The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston

Let me set the scene (keep in mind I was a theater major). The Houston area, where fur coats appear on the "ladies who lunch" when the weather dips below 50, has been hit by an unprecedented winter storm that not only brings snow and prolonged sub-freezing temperatures, but also creates statewide power outages for millions. My extremely pragmatic sister lives in a high-rise that lost power early in the storm and, thinking quickly, secures a hotel room in Houston's only five-star hotel, which just happens to be down the street from her place. Less than 24 hours later, I too lose power, but living in a house that has a fireplace, well-stocked pantry, and a gas cooktop, just hunker down. My car's parked on the driveway so I can easily access it to charge my gizmos, which also gives me the opportunity (or really, excuse) to warm up.

And it's there, while texting with Black (who, for the record, rarely texts but at that point in time it was the only form of communication that worked), that the following conversation ensues …



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Hotel lost power


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Sorry! What are you going to do?!


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Give it a few minutes – may be rolling blackout


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Back on … was only off for a few minutes … maybe room has energy conservation setting since I had not moved


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Ok, not as funny as pink utility bills but amusing nonetheless

So, you may be wondering, why did I find this amusing and what do pink letters have to do with anything? Well, I'll start with the pink letters …

Years ago, when we were teaching a personal finance and Life 101 class at KIPP Houston High School, Black wanted the high school seniors to understand how having money's different from being smart with money. She explained how she kept receiving mail from her electricity provider that had those clear "windows" where she could see a pink letter inside. However, she ignored them because she typically paid her utility bills months in advance, so assumed they were part of a breast cancer awareness campaign.

All was good … until everything in her high-rise went, no pun intended, black. She assumed it was a power outage. Until she went out into the hallway and all the lights were on. Long story short, there had been an increase in her utility rate, so what she had paid months ago wasn't enough. Bottom line: my sister didn't pay her bill, and after sending her many "pink letter" past due notices, turned off her electricity.

So, what does this have to do with her hotel room going dark? Except for the obvious connection, actually, nothing. But it reminded me, whether she thought the hotel might be experiencing a rolling blackout or that the bills were fundraising for breast cancer, Black jumps to a "meaningful" reason for why something happens. It's typical Black. Logical and pragmatic but also looking for a bit more "meaning" to things. Which is fine, but it often makes me laugh (to myself, anyway) knowing that in reality the truth's often (actually, almost always) simpler and something us "mere mortals" easily see.

Sometimes it's best not to overthink or overanalyze …
Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

It started when Black sent Red a LinkedIn post about Louis Armstrong, asking her to "connect the dots" (one of Black's favorite things to do). Red knew that he was one of the most distinctive and talented jazz musicians in American history, but it was a complete surprise to learn that he had such a strong connection to a Jewish couple that immigrated from Lithuania and that he wore a Star of David for most of his life to honor them. That alone made it a "truth is stranger than fiction" story. The fact it's also a touching story about kindness and love makes this, at least for Red, even better than fiction.

Black, who prefers the pragmatic aspects of Armstrong's unusual journey – from being an impoverished black boy to an extraordinary career as a musician, singer, and composer – and sees it as a story of overcoming barriers, realizing your potential, and finding freedom (and she discloses an interesting connection between Armstrong and Independence Day).

Our July column, "RED & BLACK … The Sound Of Freedom," connects all those dots and is about so much more than surprising facts about Louis Armstrong. It's also about the power of music, inspiration, and hope, not to mention a very different way of looking at freedom.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Everyone laughs and wants to hear the story when I mention that I was recently "ghosted" by someone I had dated. What I find interesting is that ghosting has become so prevalent in today's society (and is not restricted to dating) that there is a term to describe the sudden "disappearance" of someone who wants to avoid all future contact with you.

Going back decades, I know there have been first dates that, at the time, I thought went well. But, after getting the "I'll call you" line … I never did. As a teenager, I can remember anxiously waiting for the phone (a landline tethered to the wall – and yes, I am that old) to ring, not wanting to go out and possibly miss the call. And, being very disappointed by the silence. Now, I cannot even remember who they were.

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Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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I still can't get over that LinkedIn post that you sent me about Louis Armstrong. I almost put it on my pile of things to "read later" as I'm not a huge fan of jazz, although I loved him in the movie "High Society" with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly.


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I figured the subject line, "Connect these dots … Louis Armstrong," would pique your interest.


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Well, it did. Although when I first started reading it, I couldn't figure out what a Jewish family who immigrated from Lithuania had to do with one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.
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