Meanwhile, back at the ranch

For all our time together, Lee has impressed on me the importance of NOT moving to Texas. The weather is certainly one of her reasons for that stance.

But you can’t choose where your family lives. So when I have a stop-over chance to visit them in Houston, I take it.

It was hot for sure. But I survived my 40 hours on the ground and got to see the whole clan. And ate a lot, including a delicious dinner at Ninfa’s on Navigation.

A matter of scale 

Inside that cloud of smoke is a full size semi truck loaded with FedEx packages. One of those must’ve caught on fire, and now the whole load will probably be lost to the fire itself and damage from water etc used to put it out. 

So there’s a fact… FedEx burns up whole truckloads of packages! I can imagine all the hassles and genuine trouble this incident has caused. Maybe somebody didn’t get into college because of a delayed document, or had their car repossessed, or got kicked off the transplant list… Maybe a birthday party was ruined: scarred for life.

But there is an alternative fact… Dr. Deming and his disciples have helped FedEx successfully deliver an astonishingly high percentage of packages, on time, to the correct address. Is it 99%, 99.9%, or 99.99%, or more? I don’t know, but it’s a lot, and it’s amazing. Seeing this truck on fire doesn’t change my willingness to use FedEx one whit… most of the time, more or less always, it works. 

In the current political climate, differences in our personal willingness to ignore or at least discount the burning truck — or not — seem to be at the heart of a lot of what divides us. A lot of the issues we want to freak out about are only visible on some spreadsheet description of “the big picture” or in the economist’s “long run.” And on the other side of the coin, a lot the issues we choose to freak out about may NOT be visible on that same spreadsheet, but can’t be ignored, like the burning truck.

Signs of the Times, Texas Edition

Putting the shat back in washateria

We appreciate usiness. 

I like this one especially. Usually when I get these sign pictures, they’re here because something broke or changed or because of a juxtaposition or translation problem. But in this case it appears there was never any attempt to spell it all out. The “your b” I expected to see was simply deemed surplus, like the EPA or ethics rules. 

I appeal to your sense of decency 

If you look at sewer drains, you see a lot of variations on this theme… don’t put motor oil or whatever here, because it ends up polluting some body of water. 

In this case, I thought “national estuary” was a nice touch, because im not sure how much sympathy there would have been for plain old Galveston Bay. 

My Triumphant Return

To Pasadena isn’t a return at all… wrong state! But this Pasadena is at least named after my Pasadena. There are a lot of similarities, like both are places. In America. With people in them! But beyond that, I admit to focusing more on the differences in terrain and civic sense of self. 

Before my b-in-law moved here a couple years ago to turn over a new professional leaf and escape a horrendous commute from Katy, I’d only ever heard of Pasadena TX as the home of Gilley’s (mechanical bull, John Travolta, etc.). In fact, that was just down the street, but it’s long gone, and now there’s a middle school on the site. 

We crossed a giant bridge over the Ship Channel the other night. I wish I’d gotten a picture of the refineries (which are far more emblematic of this town than Gilley’s ever was) lit up like dystopian fairy castles, but our rental car was too low to really see over the side barriers. Which explains why everyone here drives such big trucks!!

Kim and Bill’s Excellent Adventure 

We’re in Houston for an interview, which gives us an unexpected chance for a little family visit. 

On Saturday night, Brother Frank (there’s also an Uncle Frank, and somehow Brother Frank has always rolled easily off this only child’s tongue) surprised us with tickets to a jazz event. It was put on by Kim Prevost and Bill Solley, a couple he’s seen play lots of times and knows through a network of mutual friends. 

Things started off with us having to find Lucky Run recording studio, around back in a building even a Realtor would describe as gray, anonymous and industrial. 

But once we got inside, it started to look more like I expected… framed records on the wall, lots of name-checking (Solange! Lady Gaga!), and a young man behind the desk who clearly had other things to do. 

I said ‘event’ on purpose, because this was a hybrid of concert and recording session. As VIP ticket holders, we got to sit in the master control room. Each musician was in a separate room (though all could see each other through windows). Here’s Bill in his room on the left, then Kim, then the background singers.

Drums, bass, and two keyboardists were off to the right. Because of that setup, each musician could be on their own track (or tracks: the drum kit had eight), while listening to while on headphones. 

We got running commentary from the engineer, which was really interesting and all new to me. Most of the time he was just letting it run, but occasionally he would fiddle with something. He would turn players on and off on our monitors to explain how a recording gets made and edited. Lots of dials and switches. 

Kim and Bill are from New Orleans, part of the great post-Katrina diaspora like Brattleboro’s own Samirah Evans (they’ve been on multiple festivals together back in the day). The music was great, soulful and jazzy, and complex enough to listen to way more than once. They did two complete shows, and will produce a DVD of the session and a fully edited recording. 

Maybe this is a new performance concept or maybe not… but it was new to me. I thought it was a really cool way for them to pay for some studio time while cultivating a much deeper audience connection than in a regular lounge setting. 

Thanks, Brother Frank!

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