Sunday, September 25, 2005

It could have been worse

It could have been worse. Hurricane Rita could have been worse. I called Nick West, the editor of the Palacios Beacon, a weekly newspaper in Palacios, a little shrimping town to the south of Houston. This was Friday, before the storm hit. Palacios was evacuated and the shrimp fleet had left the harbor and gone up the Colorado River for safety. Nick was holding down the fort at his newspaper office. He trucked out all his computers and printers, but was staying put with his laptop.

Palacios was spared. Hurricane Rita veered to the north. If you go to Google and type in “Palacios Beacon,” you will find a lovely set of photos of that town. Palacios is an “undiscovered” harbor and beach town, a gentle place with nice old brick buildings – poor people, but they’re getting by.

My Rehabilitation. I have come to my sister’s house near the beach in Venice for rehabilitation – two weeks of cozy family time, bike riding, and laying on the sand will do me a world of good. I will read a novel by Isabel Allende. I will plan my future and eat lots of vegetables. I wish I could live in Los Angeles. I wish I knew how.

The house across the alley from my sister’s house was sold for $1.2 million – just a bungalow. An old Mexican family had lived there for more than a generation. Carolyn, my sister, said the old black and Mexican families were leaving, selling out. For $1.2 million they can move inland and buy a less expensive home and keep the change. But Carolyn laments the changing character of the neighborhood. The new money people coming into Venice build high fences around their property and you can’t know them.

All the children. But what is surprising about Venice, which has gotten so expensive, is the large number of small children you see coming down the street in baby carriages. How can these young people afford to live here and have babies too? Beats me.

Huntington Gardens is in Pasadena. We had a family outing on Saturday afternoon. Carolyn drove us in her Subaru Forester. She is two years older than me. Tom, my brother, is four years older than me. Joining us was my daughter, Eva, who flew in from Austin for a week’s vacation. We drove to the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena.

We had arranged to meet Jordana and Cheri at the garden entrance. Jordana is Tom’s seven-year-old daughter. Cheri is Tom’s wife, but they are separated now.

This made a family party of six. The Huntington Gardens are fabulous and world-class. I wish we had more time to wander and see the plants. I would definitely go back again – especially to the desert collection. Such succulents! Plants you only dream about, and so beautifully maintained! Being a landscaper myself, the thing I appreciated the most was the fact that I didn’t have to do any of the work – just stroll around and look at the flowers. It was so pleasant.

Bonsai. I also spent a lot of time at the bonsai collection. Many specimens are more than 100 years old, rooted in shallow pots in a bed of velvet moss, so delicate, yet so strong. But it was 4:30 by this time and the security guards began their friendly sweep, herding us, like we were cows, with gentle hand movements, towards the gate and the parking lot.

California Pizza Kitchen. Afterwards the six of us had dinner at the California Pizza Kitchen. I was so contented by the garden stroll, and Cheri – the wife separated for very good reasons that I won’t go into here – was on her best behavior. I didn’t baulk at the strange notion of “California pizza.” I just enjoyed it.

Don Whisenhunt in Kentucky. I got an email from Don Whisenhunt. Like many other Frog Hospital readers, he misses the old newsletter format. He is not used to a blog and doesn’t read them. Well, I agree. I don’t read any blogs myself. I read newspapers online. Plus my silly time that I spend chatting at the Aeclectic Tarot Forum [My daughter abuses me about this. She says, “Tell me you’re not learning Tarot.”]

But life brings changes – I hate when people tell me that. The old newsletter split in two. The more serious political commentary has gone over to my weekly column in the Wilson County News and the personal stories go into the blog.

The old newsletter was a unique combination of personal and political, and I wanted to keep it for that reason. But there is a such a serious penalty for being different -- I had to give it up and join the conventional world.

Another thing about doing something unique is the comfort of it – you don’t have to compete with anybody. But I am ready for competition. This blog competes with a million others just like it – at least in format. My weekly column competes with a thousand others. So let us see if I rise to the top.

Don Whisenhunt is a retired professor of history. He has studied and written about the life and times of FDR. Don is a native Texan. He was my professor at Western Washington University when I studied history there in graduate school. Don was the only teacher who made any sense to me at all – Don being an old-fashioned progressive, untainted by the evil of deconstructionism. Don spoke English just like a human being. The rest of the faculty spoke an extremely devious code language which I could never understand.

Don has retired with his wife to Kentucky – his grandchildren live there.



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