Mixed in with the sounds of the Halloween party here at Lupin, I hear also the sound of Lori Kay Stout’s musical instrument, a kind of xylophone, but larger and with a far superior timber to any I saw and heard as a child. The last time I heard her play it was when the Stouts commenced the expulsion of Ed and Kassandra Dennis, a battle that consumed four long months and involved many visits from a biased Sheriff’s deputy. (And indeed, Deputy Kubik saw no need whatsoever to display any sense of impartiality, refusing to restrain the Dennis’ conduct in any way while threatening the rest of us with arrest.)
That battle was eventually won, thanks to expert legal assistance; the Stouts found lawyers, including one among the membership, who put on stellar performances in court. But as the Dennises left in defeat, hopes for Lupin’s revival quickly sank; membership, which had begun to decline with the dot-com bust in 2001, even before the Dennises seemingly did everything they could to destroy what is, at core, a social club, picked up only to a limited extent. Lupin has always been on the financial edge, but the Stouts’ mismanagement quickly turned the trend back downward as Lori abused staff (to whom she pays minimum wage not in real money but in Lupin credit, reminiscent of a company store) and saw only money where humans walked.
Lori told me at the beginning of the battle to expel the Dennises that she played this instrument to relieve stress. I have guessed that the Earth Dance was a financial disaster; it might have been mitigated only if a member who organized it took a share of the losses. Tonight was probably the last opportunity for Lupin to make any money this year, but a big group of burners canceled, leaving only a long table of members waiting too long for dinner in the restaurant when I strolled through at about 7 pm tonight. Though this is a Saturday night, the parking lot has only a few more cars than one might expect to find on a good Sunday night.
Now the economy is turning downwards again, even for the relatively well-to-do who comprise the bulk of Lupin’s membership, with a recession forecast to be longer and harder than any in decades. A faithful member who served as Lori’s second-in-command resigned effective the beginning of this month, increasing the load on Lori, and I think making the management situation here completely untenable even in an abusive model that assumed infinite replaceability of staff and unimportance of membership.
Lori, I think, hopes no one will hear her playing her xylophone over the music from the clubhouse. But I hear her. I am no accountant, and I have no access to the books. Rather, I am a communication scholar; it is the decline in attendance I see, and it is on this that I base my conclusions. The Stouts are through.