Texas governors have been buried from the staid old building of the First United Methodist Church in Austin across the street from the Texas capitol, as well as U.S. senators and representatives, and others important in the public life of this state and country, though rarely any really saintly types.
It is the Texas equivalent of the National Cathedral in Washington. The church seats about a thousand people, and on Sunday, Feb. 3, it was packed solid.
None of the speakers on this occasion was famous or powerful. They were family and friends and journalists who told stories about a tall, witty woman who made them laugh and think and enjoy life. The memorial service for Molly Ivins was exhilarating and appropriate, with lots of laughter and plenty of applause. The recessional music was perfect, two songs that Molly loved and sang with great gusto (and badly) in low-down bars and around campfires – “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” and “Great Balls of Fire.” Marcia Ball’s sextet gave a spirited (if not exactly spiritual) performance, and the audience jumped to their feet, singing along raucously, Texans enjoying our vulgar heritage.
The white-haired Methodist minister who officiated – lightly, with as few prayers as possible – appeared dignified and serene throughout the service, but even she stood up, joined in the singing, and almost in the dancing. Ivins’ fellow writer Lou Dubose called Molly a “sucker who stood up against the bullies.” That was the Fort Worth Star-Telegram version. What she really said, according to other news media, was that Molly was a sucker for the little guy who stood up against the bullies “and the bastards hijacking our country.” A typical edit from Molly’s old employer.
Veteran writer Sam Hudson, Static’s Man in Austin, was there, and he told his beloved some of the yarns about Molly and the Texas Observer and the people who were part of the – what? – the flowering of progressive politics and the arts and scholarship in Texas when he and they were young, and then not so young. Sam wrote for the Observer when Kaye Northcott and Molly edited it, and he knew most of the artists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians of the period.
After the church service, about 300 folks repaired to Scholz Garten, a Texas institution founded in 1866 and much beloved by journalists, Democrats, and other perpetually impoverished types. Outside the beer garden, according to the Austin American-Statesman, dozens of folks put into action what Ivins had advised in her last column – that Americans opposed to the war in Iraq raise their voices, show their faces, get out in the streets, and bang on the pots and pans. “A friend … sent me a link to her last column,” one local Ivins fan told the reporter. “I said, ‘I’m going to Scholz, and I’ll bang my pot for Molly.'”
Let’s all bang on our pots for Molly. And maybe the walls of lies about Iraq, like the walls of Jericho, will come a-tumbling down. And what a memorial that would be.