Monday, December 29, 2008

Our Wish for 2009

Family and friends,

May your 2009 be prosperous, full of joy, health, and new adventures. The Najera family in Arlington make it a point to continuously make memories with many of you, knowing what we have now is the only thing we can count on.
We sincerely wish you and yours all the best!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Movie Stars at the Mall

What we did not expect today was -- literally -- running into heavy duty Disney stardom at the mall. We were only browsing after-Christmas stuff, when at the right second, and with all the planets aligned, we ran into Madison Pettis, who is a -- I'm told by my girls -- very famous already.

I have a very uncanny ability to notice things nobody else does, and it paid off bigtime today. She was walking casually, almost trying to be unnoticed, when I ackwardly told my wife, "Look! That's the girl from The Game Plan!" She gave a shy, but big smile. Her dad was probably not too wild about me trying to stop them and getting their attention, but, alas, we went for it and they obliged.

We know her from that film, The Game Plan. Anyhow, it was a brief moment. She, along with her parents, graciously gave us a couple of minutes to take pictures. Of all times for our girls NOT be with us, that was today.

They would have been so awestruck to be in her presence.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Farewell, Old Friend

**I had the unique opportunity to be a partner for season tickets during the last season -- The Farewell Season -- for the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium. I took Mrs. Commish and my sister-in-law, Lizbeth, to the very last game played in the house Tom Landry built. As a tribute to that day, which ended up being horrible -- cold as hell and a terrible loss to the Ravens -- I wrote this piece. On Sunday, April 11, 2010, Texas Stadium will be demolished for good.

Irving, Texas – Texas Stadium, The House Landry Built, died at the age of 37 years, 1 month, and 20 days.

Services: 7:15 p.m. Central, Saturday, December 20th, 2008, in Irving, Texas, where the Dallas Cowboys will host the Baltimore Ravens. Visitation: Gates will open at 3 p.m. on Saturday, when guests are invited to bring all their Cowboys fan gear, tailgate equipment, and help us give this storied cathedral its farewell. Interment: Is yet to be determined by officials.

On October 24, 1971, Texas Stadium opened its doors for the first time, giving Dallas Cowboys fans an opportunity to enjoy their team in a place that would be home for 37 glorious years. At a cost of $35 million, which is a little over half of Tony Romo’s current contract, Texas Stadium revolutionized visions for football gridirons, especially that famous hole in the roof, which we believe is intended for God to watch his favorite football team on Sundays.

1,433,000 watts of power brought the place to life that inaugural day, releasing any angst of leaving the old Cotton Bowl a few miles away in the heart of Dallas, Texas. Christening the new park was celebrated with a Dallas win over New England, 44-21.

The Dallas Cowboys’ new home, which some players called an “opera house,” as compared to football stadiums of the day, inspired that squad to greatness. They would defeat San Francisco, 14-3, in the NFC title game and complete the 1971 season with victory over New Orleans, 24-3, in Super Bowl VI. The Cowboys would win their first world title in Miami, the year they moved into their new home.
For many, visualizing anything other than Texas Stadium on that piece of real estate in Irving, entrapped by Loop 12, Highway 114, and Highway 183, amongst others, will bring nostalgia. Driving that part of North Texas without the “Big Silver Hamburger,” as Charlie Waters once called it, will need some getting’ used to.

It was the vision of Texas Earnest Schramm Jr., a man we call Tex -- a name on the Ring of Honor I’ve had the opportunity to sit under for the last three years --, for the Dallas Cowboys to become an American icon. It was he who is credited with making the Cowboys, America’s Team. But, as quoted in a movie once, “another man turned $150 million dollars into some serious money”. Jerry Jones took over America’s Team and Texas Stadium in 1989, paying $75 million for the franchise and $75 million for the lease on Texas Stadium.

During the Jerry Jones era, the Cowboys franchise has won three world titles, and increased the team’s net worth ten-fold, giving it a tag of well over a billion dollars. Adding more luxury suites and making large events of almost every home game, Cowboys fans and haters alike have been able to experience the greatness of the NFL in the parking lots and on the seats in that bowl.

Next season, 5.3 miles from my home, the Dallas Cowboys will open the 2009 campaign in the new stadium, one that defies and challenges all standards for stadiums today. There will simply be nothing like it.

As a family, we have enjoyed all the varieties Texas Stadium has offered, from that Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, to the Thursday against the Miami Dolphins, and the Monday against the Philadelphia Eagles. We hesitated to indulge the horrid NFL Network and their Thursday/Saturday offerings, with one exception – today. We’re not clear who gave this deplorable network rights to such a historic night, which truly warrants the voice of a John Madden and/or Al Michaels, but it was not our decision to make.

Today’s world always calls for better and faster, for newer and bigger. We are a generation who expects instant gratification, and anything less seems to be an increasing nuisance to tolerate. If you have had the opportunity to walk towards Texas Stadium, you notice its wear. You notice its need for paint, a need for repair. Its concrete pillars continue to hold up that famous roof, which hardly contains the tremendous roar of a crowd on a Sunday afternoon.

John Madden said in his Hall of Fame speech that he believed the busts talked to each other once everyone was gone. Surely, the echoes of generations of Cowboys fans will continue to sound in that air space, on that ground. There are the countless locker room speeches. “HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS!” The fedora clad man walking intently, but quietly, to his place on the sidelines, Emmitt Smith’s rushing record -- truly too many to name and remember on one occasion.

Today, Cowboys fans all over the world will cheer on the Boyz to continued victory over the Ravens with hopes of making it to what former Cowboys coach, Bill Parcells called, “The Tournament.” They’ll be watching on TV or their seats in the stadium, all the while taking in that last breathes inside and out, lest we forget it will be no more.

One more time down that tunnel…one more time, just one more curtain call.

Texas Stadium, thanks old friend.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If You Cannot Improve Upon the Silence, Say Nothing...

I was paid a very nice compliment the other day by the president of my firm.

Unfortunately, while most of us are gearing up for the holiday season (broke or not), this time of year also sees an increase in fatalities. Historically, our caseload goes up from about mid-October to mid-February. There's not necessarily one explanation for it, though we suspect some. I'm not sure there's ever been any research about the matter, either.

Anyhow, as expected, we are busy. We had three services at 10 a.m. the other day, when we awoke to temperatures in the teens here in North Texas. Thank God there wasn't much precipitation, as icy roads were kept at bay.

As we gathered in the "coffee room" of our office early in the morning, ready to tackle the day, he said, "You know, one of the things I most admire about our Javi is his extraordinary ability to remain calm in the wake of a storm and not critical of others shortcomings to the point of causing arguments at every blessed corner!"

You'd have to know that our profession has moments of high stress. If you have ever watched any show or film with a hospital emergency room, you can rest assured at some point the action will be elevated to what the medical community calls, "code blue." Funeral homes have code blues. We have moments when we just don't know how were going to get it all done.

Consequently, people become fatigued and irritable. Ultimately, we get involved in arguments which have no true value, that is, arguing a valid point to improve a situation is one thing. Arguing to argue and criticize is just -- in my opinion -- an incredible waste of time and energy.

It happens everywhere. People are insecure and feel the need to impose on others, especially if they are granted the authority to do so. I have seen the women in my life argue for hours about what outfit should be worn to a certain occasion. I realize that's par for the course for women, but is it necessary?

After the comment was made, one of the other funeral directors agreed. She said, "Yeah, Javi is what makes us all calm no matter what chaos is going on. How do you do it?"

My mother assumes I keep it all in. She warms of the dangers of that, and perhaps I do. I don't feel that way, though.

The truth of the matter is I just don't give it any thought. I mean, I have my moments of stress and worry, but I separate legitimate worries from shallow, meaningless ones.

That said, I love the quote I gave this piece. Another is, "The sign of a good friendship is when silence is comfortable."

There are many.

Stephen King once said he doesn't like to waste words, which is sorta ironical, as many of his novels are well into the 65,000-word range. Seemingly, a statement like that would not be notable of one of the most significant writers of my lifetime.

I guess the idea, moral -- call it what you want -- etc., is that we could bank so much time if we could just be humble enough to shut up every now and then. If there is no obvious intrusion or malicious intent in our fellow human being's intention, why make it worse with selfish arguments? Why try to convince someone going one way is better than the way they are going if both ways get you there in relatively the same time, with the same level of difficulty?

Coach Dungy, who heads the NFL team in Indianapolis, has taken that team to the playoffs every one of his last six seasons, and on the way to a seventh. He won a Super Bowl with them two seasons ago, and is the youngest coach to beat all 32 NFL teams at one point or another during his short tenure with the Colts.

If you know coach Dungy, you know what I mean. If you don't, try and catch a Colts game one day on TV. They'll point the camera at him constantly. He's the thin, African American coach walking calmly on the sideline. He rarely moves his lips.

As calm and cool as he is, compared to many of his coaching peers, he exemplifies what I mean about wasting energy with arguments or comments that have no tangible value.

All the best.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday, A Day For Rest

My earliest memory of understanding "work" was dad saying he couldn't take me to a ballgame because they were offering overtime at the factory, and he was going to make some money. I must have been 4 or 5, maybe younger, and from then on I made it a daily quest to understand this "work" business.

I started to pay mind to what people did for fork. My grandfather was a police officer. He arose everyday at 5 a.m. without exception, as did grandma to make his breakfast and lunch. My other grandfather did as well, though he was running a salvage business in Mexico, later in El Paso.

Mom had worked some in a factory as a business administrator, but quit to take care of me, which I found peculiar. I remember thinking, "I can take care of myself!"

At parties I heard murmurs of people's jobs: factories, truck driving, salvage yards, mechanics, and one doctor. Stated simply, nothing too exciting. I remember thinking work is something that was assigned by some mean priest when you went to church, as no one seemed happy to go to work, certainly not what they were working for.

A few years later (I was 8 or 9), dad was laid off by what my mom called, "a good job," at Cummins Diesel. He came home with his things and about $2,000 in severance. The news fascinated me, as I thought $2,000 was an extraordinary amount of money. And, more than that, dad would be home a lot more.

The thought quickly decimated when I saw the looks on their faces. Life lesson, regarding work, #2 was born in my mind. No job meant, no income, meant worry, worry, worry. The $2,000 -- even then -- wouldn't last long. For the first time in my life, I felt worried.

Dad took the $2,000 and invested it with his only brother and father. Najera and Sons Auto Salvage was born out of that need to find stable income. Two acres were purchased in far east El Paso, which is now Socorro, Texas. Slowly but surely, a business flourished. It was a business which saw five streams of income: used auto parts, used car sales, mechanical work, auto body work and scrap metal sales.

For about 5 years, I don't think dad had a day off. Monday through Sunday they toiled and toiled on those two acres until Najera and Sons Auto Salvage established itself as one of the pioneer salvage yard business in El Paso County. Soon after, many others followed, and that section of Alameda Avenue was known as the salvage section.

Other family members joined the cause. The business grew. Finally, the business hours were split between two teams. Dad, myself (later my brother) and a rotation list of employees took one weekend, and my uncle (dad's only brother) and his team the other. For many years (through my high school years), we worked every other Sunday, and for sure, every Saturday. Saturday were big sales days for our business, as many worked on their cars on the weekend.

The stigma of working on weekends has always been a thing of interest to me. Many of dad's friends would come and hang out with us on Sunday. We woke up at 6 a.m. and met for breakfast, then headed to the yard. We usually closed at 2 p.m.-ish. Later, some of my football friends would come around, too.

The yard was a cool place to be for a man. There countless tools and cars to "mess with." Friends' cars always seemed to need something, and being at the yard on Sunday became a thing of routine.

Even so, people have always asked and wondered, "How can you tolerate working on weekends?" Many say they couldn't do it.

To me, working weekends and holidays (which we often did at the yard) was as normal as the Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving. That's just the way it was. I have never known it any other way. Only in my very early years of life did dad NOT work on weekends. For most of my rearing, he did.

Today, he does not. He has a good job with the Socorro school district, and the days of owning and working a business are long gone, for dad.

For me and my brother, we have continued to find ourselves in a position where working weekends is part of the job requirement. I continued to field and answer questions of "why?"

It's not out of martyrdom that I write about this thought. In fact, one of the great failures of a Capitalist society -- in my opinion -- is the need for many people (not just us) to work all kinds of hours and shifts, be it weekend or holiday, in the name of the all mighty dollar. In my small world, it has always been the norm. In a Utopian world, things might be different.

How many people sacrifice they day meant for rest? I'll start with firemen.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Farewell Thanksgiving

After an amazing 13-3 season, albeit no playoff win, the Dallas Cowboys began the 2008 campaign, knowing it would be the last time they would play at Texas Stadium. In that spirit, the fans in us began planning in late summer attendance to the last Thanksgiving game ever in The House that Landry Built.

We tailgated lightly, that is, avoided overindulgence in all things drink and food, as a Thanksgiving feast awaited us upon our return. That and we took my girls to the game, as the Jonas Brothers provided the halftime show, as well as Demi Lovato offered the National Anthem.

This scene will be no more, as the Dallas Cowboys will break-in the new stadium in Arlington in the 2009 season, a stadium 5.2 miles from my front door. Without a doubt, we'll be back in the new house to cheer the Cowboys, but for now...for this year, we said good-bye to that great house with so many memories...