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Michael Barnes

Lone Stars and Angels for St. Jude, First Edition Literary Gala for Texas Book Festival, Travis County Poor Farm and more

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Cora Shinaberry and Michael Portman at Lone Stars and Angels for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Cora Shinaberry and Michael Portman at Lone Stars and Angels for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

HEALTH: Why do people volunteer anyway? Here’s one story, shared by Suzanne Majors Davis before the Lone Stars and Angels western-themed benefit for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at Brazos Hall. “It goes back to when I was a freshman in high school, and my Uncle  Mike underwrote a fundraiser in San Antonio, for Danny Thomas, his friend. The hospital was just getting off the ground. I remember being on stage  with him and my uncle at La Villita, and impressed because Danny was a TV star from “Make Room for Danny.” As an American of Lebanese descent, it  was pretty cool to watch a national show with a fellow Lebanese, who actually joked about the culture (before the jokes were about car bombs). … Years later, when I handled press for the Lebanese ambassador in Washington, Danny received the Congressional Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan, and I got reacquainted with him. He was a really good and grateful man who never forgot his humble beginnings. My uncle was the same. Both he and my Uncle Mike are gone now, but I volunteer to help with this event every year to honor two great men.” There you go.

Richard and Maria Zuniga at First Edition Literary Gala for Texas Book Festival.

Richard and Maria Zuniga at First Edition Literary Gala for Texas Book Festival.

BOOKS: Martin Amis tried hard to offend. And did. But that’s his eternal schtick. His joke about the Kennedys might have elicited groans even at a John Birch Society smoker. It didn’t support his point about high standards. Otherwise, the First Edition Literary Gala, which benefits the Texas Book Festival, was a jolly affair at the Four Seasons Hotel. The menu was based on Italian inspirations from Lidia Bastianich, cookbooker, TV cook and one of the evening’s speakers. Terse, funny children’s writer, Mac Barnett, sat at our table and later read aloud an entire book of his from the dais. We also heard from Walter Mosley on the link between literary genres and other classifications in life. Adrian Todd Zuniga of “Literary Death Match” made a sprightly emcee. Planners realized that we all wanted to chat, so they gave us generous hours to do so, then lowered the house lights for the speakers. Worked. Then Amis spoiled it.

HISTORY: Life down on the Travis County Poor Farm. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “The entries for 1891 in the thick ledger pose as many questions as they answer. “Runaway (Bad Boy).” “Taken Away by Husband.” “Without Leave (No Good).” “Old Age.” These remarks appear next to names in a leather-bound book, filled out in two spidery hands and preserved at the Austin History Center, for the Travis County Poor Farm during the years 1890 to 1900. On lined pages, one finds semi-annual inventories of the farm, where paupers landed in times of crisis and convicts worked off fines and fees to the county. It lists expenditures and receipts as well as the names of the paupers, convicts and hired farmhands — including, in some cases, their ages, races, places of birth and reasons for departure.” http://shar.es/101s0e