Saturday, April 12, 2008


I have heard white Liberals attest their inability to differentiate Black from white. I would be dysfunctional in not noticing that Carol is Black. Black is part of her beauty. It is also integral to an upbringing different to my own. We interest each other. We map who we are by exploring our recollections. Carol is a PhD. She has a disciplined mind. I am a High School drop-out. I have an untidy mind. I kid myself that I am moderately insightful. Talking with Carol clarifies my thoughts. Hopefully I will leave Galveston as a wiser man.


Carol's students are attempting the conversation Barak Obama requested. They are discussing their attitudes to race and sharing experiences. I suggest that we are educated by Hollywood. I tell of the image Herefordshire High School students gave of Mexicans: fat, sweaty, big moustaches, big hats, comic accents.
A student relates his surprise at being shown home photographs of upland meadows by his Ecuadorian girlfriend. Hollywood Ecuador is sweat, bugs and jungle.
The class has run 30 minutes over time. Kai's babysitter is waiting.

Friday, April 11, 2008


I am nervous. I sit in an upright chair with my back to a blackboard. Fifteen students face me. This is an Afro-American literature course at Texas A & M. I have an untidy mind. I waffle about Latin America.
Carol interrupts. She says, "Simon believes that Americans are obsessed by race. Do you agree?"
People in the US are reluctant to discuss race in mixed racial company. A brave blond student in the first row raises her hand lower than shoulder height. Others follow. All agree. A medium brown student in his mid twenties tells of a white co-worker asking what Black people were like.
"Like me," he said.
"Normal Black people."
"I'm a normal Black person."
Yeah, but you're not a proper Black person. You're educated was the unspoken comment.
A Latino student talks of an Anglo boy making her feel that she came from a different planet: asking how her family lived and what they ate at home (only beans and rice?).
A black student from a military family tells of switching from a majority white high school to a largely Black high school where her fellow students accused her of talking white.
She replied, "I'm talking English."
None of the students had listened to Barak Obama's speach.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


For the past week and more, TV channels here have been broadcasting a twenty second loop of Reverend Wright bouncing up and down in apparently insensate rage at the wickedness of the United States. The Reverend Wright was Barak Obama's priest/Minister. Barak Obama made a speech yesterday. I lay in bed in the studio apartment at Ed and Terry's and watched on TV. Obama addressed the most divisive aspect of the United States: Race.
Race is dangerous ground. Politicians avoid the subject. Obama wasn't speaking as a politician. He was asking people to confront the truth and think outside the proscribed box. The speech was the finest and most relevant I have heard uttered by an American. Much of what has happened recently in US Government must shame Americans. Obama should make them proud.


Carol, Kai and I drive to town for breakfast. Carol parks and Kai takes my hand as we walk from the car. I am proud at being chosen.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


All four Davies brothers studied drums with a Cuban musician. The youngest brother, Chris, is excellent; the other three are merely good. The brothers play together on Easter Sunday in Peter and Carol's garden. Ostensibly they are celebrating their mother's birthday. Son Two is a Philosophy Professor at Loyola University. Son Three is employed in a Central American eagle protection program. Son Four teaches school in Colombia. The brothers have kept the birthday party secret from their mother. The brothers appear one by one. Their mother is truly surprised - and touched by their thoughtfulness. Many cousins are present - and three grandchildren. Kai is part Afro American. The other two grandchildren are half Japanese. The half Japanese grandson will be a good drummer.


Galveston is a sandbar. Locals call it an island. Real locals wear BOI buttons: BOI - Born On Island. Peter's mother is 6th generation BOI. In company, she demands attention by speaking barely above a whisper. She is a school teacher by profession. Surely she must speak in a normal pitch to her students. Peter is the eldest of four sons. His three brothers have arrived to celebrate their mother's 70th birthday. Carol is Afro American. Son Two is married to a Japanese. Son Three is in company with a Parsee (Mumbai via the US) while Son Four has a companion from East Germany. Mrs. Davies must feel somewhat rejected.


ed preparing coffee

The ice cap would melt were Terry and Ed to live at the North Pole. They possess that intensity of warmth. They care. They care for the underprivileged, for those who suffer. They are enraged by the shenanigans of Washington. Terry is conversant with the shenanigans. She worked in Washington for the Government of Texas.
A spiral staircase leads up from the studio apartment to their living room. Ed doesn't sleep much. I climb the stairs and find him reading the newspaper through a magnifying glass. He has a bubble in one eye. The bubble should be absorbed over the next weeks. Meanwhile he is restricted to peripheral vision. He pours coffee. We watch morning news. Terry is working on other people's tax returns. Returns are designed to make work for tax specialists and to be incomprehensible to those on low incomes and who should profit from rebates and tax credits. Terry is a CPA. She gives free advice to those most in need of advice - those who can't afford advice.


Peter Davies drives me to Beach Patrol HQ. I listen at a meeting of Peter and his crew. Peter relates diving for the missing girl in the last of yesterday's daylight, the helicopter pilot spotting the body, Peter's attempts at revival, waiting with the body. The drowning took place outside the Patrol's zone of responsibility. No blame is attached to the Patrol, yet a young girl died and these men feel responsible. Humor is the best antidote to tragedy and Peter does his utmost to lighten his account, to get the message across to his crew that he is OK: Spring Break and they need to be out on patrol.
Peter takes me to lunch at a Vietnamese noodle bar. The strain is there, noticeable in his eyes and around his eyes. He has no time to recuperate. His three brothers and their wives/partners are arriving for their mother's birthday. I try to normalise this one tragedy through a maze of statistics. How many lifeguards does he employ in the summer season? How many drownings? How many children get lost?
In the height of summer they have a tent on the beach manned by two lifeguards only for lost children. Ten or fifteen lost children in the tent at any one time is normal.
Later Peter drives me along the sand in his truck. A young dad waves us down; his infant has been stung. Peter copes equally well with a second man who only speaks Spanish. Peter calls a warning over the loud-hailer to a couple of bathers prancing in the sea between two DANGER signs. A rip current surges off the tip of a stone jetty. Two families comprising young children stand at the end of the jetty. Waves burst against the jetty and the children shriek. One slip and Peter would face another tragedy.
Teenyboppers don't mob us. So much for Baywatch...


Peter Davies has been down the beach for the past three hours with a dead sixteen-year-old girl. The girl was spotted from a helicopter. Peter picked her up on the Beach patrol's Honda aqua-scooter. Peter tried revival. Too late. The girl was declared dead on the beach. The ambulance driver wouldn't take the body. The crowd exiting from the Rap concert had degenerated into riot mode and blocked the sea road. Peter sat alone in his truck with the body and with only his thoughts for company. Now he is home. I find him standing beside his truck. An Old Brit stranger is low on Peter's requirement list. He needs peace. I cross to Ed and Terry's studio apartment and watch late night political news on TV.