When the Epilogue Comes First

HDU_PrologueEpilogue

Sometimes we have to finish writing the ending of one story before we can begin writing the beginning of a new one. 

A year ago today, I was at the hospital to pick up Hook after a three-week, post surgery stay.  Absolutely nothing since that time has turned out the way I’d expected, and mostly that’s a bad thing.  But can I just say that there has been at least one unexpected bright spot that came via the creation of the Dr. Allan Hook Wild Basin Endowment.

Had Hook’s health not become terminal, we would have taken our sabbatical in Australia then returned back to Austin to build a house we’d been talking about for the past year.  Instead, the door to surviving in this life closed for Hook but before it did, we opened a new door that could be used for generations of learning about the sustainability of nature.

Why the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is Important by Allan Hook

I have a promise to keep that came from one of the last lucid discussions Allan and I had regarding why the 227 acre track known as the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve meant so much to him.  It has taken me more than three months before I felt able to share this with you. Here it is from Thursday, August 29th 2013, 5:57pm:

Q. Why is the Wild Basin important to you?

I was fortunate growing up because I lived next to a nature preserve.  I could go out and play in it.  Most kids didn’t have something like this.

This [Wild Basin] endowment provides an opportunity for people who haven’t had experience with the outdoors to try and tie that research question with the background of nature, integrated into its functional meaning of how we relate to nature.  It’s meant to get kids off their butts, off their computers — to look at what’s outside.

There are a million interesting things going on.  You just have to open your eyes and see what interests you whether its photo journalism or biology of the animal or teaching methodology or creating stories in nature.  There’s so much wonderment in nature because it’s complex and vast and we understand so little of it.

If you want to see what’s entailed in maintaining the [Wild Basin] property from invasive species and the trail maintenance and proper land management use, go see it.  Much of what they do at the basin is communicating with the local people surrounding the preserve and remaining a clearing house to the wider community.

Q. What did you hope would happen because of the endowment?

I thought it could float more students to get creative research experience; to open their eyes to brighter horizons that natural history provides.  This endowment will help us to facilitate studies to better understand some of the interactions happening between organisms at the basin.

I want the endowment to continue to grow so we can reach out to more students so we as a community can get more experience – not just St. Edward’s students, but globally – so we can share what we’ve learned with other such entities in Austin and around the world.

Q. What is it about nature that you love so much?

Why I love nature is because I get peace of mind and understanding, challenges to understanding, interesting people – how interesting people?  Because nature tends to attract inquisitive people and this is where ideas are shared and you think of things you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.  Sort of like a nature think tank that grows from every interaction of every person who contributes to it.

Q. What is it that you hope people will do about the endowment?

I’m asking you to consider contributing to it, too.  With your contribution, we can build this into a world class facility that includes Balcones Canyonlands Preserves 30,000 acres.

“Read it back to me,” Hook said and I did, louder than normal to keep his attention.  After several seconds without any reply, I thought maybe he’d fallen asleep.   

“Do what you do best, Baby,” he whispered. “Grow the endowment.”

I clicked to save the document I’d been typing in and put the laptop aside, standing up to lean over the hospital bed so I could kiss his cheek.  This time, he really was asleep.  Four days later he died.

Hook Wild Basin Endowment

My husband was not a social media guy, but he and I both knew there would come a day when I would make my plea on his behalf using this blog and any other social outlets I could get my hands on.   

If you’ve already donated — a huge thank you and please stop reading now.  Hook would not have wanted me to try to empty your purse or your wallet.  You’ve helped us to raise ~ $35,000 so far which has been added to Hook’s and my initial $125,000 which launched the endowment in May 2013

If you’re considering a donation to help me move that $35,000 to $50,000 before the end of 2013 (the goal), then check out these giving levels Hook crafted based on species found at the Wild Basin Preserve in Austin, Texas:

HDU_Sceliphron caementarium

  • Black & Yellow Mud Dauber:  For $100 dollars or more, an individual will be represented by the ubiquitous and mischievous black and yellow mud dauber, Sceliphron caementarium.
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASand Wasp:  For $1,000 or more, one is represented by the lovely and industrious sand wasp, Glenostictia pictifrons.

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  • Tarantula Hawk:  For the honor of donating $5,000 or more, one is represented by the spectacular anfearless tarantula hawk, Pepsis thisbe.

Of course, these levels are suggestions only but don’t you just love Hook’s descriptions?  In his inquisitive world, we should all be enamored with wasps … bugs of any kind, really.

Your contribution to the Hook Endowment at any level would be welcomed.  If every person who reads this blog who hasn’t already donated contributed $5 online, we’d exceed the goal Hook and I set when we originally started talking about “What if?”  What if we created an endowment? What if it was for more than just St. Edward’s students? What if it was for more than just science students? What if we could entice international students to conduct creative research at Wild Basin? 

What if? 

I’m not exaggerating when I write that planning the endowment and dreaming about it became some of the last truly happy moments Hook had in this world.

In our last months together, Hook and I would end some of our evenings making plans for the fund.  At first, we talked in ambiguous terms, neither of us wanting to admit to the other what we hoped we could raise.  But one night, as we sat side-by-side on the sofa, I finally asked, “So when you say, ‘a big amount’ or ‘a huge amount,’ what are you thinking?”

Hook’s hesitation before he answered led me to think that the too-high figure in my head probably wasn’t realistic.  He turned towards me ever so slightly and said in his matter-of-fact voice, “A million dollars.”

“Me, too!” I said as I clapped my hands in excitement, “That’s exactly what I was thinking!” 

This is what I will take with me into 2014 as I begin to carve out a new narrative for myself. Part of my prologue will of course include the Hook Endowment, but the rest of my story is yet to be written. 

Until then, please be part of Hook’s epilogue for 2013 by making an online donation to his legacy if you haven’t already:

  • Online donation: http://bit.ly/1KR8YDv
    (Choose OTHER for donation then type in HOOK ENDOWMENT)

  • Mail in donation: St. Edward’s University, 3001 South Congress, Austin, TX 78704, U.S.A. re: “Hook Endowment”

For those unable to contribute because of budget constraints, please consider contributing in one of these ways:

Thank you,
Rosemary Hook

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Hook Stories: Wasps and Things

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Dr. Allan W. Hook, 2011

Bill Quinn, also known as “Willie Joe” as a youngster, was a long-standing colleague of Hook’s.  Bill was part of the hiring committee that brought Allan to St. Edward’s University more than 25 years ago.   I’m not sure if Willie Joe realizes it but he and Jimmy Mills (and the St. Ed’s indoor swimming pool) were the reasons Hook accepted their job offer over a school in South Carolina … way back in 1988.  Over the years, Hook looked to Bill as his ethical and sometimes moral compass.  If Bill was on board with a decision, it must be the right thing to do.

Because Hook trusted him and because he was Catholic and because we all had a good sense of humor, Hook and I asked Bill to take the bold and daring $35, online step to become our ordained minister.   Twice, Bill brought Darwinism and Catholicism together — once during our marriage ceremony and again when he presided over Hook’s memorial service.  The things men do for each other.

Two of My Favorite Hook Stories by Bill Quinn

Wasps and Kids at Blue Hole:  Back when we were the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, somebody swung a faculty party over at Blue Hole near Wimberley.   Allan had probably been here for two years at the most.   At the most.  He was not all that obvious at the social scene, not because he was being rude, but he had to go out and check the area for his “girls.”  My kids caught wind that he was up to something wonderful, and they asked me to ask him if they could come along and hunt wasps with him.  I expected him to be reluctant to take a couple of 6 – 8 year olds around with him, but he just lit up at the idea. About an hour later they returned, and it was my kids who were lit up.   He mesmerized them, and they recall the day still, telling how much the loved that time.  They (and I) have marveled at insects ever since. On many occasions, people marvel at how good he is with kids, as if it is some revelation. He has always been good with kids.

My kids especially liked the way he would swear when he mistook a male for a female and got his hand stung. In fact, he did apologize to me later that evening at Blue Hole in case he had taught my kids any new words.  Fat chance – they were already way beyond what even Hook had to say.  He could teach them about wasps but he couldn’t teach them much when it came to swearing.  Colin, my younger son, came here for a semester and deeply regretted that he was not here for a semester when Hook taught freshman biology, but I think Al did ultimately play a role in him pursuing biology as a career.

From Dr. Hook to Dr. Mellow:  Makes me laugh every time I think about it. We had two teaching labs on the second floor of Fleck, 200 and 210.  For some reason, 200 had a window that opened into Jimmy Mills’ office.  Crazy design!  Anyway, sometimes we had to use 200 as a lecture room, since lecture space has always been tight around here.  On several occasions when he taught in 200 (and I mean several) Al would start going off on the students, especially when he returned tests that they had screwed up on.  His ranting was actually very effective.  I know for a fact that it turned the attitudes of at least three subsequently very “successful” people who needed some serious course corrections.  They got some serious “advice” from him, that’s for sure!  Well, it might have been effective, and well-thought out, but it was also as entertaining as hell.  He would start with just a slight comment and then it would build and build. By the time he got going, he would be telling them about how they dressed, carried themselves, probably what they ate for breakfast or watched on TV. It was GREAT theater.  I am pretty sure he never had any idea that several of us would stand out in the hallway, often clued in by Jimmy’s foresight, and just keep hoping he wouldn’t stop.

Ah, those were the days. Anybody will tell you that then the fool had to go get married, and goodbye to the rants. Dr. Hook became Dr. Mellow.  Oh, and the equally funny yet regrettable thing is that Al would always (ALWAYS) feel bad about yelling at the students.  That’s BS; he should have been yelling at them.  He was right! But he always always apologized to them. You could set your watch by it.  Touching.   But very funny.  I wish you could have seen him just crescendo. I miss those days more than I can tell you.

~   ~   ~

More from Rosemary:

HTT_AnneLamottMy apologies for the delayed Hook Stories.  I got sidetracked.  Okay, that’s not true.  I couldn’t get out of bed, and when I did (had to) pretend that I was still part of the human race, it took all of my energy to stay focused on the simplest of tasks.   Posting a blog felt monumental so I mentally declined.  This inertia was how I began the now passed Thanksgiving weekend and how I ended it.  But in between the beginning and the end of that holiday, which I spent on a clouded coast in Port Aransas, there was at least one ray of sunlight that peeked through the overcast sky for the briefest of moments as I walked along the beach.  It was this sliver of hope that let me know: all was not lost even if it still felt like it was. But then, of course, I had to whisk myself back to reality and Austin, and the clouds returned permanently.

This week, I’m giving a talk to a group of job seekers titled, Transcending the Holidays When You’re Suffering a (Job) Loss.  I feel desperate to kick start some adrenaline into my days, because the four cups of Ruta Maya coffee I’ve been drinking every morning aren’t working.  I’m going to stand in front of 150 professionals and tell my story, then connect the dots for them on how losing a job and losing a spouse have odd similarities. I’ll share what they can do — must do — to move forward.  I signed up to speak because I knew that if I didn’t make this work commitment, and all the other commitments I’ve been forcing onto my calendar in December, that I will continue watching endless, streaming Netflix from my pillow wondering: how long can I really go without a shower.

I’m trying my best until the light returns …

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Hook Story: A Timeless Bromance

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Kelly and his boys (Dan, Brent, & Connor) and Hook

Bromance was alive and well in the friendship between Hook and his Canadian friend, Kelly Scott.  Whenever Kelly would blow into town, the exchange between these two men was always the same:

Hook:  “Dr. Scott.”
Kelly:  “Dr. Hook.”
Hook:  “Meow.”

I often wondered if Kelly’s visits would have been complete if he hadn’t heard Hook’s cat-like response.

Kelly stood as Hook’s best man in our wedding, was privileged to help my husband die gracefully, then honored him by hosting the Hookabration five days after Hook passed away.   Kelly shared some of his history with Allan at the memorial but it’s even more touching when read.  Enjoy …

~   ~   ~

A Timeless Bromance by Kelly Scott

When I saw Rosemary’s request about giving her a story about Hook I was of course in a bit of a quandary. You see if anyone has stories of the good Dr, it is me. Hook and I have been together for a long time, through all sorts of situations and events, and of course he has also shared with me many tales of adventure he has had through the years when we have not been together. So the dilemma is not which story to tell, but which ones not to tell.

I wracked my brain for the appropriate story. Should I tell about the fire ant in the West Texas store; the “Hook can you wipe my bum?” storey (as requested by my then 2 year old son Connor); night putting on the Municipal Golf Course; wandering the halls of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad; Hooks Shirts!; imparting female ‘wisdom’ to Dan (my youngest); getting a pack of wives down on all fours looking for a wasp he missed with his net (my field people still talk about coming across that one, 6 females all on all fours helping him find an elusive bug – he is still regarded in reverent terms in the Alberta oil patch males for that one – but in complete Al Hook innocence); icing down a road at Brackenridge during a rare Austin cold front so we could slide, Charlie Brown style, down the path; blowing up a camp stove in Drumheller; ‘wearing’ a toilet paper tube Santa (‘Merry Christmas’ indeed!); whacking golf balls across the river at the mansions across from BFL; hurtling through back country slashing down logging roads in BC with Crosson looking for fish that didn’t exist;  teaching my mid son Brent how to pick up wasps with his fingers (ouch!), bocce games anytime-anywhere; wheel barrow races; any number of his manly-man tales; or one of the hundreds of collecting, teaching or mentoring moments. Ya, I have more than a few stories of the great Dr. Hook. How to choose?

So after much careful thought and deliberation I figured the best storey to relate to the world was our very first encounter. A ‘how we met’ tale so to speak. Creating a timeless bro-mance for the ages.

First off, for those of you who don’t know me (and only know the polite version of Hook) I must start by saying that while many things have kept Hook and I together over the years the foundation of our friendship of course revolves around hockey. You would think it would be various life science items as we are both biologists, and indeed much of our time together has been spent discussing various animals, fungi and plants, ecological principles, fossils, weather (oh my lord how he and I can talk about the weather) and travelling to collection places. However, sports and especially hockey has been a mainstay of our relationship. So this is a tale of how I met a gentleman, a scholar, a friend, a monster and a true street hockey legend.

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Canadian’s Ian Tennant and Brent Crosson with Hook

So anyway, the first game ended. Hook had himself two-thirds of a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist and almost a fight). He presented himself well. In between games, everyone was dying from the heat and headed off court up the hill to the water tap to try to cool down and prepare for the next game. We were all drinking, swearing, panting and sweating when Rob came to me and asked “hey, what’s with your buddy?” With that, I looked down at the court and there in the middle of the court, in 100 degree brutal Texas sun, stood Hook. By himself. Cap on. Having a smoke no less! ‘Who Is This Freakin Guy?’ I thought. What kind of monster have we gotten ourselves associated with? He is a madman, ironman, tough as nails and a street hockey god. Certainly not someone to be screwed with for sure. His bravado frightened the young ones who were now not so sure they wanted a piece of this guy anymore. Hook had achieved instant legend status! We played the second game and once again Hook showed his talent and tenacity; laid on a couple of hits and scored a couple of goals. The man was a machine. His wry sense of humor was starting to emerge as after every goal he scored, assist he got or hit he completed Hook would yell “and the cheerleaders are going wild for Hook!” or some such variation. As the game ended he enthusiastically accompanied us to the Deep Eddy Cabaret to rehydrate with several pitchers of bad cheap beer, his position as an Austin Street hockey elder and legend firmly in place. A couple of years later when Ian, Crosson and I were sitting around reminiscing about that first game Hook revealed that during the in-between games time, he was dying. “I just didn’t want to have a heart attack in front of all you guys.” My Hook! Always thoughtful.

So there you have it! From that day on Hook has been a part of my world, my life, my family and of course; my friend and the friend of my friends. He is responsible for making sure I completed my Ph. D. even though I had a lucrative business and started not to care. He was there and part of, or associated with the birth of all my sons. He helped raise the monsters in a way that only Hook could. Hook later introduced me to the love of his life, Rosemary. He asked me to stand up for him at his wedding as his best man. Both ceremonies.  An honor beyond belief, beyond words. My sons were the ushers of the most important event in Austin’s history. He has provided stability, sober second thought and pure disapproval when I did things wrong. He has taught me and my sons, been a confident, and has been a friend beyond description.

He is, and always will be, The Dr. Hook.

And in true Dr. Hook fashion, no fish were injured in the writing of this story.

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Hook Stories: Growing Up in New Jersey

A friend came into town unexpectedly and as old friends will do, we sat up talking and catching up until 3 o’clock in the morning which meant that I fell behind in my blog posting.   But, this did help me to choose from the Hook Stories … a series of short snippets from one of Hook’s childhood friends, Ken Curchin.   Following Ken’s sharing, I share something of my own.  Enjoy …

Growing up in New Jersey by Ken Curchin:

I have known Allan since kindergarten.  We used to hang together all the way through high school.  Here are a few stories….

  • Playing hockey on the pond at “the nursery.”  Allan lived near a pond that was shaped like a hockey rink. We used to play hockey there whenever it was cold enough in New Jersey — maybe 1-2 weeks per year — for ice thick enough to skate on.  When it snowed, we would bring shovels to keep the snow off “our rink.” His older brother Walter would also play with us.  We even played on an organized team our senior year in high school at The Navesink Country Club.  Allan had to wait a week to play on the team because he was playing high school football as an offensive lineman.  I remember a game vs. Red Bank and Allan had to play against John Lee…..6’4″ and 240 pounds…..Allan was maybe 5’11” and 170 pounds. John was the best player in the area and went on to play in the NFL.  You can ask Allan how he did….but I remember him saying that “John Lee killed me.”

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    Allan Hook, Rumson – Fair Haven High School, 1971

  • Allan smoking a pipe (with tobacco) as a 7th grader.  He thought he was so “cool.”  Of course, he only did it when he was not near his house.   I remember it had a big stem….he must have thought he was Sherlock Holmes.  
  • As we went off to college, our paths did not reconnect as much.  He was at University of Maine and I was at University of New Hampshire.  He was a lifeguard and that occupied much of his time.  We would see each other on occasion though.  Allan…do you remember after graduation (we were 24) when we met at Doug Herr’s house?  I had a woman with me…..it was Claudia..now my wife of 34 years!  We were just friends…until sparks flew — along with all of our clothes — right after we left you guys that night!  Now you know….the rest of the story.

I had not seen Allan in many years but we kept each other in the loop via Christmas cards.  Or…I sent a note updating him on my life and he sent a postcard with a bug on it. I live in Massachusetts but about 6 years ago was flying into San Antonio and decided to go see Allan (before you guys were married).  Claudia and I drove up to Austin and went to Allan’s house that day…we picked up like we had seen each other all the time instead of the first time in 25 years!

~    ~    ~

From Rosemary:

I finally dreamt about Allan.  He was waiting for me at my favorite coffee house, sitting at a table in the corner with his back facing the door.  I recognized his bald head from behind because it was covered with his white baseball cap with the worn blue flap.  He had on his black fleece zip up HDU_OpaCoffeeBarjacket and his maroon flannel shirt peeked out from underneath it while the rest of him was clothed in his regular blue jeans and tennis shoes.   He was hunched over his laptop typing away, so I slipped into the chair across from him and stared, not sure exactly if I was in the present or the past.

Normally when I dream, everything is fuzzy and confusing.  But in that coffee shop with Allan, I saw with clarity the hardwood floors and the burgundy colored walls, tables with four chairs.  I waited for Allan to notice me, and when he finally looked up and saw me, this huge smile spread across his face.  It was the same smile he’d greet me with whenever we’d agreed to meet somewhere or if we’d gone to an art event together and somehow gotten separated.

He looked so healthy, all tan and clean shaven, with his face full like it used to be, before the surgery.  Then I knew instantly:  This is a dream.  He’s still dead, but he’s coming to me in a dream.  So I asked the question that had been swirling in my head for the last two months, the one that had turned me into an insomniac.  With wide open eyes staring and my heart — not pounding or anxious — waiting and wondering what he would say:

“How are you?” I asked.

Such a simple question but so monumental in its query.  How are you? How have you been? Is everything okay? Are you all right?

Allan smiled again, even larger than before, and with a twinkle in his eyes — the kind he would get sometimes when he had a surprise for me or if he wanted me to guess something.  He started talking, his face becoming animated while his hands gesticulated whatever it was he was trying to describe.  My eyes were so fixated on his face that it took me awhile to figure out that I couldn’t hear him.  It was as though the volume had been muted.  I felt a bit nervous because I didn’t want to interrupt, but I needed him to know — I can’t hear you! — but he was so excited to be sharing whatever it was he wanted me to know that I struggled with how to let him know I couldn’t hear.

Then I woke up.

My eyes popped open with no sleepiness in them.  After about two long seconds, I said out loud, “You came to me in my dream.”  The sound of my own voice in the quiet of the bedroom so early in the morning startled me.   I realized then that it had not been me waiting for Allan all this time, but him waiting for me as he has always done.  And even though I couldn’t hear, I could see.  I could see he was all right.  I could see he was safe.   I could see he was happy.

Editor’s Note, December 2013: 

There was a small detail I left out of the dream about what Allan was wearing when I saw him.   I didn’t mention it because I was trying to convince myself it didn’t have any significance but that was only because it didn’t make any sense to me.

Hook sometimes had the bad habit of placing his feet up on the arms of a chair or on a table to stretch them out.  He didn’t usually do this in public only in his office at work or at home (and he got a lot of grief for it, too.)   In the dream, once Hook noticed me and sometime before I’d asked him how he was doing, he’d swung his feet over the arm of the wooden chair he was sitting in.  I was so focused on his face but I’d noticed in my peripheral vision the tennis shoes on his feet were black.  Black tennis shoes?  I remember thinking that was strange because Hook didn’t own any black tennis shoes.  But my attention was on his face and what he was about to say so I ignored the shoes.

The image of the shoes stuck with me, though, long after I’d woken up so I googled, black shoes in a dream.  One site had a comment to a blog about whoever is wearing the black shoes in a dream is going on a great journey of exploration, but the explanation seemed vague and random in thought.

The day after the dream, I looked through the master closet, then the guest room closets, then the hall closets, then the garage and finally Hook’s Jeep and even my Nissan Altima but nothing — no black shoes.  I didn’t remember him owning any black tennis shoes so what did it mean?   I kept reminding myself, he looked happy, everything’s okay, but I couldn’t get those damn shoes off my brain.  Then one of Hook’s Trini friends emailed some old photos of Allan that he thought I’d like to have from one of Allan’s many collecting trips to Trinidad.

Hook in the Aripo Valley, Trinidad, 2008.

Hook in the Aripo Valley, Trinidad, 2008.

I almost screamed out loud when I saw the first photo.  There was Hook, standing on a trail in Trinidad in his collecting clothes and holding his net.  On his feet were the black tennis shoes from the dream.

Because Allan traveled every summer to Trinidad, he didn’t bother packing those shoes when he returned to the U.S. but left them behind along with other collecting gear.  Allan was going on a collecting trip in heaven.  Of course.  Why else would he have been so excited?

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Hook Story: Dr. Hook is Ruining My Life

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2009: Hook on campus at St. Edward’s University. Photo taken by fellow biologist, protege, and friend,Tara Maginnis during her Darwin Days event.

Last night, I hosted a mini Hookabration, a celebration of Hook’s life, for the entomologists who are in Austin for the annual ESA conference.  Five different hymenopterists shared heartfelt stories of their relationship with Hook — how he influenced their lives, what he meant to them as a friend and colleague — with 30 other entomologists in attendance.   This mini celebration was a smaller version of the larger Hookabration which we had only a few days after Hook passed away in early September.

One of the testimonials given at the original Hookabration was from a former colleague of Hook’s, Megan Murphy.   Megan had friends laughing and picturing Hook at his finest, ornery self.  Although I cannot share every testimonial or story given at both Hookabrations, I can share those that were submitted during my Call for Hook Stories.   It’s time for me to begin sharing those with you.  Enjoy …

 ~      ~       ~

Dr. Hook is Ruining My Life by Megan Murphy

The first time I heard mention of Dr. Hook’s name was from a tearful student who came to my office to ask if there was any way she could withdraw from his freshman Biology class after the official drop period.  She said he was too hard. She was convinced that staying in his class would screw up her otherwise perfect GPA, which would keep her from getting into graduate school, which would limit her future career options, which would diminish her earning potential, which would ruin her life.  I will never forget her wailing, “Dr. Hook is ru-in-ing my liiiiiiiiife!!!!”

I worked in the St. Edward’s admissions office and learned to keep a fresh box of Kleenex in my desk for post-midterm revelations such as these. I don’t have any statistics to back it up, but it seemed to me like Al Hook stories were responsible for a disproportionate share of the freshman tissue usage.

Somewhere in the blurry early years of my 14-year tenure at SEU I finally met Dr. Hook. By then he had become a mythical creature in my mind.  Part man, part bug, and according to my tissue count, as heartless as the Tin Man. It was at one of those obligatory faculty/staff gatherings in the Maloney Room (the ones you really only go to because there’s free food), that I walked up to him and blurted out something like, “You’re Allan Hook, right? Do you think maybe you could stop making my freshmen cry?” He flashed me that exaggerated/open-mouthed “how dare you” look and then just started laughing …sort of loud….at me. He suggested I consider recruiting students with stronger backgrounds in the sciences, and then just walked away.

How we became friends after that less than gracious introduction I’m unsure, but over time we did.  Looking back, I think I can attribute our friendship to two things:

1)     Hook is funny (I’m a sucker for funny), and in spite of his crustiness he doesn’t take himself all that seriously. Hook didn’t seem to mind that I called him the Orkin Man when he dressed in head to toe khaki like an exterminator. Obviously he wasn’t too caught up in what anyone thought of his fashion sense because he swam laps in the school pool in a bathing suit that was so famously awful it had a name  — “The Rat.”  Over time I warmed up to his grumpy irreverence, his fascination with wasp copulation, and his creatively profane language.  In fact, I kind of liked it. All my life I’ve heard people say, “nobody likes a smart ass.” Well I disagree.  Some of us actually do.

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Megan Murphy with her fossilized scallop shell and dinosaur bone from Hook.

2)     Hook gave me two of my most prized possessions. Everyone at St. Ed’s knew that I collected found objects. Whenever fellow employees went on vacation, I asked them to bring me back something they found. I got everything from tiny jars of sand to pennies, but my favorites were the rocks and seashells. By the end of my employment I had amassed such a large collection of objects that there was little room left on my desk for anything but a phone and a Kleenex box. The found objects all ended up in a box somewhere, except for Hook’s contributions: a fossilized dinosaur bone and a fossilized scallop shell. They have been on display in my home ever since, and if my house were to catch on fire they would be among about five things I’d grab as I fled out the door.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should probably add that over the years there were far more students who bragged about surviving Hook’s classes than there were freshmen begging to get out of them.  Hook was a right of passage for a lot of science majors. They liked that he made evolution interesting and that he was curiously animated when he lectured on the topic of mating.  They groused about his tough grading but took pride in working along side him on his projects.  Hook had many devotees who credited him with preparing them for graduate education, research, and careers in science-related fields. I’d like to say that all his good deeds were somehow the result of my repeated requests that he consider taking a kinder and gentler approach to student advising……. but nobody likes a smart ass.

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WATCH YNN AUSTIN interview about Hook http://youtu.be/OmFFv0hfYbI
READ about Hook Wild Basin Endowment
LIKE Wild Basin on Facebook http://on.fb.me/17tvEg1

Where In Australia – Part II

HDU_lucycoffeecup

I’m on a quest this morning.    Actually, I’m back on a quest, a re-quest.  Ha!  I’m also on a coffee high so if this blog sounds like I’m bouncing off the walls, it’s just the caffeine working its way into my fingers!

Okay, the quest.

Before Hook’s and my sabbatical detour into no-where-near-Australia took place, we’d been in the process of collecting stories about Australia and Perth.  After we’d answered the questions How Did You Choose Australia and Where in Australia, we were on a mission to collect as much information from people who had stories and recommendations for “must see” places in Australia.  Editor’s Note:  Hook wasn’t really on the mission with me.  He mostly just rolled his eyes at things that I said “we” were doing.

Your Favorite Places to Visit in Australia?

I need your stories.  If you’ve ever been to Perth or any other place in Australia and you’d recommend we visit, would you tell us your story?   Or, if you’ve never been to Australia but you’ve heard from multiple sources about a particular city or tourist spot, we’d love to hear about that, too.  (If you’ve always wanted to go to Australia but haven’t had the opportunity yet, tell us where and what you’d do.)  We want to hear from everyone or so says the caffeine in my bloodstream.

Note:  If you’d rather I didn’t share your recommendations in a future blog post, please be sure to let me know.   Most people love to share their experiences but they do not necessarily want to see it in writing on a blog and I totally get that.   This isn’t Hard Copy so your anonymity is safe with us.

Stories About Perth

A colleague of Hook’s spent part of a summer in Perth awhile back and came over to the house one evening to take us through a slide show of photos he’d taken.  This was about two months before we were originally set to depart for the down under.  It was the first time we’d seen photos that hadn’t come off the web and weren’t edited to appear better than they really were.  Hook and I felt like we were seeing Perth in the raw and we loved it.  (Thanks Bill!).  Then I met a guy at a networking event last year who had lived in Perth for a short while about 12 years ago.  He had specific recommendations of places to visit in Perth except neither he nor I had pen and paper on us so all of the details of what he told me that evening have flown out of my memory banks.  I remember the company this guy worked for but I don’t think I can dial them up and say, Hey, is there a guy who works there that lived in Australia like 12 years ago and loved a place called Perth?  Actually, that sounds like the kind of Lucy thing I’d do so please save me from myself.   Tell us your Australia stories.  And to those Aussies who are reading:  you know better than anyone the hidden gems, so please share!

Psst … types of sharing to avoid:

  • People who visited, lived, or moved to Australia and didn’t/don’t like it:  I met a guy who had visited Perth for a week and hated it.  He kept asking me, “Why do you want to go there?”  I really had to resist the urge to slap him.  Hard.   Don’t be this guy.
  • People with shorteimers:  A friend of a friend, upon hearing the news that Hook and I were moving to Australia for a sabbatical, told us that she’d lived in Perth for a year as a student.  But, she couldn’t recall any specific details of the city, what to see, suggestions of places to visit inside Perth.  I wasn’t sure who to feel bad for — her or me.  Me because I wasn’t receiving any helpful information or her because she couldn’t remember an entire year of her life.  She did give me a good piece of advice, though:  Travel as much as possible within the country.   She said it was her greatest regret not to go outside of Perth. (This helpful advice redeemed her shorteimers.)

I can’t believe I haven’t thought to ask this of all of you before.  Oh, wait, that’s right.  I was busy losing my mind.

An Update For The Dr. Hook Fans

It’s a day to day thing.  Some days are better than others.  Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back but at least we always gain a step.   Today he feels good enough to take a short trip to Boomerang’s, the Australian pie place here in Austin that I mentioned in my last post.   It’s drizzling outside this morning but we’re not going to let that keep us away from our first Australia Day Party.   Oh, and if you happen to click on that Boomerang’s link to their Facebook page, feel free to check out my new Hook The Talent, Inc., Facebook company page, too, and Like the sh*t out of it for me, okay?   🙂    (It’s the coffee!!!!)

G’day mates!

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Thrive in 2013

HDU_StartOverIn an hour, I’ll leave the house and drive to the hospital to pick up Hook for his re-discharge.

Before I left the hospital last night, I asked Hook if he had any new year’s resolutions.  I half expected him to say, ‘I don’t make new year’s resolutions’.   But, I knew this second stay at the hospital scared Hook, perhaps even more than the first one, so I was curious if and what he would answer.

“Thrive,” he said.

“Thrive?  As in the opposite of ‘failure to thrive’?” I smiled when I asked this as I rested my eyes on my husband’s profile, taking in his new full beard and customary baseball cap on his little, bald head.  The old with the new.  He wasn’t looking at me but staring straight ahead as he repeated himself.

“Yes,” he said. “I want to thrive in the new year.”

Declaring a positive intention out loud was a first for Hook.   He’s not a wishy-washy, touchy-feely kind of guy, and I’m not that kind of a girl which is why we’re a perfect match.   I know from experience, though, that if we don’t declare our intention out loud or in writing,  it has less of a chance of success.

When Hook was re-admitted last Friday, his surgeon wrote on the intake form:  Failure to Thrive.  Hearing this was such a blow to Hook’s health ego not just for him but for both of us.  Failure to Thrive.  For someone educated in the science of studying life that thrives, Hook felt a little let down by his body.  I didn’t feel too great as his caretaker either.

If 2012 was a failure to thrive then 2013 will be to thrive not only for Hook but for us together as a family.   It’s a new year, a new Hook, new Hooks thriving our way into 2013.

Thrive.

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