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.

Happy Birthday Brazosport Center Stages. We are 75.

Tonight is the 75th annual meeting of the membership of the community theater group now known as Brazosport Center Stages, located in Clute, TX. It began as the Little Theatre in Freeport and moved, along with a sister organization, Brazosport Music Theater, into the new Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences facility in 1976. Twenty years later, the two theater groups merged to form Brazosport Center Stages in 1996. 

Interior of the Freeport LNG Theater in the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences

Brazosport Center Stages and I were both born in 1943. We only got to know each other after our family moved to Lake Jackson from Houston in 1982. Gradually over the years we became integral parts of each other’s lives.

I have an album of old proof sheets of film photos going back to the late 1980s when I first asked DeDe Dunn if she would allow me to take some rehearsal shots of “The Nerd.” She opened the door to me and the theater folks have always since welcomed me with my camera and I have been able to store up a lot of memories over the years of our relationship.

I love theater photography. Other people take care of lighting, posing, hair, makeup, costuming, movement and all I have to do is hit the shutter button. And – surprise! – actors almost never mind standing in the light and having their picture taken. After years of having subjects turn their backs to my camera and never apologizing (mostly my children), I now had a source of interesting and enthusiastic subjects. In all the years of photographing actors at BCS I have had exactly one get angry and tell me to get the camera out of her face. She was older then than I am now. She was entitled.

You can spend as much time as you would like viewing some of the later digital files on my Flickr site. There are thousands of theater shots. I am an amateur photographer and I have learned a few things over those years. I have also spent a little on cameras, lenses and software. I hope there is some improvement in the photos as a result of my learning and investment.

But BCS has meant so much more than a place to practice my photography avocation. I have even ventured onto the stage in a few roles over the years.  I had the privilege of presenting the role of FDR, I hope with some dignity, in this Republican bastion in Annie, 2001. Then I was the somewhat shy racist, Karl Lindner, in Raisin in the Sun somewhere in the 2000s. Then I had the experience as a septuagenarian of taking a role with a large number of lines in Camping with Henry and Tom, 2013.  I felt absolute terror at every performance knowing that so many of my friends were watching. I had never even heard of flop sweat before and suddenly I was producing it in buckets. The difficulty of trying to remember and say all of Thomas Edison’s many lines in that play cured me of further attempts at acting. 

Here is Thomas Edison in “Camping with Henry and Tom” trying to rest at a camp site in the woods after Henry Ford wrecked one of his Model Ts on the way to our site. You can’t see it, but my mind is racked with misery trying to remember the list of choice hardwoods for a making a good campfire. Harding and Ford, the dolts, didn’t know much about nature and the outdoors. This photo is by Katie LeFave, a real photographer.

Yet, for all the joy I have taken from Brazosport Center Stages, I really value it most for what it contributes to our community. I have watched generations of young people move through their own activities and then out into our nation and the world to apply the things they learned about planning, communication, teamwork and how to respect themselves and others. At an early age, they were able to have friends who were adults and share peer responsibilities with them. I have seen it in my own kids and I have seen what a valuable experience theater was in their lives.

So, happy birthday Brazosport Center Stages and many happy returns. What you add to the education of our young people – and old people for that matter – makes all of us a little more civilized, reasonable and loving. I am looking forward to celebrating with you tonight and some of the friends we have shared over the last 35 years. You are a treasure in all our lives.

A Lovely Family Could Use a Helping Hand

If you know this family, please consider giving them a hand right now. Our community has benefited so much from their presence. They have given us much in the way of both creativity and service. Now they are fighting an enemy most of us will never have to confront. Your assistance would be well invested.

www.gofundme.com/lefave-family-cancer-defeating-funds

I Meet the Patron Saint of Accountants: A Visit from St. Matt

If you procrastinated like I did, then you will be spending your weekend thinking about taxes and tax returns. There could not be a better time to have a visit from the patron saint of accountants. This is long. And you may find it boring. Accounting, after all. In any case, it’s purely fictional and any resemblance the characters may have to persons living or dead (or both – the saint, presumably) is purely coincidental.  

THE FINANCE COMMITTEE WRESTLES WITH SPENDING ON BIG TICKET ITEMS

Theology is thought to be a arcane subject by the religious and the non-religious alike. Church people think of it as “overthinking” the simple love of God and the easier and more beautiful intellectual demands of worship. The non-religious are, of course, mystified by miracles, prayer, and how church people reconcile the Trinity with the monotheism that is clearly commanded in the Decalogue.

But if theology is difficult, accounting is even more of a mystery for most United Methodists. I have been treasurer, finance chair, or volunteer amateur internal auditor for the better part of the last fifteen years in a United Methodist Church inhabited by men and women with excellent educations and careers in science, engineering and academics. I assure you most of them will explain the Trinity, reconcile evolution with the Book of Genesis, or enjoy a discussion of substitutionary atonement with you before they will tell you the functional difference between a balance sheet and an income and expense report. And while it may be fully expected that most members would not be able to go into much detail on such a thing as depreciation, you would think they would quickly grasp the meaning of the idea that income should ordinarily exceed expenses in a healthy organization. Alas, red ink is often taken only as a sign that we need to pray harder.

At our most recent meeting we spent the better part of an hour discussing whether we should pay for a $15,000 air conditioning condenser unit for the sanctuary from the operating budget or from our “rainy day fund,” which no one seemed to understand the reason for its creation and why it had been so named in the first place. Borrowing was not one of the options considered since we have been fortunate in being able to save up a little money over the last few years.

So it occurred to me after that meeting, where we agreed on a budget to propose to our church council, that maybe I could wrap some accounting ideas up in the more familiar spiritual language of theology. Red ink could be sin, for example. That would be easy enough and since we could all agree that it should be avoided, it wouldn’t need a lot of discussion. After all, this is deeply Republican country.

But what about the more difficult ideas like capitalization and depreciation of equipment? Too formidable to even consider after such a long meeting, I thought. Tomorrow. I will think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day. For now, some welcome rest.

 

I FALL INTO A DREAM; I MEET THE PATRON SAINT OF ACCOUNTANTS

But, alas, as I fell off to sleep that night, a gentleman appeared to me in a dream. In my dream I was at Chapelwood’s altar all alone and praying about my difficulty getting fellow Methodists to understand basic accounting concepts. Few things have ever brought me to my knees like this problem. Continue reading “I Meet the Patron Saint of Accountants: A Visit from St. Matt”

My New Favorite Player

Some friends asked me if I would take a few pictures of their son during his senior year at Brazoswood.  (If you looked in here around the middle of March, his photos were running on the sidebar from my Flickr site postings.)

Graydon Hill pitched for the Brazoswood High School Bucs until this summer when his doc pulled him and sent him to the showers. A medical condition eliminated pitching from the things he would be able to do during his senior year. Doc said he could still bat, run bases and play at first base occasionally.

So I went around town Wednesday with Graydon and his parents to take some shots. It was a cloudy, muggy day, the only time he had available due to tournament play and work during his spring break. I enjoyed taking pictures and he tolerated it pretty well. He gave me some great photos and I did my best to catch them.

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Graydon simulates his pitching motion for the camera. His doc won’t allow him to pitch anymore.

Graydon was expected to be one of his team’s starting pitchers this year. But disappointment is a temporary condition when you are as able with the bat as he is. The role of DH seems to suit him well. The day after our photo shoot he was 3 for 4 with three RBIs. In one day he surpassed my lifetime stats in Jacinto City teen play.

Graydon had no intention of making a career of his beloved game. Sorry, Astros. He has been accepted into Texas A&M’s very competitive engineering program. So, no more Aggie jokes. They were smart enough to pull this kid in. They are doing a lot more than playing football and cultivating maroon veggies for H.E.B.

Graydon is one of our graduating seniors at Chapelwood this year. I understand that he has also graciously accepted the job of unofficial team chaplain. He must be doing a good job. They won their Thursday game 18-4.

So, you ask, what happened to my old favorite player? She graduated and went to University of South Carolina to play softball with the rest of the best. The two of them, Anna and Graydon, give me hope for the world we live in at a time when hopeful signs seem hard to come by.