Dear Friends of Reigning Cats & Dogs, members of the Odeon Preservation Association (OPA), and Citizens of Mason,
When I was a moody teenager, lurking on the bluffs of Lake Champlain and reading poetry, I came upon Mark Antony’s funeral oration from William Shakespeare’s play, “Julius Caesar.” For some reason it spoke to me - maybe it was the irony, as sarcasm was my weapon of choice as a high school student (yes, Jake, I DO know where you get it). The following brief explanation of the speech (and overview of the play) is not mine - I copied it from the Internet.
Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) was one of the Triumvirs (leaders) who ruled Rome following Caesar’s assassination. Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius) was famous in this play for his speech, which turned the Romans against Brutus following his group’s assassination of Caesar. Famous for the immortal lines “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;” (Act III, Scene II, Line 79), Mark Antony with fellow Triumvirs, Octavius, and Lepidus later defeat Brutus and Cassius on the Plains of Philippi in Act V.
Mark Antony speaks to the Roman crowd after Brutus tried to justify the killing of Julius Caesar
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault, And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest—
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men—
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honorable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And, sure, he is an honorable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.
Excerpts from this eloquent speech, which I first read some 44 years ago, have returned to me as I have pondered how to best express my thoughts to the people of Mason. As anyone who has read my Letters to the Editor in the Mason County News knows, for the last 2 years the Odeon Preservation Association (OPA) has attempted, by hook or by crook, to prevent us from doing business at Reigning Cats & Dogs. They’ve attempted, at the City Council and Zoning Commission, to prevent us from obtaining a Conditional Use Permit to board dogs indoors. They have brought a costly (to us - the donations they collect as a non-profit pay THEIR legal fees) lawsuit against us. And still, two years later, we’re still at loggerheads with the OPA.
What does this have to do with Mark Antony’s funeral oration? My letters to the editor are the equivalent of “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” As a result, many people have come into the store or approached me around Mason, saying “How’s it going with the Odeon?”
Have you resolved anything yet?” and what I hear a lot is “I’ve been around the back of your store and seen the fence - they’ve got plenty of room back there - what’s their problem?”
This letter is my attempt to address all the kind “friends, Masonites, and countrymen” who have offered their support and encouragement. As I have stated in previous letters, we built our backyard fence to protect an underwater rainwater drainage system, as rainwater regularly flooded the back third of our building before we bought it. Though the area under fence is 60 feet long, there is still 55 feet BEHIND our fence that is open to the alley and the Odeon’s property, which is 38 feet wide (ours is 19 feet wide). Does this desire to use our building as Reigning Cats & Dogs seem ambitious? Are we not still honoring the Odeon’s easement (which is not specific as to which part of our property must be available to them) by allowing them nearly half our yard to drive over?
Further, are we ambitious by attempting to protect our own building from damage? The OPA claimed in a court of law that, because of our fence, the path to their back door was “as wide as a table.” However, my husband drove his 1-1/2 ton 1946 GMC stakebed truck directly to the back door of the theater, along the fence (which, FYI, is set back from the edge of our property almost 1 feet). If this ambition were, as Mark Antony said, “a grevious fault,” then “greviously have we answered it,”as we have been greviously stressed, financially and emotionally, by the OPA’s persecution.
We have tried, as Mark Antony says, “to be a friend - faithful and just.” Our fenced rainwater collection field handles half the Odeon’s rainwater runoff (as well as Charles Elbell’s eyesore on the other side of us) - the rest the Odeon just runs into the city’s parking lot. We are trying to be “faithful and just” citizens of Mason, not just in business, but in our personal lives. We support Habitat for Humanity, the Volunteer Fire Department, Steady Steps, the Chamber of Commerce, the Cancer Relay, Friends of the Library, Old Yeller Days, the Animal Control and Second Chance Rescue. We give an annual scholarship at the Mason High School, we are Puncher Club officers, and we hauled that tunnel to every football game all over Texas last year (and will do so again this year). Our entire family serves at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and my certified therapy dogs visited Mason Care Center weekly before it closed. My dachschund, Limo has helped 1st and second graders read at the afterschool program for 5 years, and my poodle Big visits preschoolers, who learn how to pet dogs and hopefully will not get bitten in the future as a result. OPA - is this ambition?
I’m not saying this to blow my own horn. Many people have said, “I don’t understand what the OPA is trying to do.” Frankly, we don’t either. They have repeatedly said our fence is blocking access to their back door. Maybe their mission of “making Mason’s Odeon Theater a “world-class center for the performing arts” is THEIR ambition. Maybe David Copperfield, or Cirque du Soleil, or some other act with three tractor-trailers-full of props IS coming to the Odeon (maximum seating, 200), and they need our whole yard to drive to the back door and unload. Maybe 12 musical events a year IS more important than someone else bringing a vital business to Mason’s square 365-days-a-year, a business that regularly draws people from Llano, Brady, Fredericksburg, London, Castell, and “just passing through.” Maybe our desire to support our family and help our son go to college is ambitious - we honestly don’t know that the OPA’s agenda is with regards to our fence, ‘cause it certainly isn’t access - they’ve got that in spades.
To all the people who have been so kind and supportive - a big thank you. We moved to Mason because of the people, and we have not been disappointed. The “Brutuses” in this drama, which I am sure are “all honorable men,” are Thom Canfield, Dennis Evans, Spider Johnson, and Ron Freytag. These four “senators” of the OPA have stood repeatedly in court, at Zoning Commission meetings, and City Council meetings, and tried to prevent Reigning Cats & Dogs from earning an honest living. If you see Thom at the Mason National Bank, or the others drinking coffee at the Willow Creek, or out and about in Mason, ask them “What does the Odeon want?” Because we are tearfully baffled. Thanks for your support.
Sincerely, Lenore Newsom