Why Keeping the Sekrit Theater is Important
I come from a very social family. When my paternal grandparents got married during the Depression it was the social event of the season in Chinquapin, deep in the piney woods of East Texas. Though she didn’t have a spare nickel, family stories say that my great-granny Myrtie liked to put on a shindig and invite everyone. I’m told that my grandparents’ wedding was the biggest social event to happen there, before or since, a story supported by vintage newspaper coverage.
That social impulse is still strong in my family. Recently we’ve had a block party in Houston for a milestone birthday and closed down a park on the Highland Lakes for a wedding. Any family holiday involves enough second cousins that professional catering is a sensible option.
When I got married I registered for silverware for two dozen, figuring I could make do with plastic forks when I had a bunch of people over. My wineglasses have been collected from thrift stores, their differences making it easy to distinguish your own during a party.
My house has hosted: dinner with a prince, organizational meetings for the Scare For a Cure charity haunted house and a party unveiling a Master’s thesis art project that involved having part of my shed hauled away in a truck and then attracted a flying visit from a curator from the Whitney Museum of American Art to see what had happened to what was left of the shed. I’m no stranger to having strangers to my house.
Yet I don’t live in a mansion. Space is at such a premium in our Central Austin bungalow that my desk is nearly on top of our washing machine. I have to turn off the spin cycle to take business calls.
At the Burning Man camping festival in the high desert in Nevada, I was surprised to find myself chatting with a kindred spirt in community, in the person of Beau Reichert. As has been reported elsewhere, Beau moved to Austin on the advice of his therapist, searching for community that had once been difficult to find because of his Asperger’s syndrome.
I’ve been hearing about Beau for years via a mutual friend, but I first met him while planning details of our shared Burning Man camp. That meeting was held on a Sunday afternoon in Beau’s large backyard, a backyard dubbed the “Sekrit Theater,” a place where Beau sometimes shows movies and allows other people to host events.
During that camp kitchen/shade/water planning meeting I learned of Beau’s difficulties with the City of Austin’s Code Department over his allegedly running an illegal business at his house, partly due to his letting other people use his space for events on a donation basis.
It wasn’t until our desert camping trip that I got a chance to sit down for a sunset chat with Beau, visiting in his folding chairs as the warm light slipped behind the mountains. With Beau’s clean-shaven face and close-cropped hair with its faint silver flecks– and with Beau discussing his enthusiasm for self-reliant camping, hot springs and DIY vehicle repairs– I couldn’t help but but be put in the mind of a postmodern cowboy. Like a well-prepared cowpoke getting ready to hit the trail, Beau had added tools on the back of his camping vehicle and packed a spare water pump for it. Seeing him in the wide-brimmed straw hat he is often photographed in, Beau and his charmingly deadpan take on the world put me in the mind of a self-reliant man who stepped out of a classic Western.
After our camping trip I stopped at Beau’s to pick up a camping chair his truck had hauled home from the desert. Walking through “Beau’s Backyard” with dusty gear in hand, I thought it would be a terrible shame if our city can’t find a way to make sure Beau can continue letting other people share his enchanting space. What kind of city would willingly drive off an eligible bachelor who is willing to mow his own yard just so other people can get married there?
If she were still around, my great-granny Myrtie would be ringing up Mayor Steve Adler and District 3 Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria to make sure Beau can keep sharing his fancy backyard. Just because a man takes a donation towards gas for his lawn mower doesn’t make him a business.
If Myrite was going to do things, she was gonna do ’em in a big way. Sometimes you need a big, magical backyard for that.
“Beau’s backyard”is part of my shared Austin community. Let’s hope that we can keep it that way.