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River Tracing, Jim Comer, Jeff Bomer, David Berg and more

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

TRAVEL: Texas rivers Nos. 29 and 30 traced. Just returned from West Texas, where Joe Starr and I traced the Pecos and Devils rivers. We started in Carlsbad, N.M. and followed the Pecos through high plateaus, sandy hills, blue mesas and deep canyonlands. Had a “No Country for Old Men” encounter on a gravel road about 50 miles from the Pecos mouth. Then we took on the isolated and unspoiled Devils. We could not reach the State Natural Area or the Texas Nature Conservancy preserve, but followed the gorgeous stream down from the Edward’s Plateau. (Fuller blog reports and travel stories will follow.)

HEALTH: Speaker and writer on parenting parents. From my story in Dec. 13 Statesman: “On Feb. 20, 1996, Jim Comer received the call that changed everything. “Hi Jim, this is Lisa Huff,” Comer heard through the fog of sleep. “Your daddy is in the front yard in a daze. I think he had a stroke.” Comer lived on the West Coast. His parents were in Dallas. “I heard him yelling in the background,” Comer says. “In that moment, I knew that her sidewalk diagnosis was right. Neighbors told him they were taking him for Mexican food, but instead they took him to the hospital. By the time I got there, he couldn’t walk, he couldn’t talk and he had no control over his body functions.” To make matters worse, his father, 86, had been in denial for a least three years about his mother’s Alzheimer’s condition. http://shar.es/OJ7bE(One of several stories that ran while we were on the road.)

BUSINESS: Witness to more than 50 years of Austin business. From my story in Dec. 15 Statesman: “In 1963, Jeff Bomer helped a man out by purchasing 100 brushy acres near Round Rock for $100 an acre. In 1975, the former Austin computer salesman turned around and sold the land to the president of Austin Savings for $2,500 an acre. “Back then, the most popular high-end restaurant was called the Barn,” Bomer recalls of Austin in the 1960s. “You walked in and got a big, huge chunk of cheese on the table. A big trip was to drive to Salado to have dinner and drive back. That was the best we could do.” Sharp-eyed Bomer, 77, has witnessed a lot during his 55 or so years working in Central Texas. Now slightly stooped, he still shows up every workday to the Arboretum offices of Kennedy Wilson, the Beverly Hills-based real estate services and investment firm. “When I got here, Interstate 35 didn’t go (south) beyond Jarrell,” he says. “We just had Highway 81, a big divided road. The change of feel from putting in 35 was so dramatic. We had no traffic problems. We could just drive anywhere.” http://shar.es/OJ7kw(Remember when?)

BOOKS: As for Houston in the 1960s and ’70s … On the road, finished David Berg’s “Run, Brother, Run,” a riveting memoir about the lawyer, his family and the brutal murder of his brother, Alan Berg. Man, does it bring back the raw days of Houston back when all sorts of undesirables bumped into each other in the creepy-crawly night. Berg, among the city’s most successful lawyers, sprinkles his cast with the big names from Houston’s legal past: Percy Foreman, Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, Joe Jamail, Dick DeGuerin, Abe Fortas, etc.. We learn early that Berg’s brother was murdered by Charles Harrelson, yes, Woody Harrelson’s father. (It ranks up there with “Blood and Money” and covers a parallel time.)

CITY: New plan to ease parking woes on South Congress does not include meters. From Gary Dinges and Shonda Novak’s story in Dec. 16 Statesman: “A plan is being pitched that proponents say could ease some of the parking problems plaguing South Congress Avenue. And, at least for now, it doesn’t involve parking meters — an option floated in the past for an area that has become one of Austin’s most popular shopping, dining and entertainment districts. Austin City Council Member Chris Riley has been working for some time with South Congress-area merchants and leaders of the surrounding neighborhoods to address the parking issues. Now, both groups have agreed to try a new approach: To set aside roughly half of the parking on the side streets parallel to South Congress for residents only, with the other half being free parking for the public. http://shar.es/OJ5LZ(Bless Riley for trying to untangle this Gordian Knot.)

NOTE: In a previous version of this post, David Berg’s name was rendered incorrecctly.