by Bill Schepeler

Dear Illustrious Sir Al Zahn,

As your year in the leadership role of El Riad Shrine draws to a close, I can only imagine the thoughts that swirl through your head. You invested over a decade of your life serving, learning, traveling and attending hundreds of mind numbing meetings before you were able to wear the Potentates Fez. Then, the Covid pandemic arrived and every plan, every event, ceremony and budget, along with your personal goals to expand and strengthen the fraternity went right out the window.

You handled the situation, as well or better, than anyone could have. To continue doing the same things in the same way, would have been irresponsible. You cut budgets, you cut travel. You cut expenses we didn’t even know existed. The 2020 motto was “Taking the Extra Step.” In hind sight “Don’t open that checkbook!” might have been a better choice. You and the divan, made the right moves so we could live to fight another day.

2020 should have driven you crazy. Perhaps, it did? That is why this portrait will be substituted for your picture on the wall of past Potentates. 400 years ago, Miguel Cervantes wrote a story about an aging gentleman who dreamed of being a wandering knight. He dreamed about traveling the country and providing aid to others. The old man’s dreams became an obsession that eventually drove him crazy. In his insanity, he donned a partial set of rusty armor and with a broken lance climbed on an old hunchbacked horse. He then began an earnest but tragic crusade to right the unrightable wrongs. His name was Don Quixote. 

Al, you and Don Quixote both shared a dream to make the world a better place. He railed at windmills, you battled against a disease that can take our breath away. He rode a horse that could barely walk, you lead a fraternity that couldn’t meet. He won only one battle, you wisely chose to fight another day. Thank you for years of devotion and years of fun…

The Pandemic Potentate

And the world will be better for this:

That one man, wrestling Corvid’s controls

Still strove, by ‘Taking the Extra Step’

That we may eventually reach . . . our unreachable goals.

PS.  Each block is cut from the least expensive pine available. The cheaper pine is porous so it holds the stains better and adds visual depth. All 540 blocks were hand sanded then hand painted one at a time. The individual blocks were glued in place then clamped one row at a time. The frame was to be cherry, but proved a little too heavy, so I substituted locally harvested Alder for a similar look and lighter weight when hung. It is done in the style of Honore Daumier.

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