By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Buzz's mother had three essential life lessons she attempted to impart to her son: 1) Shut up; 2) Show some respect; and 3) God help you if I ever catch you hanging around that pool hall. Despite her best efforts, delivered with the loving strokes of a left hook that would have done Joe Frazier proud, lessons one and two didn't take. But that's OK.We like this job.
Buzz never did learn to play pool, though. To this day, we just can't grasp all the angles.
That pool hall Mother Buzz warned us about was a seedy storefront on the main street of the small town where we grew up, a dim joint that served Busch beer in cans and offered dingy tables with faded felt, resting on stained indoor-outdoor carpet beneath humming fluorescent lights—tables that mother warned us lured the town's badder boys to trouble with a capital T.
We used to think about that joint later in life when, as a young reporter on the weekend cop shift in San Antonio, we'd be called out to cover shootings at seedy bars. "Misdemeanor murders," weary, cynical cops would call these crimes, as if to say: "If you're dumb enough to wander into a bar where cough syrup is considered a mixer, the barmaid has missing teeth, every third person is carrying a gun, and you wind up getting shot, what do you expect us to do?"
As comedian Chris Rock once pointed out: The difference between getting assassinated and getting shot has a lot to do with the company you keep.
So, what's our point, you ask? Well, another year has passed, and once again it's time to look back at the year's news in Dallas. How does one sum up a year that saw record home foreclosures, budget crises at the school district and everywhere else, massive layoffs, and general stress and near-panic? A year that saw City Hall rolling ahead with plans for a half-billion-dollar hotel that no private hotelier in his right mind wants to build? A year that saw our 401(k)s dwindle to 0.401(k)s? Mixed metaphorically speaking, we've been running with the wrong crowd; we weren't sharp enough to figure all the angles; and this year, the chickens came home to roost.
So that was 2008: The Year We Lived Dangerously and All Got Shot. Yes, this was indeed a tough, tough year. And the worst part is the uneasy feeling we have that none of us would be in this mess now if everyone had just shut up, shown some respect and listened to our mothers.
January - March
Booty haul: Texas' strip club owners ring in 2008 facing a new $5 per head—um, we mean $5 per patron—state tax. Club owners decry the fee as an unconstitutional tax on free expression. State lawmakers, who approved the booty tax, had considered but rejected a sliding scale for the fee, which would have cost patrons $15 for clubs featuring girls without knife scars, $20 for those with "really ginormous ta-tas" and $1.50 for clubs featuring girls who insist upon telling patrons they are "only working there while getting a marketing degree."
First casualty of war: Garland mother Priscilla Ceballos apologizes after it's revealed that she had lied about the death of her husband, purportedly killed while serving as a soldier in Iraq, so that her 6-year-old daughter could write an essay that won the girl tickets to a sold-out Hannah Montana concert. The girl's father was not, in fact, a war casualty. Ceballos complains of scorn and abuse heaped on her after the fakery was discovered in late December and urges Americans not to blame her daughter, who gamely offers to "blow Pop straight to hell" in exchange for tickets and a backstage pass.
Narcs for narcs: Dallas City Council passes a compromise measure that would allow police recruits who admit to past use of serious illegal drugs to be hired as long as the drug use occurred before the recruit turned 21 and the recruit did not inject the drugs or use the drugs more than one time. Council members rejected a DPD proposal that would have allowed up to four instances of serious drug use. "If people who use drugs that much want to enter government service, they can run for office, just like everyone else," council member Ron Natinsky tells cops.
New math: David Rastellini, the administrator in charge of finances at Dallas Independent School District, resigns as the district awaits the results of a much-delayed audit that will uncover numerous instances of sloppy bookkeeping. Rastellini tells reporters that his departure is for personal reasons and insists that he is proud of his "seven years of service to DISD." The district hired Rastellini in 2005.
Kitty litter: A Fort Worth man arriving at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport collects the wrong bag upon arrival, only to discover that a cat had somehow stowed away in the bag for an American Airlines flight from Florida. The cat is eventually returned to its owners. American later announces that it will charge a $35 fee for all cats carried in checked bags on domestic flights, and the Transportation Security Administration creates a rule that requires all cats carried on planes to be divided into sections weighing not more than 3 ounces each and stored in clear, one-quart plastic bags.