Day 25 of Lake Jackson Lockdown

From time to time, I used to do thought experiments in which I would watch the president and pretend that I am a supporter. I didn’t try for the mind set of one of the Republicans in the Senate who may actually have something to gain from their obsequiousness, but rather more like a member of “The Base,” — one of his adoring fans who attend his rallies, wear MAGA hats, get most of their political input from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, and have everything to lose by pumping up his ego and giving him power over their lives.

Friends, don’t do it. Don’t try to pretend you are a Trumpist. At first I thought it would be good to try to see the world from their point of view but I gave it up as a dangerous experiment. When I tried it, it made me a basket case. I felt I had leapt right into that basket of —dare I say it?— deplorables. .

I don’t know how anyone can watch his recent coronavirus daily briefings without concluding that he operates below the knowledge level of most fourth graders, possesses the language development of a 1980s citizen band enthusiast, the manners of a pro wrestler, and the leadership skills of a low level mobster.

He was elected as the head of our government and he knows less about it than most of the college freshmen I encountered in my basic government classes. When I read his remarks in print later, I grade them as kindly as I can and give him a D. And that is giving him a little extra credit for knowing a few bits of presidential trivia. What color is the presidential mansion? What shape is the president’s office? What is the name of the first African-born American president? He gets creativity points for that last one.

We are in Day 25 of our coronavirus lock-in here in Lake Jackson and after several days of watching the afternoon briefings from the White House I stopped watching. When I pretended that I was part of the president’s fan base they turned my brain into one of those mushroom soup casseroles that are a staple of Methodist pot lucks. But just watching them as an average citizen trying to stay informed was doing the same thing. There seemed to be no point in adding to his ratings since there was no useful information to be gained and I risked tipping his rating scale up one more tiny point by tuning in.

So I wait for the morning papers and read the reports in my internet editions of The New York Times and Washington Post. I read a little in the Houston Chronicle and The Facts. I pay for all of those but I freeload on The Guardian. They do the best job of keeping up with their own copycat Trumpist P.M. who has this day gone into the ICU with his case of Covid-19. I appreciate The Guardian and I do not enjoy admitting that I freeload on their journalism but my priority is to support the press in this country first. The queen never claimed the press was the enemy of the people.

Aside from reading in the mornings and catching up with news analysis on cable (Go ahead and guess!) in the evenings, we have been cleaning out the garage.

What a joy it is to go through old photographs and see my sisters, both of them little girls standing in the front yard of our house on Flaxman Street in Jacinto City. To graduate from high school again. To re-live some college years. What an adventure to live again in 1968, to feel the pain of being drafted and leaving a young wife on her own. To hold once again those precious band medals and the trophies from gymnastics meets, math competitions, and more. To read the poetry and science fiction my son wrote in junior high.

One of his science fiction stories was about a US biological warfare lab that had developed both the killer virus and, so they thought, the vaccine. A former president who had authorized the venture wanted to see the dramatic tests at the end of their experimentation. To make a short story even shorter, the virus succeeded but the vaccine did not. One of the infected monkeys went berserk after being stuck with the hypodermic needle and jumped against the glass separating the ex-president from the laboratory and the virus. The monkey infected the ex-president and he became the first casualty of his own biological warfare weapon.

My son was savvy enough to leave the ex-president unnamed, although his reference to his number in the presidential succession made it clear that he had fictitiously killed off President X. I will not name him but leave it to your imagination instead.

So that’s the kind of thing we get into as we probe around in 50 to 60 years of things that seemed too important to throw away yet not important enough to look at again for all those years. Today we are going through it all and judiciously deciding what parts of the memorabilia should be kept for another half century or so.

A small stack of photos and letters has come inside the house again. Approximately eight sizable boxes of refuse sit on the curb waiting for the City of Lake Jackson Sanitation Department to make the rounds and squeeze it all into the back of a truck to take off the the city dump.

Lost forever is my master’s thesis bibliographic card file that would tell you all you could ever wish to know about American political parties, circa 1964. How quaint was the state of political partisanship then.

Stay Positive. Be Safe. You’re Awesome.

We are now in our eighteenth day of social distancing. I count the beginning as March 13. Ignore the fact that it was Friday 13th. I am listening to medical science these days. This is no time for ignorant superstition.

I have been out of the house for a couple of grocery shopping trips, once to the drugstore, and a road trip to Houston to pick up the VW after a repair that took a week. The Houston trip was an unusual one for us because we almost always have other chores to do there and a stop for a meal or some shopping at Central Market. This time it was up and back with the single stop at Momentum VW at Kirby and Richmond.

Otherwise, I have gone out for a few walks in the neighborhood. Cheryl usually goes with me but I sometimes go alone. On those occasions and when there is still enough light, I take the camera just in case a I see a picture that needs taking. You can see a few of those photos here.

While neighborhood businesses are, for the most part, hibernating, sidewalk traffic is a bit heavier than usual. People are coming out of their houses for exercise and exposure to something other than their television and computer screens. I have experienced many pleasant greetings from people I do not know, people who usually assume that strangers do not want to be bothered. Now there is a sense that we all dealing with the same threats and fears. And we need signs of friendship and solidarity.

This one popped up in front of me as I walked on Bougainvillea. It was accompanied by more chalk art and other brief messages such as “Nana Rules” and “I ❤ Paw Paw”. But this was my favorite:

A Message from the kids on Bougainvillea in Lake Jackson for all the people who are sharing their fears about COVID-19.

Stay Positive. Be Safe. You’re Awesome.

Thank you, Bougainvillea kids. You are plenty awesome, too.

So How’s the Coronavirus Spiral in Lake Jackson?

I know you have been logging on daily hoping to see the report titled “Coronavirus in Lake Jackson.”

In fact, there isn’t anything to report that you haven’t already seen on the national news. Schools are closed. Now we know there is something more important than the STAAR tests. No hand sanitizer. No church services on Sunday. A town without toilet paper!!

Digging around for a local twist, I thought I could at least give you access to Dr. Ron Paul’s contrarian view of recent events. He is our former member of congress who has run for president some number of times. (Google his name if how many times is important to you.)

His son now serves in the U.S. Senate. Rand’s latest senate adventure was to hold up consideration of the first House coronavirus relief bill to talk about the war in Afghanistan. If you go to his dad’s web site and listen to the coverage he delivers from over on Plantation Drive, it should help your understanding of Dr. Paul, the younger.

A friend in New Mexico (formerly of Lake Jackson) wrote that his daughter in L.A. couldn’t buy flour and yeast to make bread. I suggested he check the King Arthur flour web site. He responded that they, too, are having trouble with heavy ordering, difficult shipping problems, and thinning out of staff due to quarantining. So, don’t expect a bag of flour any time soon. Besides, even before the plague, the cost of shipping five pound bags of flour from Vermont to Texas was prohibitive.

But let’s talk about Lake Jackson.

My last two trips to HEB found the shelves spare on the first trip and virtually empty on my second the day before yesterday (Monday, March 16). Since we tend to the foodie side of the political spectrum, I was able to snag a couple of items we needed to make a pot of chili — the very last can of black beans on the shelf and a jar of tomatoes.

Now, I was looking for 14 oz. can of some ordinary diced tomatoes. Of course they were not available. What they did have was larger and a tad more upscale: some organic diced tomatoes from San Something-or-the-Otherino in Italy. I scored those and they made the most delicious chili we have ever enjoyed here at our house. Then, today, I remembered that everybody in Italy is dying. Oh well.

I was also instructed to pick up fresh cilantro if they had any. Of course, fresh cilantro was almost the only thing they had left in fresh produce. No surprise there. But there was a woman at the cilantro bin going through every bunch with her bare hands. I have no reason to believe her hands were any more unclean than mine, but just watching her made me uncomfortable enough to decide to move on without fresh cilantro.

And, did I say it was the best chili we ever made at our house?

Moving on. Organic capers? (Not for the chili.) No problem. They should still have plenty if they are on your list. Just pray they don’t give you diarrhea. If you have trouble making the connection, then you haven’t shopped for toilet paper lately. None in sight, friends.

On the bright side, the next night we were hoping to help a friend stay in business by ordering a carry-out. We found The Local to be very much open and ready to send out meals. We trust them to wash their hands, sneeze into their elbows and stay home if they are sick.

The meal was brought to me without having to get out of the car (a cell call after I arrived was all it took) and it was still hot when I got it home. Best of all, it didn’t have to be handled by a third party delivery service with gig economy health insurance. Always good eats at The Local. But we missed the people, the atmosphere and the occasional chat with the owner who is willing to manage the enterprise from a seat in our booth while we talk about our families, the way business is going, issues at our church, etc.

And, on the subject of trying to be good patrons of local enterprises, I direct your attention to the Blue Water Highway Band. They are offering a live-stream concert tomorrow night since, as they pointed out, they are finding themselves with time on their hands since social distancing doesn’t work so well with their mosh pit crowds. Their live concerts were being cancelled about as far ahead as they had them scheduled. So, give it a look. We will be “there” tomorrow night. And leave them a tip. The ticket is only $20 and you can enjoy it with as many people as you can squeeze in 6 feet apart around your computer. We love these kids. Help them, please.

And be entertained as you watch the world spiral downward. And downward.

Remembering Father Williams

Father Charles Williams (1989-1994) had a keen interest not only in setting the intellectual tone of the parish but also in enhancing its artistic environment. The emphasis on the arts was most appropriate, for the parish served as a place of rehearsal, performance, and research for fine arts students, especially from TWU, for many years. Father Williams encouraged the remodeling of the altar area. After his death, the parish published a book of his sermons. Though known for his intellectualism and quiet nature, Father Williams also provided a good laugh. After telling the children at a Blessing of the Animals ceremony that pets did not go to heaven, he was petitioned by the children to reconsider. By that point, he had acquired a much-loved dog and deemed that pets did, indeed, go to heaven.

From the history of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church (Denton, Texas) posted on the church’s web site: https://stbarnabasdenton.org/about-us/history/
Father Charles Thomas Williams served as Rector at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church from 1989 until his death at the age of fifty in 1994. He was my friend in college and best man at my wedding.

The parishioners at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Denton, Texas, must have thought it rude for a tourist to show up just before the morning service Sunday (February 23) as the congregation gathered for worship. My wife and I were just starting our trip back to Lake Jackson after spending Saturday watching our granddaughter compete in a gymnastics meet. We had discussed the possibility of looking up the church in Denton where my college roommate and our best man had served as rector until his death in 1994.

I was was pretty sure I would not enjoy being among strangers, most of whom would be too young to know my friend and none of whom, certainly, would know the Charles Thomas Williams I knew in college at the University of Houston. Moreover, I didn’t want our presence to be disruptive of the worship environment.

“But there may be a memorial of some kind and we could at least look around the outer grounds,” my wife argued. I acceded and she parked the car while I strapped my monster camera around my neck, slapped on my big Stetson crushable, and did my best to look like anything but a person hoping to be drawn into conversation with an Episcopalian in a worshipful mood.

Continue reading “Remembering Father Williams”

A Sign of Things to Come: Opening Day at Enron Field, April 7, 2000.

Photograph from Federal Bureau of Investigation public domain collection posted on Flickr.

Houston’s heart has been broken by corporate scandal twice just twenty years in the 21st Century, once last week by the Houston Astros and in 2001 by the Enron Corporation. If you felt no grief for Enron, then you didn’t know personally any of the people who worked there. They were engineers, clerks, and HR folks like you would find at any other company around Houston. They stood out as innovative, productive employees and good citizens. Most of them had the reputation of being smart, generous and kind.There were only a few bad apples and they worked at the top of the chart.

Our hearts were broken again by our Astros. The sign stealing scandal has forever stained our memories of the beautiful gift of a World Series championship for a city that had suffered a Category 4 hurricane and catastrophic floods in August of that year. It was the year of Harvey and this was a team that brought joy to a hurting city. They were beautiful to watch on the field. They played with excellence and they behaved like the nicest kids you would ever know.

At least we thought so. Continue reading “A Sign of Things to Come: Opening Day at Enron Field, April 7, 2000.”

The President Discusses Wind Energy with Young People

The president addressed a group of young voters yesterday at something called the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida. I have copied his remarks from the White House web site where you may read the entire official transcript. His remarks follow:

We’ll have an economy based on wind.  I never understood wind.  You know, I know windmills very much.  I’ve studied it better than anybody I know.  It’s very expensive.  They’re made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here, almost none.  But they’re manufactured tremendous — if you’re into this — tremendous fumes.  Gases are spewing into the atmosphere.  You know we have a world, right?  So the world is tiny compared to the universe.  So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything.  You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air.  Right?  Spewing.  Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air.  It’s our air, their air, everything — right?

So they make these things and then they put them up.  And if you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worth 50 percent of the price.  They’re noisy.  They kill the birds.  You want to see a bird graveyard?  You just go.  Take a look.  A bird graveyard.  Go under a windmill someday.  You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life.  (Laughter.)

You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle.  If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail for 10 years.  A windmill will kill many bald eagles.  It’s true.

And you know what?  After a certain number, they make you turn the windmill off.  That’s true, by the way.  This is — they make you turn it off after you — and yet, if you killed one they put you in jail.  That’s okay.  But why is it okay for these windmills to destroy the bird population?  And that’s what they’re doing.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Because they’re idiots!

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  This is a conservative group, Dan.  (Applause.)  No, but it’s true.  Am I right?  (Applause.)

I’ll tell you another thing about windmills.  And I’m not — look, I like all forms of energy.  And I think (inaudible) — really, they’re okay in industrial areas.  Like you have an industrial plant, you put up a windmill — you know, et cetera, et cetera.

I’ve seen the most beautiful fields, farms, fields — most gorgeous things you’ve ever seen, and then you have these ugly things going up.  And sometimes they’re made by different companies.  You know, I’m like a perfectionist; I really built good stuff.  And so you’ll see like a few windmills made by one company: General Electric.  And then you’ll see a few made by Siemens, and you’ll see a few made by some other guy that doesn’t have 10 cents, so it looks like a — so you see all these windows, they’re all different shades of color.  They’re like sort of white, but one is like an orange-white.  (Laughter.)  It’s my favorite color: orange.  (Applause.)

No, but — and you see these magnificent fields, and they’re owned — and you know what they don’t tell you about windmills?  After 10 years, they look like hell.  You know, they start to get tired, old.  You got to replace them.  A lot of times, people don’t replace them.  They need massive subsidy from the government in order to make it.  It’s really a terrible thing.