For a Conservative, Life Is Sweet in Sugar Land, Tex.
"Where do they get the information that leads to their morals?" Patrice wonders about people who don't go to church.
"What's their higher being?" Stein wonders.
"There's a sense of community," Patrice says of what else a church offers.
"You're around like-minded people," Stein says. "Good people."
Here comes one now, the mayor, hurrying out of the church with his wife, and Stein, seeing him, says that if anyone is an example of what God can do, it's David Wallace. That two years before, Wallace was just about dead at the bottom of a swimming pool and that the only thing that brought him back to life was the power of people praying for him to live.
It's a story that Wallace will expand on later. He will say he remembers floating on his back and looking up at a bird, and next it was eight hours later and he was in a hospital. "I drowned," he will say. "When they found me I was flat on the bottom of the pool. My lungs were filled with water. My heart had stopped." He will say he was put on a ventilator, his wife was told he would not survive, a prayer chain was begun, and "literally within an hour of being found at the bottom of the pool I had thousands and thousands of people praying for me." He will say that "in the medical community, even to this day, they can't figure out why I lived," and then make clear the single, indisputable reason he did: "The faith community."
That's what he will say, but now, walking with his wife, what he says is, "Hello, Britton, Patrice. We're trying to think of a restaurant to go to."
"C'mon over for pork loin," Stein offers, and Wallace smiles and says he wishes he could, and the Steins get back in their minivan for the short ride home.
They pass the road that leads to Tom DeLay's, where Stein has done some landscaping over the years.
They pass by hundreds of road-bordering live oaks that were planted by the community association, whose executive director, Sandra Denton, describing her job, says, "We spend a lot of time making sure the trees are lined up straight."
"Schools, churches, grocery stores," Stein says, almost back home now. "It's all close by."
'The Life I Wanted'
All except Hooters, which is in the city of Stafford, just beyond the Sugar Land line.
It's Wednesday afternoon now and Stein is there with two friends, Craig Lannom and Lance May. They are three husbands, three fathers, three Bush votes, three guys watching ESPN and drinking some beers.
Round Number One:
"They make me feel like I have no hope. They make you feel like, why wake up in the morning?" Lannom says of Blue Americans he sees on TV or hears on the radio. "It's like every time I hear Al Franken speak, the world we live in is sooo bad, everything is going sooo wrong. Is it really that bad?"
"We see life as it is," May says.
"They seem bitter," Lannom says. "They just never seem happy. Every time you hear them talking, they're bitching about something."
"They're whiners," Stein agrees.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Lance May, left, and Britton Stein enjoy some ESPN and a few rounds of beers at Hooters in Stafford, which is just beyond the city limits of neat, groomed Sugar Land. "We see life as it is," May says of Red Americans. Stein calls Blue Americans "whiners."
(Photos David Finkel -- The Washington Post)