Category Archives: Friends and Family

Superheroes Run #4 for Child Advocates of Houston

Child Advocates Superheroes Run 2016

“MRE Consulting presents the Child Advocates Superheroes Run, Powered by Direct Energy!”

(As always, I need to make very clear that the kids in these pictures are NOT the kids who are the beneficiaries of Child Advocates’ programs. These are some of the our young race participants who came out to support other kids not quite so lucky.)

CLICK HERE to see LOTS more pictures

The start line of the 1K portion of Child Advocates Superheroes Run 2016

The 4th Child Advocates Superheroes Run is in the record books. I’m proud to say it was bigger and better than ever! We had nearly 1,000 “runners” (using the term loosely in many cases) and raised over $120,000 for Child Advocates.

The costumes get better (and more plentiful) every year. Every superhero you’ve ever heard of and lots that you probably haven’t. And for reasons I can’t fully explain at a “Superheroes” event, there were cows and alligators and goldfish and beauty queens, too! That big orange Child Advocates arch was new this year. (It was donated, so the cost doesn’t come out of CAI operating or sponsor funds.)
Child Advocates Superheroes Run 2016


Child Advocates Superheroes Run 2016


Child Advocates Superheroes Run 2016

I’m proud to have been the Chairman of the event since its inception four years ago.  As I’ve said before, that means mostly that my generous friends get their arms twisted to donate.  A huge, special thanks to all the friends who let that happen.  I don’t actually get to run in the race, but this year I wore a GPS tracking watch, which told me I’d run/jog/walked 7.5 just running around and organizing all the activities!

Each year (2013, 2014, 2015), I’ve made a short pitch in this blog to explain why I think CAI is an especially worthwhile charity. Forgive me if you’ve heard some of this before:

    • CAI helps kids in our own hometown who are in desperate situations through no conceivable fault of their own.
    • CAI’s one-time intervention seeks to permanently and efficiently solve problems and affect the kids’ entire lives, without creating dependency or requiring permanent or ongoing assistance.
    • CAI’s cause is financially undersupported, largely because few potential large donors have close personal experience with, or risks of, this kind of extreme child neglect or abuse. There’s nothing wrong with donating to your own alma mater or church, or to charities addressing diseases that affect you or your family, but that can leave a huge gap for charities like Child Advocates. I think this is true philanthropy.

If you or anyone you know is willing to volunteer, donate, or become an advocate, let me know at

Child Advocates Superheroes Run 2016

Child Advocates Superheroes Run 2016

Shane Merz, partner in the Race’s founding and “Presenting” sponsor MRE Consulting, grabbed the megaphone and welcomed racers across the finish line.


The first 3 pics on the second row were our fastest man, fastest woman, and fastest “kid” in the 5k.

CLICK HERE to see LOTS more pictures

Child Advocates Superheroes Run 2016

CLICK HERE to see LOTS more pictures


Hauling Ass In Leadville

A preliminary shout-out and photo credit to MIKE SHORT, photographer for all these pictures.  Also: For the record, I’ve limited myself to just one “ass” pun per paragraph.


Me with Beethoven just after the start, in downtown Leadville, Colorado

You’ve probably heard the phrase about a “rented mule.” Well, my new buddy Beethoven was actually a rented burro (a.k.a. donkey; a.k.a. “ass”). They don’t allow any of those half-ass mules in the Leadville Boom Days Pack Burro Race.



I was a rookie to the event, so I didn’t exactly get first pick of available teammates. The ass I got handed to me was named Beethoven. He was once a wild burro running free on federal land, and his track record as a racing burro wasn’t good: last place in Leadville a year ago; second-to-last in a similar event just week ago (each time in a field of a few dozen racers). His 2015 Leadville results got him the dubious Last Ass Over the Pass award, and resulted in a 2016 rule change limiting the time allowed. Pessimistic, I opted for the shorter course and steeled myself for a long day. Even the “short” course is 15 miles, and it climbs up to 12,000 feet elevation. It didn’t surprise me a bit that our assigned race number was 13.



I’d done some homework – even a couple of hours of donkey-whisperer lessons from Bill Lee (the Santa Claus looking guy in one of the pictures). The trick to burro racing with an ass like Beethoven is to remember that donkeys are herd animals. Try to head off by yourself and things will go poorly. Group up with a handful of other burro teams going at a decent pace and you might – might – have some success.   So I put my ass on the line for a fast start, and tried to coax him into the thick of the action.


The rules say you can lead, push, pull or even carry your burro – but he can’t carry you. As the pictures reflect, the humans run along on their own power. Sometimes you lead the burro from the front, sometimes you “drive” from behind, and sometimes you just find yourself in a tug-of-war battle-of-wills. I covered my ass (as the rules require) with a 33-pound packsaddle equipped with a shovel, pick and prospector’s pan as a fun tribute to the traditional roots of the sport and the Colorado mining region.

An amusing part of the rental agreement was that I would have to split any prize money with Beethoven’s owners. Unsurprisingly, that provision was of no relevance, but Beethoven and I actually did okay. The little ass only kicked me once; we had a prompt come-to-donkey-Jesus discussion about that and seemed to get along mostly fine for the rest of the day.  There was a lot of slow trudging, but occasionally I’d get my ass in gear and we’d run like a well-oiled machine. Brad Wann (Beethoven’s owner) has an email tagline that says that once you’ve tried burro racing, it’s “hard to walk away.” Several of the other racers I spoke to actually talked about being “hooked” on the sport. I guess it’s a little like golf – hours of frustration punctuated by a few brief moments when everything comes together perfectly.


The race starts and ends in downtown Leadville, and loops up into the mountains east of town.  There were 30 human/burro teams at the start for the 15-mile short-course race, though a couple of them apparently never got past the first couple of blocks. Beethoven and I spent most of the day running and herding alongside a guy (in sandals) named Pat Sweeney and his burro Mr. Ziffer. (It turns out that Pat is sort of famous in the ultra trail running world).  After helping one another all day, we had a final, awkward “drag race” up Leadville’s main street, Harrison Avenue. Beethoven and I finished about # 16 out 30 teams.  Next year we’ll do better.



The burros’ skittishness about the crowd and noise made for an awkward, slow-motion finish back in downtown Leadville.



My mom and dad, Joyce and JB Cotner, with me after the race. I’m sure they’ve never been prouder.

Getting The Band Back Together*


An old-friends selfy, taken about 10 seconds before we went onto the field for a pregame Alumni Band Boomer Sooner. That’s 1984-86 Drum Major Dondi Cupp in the middle, and Brian Britt on the right. An ace drummer back in the 1980s, Brian is now Director of the Pride of Oklahoma.

It had been 30 years since I played my trumpet in front of 80,000 or so rowdy spectators.  Fortunately, expectations are modest for the Pride of Oklahoma’s Alumni Band homecoming performance.  I hadn’t practiced much, but like anyone who’s ever donned a Pride uniform, I can play “Boomer Sooner” in my sleep, even three decades later.

The Pride had a rough couple of years in 2013 and 2014, with a new Director that turned out to be controversial and short-tenured.  Predictably, the alumni had strong and varied opinions about how best to deal with the situation.  The University’s fairly brilliant solution was to convince my 1980s friend and bandmate, Brian Britt, to come back and take over for good.  Our Pride is in good hands.  So this year’s alumni band homecoming was a one of the biggest (and best, I’m told) ever — a reunion, a reconciliation, and a celebration.  I made it a priority to be there.


The real, current Pride of Oklahoma

The sports pages the next day described the amusement of the alumni band as a perennial hit.  Hopefully, we’re back in a mode where the band alumni make the newspapers only once a year.  Maybe I’ll become a regular, too.

The phrase “Boomer Sooner” is repeated fourteen times in our famous fight song, and the song itself echoes through the stadium dozens of times before, during, and after every game.  But to true Sooners, “Boomer Sooner” never gets old — even if the folks playing it do.  Spending a beautiful fall day on the OU campus is a sure reminder of all the reasons to be proud of the place.  Live on, University!






The Pride’s student leader — the Drum Major who now does that famous pregame “strut” down the field — is Kyle Mattingly, the son of of two of my old bandmates.  (Sorry about the background:  It’d difficult to do ANYTHING at OU without getting one of the many NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP banners in the picture.)


A seemingly major breach of stadium security:  If you held a credible-looking musical instrument and wore a crimson polo, you could “march” right onto the sidelines.  Of course I abused the privilege.  That’s me with the Texas Tech “Raider” mascot in the last image.




My mobile phone and the relaxed mood actually allowed me a to take a “selfy” in the middle of the field in the seconds before we started.  I felt a little bad for my lack of discipline and decorum until I looked at my photo and saw those two young women behind me who had abandoned their assigned spots to take a picture together.



Finally, here’s an image — stolen from a bunch of Facebook shares with my apologies to its uncredited creator — of what we the alumni looked like on the field.  Squint and you’ll see me in the middle of the second row.


*This modified Blues Brothers quote had multiple apt meanings in this context.

Superheroes III for Child Advocates of Houston



This was year three for the Child Advocates Superhero Run.  This year it was “Presented by” my friends (and founding sponsors of the event) at MRE Consulting, and “Powered by” Houston-based Direct Energy.  The dual title-sponsorship plan was a shameless and transparent ploy to maximize the amount we could raise for the very worthwhile cause.

Thanks to the generosity of those title sponsors and several others (many of whom are friends of mine with an amazing tolerance for having their arms twisted), to hardworking staff and volunteers, and to enthusiastic and well-costumed runners, we’ve raised a total of over $250,000 for Child Advocates in the three years’ events.


I’ve explained my support and commitment for Child Advocates in prior years’ posts (here and here).  I’ll repeat myself a bit here, though, because I want people to hear it.  Child Advocates recruits, trains and supports a small army of about 750 volunteer Advocates, each one generally assigned to a handful of kids in CPS custody.  The Advocates’ primary role is to work with the kids, parents, relatives, neighbors, and counselors to help CPS and the Courts to figure out how to resolve each child’s unique situation and get them — somehow — safely out of CPS custody and into a safe home.  The mission is to break the “cycle” of child abuse — where abused kids too often grow up to be abusive parents.  A relatively-small expenditure at such critical points in those kids’ lives can truly change everything for them.  It’s a great cause. Child Advocates is almost thirty years old, so there are now many thousands of heartwarming stories of how Advocates have changed (and even saved) lives.






Blythe and Tyler


Blythe and Tyler, with The Very Reverend Iaian Torrance (Stealth smart-phone picture showing the view from the Proud Uncle’s section at the Huntington Library in San Marino)


Life never turns out the way you imagined it, and sometimes that’s a very good thing.  My nephew, Tyler, grew up in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, and after college he found his way to Chicago to try his hand at improv comedy.  There he met Blythe Haaga, a California girl (a Princeton grad) who’d moved to Chicago for the same reason.  Saturday they got married in Pasadena, California, and they’ve already moved to New York City while Tyler gets a masters degree from Columbia.


As Tyler said in his vows, Blythe is smart, she’s pretty, she’s cool, and she’s funny.  And now — maybe best of all — she’s family.



Heather and Paul Haaga at the rehearsal dinner. Notice JB and Joyce Cotner (my mom and dad) to the right.


Fortunately for all concerned, I was NOT the wedding photographer.  That task was well handled by an actual professional, as you can see HERE.   As you can also see in those pictures, the wedding and reception were spectacular, thanks to Blythe and her parents, Heather and Paul Haaga.


The rehearsal dinner had an OKLAHOMA! theme.  Tyler told everyone to dress like they would if they were going to a barbeque where a country band was playing.  Which made sense, because it was essentially a barbecue where a country band was playing.  I didn’t get my camera out ’til the dinner was over.


Blythe with Tyler’s “Pepaw,” Jim Parker of Tamaha, OK.


With a little help from our new California friends, Bill and Jana  threw a helluva party.   The band did a fine rendition of Okie From Muskogee — recall that the song contrasts the lifestyles of Oklahomans against that of Californians — except that they sang all the lines in random order.

You know you’re a long ways from Texas or Oklahoma when anyone relies on me to teach them to two-step.



Click HERE for another pageful of pictures from the rehearsal dinner/hoedown.


Blythe and Tyler’s OKLAHOMA-themed rehearsal dinner


Jana (my sister) and Bill Parker


Tyler Parker and Blythe Haaga — now sometimes known as “Mr. & Mrs. Tyler Parker”











It was a busy week.  On Thursday, they paid tribute to their mutual improvisational comedy roots by hosting an improv show with about 25 of their improv-world friends from Chicago, LA, and elsewhere.  It was hilarious.


Some of the comedy was even true or touching (like the story of their second date, where Tyler could not find his car after a Bull’s game and then didn’t have cash for a cab to get them both home).





Joyce and J.B. Cotner, my mom and dad


For me, another highlight of the week was the opportunity to hang out with my Mom and Dad a bit.  They drove their Airstream from eastern Oklahoma to the outskirts of LA, where I met them (after flying into LAX).  Early in the week, we walked the streets of Bakersfield (on Buck Owens Avenue) and then headed for California’s giant Sequoias.  We “lunched” on the beach in Malibu and prowled the Rose Bowl flea market, and they got a taste of big-city Southern California life.  And they sure polished up well for the wedding!  (Yes, that’s J.B. Cotner in a suit; and yes, I tied his tie).

There are also pictures of Jim Parker (Tyler’s other grandpa) above and in the grid below.  Bill Parker (Tyler’s dad) drove him out to LA in Jim’s truck.  I’m pretty sure this is this the furthest and the longest Jim has ever been away from eastern Oklahoma.  He seemed to enjoy it as much as Tyler and Blythe enjoyed having him.


I’m ordinarily not too big on wedding ceremonies.  I’ve threatened my nieces for years that I wouldn’t even come to theirs if they got married before they were 25 or so.  But Tyler and Blythe’s West Coast wedding week was a great experience for all of us, bringing together family (old and new) and friends in ways that few events ever could.  I shed a tear or two seeing my 6’4″ baby nephew shed several as he watched his bride walk up the aisle.  And I glowed with pride as I heard so many people gush about Blythe and Tyler all week long.  Of course we lost of bit of him Saturday, but we gained much more.  Welcome to the family, Blythe!