Love Wins

Love Wins

White house in rainbow colors

Love wins

Twenty-nine years and six weeks ago, my husband and I chose to be married by our hero, Jerry Buchmeyer, the federal judge who on Aug. 17, 1982, decriminalized love between same-sex couples in Texas in the case known as Baker v. Wade.

Buchmeyer’s ruling was way ahead of its time: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned him on Aug. 26, 1985, and reinstated Texas’ anti-sodomy statute.

Despite that, Buchmeyer went on to officiate at wedding ceremonies for us and for others, including same-sex couples, by the powers, as he said, “that should be vested in me.”

The Texas anti-sodomy statute was finally toppled in 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Lawrence v. Texas in a 6-3 decision.

In his hysterical dissent in that case and others, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote pointedly and deliberately about his animus and contempt for gays and lesbians.

Clearly it was personal for Scalia. Even after Buchmeyer’s death in 2009, Scalia went out of his way to be openly hostile to the District Court judge’s family and associates in public.

In dissents and opinions he knew would outlive him, Scalia wrote that he did not consider what same-sex couples experienced to be love.
(Quotes from his writings here. )

I told Pam Buchmeyer last June how sad I was that her father had not lived to see the Supreme Court uphold same-sex marriage.

Conversely, I am somehow glad Scalia lived long enough to see his bitter ugliness overruled overwhelmingly by love.

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Home Away From Home

Kelly and Portia waiting Kelly and Portia are home, awaiting our return.

We’re in Woodbury, New Jersey, my hometown, 1,700 miles, a cultural divide and a three-day drive from San Antonio.

I’m going through my Dad’s remarkable photos, negatives, slides, and prints.

Life here is like a combination of Groundhog Day, with familial behavior patterns in a never-changing loop, and the flashback scene from Cold Case. The image and sound of my childhood self pops up without warning, laughing and talking with friends.

Through it all is my Dad, a genius and a hugger.

The quicksand of it all pulls at me.

But I remember.

Seasons change with the scenery… Look around, the leaves are brown, and the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

I must escape before the SAD winter swallows me.

Soon. I’m coming home.

Photographer Joseph Edward Lucas

Photographer Joseph Edward Lucas

Joe Lucas was a gregarious iconoclast, an uncompromising defender of civil liberties and human rights and a passionate Atheist, preaching to all who would listen.

He was born on Jan. 19, 1933, to Anna Kathryn Thaidigsman and Joseph Biddle Lucas in the Riverside, New Jersey, home built in the 1890s by his German immigrant grandparents.

He died of cardiopulmonary disease March 28, 2014, in hospice in Mt. Holly, 11 miles from his birthplace. He was 81.

Joe Lucas

Joe Lucas at Snoqualmie Falls, Washington in June, 2009. Photo by Holly Lucas

He was politically engaged to the very end, contributing to Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, signing online petitions and joining the American Civil Liberties Union in championing whistle-blower Edward Snowden as a patriot.

Besides Snowden, his heroes were journalists, activists and artists. He loved muckraker Jack Anderson, writer Molly Ivins, columnist Jim Hightower  and commentator Bill Moyers. Before the folk singer’s death in 2014, he campaigned to have Pete Seeger nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

He delighted in building things from scratch, be it a model airplane, a catamaran, a culinary creation or a computer.

A voracious reader and collector of tools, music and recipes, he was philosophically opposed to filing systems, hierarchies and rules, with the exception of the rules of grammar.

The exuberant hugger of trees and of people was happiest experiencing and photographing the outdoors with his family. His photographs celebrate the Alaska/Canada Highway, California’s Yosemite National Park,  Washington’s Hoh Rainforest, Texas’ Big Bend National ParkMaine’s Mount Desert Island,  Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument and his beloved Jersey Pine Barrrens.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Charlotte Katherine “Holly” Lucas, his children: Charlotte-Anne Lucas and her husband Bill Waldrop, Wendy Lucas and her husband Jay Weatherbee, Kevin Lucas and his wife, Mary Giovaninni; his sister, Kathryn Franklin, and her husband, Henry; his brother, David Lucas, and his wife, Kathy; nine nieces and nephews; nine grand-nieces and grand-nephews and scores of cousins.

A gathering in remembrance will be held May 24 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill N.J. For more details, click here. Our family asks that donations in his memory be made to NOWCastSA or to the Humane Society of Central Washington.

Coming next: The Early Years; The Photographer, The Activist…

Image

My Dad’s life through a new lens

I struggle to write my Dad’s obit. And then I rewrite it. And rewrite it again.

Charlotte-Anne and Turtle by Joseph Lucas

Charlotte-Anne and a turtle at Lake Oswego, 1956. Photo by Joseph Lucas

Where in the world to start?

My Dad taught me to read before I entered Kindergarden, he taught me to be a photographer, how to build and fly radio control model airplanes, how to fish, how to paddle a canoe and how to rebuild the engine in a car.

Most of all, he taught me how to think, and he stoked my passion for social justice. For my 14th birthday on Nov. 15, 1969, he granted my wish by taking me to Washington, D.C. to march against the War in Vietnam.

Because I could, I sewed a gib sail for the catamaran he made from two canoes, I took him to lunch with Texas writer and iconoclast Molly Ivins, and I married a man who loved him and liked talking to him.

But the fact is, since his death on March 28, 2014, the meaning and truth of my Dad’s life ~ and the meaning of my own life ~ is changing.

There are facts, but there are no longer hard and fast truths about our lives ~ the truth and meaning are fluid, evolving.

I understand this a little better now, thanks to a generous and wise friend who pointed me to Robert A. Neimeyer, a psychologist who believes the central process in grieving is responding to the loss by reconstructing meaning.  (Book here: http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/431651A.aspx video here: http://youtu.be/xYS0W-Ulg4g)

So I will take the obit and the story of his life in bites, reconstructing the meaning in chapters. Starting with the facts and finding the truth as I go.

I love you Dad.

{{hugs}}

 

Planes, People and Another Piece of My Heart

I used to get flashbacks every August.

The aching sadness would start to swallow me on the anniversary of the Aug. 2, 1985 crash of Delta Airlines Flight 191 in Dallas, followed by another collective sob on the anniversary of the Aug. 16, 1987 crash of Phoenix-bound Northwest Airlines Flight 255 in Detroit.

As a young reporter, I covered those crashes with both sides of my brain and 110 percent of my heart.

In the months after the Delta crash in Dallas, I and a team of two dozen reporters and editors at the late, great Dallas Times Herald produced a series on aviation safety that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service Journalism.

Two months later, I quit my job in Dallas and moved to Phoenix to marry an editor, the love of my life, Bill Waldrop.

Bill directed breaking news coverage as Criminal Justice Editor at the Arizona Republic, a big, metro daily paper that wasn’t particularly interested in hiring me. So I went to work for Max Jennings at the Mesa Tribune, a paper that was still small enough to be nimble and scrappy.

Bill and I were watching the television news shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday Aug. 16, 1987 when the crawl went across the bottom of the television screen: “A Phoenix-bound jet has crashed on takeoff in Detroit.”

Back then, we only had one land-line telephone in the house, so there was a bit of an arm-wrestle about which of us would call their news desk first and say, “I’m on my way in to cover it.”

He won, and was out the door in a flash, speeding downtown in his Datsun 260 Z.

Not long after, I was off to Phoenix’ Sky Harbor Airport to interview people who were waiting for friends and family to arrive from Detroit.

My dear photojournalist collaborator and friend, Gary O’Brien, still has a photo in his portfolio from inside the airport that night. I’m squatting down with other people, trying to comfort a woman who collapsed, overcome to learn her family member had missed the flight. He lived.

Photo by Gary O’Brien

Of the 157 people who boarded the plane, only one survived, a 4-year-old child named Cecilia Chichan.

I filed a story for the Mesa Tribune that evening, and also filed something for my friends at papers in Dallas and Detroit to include in their stories for the morning.

Then, after I cajoled him on the phone for a long while that night, Mesa Trib Managing Editor Sandy Schwartz relented, and Gary and I boarded a 2 a.m. flight from Phoenix to Detroit. The Mesa Trib had never done anything like quite like that before, and it certainly wasn’t in the budget.

When Gary and I landed after daylight, Andy Hall, a reporter working for my husband, was already on the ground in Detroit.

Gary and I went straight to the crash scene.

The aviation safety series in Dallas taught me more than I ever wanted to know about the fragile mechanics of JT8D Pratt & Whitney jet engines and the deadly vagaries of weather and wind shear.

As a 10-year-old kid, I learned the basics of aerodynamics by flying radio control planes with my Dad. I was his mechanic.

But the human factor arches over all.

For the “first responders” — EMS, Fire Department, local police and sheriff’s deputies — there is nothing more horrifying and debilitating than doing absolutely everything right – by the book – and not being able to change the outcome.

When big planes crash, people die. You can’t save them, no matter how hard you try.

When I met Wayne County Sheriff’s Lt. Norm Colstrand at the perimeter of the crash scene, I asked how he was holding up. I wanted the real answer, not just a polite response.

Colstrand was a burly, veteran cop. But he was overwhelmed with a primal pain.

We agreed that I would come back, long after dark, to see what he was guarding. He needed to share his pain with the world.

Having entered the game, the Mesa Trib doubled down and sent a gifted young writer, Doug MacEachern, to join the ground team in Detroit.

Doug mercifully agreed to connect with my husband and pick up my sneakers before leaving Phoenix. I’d been in heels since Sunday evening.

When he delivered them, I found a note from my husband tucked inside one sneak: “I love you – now kick ass!”

I wore those sneaks that night on a tour of the still smoldering crash scene.

Very fortunately for me, Gary and Doug were there. Doug tells the story here, better than I ever could.

I remember picking up the page, thinking deeply about the person who owned the book it came from, and tucking it away. It lives in my home in a file labelled, “Detroit Page.” It has seen daylight fewer than six times in 25 years.

From the start, I knew the plane did not crash itself. Even back then, passenger jets were designed to take off and fly with just one engine.

Sort of like in “rock, paper, scissors,” the human factor can overrule mechanics.

And so it had in Detroit, I learned through whispered hallway conversations with pilots and investigators.

Humans in the cockpit failed to extend the flaps on takeoff. Without that lift, the plane crashed.

To the relief of the reporters working for my husband, I finally left Detroit and flew home to Phoenix. He let them come home too.

The amazing experience in Dallas provided a template for the components that needed to be in the Sunday story.

The People.

The Plane.

The Crash.

Dave Becker, Scott Bordow, Ric Clarke, Jeffrey Crane, David Downey, Chris Feola, Earl Golz. Andrea Han, Eileen Myers, Robert Perez, Bill Roberts, Jeremy Stockfisch, Ed Taylor, Ben Winton, Rick Wiley, Dough MacEachern, Gary O’Brien and I provided the facts.

Then Doug wove the words together in just the right way, describing the purple bow her grandma tied around Cecelia’s waist that morning and the yellow blankets we saw that dark night tucked around victims on the ground.

After a long time, the ghosts went into remission.

But this August, they came out to mark 25 years.

And Norm Colstrand’s words echo in my brain:

 “You hear about the plane crashing into Mt. Fuji and that 520 people got blown across the side of a mountain, and you say to yourself, ‘Boy, that’s a shame,’ and then you go about your business.

Or your hear about a plane crash in the Canary Islands and that 582 people were killed. You shake your head, and you go on with your life.

“But this time, we can’t just go about our business.

“This time, death in its massiveness came to roost here.”

My gold cocoon on wheels

The last thing I wanted was to own and drive a minivan — a gold Dodge Caravan that looks identical to its two million or so brethren on the highway and in every parking lot in town.

But it was what I needed.

Four years and a few weeks ago when we bought the van, I’d just had my cancerous uterus removed the hard way, and needed something gentle to ride in for the 200-mile drive between home in San Antonio and the best doctor in the world at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

While I passengered with a pillow, Willie drove the van to Houston for my next surgery, then drove down again for my series of radiation treatments. The ride was gentle, and I started to secretly love the van in a very un-soccer mom kind of way.

Later that year, I got the chance to teach journalism, Web publishing and design, multiplatform reporting and interviewing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. But I didn’t want to move.

“You can commute!” said department director Ardyth Sohn. “Everybody does it.” And so I did.

I loaded everything I could think of that fit into the van; we pointed it toward Vegas and drove. The air conditioning was good and the ride was sweet, all the way across West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and the Hoover Dam into Nevada.

And when I drove to the UNLV campus each day, at about the same time the third shifters were getting off work on the Strip, the van gave me enough elevation to see a couple of cars ahead so I could avoid the early morning drunks and the other crazy drivers.

Van

The van has more .edu than I do

We drove the van home in December, back to Vegas in January, then home again in May.

I did the “commute” until 2008, when the van and I came home to San Antonio without a single scratch.

The van’s acquired some learned trappings along the way.

Above the UNLV sticker on passenger side of the van’s windshield is a parking pass for the University of the Incarnate Word. The van parks there while I swim laps weekday mornings at the Natatorium.

A Saint Mary’s University parking pass dangles from the rear view mirror, because the van hangs out there on Tuesdays and Thursdays each semester while I teach the class formerly known as Print Journalism.

A year ago, I was persuaded to take a leadership role in a new community journalism startup called NOWCastSA.com. We planned, strategized and budgeted for video cameras, a TriCaster and people. As it turned out, getting all of that stuff and staff from here to there, where we do our thing, requires … a van.

Gear in, seats up, people in, doors close and we fly to our assignment with the Interwebs. In the past few weeks, the van clocked 250 miles on NOWCastSA.com alone.

Monday morning, I’m heading to Houston again to see my favorite doctor at MD Anderson. I have no doubt I’ll be told that the cancer’s still gone. Endometrial cancer is like that. Overwhelmingly, we are survivors.

While Willie drives, I’ll be online and working, thanks to bluetooth, WiMax 4G, the sizzling good cell connections on Interstate 10.

And thanks to the gold van that is my Giving Tree.

It’s my birthday, I’ll count if I want to

I’ve never been afraid to go places few women have gone before, and to take names and kick butt.
Thanks to my father, I learned to rebuild the engine in a 1964 Dodge Dart so I had a car to drive in 1974. (I named it Rocinante and aimed it at windmills.)
I won’t reiterate the litany of “firsts” I punched through as a woman in the journalism bidness. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time busting through the “first” wall: The first woman photographer, the first woman investigative reporter, the first woman business editor, the first woman editor, the first … well, you get the drift.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the company of a lot of white guys trying to do twice as well as they did so I could earn a place at the table.
Today, my 54th birthday present was to not be the lone woman at a tech conference.
We were a crowd and a tribe! A flock and a pod! A gaggle and a group!
We were not alone.
About 22 percent of the people registered for Drupal Camp Austin 2009 were women.
I know. I counted.
That’s extraordinary in a world where six percent of people in Open Source software are women. In Drupal, the numbers are more like 12 percent, but that’s still a dreadful minority.
Thanks to @laurenroth, @shana_e and @equintanilla @vitorious @chanaustin this was not a “lone woman” conference.
Women came for many reasons, including that there were people at this conference who look like them. Anglo, Asian American, African American – we were there.

In every session there were from 13 percent to 29 percent women.
I chronicled the ratio in every session I was in, to the dismay of one South Austin cretin (please click to see what an idiot he is.)
It’s my birthday, I’ll count if I want to!!
The tally tells me how far we have come. Thank you for such a meaningful birthday present!