’m suspicious of guys like that, because really, who are they fooling? But for Alvin, that’s genuinely the way he is. And as you’ll hear, any guy who made a choice to pursue the performing arts in Singapore and go his own way and who made a successful life for himself and his family must have a positive attitude.
Alvin is an actor, singer, emcee, director, he can basically do it all. He also writes songs, and some of his songs poking fun at life in Singapore have gone viral, getting hundreds of thousands of views. If you like any of them you hear later, I encourage you to check out the videos on youtube.
Here are pictures and links to a few of the things we mentioned in the show:
What can I say about Sean Sutherlin? He’s just a great guy. You’re going to love him. He has a nice soothing voice. He’s smart, he’s an English professor, he’s part of my first circle of college friends from my freshman year when I went to Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas…and I was only there for one year but that group of friends, we’re still friends…and I don’t want to say much more because this is the special Christmas edition of, “Who Are These People?”
So there’s this guy named Lee Weaver who has decided to run for governor in Texas. And he’s just a normal guy, not a polished politician, and he this to say about his candidacy, “Turns out nothing clears your head quite like transplanting an enormously complicated idea from the safety and privacy of your own mind into the unforgiving wild west of the public square.”
That quote hit home with me, because it’s a big part of why I wanted to start this podcast. I wanted to take the running dialog inside my head and speak it out loud, because it does take a different shape as soon as you do. You realize that some things that bounce around in your own mind sound so easily, sound ridiculous when you try to speak it.
Which brings me to Tony Nash. Tony and I are friends, kind of at the professional level. I knew who he was because he is a frequent guest on Bloomberg, CNBC, BBC etc., here in Asia. He’s an economist and has his own company. Then it so happened that I started working at a company in a small office and Tony rented the room down the hall. So I saw him on a somewhat daily basis for about a year. So obviously we got to know each other pretty well. And Tony, as you’ll hear in this conversation, has some different political views than I do. He’s a Republican and, well, you’ll hear him describe it himself. But first and foremost he’s a very nice and friendly guy.
Even though I met him and got to know him in Singapore, he’s also from North Texas and grew up in the Hurst, Euless, Bedford area…small world.
The year that I was working there with him, happened to overlap with the 2016 presidential campaign. You can imagine as Trump was gaining in the polls, Tony was happily ribbing me, “are you ready for Trump as the next president?” I was amused and bemused and also as the timing would have it, I was at work during normal working hours, when the election was eventually called for Trump. I think Tony could sense he was the only one in a fairly wide radius who was happy about the result. I give him credit, he didn’t gloat and I think he knew that myself and others needed some space. But anyhow, that’s all in the past now…here’s my conversation with Tony Nash.
I haven’t told Scott yet, but he’s on my list of people to interview for the podcast. Here is a brief teaser, where he came up in conversation with Lisa Rawlinson (episode 10), and here are some photos stolen from his Facebook page:
Here is Scott enlightening former President George W. Bush
Mushroom clouds are a recurring theme
A handsome bird
Anyone from Texas of a certain vintage will appreciate this.
So be on the lookout for a future “Who Are These People?” with Scott Winterrowd
Lisa Rawlinson is making art again after a twenty-year break. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to catch up with her. When I met her, she was one of the many talented artists in the Good/Bad Art Collective in Denton, Texas in the 90s. During the twenty-year break, Lisa did stuff like get married, have kids, get divorced, have a career in publishing, you know, life.
Then a few years ago I noticed that she was sharing a ton of new and interesting artwork on social media and it really struck me that she was another person out there struggling to express herself in this new reality we all share.
I’ve uploaded some of Lisa’s artworks on to this podcast’s facebook page or you can find her work at lisarawnlinsonart.com (and I’ll paste a few below) Whichever way, I suggest you take a look at some of her paintings while you listen to this if you can, I think it will make it more enjoyable.
Note: There’s one part where Lisa and I were wondering if gravitational waves could travel faster than the speed of light. I googled it. It seems the answer is no, but there are other factors that can cause light to reach us slower than the gravitational waves.
I was really excited to talk to Kristi Williams. Kristi is super cool and she has a super cool husband and a super cool kid. I’m friends with her on Facebook, and I feel like I know her, but I really don’t. Kristi is married to Marc who was friends with my wife, Jen, first. I know Marc pretty well, but I think I had only spoken to Kristi at her wedding, many years ago. Until now anyways.
Kristi, or should I say Dr. Williams, is a real-life family demographer, medical sociologist and college professor. She’s responsible for papers and studies with titles like “Promoting marriage among single mothers: An ineffective weapon in the war on poverty?” and “You Make Me Sick: Marital Quality and Health Over the Life Course.” I love this kind of stuff and am so impressed by the academics who do it.
It was a pleasure to chat with her.
Note: She mentions this book during the conversation:
My friend Larry Rigdon and I go way back. I’m talking “Wonder Years” back. We went to the same elementary (primary) school and we were good friends during those formative “Stand By Me” years from 12 to 16. In fact, as you’ll hear in this conversation, 16 was kind of a hard cut-off point, because that was the year Larry had to move away from Plano, where we grew up. He never got to finish high school with our class of friends. It just so happened that I called Larry when he was feeling nostalgic and had been looking at YouTube videos and Google Maps and stuff of the places he grew up, so that really colors this conversation.
According to Wikipedia: The city’s population was 269,776 at the 2010 census, making it the ninth most populous city in the state of Texas The city is an affluent hub for many corporate headquarters such, Dell Services, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Ericsson, Frito-Lay, HP Enterprise Services, Huawei, J. C. Penney, Pizza Hut, Tech Mahindra Americas Inc and Toyota Motor North America, Inc..
In 1983 it was dubbed “The Suicide Capital of America,” as nine suicides among Plano high schoolers drew national attention to the town
There was also an epidemic of heroin abuse among young people in the 1990s.
In his book, “It’s Not About the Bike” Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, who grew up in Plano, described the city this way:
“It was the quintessential American suburb, with strip malls, perfect grid streets, and faux-antebellum country clubs in between empty brown wasted fields. It was populated by guys in golf shirts and Sansabelt pants, and women in bright fake gold jewelry, and alienated teenagers. Nothing there was old, nothing real. To me, there was something soul-deadened about the place…” “It’s home to Plano East High School, one of the largest and most football-crazed high schools in the state…” “In Plano, Texas, if you weren’t a football player you didn’t exist, and if you weren’t upper middle class, you might as well not exist either.”
I’m not saying Lance’s description is the only way to describe Plano, and we all know he has a rocky relationship with truth, but it gives you a taste.
But it was also just the neighborhoods where Larry and I grew up.
So that’s the background, now on to Larry Rigdon.
I don’t think I can summarize Dennis Meeks without sounding like I’m exaggerating. I think it’s best to just start listening to him yourself. I’ll just say this, Dennis is the same age as me, but in my opinion he has racked up enough experiences to easily make up three lifetimes already, and he keeps going.