Where have all the titans gone?

I showed up for the fancy trial lawyers’ mixer in Santa Monica lathered up in sweat. Apparently no one else had ridden a bicycle for 22 miles to get there, and adding to the sweat and smell were my jeans and button-down shirt in the sea of $2,000 black and blue Italian suits.

I sidled up to a table, my tiny plate piled high with beef empanadas, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream.

“You know, you can always go back for seconds,” said the large man next to me, who had daintily placed a single empanada on his plate.

“You go through enough buffets with bike racers and learn pretty quick to get it all the first time through,” I said.

He didn’t understand that, but he understood the splat of bright red sauce that came shooting out the end of my empanada and forming the world’s finest Rorschach test on the front of my shirt. Everyone else tried to look away in embarrassment, not for me, but for being at my table.

I was midway through a massive chew. “This shit is so good,” I said, mouth full and open as I gazed at the Rorschach, “that I’m going to take some of it home with me.”

No one laughed.

People couldn’t leave because all the other tables were full; they were those standing tables without chairs, but the large dainty eater finally went back for seconds and another guy took his place. He didn’t seem to care about my Rorschach. We got to talking and immediately hit it off. His name was Adam Miller. A few years older than me, he was from Chicago, and when he found out that I’d attended the first desegregated school in Galveston, Booker T. Washington Elementary in 1968, he said this. “Your parents sound like they were rather liberal.”

“They were,” I said. “And are.”

“And the apple?” he asked. “Did it fall far from the tree.”

“Yes, it did,” I replied. “Two or three whole millimeters.”

He smiled, and told me about his father, Jay Miller, a giant in the 60’s who was the head of the Illinois ACLU until 2000. A person who knew him well said this: “He thought that our constitution wasn’t worth the paper it was written on unless it protected every American, rich or poor, black or white, Latino or Caucasian, male or female.”

Then he told me about his amazing mother, Joyce Miller, the first woman elected to the board of the AFL-CIO. On the issue of women’s difficulty getting admitted to the building trades, she summed things up thus: “Employers will say that no real woman wants to work in overalls. The truth is that no real woman wants to starve.”

Then I told him about my dad, a West Texas fundamentalist Baptist born on a cattle ranch outside of Alpine who found atheism in college about the time he also discovered the issue around which his life would be built–civil rights. The Austin stand-ins that desegregated the drag on Guadalupe took him on a path to a civil rights career that included testimony before Congress, expert testimony in voting rights cases that earned a citation by the Supreme Court in the City of Mobile single-member district case, and an unwavering, lifelong support for the underdog.

Adam and I looked at each other for a minute, oblivious to the suits and the dainty plates. “Where,” I asked, “have all the titans gone?”

He nodded. “Where, indeed?”



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18 thoughts on “Where have all the titans gone?”

  1. They got in positions of power and sold out in their own best interest. The American way.

  2. Quite a meeting of the offspring!

    Liberals in TX? How do the parental units avoid getting strung up by the gentry?

  3. Barbara Radnofsky

    When your Dad announced the formation of Students for Direct Action at UT in 1960, do you think he and his fellow students knew they were Titanic?

    Here’s an excerpt from Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous “My Day” column, December 23, 1960 thanking the students :

    NEW YORK—It is interesting to note that it is the white students in many of the Southern universities who are really carrying the fight for integration. Students from the University of Texas, for instance, have set themselves the task of picketing the Austin theatres, which are not integrated, in an effort to bring before the public—in spite of a news blackoutthe fact that the city’s theatres are segregated.
    At times class assignments require that students report on certain motion picture films, and such assignments cannot be carried out by Negro students. In this effort the students have had wide faculty support.
    * * *

    The first theatre to be picketed was the Texas Theatre, which is part of a Texas chain. It is here that class assignments must sometimes be covered, and Negro students from the university are barred because of segregation.
    The second theatre picketed was the Varsity Theatre, one in the chain of Interstate Theatres, Inc., which is a subsidiary of American Broadcasting Company-Paramount.
    I am personally grateful to the Texas students for making the effort to bring about the end of this kind of segregation in their state. But I wonder why students have to be without the help of the community in general.

  4. One day, two blogs by “Seth” that involved bikes and Rorschach. Love it! I’ve been traveling all day and think I’ll reread this tomorrow. There’s too many great tidbits for a sleepy brain to fully appreciate. Funny how if you leave the door of life open, cool stuff walks in. Also, funny how those “suits” miss all the best parts.

  5. Sparing the details of an anecdote concerning the social/professional unacceptability of being obvious about enjoying food– the gist: “piling your plate” being a factor (“overheard hallway chat”) in a well-qualified professional’s slide out the side door via Terminal Contract. I will testify that neither one of us– either said new faculty member or the custodian he invited as his guest to the faculty luncheon– spilled a drop on our shirt-fronts or anywhere else. In retrospective, of course… well, we might as well to have run it up to a full-on food fight, except for wasting piles of good-not-great food.

    Congratulations on another fine W-blog and if I may add a hopeful suggestion that the next generation of titans is only now finding a worthy cause, and this time it is “themselves”. I can only hope to live long enough to see the ruckus produce desired results; “this one is gonna be good”.

  6. What are the issues of historic importance in 2015 and I think you’ll find your titans there. Some great people are working the gay rights issues right now.

    So many have forgotten the hard won battles for a 40 hour work week, worker safety, public health, and minimum wages, progressive taxes, social security. All of which were variously declared “the end of the U.S. economy.”

    Let’s face it, it’s not taught or valued like a new mall.

    Here’s an interesting take and kind of a left turn off the topic. My kid showed it to me.

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