Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Chicken Ranch report no. 55: Houston and back again

Some of you may be wondering what I've been up to since I announced my publishing deal back on October 21. That's a good question. The short answer is that I've been keeping busy. Very busy. Take a look at that photo to the right. See that? That's what I put myself through for you. History Press wants more photos for the book than I'd originally planned, so for the past month I've been making research trips to various libraries and archives hither and yon to track down various relevant photos that I might include in my book. Today I made what I hope is my final official research trip. I've needed to go to Houston, to visit the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, which has an incredible archive of photos from the long-gone Houston Press as well as the Houston Post. I'd planned to make the trip twice before, but both time I had to cancel for various reasons. Tuesday was the only possible day this week I could make the trip. Next week was no good because of Thanksgiving goings-on, and I really, really wanted all of my photos in place before December. So today it was.

Unfortunately, the weather chose to not cooperate. Around 6 a.m., powerful thunderstorms rolled over New Braunfels. It was raining steadily at 8 a.m. when I dropped my kids off at school and started my trip. Once I reached I-10, I caught up with the storms and they paced me all the way to Houston. The posted speed limit is 75 mph all the way, but at times I slowed to 45, so heavy was the rain and strong was the wind. Slow trip. And dangerous, too. Right at the Gonzales/Fayette County line, I came upon a white sedan that'd apparently just run off the road and crashed into the median fence. Visibility was so bad I was past it before it registered what I'd see. I called 911 on my cell, and the dispatcher, after taking my report, said, "Oh, is that the white pickup?" I answered no, because right at that moment I passed the wrecked pickup, jackknifed on the side of the road with a flatbed trailer. The dispatcher sent out a second response team.

But I made it to Houston in one piece, and other than having a devil of a time finding parking in the pouring rain, things went very well. Tim Ronk was very helpful, and even took me behind the scenes to go through the curated boxes of Houston Press photos searching for two infamous images by Marvin Zindler--one where he splashed ketchup on a stabbing victim because Zindler didn't think he looked hurt enough, and another where he broke into a house to photograph millionaire Shepherd King III and Egyptian bellydancer Samia Gamal asleep together. Sadly, we found neither of these, but I did come away with some good stuff and met some interesting people.

So from here on out, I'll be doing what I've been doing for the past few weeks, that is, reformatting my book to comply with History Press' guidelines, compiling photographs and assigning them to individual chapters, and other stuff, like finishing the bibliography, tackling an index, etc. I'll be quite busy for the next month for sure, but I should meet all my deadlines with time to spare.

Whilst I was driving to and from Houston, however, I had lots of free time to think, which is always dangerous. And an incredible thought hit me, that I will leave you with now:

A Bollywood version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

You're welcome.

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Chicken Ranch Central

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