Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Texas Page 1 of 8

“Vengeance” (B.J. Novak) Is A Great First-Time Film from “The Office” Star

The film “Vengeance” is written and directed by B.J. Novak of “The Office” fame. The synopsis of the plot reads: “A writer from New York City attempts to solve the murder of a girl he hooked up with, and travels down South to investigate the circumstances of her death and discover what happened to her.”

As the film opens, B.J.—who plays the main character Ben Manalowitz in a sort of early Woody Allen-esque fashion modeled on the “Annie Hall” template—is out and about in New York City with John Mayer, the singer. Mayer essentially plays himself. It is well-known that the singer (“Your Body Is A Wonderland”) has practically made a career out of dating numerous female pop icons. The conversation between Mayer’s character (John) and B.J.’s character of Ben, which seems to take place atop a New York City rooftop party, is all about hooking up with various women on a casual basis. The two are using their cell phones to revisit past and present conquests and agreeing with one another (without really communicating) with the rote response “100% !”

The next step in the plot has Ben (B.J. Novak) answering a late-night phone call from someone who says his name is Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook). Ty describes himself as the brother of a one-time hook-up of Ben’s named Abilene Shaw (Lio Tipton). Ty assumes that Ben will be coming South to Texas for Abilene’s funeral. Ben is at a loss to process this suggestion, as he barely remembers Abilene at all.

Where, in Texas, is this home town? Three hours from Dallas and five hours from Abilene, so literally in the middle of  nowhere in west Texas. Ben tries to beg off, saying, “I’ll be there in spirit,” which causes Ty (the brother) to respond that he will pick Ben up from the Spirit Airlines terminal at the airport.

Ben does fly to Texas, because he has the idea that his experiences in rural Texas might provide good raw material for a podcast topic he is pitching to a radio executive, played by Issa Rae as Eloise.

When Ty picks Ben up at the airport, he lays out a case for Abilene, an aspiring singer, having been murdered. They are in Ben’s pick-up truck and  Ben is quite taken aback, exclaiming “I don’t avenge deaths. I don’t live in a Liam Neeson movie.” This leads to a wry conversation with Ty about Liam Neeson movies, with Ty proclaiming “Schindler’s List” to be “a huge downer.” Hard not to laugh.

It also sets up the scene at the burial of Abilene where Ben—who barely knew the girl—is asked to get up and say a few words about his “girlfriend.” Ben does an excellent job of uttering platitudes along the lines of “I never expected to be in a situation like this.” He goes on to mention banal remarks about “spending more time” with someone (“All of us”) and mentions how she “loved music.” It should be mentioned that Jessie Novak actually wrote one of the songs entitled “I Finished My Shift at Claire’s” and B.J. Novak gets credit for one with a title something like “When I Get Signal.” Andrea Von Foroester was in charge of the music and Cinematographer was Lyn Moncrief in this Jason Blum production.

The eulogy from Ben graveside gets him off the hook with the family (re his relationship with Abilene) for the moment, but, because he needs more material for his podcast proposal, Ben is talked into staying at the family home and actually sleeping in Abilene’s old childhood bedroom. Ben keeps humoring Ty in his quest for vengeance, which, in one insightful line, the script explains is the new reality that the truth is too hard to accept, so people are always looking for someone to blame. There are also some deep nuggets concerning social media adding to the proliferation of conspiracy theories and those who hold forth their own opinions as everyone’s truth (without proof), so the film is not just all fun and games and searching for killers who may or may not exist.

The piece starts out to be a somewhat snobbish look down Ben’s nose at the fly-over country he is visiting, a land where, according to the locals, “In Texas, we don’t dial 9-1-1.” It ends up failing to endorse the proposal that all city folk are smarter and sharper and better. The sincerity of the locals cannot fail to impress. However, you do come away with the impression that the bright lights of the rural Heartland won’t win fame and fortune unless they move to a city where their talent can be recognized, so you tell me if that is a vote for west Texas or, like Sam Kinnison’s act, someone screaming, “You live in the desert. Move to the water.”

As it turns out, Abilene—(who initially is misrepresented as someone “who wouldn’t even touch an Advil)—did have a bit of a drug problem, and the reason seems to be the dead-end life she was living in rural Texas, her New York City dreams having not panned out.

Abilene attended a party near an oil field, where cell reception was poor. The party took place at the intersection of four competing jurisdictions off Highway 29. This meant that neither the local Banefield Police Department (Officers Mike and Dan), the border patrol, the DEA, nor Sheriff Jimeniz really would care enough to investigate a party like the one where Abilene died, which seems to have been a routine event in the area.

The Shaws are a family where the younger brother of Abilene’s (Eli Bickel as Mason) is routinely referred to as “El Stupido.” When Ben objects to categorizing the middle school-aged boy this way, Ty, his older brother, says, “It’s okay. He doesn’t speak Spanish.”

Ty is portrayed as “a good old boy” and a typical Texan. Only Quentin Sellers seems to have a clue about the Big City. At one point in the dialogue, Ashton Kutcher’s character mentioned that he had moved to this godforsaken spot from another state. I’d have to see it again to tell you if it was Iowa or Idaho, but we all know that, IRL, Ashton is from the Cedar Rapids/Amana area, so please let me know if Iowa got a plug.

The movie makes fun of the Texas fascination with the Whataburger franchise. The simplistic reason for liking it is given as “because it’s right there.” However, when Ty is pushed to explain further, he says, “You just love it, and that’s how love works.” This “heart to heart” theme comes off as perhaps superior to the lack of compassion or empathy evinced by city dwellers, early in the film.

Many of the snobby Jewish boy’s pre-conceived impressions about the South are shown up for what they are: prejudice. In a revealing debate with one of Abilene’s sisters (Isabella Amara as Paris Shaw) about literature, it becomes clear that Paris has actually read the source material, while Ben has not. (Harry Potter books abound in Abilene’s bedroom, thanks to 2 female set decorators who grew up in San Antonio and are about the same age as Abilene of the film.) Ben is merely reciting rote opinions without being as well-informed as this Texas high school girl, but he has retained an air of superiority. Alex Jones, without the shouting.

Ashton Kutcher, who has not appeared in a major movie role since roughly 2013 (“Jobs”) appears as Quentin Sellers. The Iowa-born native recently revealed that he had been suffering from “a super rare form of Vasculitis” that he contracted three years ago. The disease attacks the veins and arteries and is an auto-immune disorder that involves inflammation and can cause organ failure or aneurysms in its most severe form. Kutcher said, “Like two years ago, I had this weird, super-rare form of vasculitis,” Kutcher shared these experiences in an exclusive video clip released to “Access Hollywood” from an upcoming episode of National Geographic’s “Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge.”

“Knocked out my vision, knocked out my hearing, knocked out like all my equilibrium. It took me like a year to build it all back up.”

Therefore, it was a treat to see a healthy 44-year-old white-clad Kutcher playing Quentin Sellers, founder of the Quentin Sellers Music Factory in the middle of Texas. Quentin gives an inspiring speech about “all these bright creative lights with nowhere to plug in their energy,” as he holds himself out as a music impresario in the middle of nowhere. His wardrobe is a plus (mostly white) and he looks great.

The writing is extremely insightful. The actors do well with their parts, and, for a first-time director, Novak has hit a home run. The dry humor (see trailer) leaves you laughing out loud.

My only criticism would be the denouement of the film. It seemed out of character for the protagonist. I won’t say any more than that, because this is one you’ll want to rent and enjoy for yourself.

I look forward to B.J. Novak’s next writer/director outing.

Will the Texas Power Grid Prevail in These High Energy Times?

I’m sitting in the Illinois Quad Cities, where it is currently 95 degrees. And humid. Very, very humid. It’s 100 degrees in Des Moines and 91 degrees in my old hometown in northeast Iowa (Independence). Because of the humidity, it feels more like 107.

In Austin, Texas, our home away from home, it is 97 degrees. One wonders how the weird Texas power grid will hold up, given its spectacular failure in February of 2021. Texas wanted to have its very own power grid to escape and avoid federal oversight, but they are “on their own” in such power emergencies. And when it’s hot in the summer, AC is a power emergency. And when it snowed in Austin (a rare occurrence) it was a power emergency on the other side of the dial.

“Daily Kos” reported that “intensifying Texas heat is poised to test the power grid on Thursday with demand seen topping 80 gigawatts for the first time ever.”

Running turbines are expected to bolster electricity supplies, reducing the threat of outages as homeowners and businesses crank up air conditioners across the second-largest US state, according to data from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. [ERCOT]

We lived through the power outage in February of 2021 in Austin, Texas, that killed hundreds and cost many homeless people the total loss of their toes and/or feet. It was truly NOT a good thing. We had to melt down our snowman to be able to flush our toilets! We had to use Saran wrap on dirty plates because there was no water with which to wash dishes (or anything else). Not fun. The catastrophe totally upended businesses like the HEB food store shelves, which were largely bare for at least a week after the storm hit.

Elsewhere today (8/6/2022), near the White House, lightning struck and killed 3 people, critically injuring 4 people. Donna and James Mueller, grandparents from Wisconsin, died. Kentucky has been hit by floods. Missouri also experienced torrential downpours. The U.S. hurricane system will produce an above-average series of storms, up 60%, says the National Weather Service. Death Valley National Park has 1,000 people stranded there amid flooding, and water is becoming a precious commodity in the western part of our nation, where fires have ravaged states like California

The drought is so intense that there is no absorption of any rainfall. Fires have been everywhere in the west, while states like Washington, and cities like Seattle, where only 40% have A/C, are suffering in this nationwide heat wave. Yellowstone shut down. Our national parks are proving to us that these are different days and we should have fought harder to install Al Gore, who probably really won in 2000 and championed global warming. (Just think how much better off we would have been with a president who championed curbing climate change for 8 years, rather than one who started 2 unwinnable wars simultaeously.)

Cities are hitting 110 temperatures in Scottsdale, AZ, and in  Phoenix, the current temperature is 106. Heat stress is real. It takes a toll on our GDP. Emergency room visits; Health care costs. All are affected. Cooling centers and city planning will be affected in our murky future.

I hope that Texas’ weird power grid system makes it through this hot period, before I arrive in the fall. Personally, I think it is very unfair to turn the Texas Power Grid into a “money-making” scheme, operating much like surge pricing by Uber and Lyft. More is charged during “peak periods” and the bills, currently, are staggering in cities like Dallas.

By NOT being part of the East or West power grids of this country, the state also misses out on the ability to borrow power from other states in an emergency and on the ability to sell excess power to other states. Only El Paso escaped the chaos in February, 2021, as they had joined one of the two national power grids, which was wise.

Amidst all this chaos, the $369 billion climate investment of the new bill passed by the Democrats and the Biden administration seems very, very sound, if, arguably, not large enough.  The goal is to decrease fossil fuel emissions by 40% by 2030. [The bill that is passing today will also provide health changes, including capping Medicare out-of-pocket costs at $2 k and giving Medicare the power to negotiate some drug prices, while also extending the Affordable Care Act for 3 more years].

One wonders how much longer the GOP  will continue to maintain that there is no global warming, Donald J. Trump won the election, and Covid will go away when the weaather gets warmer.

 

List of Sitting Lawmakers in IL, TX, TN, Who Betrayed Our Democracy

As the January 6th Commission convenes in Prime Time on Thursday evening (7/21), it is good to remember those representatives and Senators who betrayed our democratic values on January 6th. I have listed the states where I live and where my son and daughter live, as the names on the lists below do not deserve our future votes for office.

Here is an opinion reprint from “Daily Kos” that names the traitors in office.

by Brandi Buchmann

Now that the January 6th committee has spent more than a year investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, they have unearthed evidence, in physical records and eyewitness testimony, that overwhelmingly suggests former President Donald Trump desperately schemed to retain power after losing the 2020 election and saw this plot aided or advanced by an increasingly craven series of lawmakers, lackeys, lawyers,  aides, and right-wing extremists.

Many of those lawmakers who parroted Trump’s meritless claims of voter fraud did so at relatively the same clip he did, using their sizeable platforms, power, and influence to promote conspiracy theories about the results of the election that were disproven by the nation’s Justice Department and intelligence apparatuses and dismissed by court after court and judge after judge—including those judges Trump appointed.

When Congress finally met for the joint session on Jan. 6 to count certified elector slates and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gaveled in, throngs of protesters would breach Capitol police barriers just minutes later. Trump, live from the Ellipse, was finishing a speech where he urged his supporters to march on the Capitol. One line encouraging this in his draft speech, according to White House records provided to the committee by the National Archives, shows Trump ad-libbed this call to action four times on Jan. 6.

Testimony and other evidence collected by the committee indicate too that Trump initially tried to conceal a plan to march on the Capitol even as he, members of his campaign staff, and rally organizers moved full steam ahead. This detail drastically undercuts claims by Trump and his allies currently in Congress that say January 6 was a peaceful protest that spontaneously went awry.

The committee has also shown evidence of at least six Republican lawmakers seeking preemptive pardons from Trump in the wake of the insurrection. In a request spearheaded by Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, he went so far as to ask for a preemptive pardon for all 147 members of Congress who lodged an objection to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Brooks also requested pardons for 126 Republicans who joined an amicus brief filed in Texas that sought to challenge election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.

Brooks has since defended his ask while simultaneously trying to distance himself from his own inflammatory remarks delivered at the Ellipse on Jan. 6.

It was Trump who told Brooks to make the pardon request, he wrote, in a Jan. 11, 2021 email.

Notably, Brooks said he was making his inquiry “pursuant to a request” from Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. More than six weeks after Trump finally left office, it was reported for the first time by The New York Times that Gaetz was under investigation for alleged sex trafficking and sex with a minor.

In addition to Brooks and Gaetz, Hutchinson specifically named House Republicans Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. All have issued various denials about the pardons but remain vocal, staunch supporters of Trump and have continued, until now, to cast doubts or aspersions on the Jan. 6 committee’s work and standing.

Trump never issued the pardons and Brooks fell out of favor with him after he urged prospective voters during his failed campaign for a Senate seat to put the 2020 election “behind them.” Trump said Brooks went “woke” and endorsed his opponent.

The Senators who voted to overturn the 2020 election after the insurrection are:

House members in Texas, Illinois and Tennessee who voted to overturn the 2020 election results after the insurrection:

One additional Texas legislator on the list has subsequently died.

 

 

Radiation Ends on July 18, 2022

I had my final radiation session (of 33) today at Trinity Hospital (Unity Point). It is July 18, 2022, and my birthday is in 5 days.

The staff has you ring a bell (which I had never noticed before today) and I was given a small stone engraved with Courage, Love, Strength and a card with what looked to be about 30 names.

I have been driving down to Trinity at a quarter to 1 p.m. every week day since May, with a hiatus after session 19 when we went to Texas for our Family Fest (family reunion).

During the sessions, I have gotten to know Brie, Lora, Alysson, Susan and some of the other technicians and they have performed admirably. Alyssa will graduate this coming Thursday from her online university program in radiology.

I wanted to take something to the girls, and, of course, food was the first thing one thinks of, but I, for one, do NOT need another doughnut and I think perhaps some of the technicians don’t, either, o I tried to think of something tied to my recent Texas trip.

The bags that were given each of us who came to the reunion were so colorful and nice that I asked my daughter-in-law for 4 of them. Then I had to think of what to put IN the bags.

After some soul-searching (tee shirts? Key ring?) I realized that I had an entire basement full of books…books that I wrote over the years since 2003 and on many different topics. In addition, since I have at least 2 series with 3 books in them (novels and short story collections), they could mix and match and share with one another, selecting the ones they felt they would enjoy most. If none of them suits their fancy, they can donate them to a local library, but these are books that I painstakingly wrote, myself, so there is a personal element in giving them something I “made.”

I read (on WebMD) about other gifts from other patients, but almost all were food. I do admit that food is tempting, but that will be my next big hurdle: shaping up and not eating bad foods, so I went with books. I do wish I had been “dressed” in my street clothes when asked to “ring the bell” but I had just climbed down from a radiation table and, as you can see, had on a beautiful hospital gown of nondescript style.

I had a meeting with my radiologist, Dr. Stouffel, who felt I had done well. I will see him again on Aug. 11th.

It sounds like, from this point on, I merely take the Anastrozole pills I have been on since February and then I have a follow-up mammogram no less than 6 months after the end of radiation. That will be January and I will be in Texas. When I asked whether I should find a mammogram place there or wait until I returned to this area, the doctor said I needed to do it here so that the previous monograms taken could be compared. That will be more like 10 months before the next mammogram will take place.

I asked if this was in any way risky and he said it would not be.

So, from now on, while awaiting my August colonoscopy, my dental exam, and my vision screening, I am done (I hope).

I hope for a return to normalcy and an end to the 70 doctor visits I’ve experienced in 8 months’ time

The Roaring Fork, Austin, Texas: Family Fest Farewell

End of Family Fest 2022.

Time in Austin is dwindling and the return to the Midwest is upon us.

As a result we journeyed out to my favorite downtown restaurant, The Roaring Fork. I don’t often post pictures of food, but I’m going to post a picture of the dining room, the bar, and my favorite dish on the menu, the chicken with dressing and green beans, which retails for around $24 and is delicious!

When we headed downtown, we had planned to stroll around after dinner and see what might be going on downtown, but when the temperature hit 108 and it was still 95 degrees at 9 p.m., that plan died a grisly death.

The other random topic I want to address is the Minions fad of dressing up to attend the new Minions movie.

The Roaring Fork, Austin, Texas.

It immediately reminded me of a long-ago field trip with my class at Silvis Junior High School. We were going to be sharing the movie auditorium with another junior high school (John Deere Junior High) and I wanted my students to behave. It had not escaped my attention that the day we were set to make the field trip was also the day that our school normally had something called Dress Up Day.

So, on the blackboard of my classroom, I wrote “DUD Day” and explained that that meant Dress Up for Deere day.

The kids got behind the idea and showed up looking like they were going to Sunday church or out on a fancy date. The girls looked lovely; the boys were also dressed like those attending the Minions movie that I’ve seen. My students were very well-behaved, and I think their attire was part of that equation. John Deere Junior High’s? Not so much.

I was never so proud of my wonderful students as when they got behind the idea of DUD Day and behaved  like the ladies and gentlemen I knew they could be. They were on their best behavior.

I think dressing up for movies and other formal occasions–something my generation did as a matter of course—is a wonderful idea. It’s nice to know that it’s not totally dead, even if the dressing up, this time, is for a totally digital online fad/reason. (And no throwing bananas if you’re dressed up at the Minions movie!)

The Roaring Fork’s chicken entree. Delicious!

 

Armie Hammer Is Now A Time-Share Salesman

Armie Hammer and wife (2018 SXSW Festival, photo by Connie Wilson)

I never thought I’d type the words “Armie Hammer is now working as a time-share salesman.” I’m guessing that Armie Hammer never thought he’d become one, either.

I met the actor at SXSW (with  his then-wife) hyping a film directed by Stanley Tucci. The film, released in 2017, was “Final Portrait.” It was “the story of Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti.” The movie starred Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer and Tony Shalhoub. It was written and directed by Stanley Tucci. Tucci—who is, also, coincidentally, the brother-in-law of “A Quiet Place” star Emily Blunt (married to her sister)—was not there in person, but he sent Armie Hammer and it was shown in the theater right next door to the Paramount, the Stateside (formerly the State Theater) on Opening Night, a theater where I had previously seen a troupe of trained cats entertain my granddaughters. [Some of the cats escaped during the show and we were cautioned about opening the door to the lobby.]

“Final Portrait” Red Carpet at SXSW.

This theater was built in 1935 and, after renovations through the years, what remains looks every one of those 86 years of age. It comfortably seats 305 today. In 1950 it was announced that it seated 997; I cannot imagine how that was possible, unless the patrons were stacked like cordwood. The theater itself fell on hard times in the 70s and suffered a water main break in June of 2006 that  delayed its 70-year anniversary celebration.

“A Quiet Place” was going to be opening the festival next door at the Paramount.  I had secured a ticket to “A Quiet Place” because the writers of that film were Bettendorf (IA) natives Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. I decided to see if I could hit both at once, leaving “Final Portrait” early because, honestly, I had little interest in this obscure Italian painter and sculptor, but was intensely interested in how “A Quiet Place” would do as Paramount’s Opening Night Film at SXSW. It was a wise decision.

Armie Hammer at the Red Carpet at the Stateside Theater in Austin (Tx) for Final Portrait, Stanley Tucci’s directorial debut. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Troubles began immediately. We were all crowded into a tiny lobby of the Stateside Theater, but the projector wasn’t operative or the film was flawed or some other technical problem was causing those in charge to attempt to carry a laptop computer to the control booth. The plan, as I overheard it, was to show us the film from the computer stream. That didn’t sound like the Opening Night experience I had in mind, so, after meeting and greeting the extremely handsome Armie Hammer, I split for “A Quiet Place” next door at the Paramount—but not before taking the pictures you see here.

Then came news of Armie’s infidelities and his texts about cannibalism and other such revelations. Still, he was the “star” of “Death on the Nile” and was in too many scenes to remove him, so Armie had another day in the sun. And Armie’s family is extremely wealthy, as profiled in a “Vanity Fair” article.

Now, according to the “Daily Globe,” Armie’s days in the sun are spent in the Cayman Islands selling time shares for $2,000 a week or $21,000 for 10 years at Morritt’s Resort. At least, he was spotted there in June pricing a unit with potential buyers, although his agent denied  this when asked.

In another weird story, Elon Musk is not going to spend $44 billion buying Twitter and will probably be sued for backing out of the deal.

I was tempted to entitle this story “Death in the Caymans” (but you’d have to be aware that Armie Hammer was in that 2022 movie).

After all, Armie’s family is still filthy rich and he’s still extremely handsome, so it’s hard to feel too sorry for him, even now. His downfall was caused by inappropriate texting, a fascination with cannibalism, and infidelity; hard to blame anyone but Armie for his demise.

 

 

Elon Musk: Father of the Year?

Elon Musk arrives at The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/MG22/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue ); Shivon Zilis http://www.shivonzilis.com
Credit: Kevin Mazur/MG22/Getty; Shivon Zilis/shivonzilis.com
YIKES!
Elon Musk apparently had twins right here in Austin (Tx) where I am now, just 8 months ago—and also had another child with singer Grimes, and do we know whether or not he is the father of Amber Heard’s daughter?
Wow.
I am…..speechless, and wish to give full credit to “People” magazine for keeping track of this guy, since it must be pretty difficult, since he really gets around! Here’s the “People” report:

“Elon Musk secretly welcomed twins last year.

The 51-year-old Tesla CEO fathered twins with Shivon Zilis last November, according to court documents published by the Insider Wednesday. The twins were born in Austin, Texas.

The papers reveal that in April, Musk and Zilis –– who is the project director at his Neuralink company –– asked a Texan county court to change their babies’ names so they would “have their father’s last name and contain their mother’s last name as part of their middle name.”

The twins’ sexes were not made public and their names were redacted from the documents.

An Austin judge granted their request in May, per Insider.

A representative for Musk did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment. Zilis also did not immediately respond.

The twins’ arrival came just weeks before Musk and his former partner Grimes welcomed a baby girl via a surrogate in December, despite the pair splitting up in September. She revealed the birth of Exa Dark Sideræl, who they’ve nicknamed Y, in a cover story for Vanity Fair. They also share 2-year-old son X Æ A-12.”

July 6th: Post Family Fest

Today is July 6th, Wednesday.

The Texas heat is still here (it will feel like 105 tomorrow), but at least we don’t have the storms that seem to be hitting the Midwest.

The last of the Family Fest revelers will be leaving tomorrow at 9 a.m.

We are here through July 11th and I have a desire to dine at the Roaring Fork at least once before we go back to the Midwest.

Beyond that, our euchre club meets on Wednesdays and that might beckon tomorrow.

The last 5 days have been very hot, but very event-filled. Kudos to the son and daughter-in-law, who put it all together.

I began doing some research on the driver’s license renewal laws for Illinois versus Iowa versus Texas. There is no real reason for this, other than I will have to renew mine in 2024 (I renewed it last year) and I was curious. Perhaps you will find this as interesting as I did.

  1.  Illinois:  In Illinois, if you are past 75, you have to drive with the driver’s license examiner in the car and you only get a license for 2 years. Naturally, vision tests and insurance proof are required. I also would mention that the minimum wage in Illinois is $12.00.
  2. Iowa:  In Iowa—where the minimum wage is $7.25, just what it was when I owned 2 busineses back in the 80s, 90s and through 2003—you get a 2-year license, but you have to show up in person and take a vision screening (and, sometimes, a written test). You do not have to drive with the examiner every time.
  3. Texas:  In Texas, between the ages of 79 and 85 you get a 6-year license. You can renew it online. There may be a vision screening/written test, but there is no driving with the examiner requirement. The minimum wage is $7.25. So now you know.

    Connie, Stacey, Craig and (nephew) Michael Wilson at the outdoor Armadillo Bar in Austin, Texas, on July 3, 2022.

Fourth of July Wilson Family Fest, 2022, One for the Books

Front row: Stacey Wilson, Ava Wilson, Elise Wilson ad Aaron Eddy (in glasses).
Rachel (girlfriend) and Michael Wilson (full beard).
Jessica Wilson in center, wearing hat. Owen Castelein (9 years old) next to his father Chris Castelein (my nephew on the Corcoran side). Scott Wilson with hand up (the host); Hannah Wilson Poffenbarger (glasses on head in center). Megan Wilson Eddy with baby Winnie; Matt Wilson and Mark Wilson; Regina Wilson Nelson; Samantha Liss Wilson (back right, mouth open, hat on head). Sophia Castelein, daughter of Chris (above Jess’s hat). Standing on steps to pool: Craig and Connie Wilson. Standing, clothed, by pool’s edge: Steve Nelson.

Celebrants traveled from Denver, St. Louis, Nashville, the IA/IL Quad Cities, and from the local neighborhood of Austin, Texas, to add up to, at times, a total of close to 30 Wilsons and friends, celebrating the Fourth of July with delicious home-cooked brisket, ribs, sausage and side dishes with an active slate of competitions, including bags tournaments, a new Skip-and-Toss in-pool game, pool volleyball, foosball, and (at a nearby Armadillo Garden bar night), a game involving hooking a metal loop onto a hook.

The temperatures were near 100 degrees and that sounds as though it stretched across the U.S., as friends I spoke with in Des Moines and Minneapolis were complaining about the excessive heat, as well.

Big debts of gratitude are owed the host and hostess of the event, Scott and Jessica Wilson, who had 13 people sleeping at their house at one point. My small ranch hosted two of the guests, and a For-Rent-By-Owner house with 3 bedrooms housed most of the 8 people from St. Louis who flew in.

Along with the back yard festivities a water park and a go-kart track have been scheduled into the mix and, in other years, we rented a traveling bar and peddled it around town, took the Austin bat cruise at night, and rented a pontoon boat for floating on a nearby lake. All-in-all, it sounds like a massive undertaking to bring all the elements to fruition at the right time and in the right sequence, and when you add in at least 6 school-age children of various ages and an 11-month old baby about to turn one on August 23rd, satisfying everyone’s expectations for the holiday is quite a chore.

In a previous pre-pandemic year the fireworks, visible from the house driveway, were spectacular, but the dry conditions existing in this area now brought many words of caution regarding the locals setting off fireworks. While we could hear fireworks, we really couldn’t see that many and ended up watching fireworks mostly on television.

Daughter Stacey; Granddaughters Elise (with baby Winnie) and Ava Wilson.

The news of the Highland Park Massacre of spectators at a Fourth of July parade in their downtown area was a constant background noise. We held this event—mostly outdoors—during the pandemic and barely left the house that year. With the violence in this country extending to malls, houses of worship, concerts, parades and other gatherings, one wonders if staying away from crowds at all times is going to become de rigeur The first thing I said to my husband after the Highland Park massacre was that my literary agent lives in nearby Deerfield and that the towns, like Skokie, Illinois, have a sizable Jewish population. I wondered if this kind of hate crime was a factor?

Just a moment ago, on CNN, a local rabbi appeared, supposedly to share an encounter he had had with the shooter in the months before the cowardly attack, but the rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz had been told not to talk about his April encounter with the accused shooter. It’s a sad commentary that this rabbi sketched how his religious group has to have armed guards (off duty policemen) and other synagogue members who are legally armed to protect worshipers in America from violence.

Those who know the history of the Holocaust know that Hitler made the Jews and gypsies the whipping boys and girls for his subsequent crimes and it is tragic to think that people who merely want to pray have to be protected against acts of random violence.

Cousins Chris Castelein (Hiawatha, IA), and host Scott Wilson (Brodie Springs, Austin, Tx). Chris and Scott were college roomnates and Chris was Best Man in Scott’s wedding 20 years ago.

Although this event injected a note of extreme sadness into the otherwise joyous weekend, this event in the very community where the films “Risky Business,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and “Home Alone” were filmed will remain linked with this year’s Family Fest.

This one is in the books and hats off to the Chief Organizers (Scott & Jessica) who put up with the presence of 21 family members, plus others, for periods of up to a week. Most began drifting out on the actual Fourth of July and the remnants of the party group, with the exception of Yours Truly, who will be here until July 11th have now properly celebrated our nation’s birthday. Since we’re in Texas and one never knows what the Texans will want to do about remaining in the United States (of America), this is one for the books and here is an Emily Dickinson quote that seems appropriate.

 

The Family Fest Beckons on June 30th

The Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum in the distance.

We begin the journey to the Family Fest in Austin, Texas, at 10:30 p.m. tonight.

We will leave for Midway at 6:45 p.m. because the reports say this is going to be “the busiest travel day of the year.” We are not sure why this day would beat Christmas or Thanksgiving or any of the bigger holidays, but we are aware that we may end up right back here, enjoying the view from my condo and sleeping here, if something goes awry.

Meanwhile, the temperature here has dropped slightly into the eighties, while the temperature in Austin has not. We hope it doesn’t rain, as that appears to be a possibility for tomorrow, Friday, July 1st, my sister’s birthday.

Twenty-two out-of-towners are making the trip and some of the locals will join us, so it should be a good time—if we all make it. I will have all bedrooms at my house full and, since it is a winter home, we are hoping that we have enough sheets for the blow-up queen-sized bed. (The king-sized guest bedroom is good to go.)

Cities represented will include St. Louis, Denver, Nashville, Moline, East Moline, Hiawatha (IA) and the Austin locals.

Should be a good time!

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