Friday, September 26, 2008

Columbia Festival of the Arts

I'm reading on the Literary Stage in Courthouse Square tomorrow at 1 pm. You locals, come on out! Click the link above for the schedule of events. No tomatoes, please.

Monday, September 22, 2008

With Bees in our Bonnets

I don't know what pioneer women would have thought of the results but they certainly would have sanctioned the impulse:

The quilting bee was an imporant means of socializing for colonial and pioneer women (and man). Through the winter months, the women would piece their quilt tops. Since there was no central heating in these homes, there was usually only one main heated room that was too crowded during the winter months for a quilt frame to be assembled. When the weather became warmer, an invitation was sent to the surrounding neighbors for the quilting bee.

On the day of the quilting bee, the quilters would arrive early and begin marking the quilt top which had been put into the quilt frame by the hostess. The quilters would then being to quilt the top while exchanging conversation. The quilt had to finished before the husbands and beaus showed up in the late afternoon when dinner was served to all, the hostess being given a chance to show off her cooking skills. After dinner, there was very often a square dance or country dance with fiddles accompanying the dancers. The quilting bee was an important part of the social life of these people surpassed only by religious gatherings. (from

On Saturday, a room full of multi-talented women gathered at Orr Street Studios for Lisa Bartlett's "Spare Parts" mixed media bee. We arrived at 10 am and began rifling through acres of fabulous ephemera she'd generously set out for us to ransack. Lisa had us draw numbers to pick from large pieces such as old wooden boxes, clock casings, and such for use as bases for our pieces. I drew #1 and got a plum prize: an old telephone box.

After serving ourselves coffee and snacks Lisa had laid out, we got busy with paint, papers, glues, drills, scissors, screws and wire on long tables arranged in a rectangle so we could all see each other, chat and pass the gel medium. I was surprised at the absence of sustained chatter. As each person immersed deeper into her project she grew quieter with concentration. But we yakked away at the lunch break, over organic salad, fruit and hummus. Because we were at our places working, we did not really see much of what each other had been up to until the end when we laid our stuff out in the gallery area. I was amazed at what emerged from the day, including and especially from those who had never even dabbled in this before. We were all euphoric by this time: high on the atmosphere, the joy of making and messy hands, and the all day proximity to very special friends. Friends and family showed up at 4:30 to view the art, have a glass of wine and pick out their own gems from the still substantial leftovers. The only thing missing was the square dance after.

Shown above is the before and after of my piece. Thanks, Lisa!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Riders of the Storm

You've seen the footage. I have been in contact with lots of the friends and clients sweating and slogging through the wreckage of Houston. Though everyone I know personally sustained minor damage (blown down trees and fences, lost shingles from roofs, etc.) power is still out for most, few grocery stores are open (running on generators and limiting customers to entering 25 at a time) and even fewer gas stations (the gas is there but the power to pump it is not). They don't know when schools will be able to reopen. I've felt helpless in not being able to help. Then I got word that Chris Seay, the pastor of ecclesisa, the church we attended in Houston before we moved, is coordinating relief efforts through the church at Taft Street which is located centrally in the heart of Montrose.

I have copied from his letter the specific ways you may help if you are so inclined:

1)Relief Support - any donations to relief support will go to purchase chainsaws, tools, food, van rentals, water, generators, temporary employment for relief coordinators, and necessary items to support relief teams. We are estimating the immediate need for relief support to be more than 25,000 dollars. If you are able to purchase any of these items in your area and have them delivered to Houston, this would be preferred over local purchasing. However both can be accommodated.

2)Financial Relief – for those suffering financially because of loss of property and income, we would like to offer a short term assistance package. For countless families and individuals struggling to make it financially before the storm (hourly wage employees, immigrants, and single mothers), the last week has often been devastating. We hope that the federal government will improve in their response time, but the church is able and willing to fill this gap. If you would like to give specifically to this package we will distribute the following on your behalf. In the case of single mothers we intend to double the assistance.
$150 Mortgage/Rental Assistance
$100 Grocery Card
$50 Gas Card
$20 Basic Toiletries
Gospel of John (VOX)
We will attempt to continue or begin a long-term relationship with all assisted families and will offer this assistance to as many as possible.

3) Taft Street Coffee as a House of Hospitality - You may know that Taft Street Coffee (the coffee shop owned and run by Ecclesia) is rated each year as one of the top 3 coffee shops in the entire city. This morning we had our power restored and would like to re-open the shop as a site for those still without power. We estimate that over the next three weeks many would benefit from a centrally located house of hospitality that offers air conditioning, a free lunch, coffee drinks, Wi-Fi, phone service, children’s play space, and spiritual support. If you would like to sponsor the food and operational costs to run Taft Street Coffee as a gift to the community, we estimate that cost to be $850 per day.

If you have any questions you can contact me ( / cell 713 539-9201) or our Mission Pastor John Starr ( / cell 832 630-4267).

Friday, September 12, 2008

State of Evacuation

We are glued to the TV as if we're watching a slow motion car wreck, Anderson Cooper reporting the National Weather Service's threat that those who remain in Galveston in one or two story homes will face "CERTAIN DEATH!" Smiling in spite of ourselves because when we called our friend Ben to warn him of the latest escalation of doom his response was raucous laughter and because I can't hear threats of "CERTAIN DEATH" in any voice other than Eddie Izzard's.

Three years ago we were among the guinea pigs, 5 million of us in Houston feeling our way through the inaugural run of what's become a new summer ritual: evacuating a major American city. Like most of our friends then, and at latest tally, now, we had no intention of doing anything other than riding out the huge storm heading our way despite dire predictions of destruction and doom. We filled the bathtub with water, bought batteries and taped windows. As the hurricane barreled toward us and the radio continued to bleat its threats, I looked again at our two young girls and thought, "But if... " and I knew I'd never forgive myself if due to my hubris the expected winds and flooding brought harm came their way. So the day before the predicted arrival of Rita found me frantically packing suitcases and photo albums after all and Wayne lugging computer equipment and paper files to higher ground. We left our home not knowing if we'd return to anything resembling it and joined the already-in-progress mass exodus.

Fortunately, we picked our way along every path other than I-45, which by then resembled a parking lot at Woodstock, and made our way to Dallas on the back roads. We drove all night, through dark countryside and the occasional Quick-mart at some rural crossroads, one of which we stopped at and braved long lines to the filthy, overflowing restroom (my kids refuse to use a tree) and topped off our tank. The lot was full of other folks who'd also avoided the highway and there was a cheery comraderie among the refugees. I think we made it to my parents' home at something like 3 am, after a mere 8 or so hours of driving. Our next door neighbors, who'd also jumped ship at the last moment but were new to Texas and its highways, called us by cellphone, stranded on the glutted highway somewhere north of Houston and running low on gas. She was 5 mos. pregnant. They'd been on the road for I can't remember how many hours and had travelled only about 80 miles. We pulled out the atlas we'd snagged at a convenience store at the start (a brilliant move!) of our trek and navigated them off the highway, to the blue roads, and then to roads tinier than that. They arrived at my folks sometime the following morning after something like 22 hrs. on the road, give or take, or so I recall.

We all camped out at my folks' house, an impromptu holiday, and other friends who'd sought refuge in the DFW area came and joined us. My dad cooked out on the grill. We traded war stories. 10 hrs, 18 hrs, 36 hrs on the road. Reports from other friends' misadventures, evacuating Houston only to drive straight into the storm in Louisiana. Driving all the way to Arkansas to find a hotel room. Watching footage of Houston's highways: clogged on the outbound lanes and vacant as nuclear winter on the inbound. A huge city barren as a desert.

A few days later we were among the first to return home. To avoid the same gridlock on return, we'd left ahead of the rest and driven through the night. Across the street the power had gone out so one set of neighbors that had stayed behind bunked in our house. Our a/c worked and the food in the freezer had stayed frozen. I remember riding my bike a few blocks to Mission Burrito on our first night back. The guy making my burrito embraced me, he was so happy to see a person back in town. He described what it was like to be there when no one else was--how eerie and creepy.

And that was how it was when we got back. Everyone was in love with each other and the city. We'd been spared the direct hit, we were okay, but it felt like we'd made it through something. A wild ride with a happy ending. That ordeal has grown into a fond memory and I hope to God that post-Ike my friends can say the same.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

It was a Joyride

I came across this on my friend Frank Hart's facebook page. I hadn't seen it in years. Atomic Opera recorded "Joyride" on their debut album entitled "For Madmen Only" in the early 90's and I had a teeny part in the music video. Can you figure out which character I am (a no-brainer for those who've known me awhile)? Those were days of smoky clubs, ringing eardrums and 3 am breakfasts at Denny's. Road trips, guest lists and wild hopes. And devoted friendship, despite the years, the mileage and the sometimes radical realignment of our various universes. Here's to the endurance of sand castles. Now I'm all verklempt.