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Catfish Parlour

by davesandel on February 23rd, 2021

Tuesday, February 23, 2021               (today’s lectionary)

Catfish Parlour

Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name.

We don’t eat out much, especially these pandemic days. But things are loosening up, and there’s a three block stretch of our main road in Austin, Hwy 183 that can’t help but catch your eye. Dunkin’ Donuts, 38 Pecans, P. Terry’s Burger Stand, Catfish Parlour, Chuy’s, IHOP, Outback, Carrabba’s and finally Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ. Another couple blocks and you drive by Saltgrass Steak House, Estancia Brazilian Steakhouse, and The Cheesecake Factory. Just another block, and then we’re home.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Our first visit to this amazing strip, yesterday, was to the Catfish Parlour, there since 1973, when “Hwy 183 at 620 was just a four way stop sign.” No more. Such wonderful food. Hot dog sized hush puppies waiting at our table, a Caesar salad bar, catfish fried, catfish grilled, jumbo shrimp, cabbage and bacon, pinto beans, vinaigrette cole slaw, perfect French fries, Key Lime pie … and that was just my meal. No cooking tomorrow, we have plenty of leftovers in the fridge.

But that’s because we have a fridge. Electricity is much more a miracle this week, after last week without it. Only 75 hours all told, from Sunday night to Thursday morning, but in our ice cold weather, having no electricity changed everything. No heat, no stove, no fridge … and then soon on in, no water, no toilets, no showers, and no water to drink. No no no no no!

Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down, and do not return until they have watered the earth, until they have given seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void but shall achieve the end for which I sent it.

Nicole served us. She lives 20 miles away on a farmstead, and last week the restaurant was closed. She kept warm beside a wood burning stove. She had cut up a neighbor’s fallen tree two weeks before our Century Storm, and now her neighbors came over and kept warm too, along with their dogs, beside the fire. Twenty years ago Nicole traded her home (with a little acreage) for five years of “indentured servitude” managing a fifty year old apartment complex. She managed through far more heat waves than ice storms. Last week was something new for everyone.

I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.

At our apartment we are still out of water. At the restaurant they have water but must boil it before it’s safe. They trucked in ice and water from somewhere for us to drink (Nicole said, “If you want water, and plan to drink it, great. Just don’t leave it as a table ornament. ”).

The sense I had, sitting at our fairly isolated table, wasn’t exactly of sitting beside a campfire, eating out of a chuckwagon  beside Roy Rogers, but I could at least imagine it. The walls of signs sent us back in time, although no one played the Wurlitzer in the corner. We prayed for the folks fixing our food. I remembered the Lord’s Prayer, part of today’s lectionary.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Full of great food, precariously carrying our leftovers in a dozen small containers, we walked into the now dark, nearly empty parking lot. Looking for a chance to slip slowly into speeding traffic, I thought about all the highway joints in the USA, the diners, drive-ins and dives with their food and beer, music and dancing.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

I thought about Al Capone hanging out in a highway joint near my home town of Lincoln, Illinois. And Willie Nelson playing his music somewhere until 3 AM, and the screen protecting the Blue Brothers when they rollicked up that country bar. After my one beer-in-a-frozen-mug and that mess of catfish, the Parlour sent me out reeling, from gulf stream waters to the redwood forests, from Chuckwagon Charlie and Roy Rogers to Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash.

We could barely make it home.

(Isaiah 55, Psalm 34, Matthew 4, Matthew 6)

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