Pandemic Road: What Is Normal?

A Saturday evening in August 2020. The Houston Symphony live streams a performance from Jones Hall in Houston, Texas. My dear friend and I are curled up on my couch with the laptop on the coffee table waiting for the music to begin. Before 2020 and Covid, we would be looking forward to the beginning of the new cultural season. We would schedule our tickets for the Houston Symphony, the Houston Ballet and the Alley Theatre. Are we culture snobs? No, of course not. But we are old, retired and healthy. And we like music, dance and theatre. Life is good.

So far this year we have enjoyed performances from the Houston Symphony, the Alley Theatre and Stages Theatre all from the comfort of home. Is it as exciting as getting dressed up and going down to the Theatre District for dinner before the show? Not really. But it is nice. The music is still just as good. We have heard Mozart, Vivaldi, Schubert, Stravinsky, Marsalis and others. It is great fun to see what kind of performances come out of a resident acting company while practicing social distancing. The actors are still as talented.…..maybe more so considering the new restrictions. The Houston Ballet has been very busy on Facebook. Many of the dancers have danced on roof tops, in back yards, and in parking lots. It is wonderful to see them.

In the midst of everything, Hurricane Laura made her appearance in Texas and Louisiana. It was a close call for Houston. Laura finally went east of us. How nice of her. However, no one really knew until the last minute where she was headed, so I am still enjoying some of the snacks I purchased and I have enough water to last me until Thanksgiving. Who would ever have known that between Covid and Hurricane season, the main supplies for any responsible household would include toilet paper, water and peanut butter. What an interesting time for our civilization.

However, do not despair! Today is September 1st!!! We know what that means, don’t we? Halloween will be here very soon! It is time to start decorating! Here is a picture of my new doormat. During the past years, I have had other Halloween doormats, but they all eventually wore out. I thought this one was particularly appropriate for 2020. Just wondering how many people are going to try to dress up as a “coronavirus”? The possibilities for creativity are endless.

As you can guess, from here on out, I will keep you appraised of all my Halloween decorations. I have a balcony and it will be decorated. I can throw candy down to any potential trick or treaters who happen to walk past. Now it is just a matter of how many skeletons and witches and such will join me on the balcony!

Until next week.….

The Road From Spring Into Summer

I don’t care what the calendar says. I know what I know.

This is the last week for Spring weather here in Houston. Except for a few monsoon floods, we’ve had a pretty good run. In between rain storms, there were many days where morning temperatures were in the upper 60’s with low humidity. I walked. I opened windows and enjoyed fresh air.

Yet, the weather forecasters are all telling us that by next week the temperatures will rise and it will definitely feel like summer.

So during these last few days of not only tolerable, but lovely weather, I decided to visit some of my favorite strolling spots. I wound up going back to the Rienzi with some of my writing friends. We received a brief tour inside the house from Ms. Ryan Hernandez. I have to admit this was my second tour of the house and it was just as fascinating, if not more so, than the first time.

After our indoor stroll, we were free to roam around the grounds. Some of us stayed inside to write and others of us went outside to be inspired by the nature that fills the lovely grounds.

Carroll and Harris Masterson lived in this house during the post World War II years through the 1960s and beyond into the 1990s. These two were major philanthropists helping the growing city of Houston develop both culturally and with a social conscience.

Carroll Masterson served on many boards for the fine arts including the Alley Theatre, Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera among others. She also supported charities that supported both the elderly and also women and children.

Learning about this family reminded me of the research I conducted a few years ago on local poor farms and pauper cemeteries. There were many charitable organizations that were supported by local society matrons. Now that I am retired from the rigors of Social Services and local government, I now spend a lot of time at the arts organizations that the Masterson family helped to create. No wonder I felt so comfortable walking around the Rienzi House and Gardens.

There is one last field trip this weekend when I will go to the Houston Symphony to hear Blue Beard’s Castle. Then I will retreat underground and inside with lots of air conditioning. I will even switch from walking outside to enjoying water aerobics at an indoor pool. Even when I do venture out to attend the Summer Chills play at the Alley Theatre, I can get there through a parking garage and a downtown tunnel.

Not to worry. I will continue some road trips and all blogging activities before re‐emerging into polite society sometime in the fall. This will be just in time for Halloween! Since my favorite holiday is just a mere 168 days away, the days will fly by quickly.

Until next week.….

The Floor Show Before The Show

Theater or Theatre? Does it matter? No. I don’t even get confused when I go to the Houston Theater District to enjoy a play at the Alley Theatre. I’m so smart.

All I know is that one of the best reasons for living in Houston is the Houston Theater District. This includes 17 blocks in downtown Houston that houses 9 professional performing arts organizations. My Dear Friend (DF) and I go to as many performances as possible.

However, if you think the only performances worth writing about are found in venues such as The Wortham Center or Jones Hall, then you would be mistaken. Just the other evening DF and I decided to go downtown for dinner before attending a performance by the Houston Ballet.

We decided to eat at The Blue Fish. If you have never been there, it serves a wide variety of Japanese dishes that will delight both the meat‐eater in your crowd as well as the vegetarian. I personally swear by the Agadashi Tofu and the Grilled Veggies. However, this most recent visit had us placed at a table where I could observe the bar area, the reception area and one of the doors that led to the kitchen.

What a floor show! The choreography displayed by the staff could rival anything I have seen created by Stanton Welch (Artistic Director of the Houston Ballet). Movement never stopped and I only saw a waiter hit the kitchen door once during our visit.

Why such a display of ecstatic waitstaff dancing? At night when several venues have scheduled performances, most of them begin at either 7:30 or 8:00. That means that everyone who wants to enjoy dinner before their show gets to the local restaurants at the same time. By 6:15 the tables are filling up fast. There is a line of customers coming in the front door. Everyone wants to get to their theater performances on time. No time for dawdling!!!

Water is delivered to the tables, orders are taken, the bartenders are shaking their martini shakers, sushi chefs are slicing and dicing, and customers are chomping and imbibing. I couldn’t even get a decent picture of the bar staff, because they were moving too fast. Once all the shows begin there might be a lull until later when everyone who didn’t have dinner before the show enjoy a light repast before heading home… or elsewhere.…..it’s not for me to judge.

When our dinner was over, DF and I made it across the street to the Wortham Center in time to enjoy another wonderful performance by the Houston Ballet. After the show, DF and I made our way back to the car as we observed another round of theater‐goers making their way into the Blue Fish. I hope they enjoyed the floor show as much as I did.

Until next week.….