16 February 2010

What I'm reading...

It's mid-February so what I'm reading is IRS pubs as I prepare to do our taxes.  Ugh!  I hate this.  And I miss Donald Booker whom we could really trust to do it for us.  Now we TurboTax.  When I was growing up Mother always served salmon croquettes (she made hers with Post Toasties) with canned tomatoes and store-bought (vs. the homemade we took for granted) cookies when she worked on taxes.

It's an election year so what I'm reading is information in the hope of making an informed choice in the primary elections.  Early voting begins today so I'm hoping to have my endorsements before the weekend so we can VOTE!  One source of good information is the League of Women Voters with links to the party sites. I agree with the Chronicle's endorsements of Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Bill White for gubernatorial candidates.

We're also having a colder than usual winter so instead of working in my yard I'm browsing seed catalogs and websites.  Houston isn't Pennsylvania, California, or Virginia--it isn't even Dallas--so don't expect general garden books to work.  I get my gardening advice Kathy Huber's garden site at The Houston Chronicle but there are a couple of books I also recommend:
River Oaks Garden Club:  A Garden Book for Houston and the Gulf Coast which is unfortunately out-of-print although used copies are available and so much the better since this book is going to be more at home in your garden than on a shelf.  Its circle of the year and monthly lists of what to plant and what is in bloom are much needed.
Cathey, H. Marc & Bellamy, Linda:  Heat-Zone Gardening.  How to choose plants that thrive in your region's warmest weather is most useful because it's a colder than usual February but July & August will be HOT!.

I was invited to read and comment on two works by friends:

McGrgor, Keith:  The Beacon.  I was privileged to have a pre-production read of Keith's newest play.  Visit his webiste:  ravenwriters.com

Becker, Joseph Peter is completing his Ph.D. thesis.  He has done some really fascinating work on grace.  His thesis deals with a short section of Corinthians but it has implications for all scripture and for the life of believers.  I told Joe that "this changes everything."  One of the things it has changed is my view of Pauline scripture.  As my theology has grown increasingly "feminist" I have found Paul to be a "thorn in my side."  No more.  I cannot wait until Joe's work becomes more generally available. I have not read a book that more changed my understanding since Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy. 


Eugene Peterson's Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. A conversation in spiritual theology is still on my Kindle and I am finishing up and rebrowsing this book which I highly recommend.

Foster, Thomas C.:  How to Read Novels Like a Professor.  A jaunty exploration of the world's favorite litereary form.  New York:  Harper, 2008.  David finished and passed this one on to me which is proving almost but not quite as delightful and informative as this author's previous book How to Read Literature...  I highly recommend this book to students who are preparing to attend college.

Austen, Jane:  EmmaKindle.  The recent PBS programs remind me that it's time to re-read Miss Austen. 

Bedside Books:

Mabie, Hamilton Wright: Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know. Doubleday, 1905. Project Gutenberg. Kindle. I'm reading one or two a week.  I forget how frightening some of these stories are. I'm pretty sure that I would not choose to read them to a young child.  Let's rate them PG.

Paulson, Beth: Wild Raspberries. 2008 I'm prolonging the pleasure from this delightful poet. Previous books are The Company of Trees and The Truth about Thunder.

Merrill, Nan C.: Psalms for Praying: an invitation to wholeness. New York/London: Continuum, 2006. This reworking of the Psalms emphasizes "God is love..." It is by no means an accurate translation but it is a response to the timeless text and gives a fresh voice to psalmic prayer. I am only allowing myself a psalm or two at a time hoping to make the book last through Easter.


Whitaker, Evelyn: Laddie. We finished our discussion of the 19th Century woman novelist as theologian.  My introduction and downloadable .pdf of Laddie with my annotations are available at my domain:  evelynwhitakerlibrary.org/

03 February 2010

Lightnin' Strike

1972-1973.  Astrodome.  Cheap seats, just left of center field.  During mid-week Astros games, five bucks got us into the game and bought Cokes and hotdogs for supper, maybe popcorn or candy if there was a promotion like "ladies' night" or two-for-one dogs.  Some nights we took home change. We lived in Smith Square and walked to the game--didn't even have to pay parking. 
The size of the crowd in that section varied from every seat filled to a dozen or so regulars.  Sometimes there were Little League teams, fresh faced kids from the suburbs of Sharpstown and Westbury.  Some nights brought the player and band parents from Yates or Worthing High Schools.  Men just back from working the off-shore rigs and contruction workers crowded in on nights when beer was cheap. On those nights it could get a bit rough but by and large it was a congenial crowd--we all loved the game.

When we were lucky and the section wasn't too crowded, a black man (Negro had just passed from polite use, and Afro-American had yet to be introduced) in a slouch hat and somewhat garish jacket sat with a guitar.  The guitar was a thing of beauty.
Before the game and during lulls in the action, he played 12-bar blues with licks and progressions, and frequently a sustained bass.  Sometimes he sang or kinda hummed.  It was unlike any music I had ever heard and I loved it. 
Sometimes  he seemed to be just fooling around, free and loose.  Sometimes I thought he was composing a new song.  Come the 7th inning, he always had a mini-concert which I thought would have been well worth a cover charge that was more than double what the grad student with the working wife had budgeted for the evening.  Baseball and blues.  It just doesn't get any better.
One night, flush with both gratitude and a little cash, DMP offered to buy him a hotdog and Coke and he said, "Make it a beer."  My tee-totaling, church of Christer paused for a beat (during which the man did some pretty fancy drumming on the guitar case) and then said, "You got it." 
When we asked his name, he said, "My mamma named me Sam; most folks calls me Lightnin." Although we didn't know it at the time we had met Houston blues legend, Lightnin' Hopkins.

We spent the next few years with the U.S. Army in Maryland and when we came back to Houston rarely attended Astros games except with friends.  We seldom sat in the cheap seats, having grown prosperous and less rich.
I did continue to see Sam out and about, now and then.  At Herman Park Zoo a couple of times.  Very often at DMP's slow-pitch softball games for church or work teams when they played week night games at parks in the UH or TSU neighborhoods.  He'd be sitting at the top of the bleachers if there were any--on a picnic bench or railing or car bumper otherwise--with his guitar.  The man either loved a ball game or just liked to be playing a crowd.  I ran into him at a bus stop now and then.

The last couple of times I saw him was early in the 1980s.  He looked unwell. He was playing the blues in hospital lobbies at the Texas Medical Center. There is no unacknowledged pain in the blues; nonetheless there is something joyous and hopeful in that music.

 Listen to Lightnin' Hopkins on youtube.com
I chose this rendition of Cotton because I like the photos and because the songs I remember best were those that evoked my childhood growing up on the farm.  It was common ground.  "I never felt more like singin' the blues."
Yesterday's Houston Chronicle had an article about a proposed marker in honor of Lightnin' Hopkins on Dowling Street near the popular club which charged a cover to hear my friend play.  Sam was quite famous and not the poor old man I thought him to be, one of my "angels unaware."