Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Getting to know the USA, Part 1

33 miles from Katy, Texas. On our way to Houston. Anthony is driving, and I'm trying not to keep scanning the landscape for signs of life. 
This stretch of land is the bleak few days after doing methamphetamine or ecstasy. If that analogy doesn't work for you, imagine the day after Christmas when you were six. If that one doesn't work either, imagine the week after getting broken up with--when you tell people you're okay, but everyone knows you aren't. 

I know that there are people who live in this expanse and like it, I know the entire world isn’t totally beige with mediocrity, and yet, yet, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s all just on the edge of despair. 
In Arizona and New Mexico, I giggled at the cacti and felt reverent about the mountains. The small towns were quaint and beautiful with clapboard shack bars and smiling people willing to drink with us, smoke with us, talk about their lives with us. At the El Patio Cantina in Mesilla New Mexico we met Andy, a sweet-smiling boy who told us he loved his home and got us high in his ’89 Bronco on medical grade weed. He showed us a video on his phone of the elderly people he works with, proud and laughing like a father might be showing a video of a child learning to ride a bike. 

In Texas, the stretches of nothing along the 10 Freeway really do feel like no-thing, a void, not a sprawling freedom like it did outside of Los Angeles. 
Exceptions: Comfort, TX, where we pulled off to find a place called the Cocky Rooster Bar, built of metal siding with no windows, where a dart tournement between four people was underway and we drank Lone Star beer with a wonderful man who said he’d seen us driving through town. (?) 
San Antonio, TX. Especially the Riverwalk. After the rocky bleakness of the road, the lush tropical Riverwalk helped me breathe again. Anthony and I drank Shiners, smoked cigars, and marveled at the secret world under the city. Our Motel 6 room was bright orange and Mod-looking, with hilarious round cubbies for towels.
I walked alone to the Alamo and spent a perplexing hour trying to read between the lines of popular history. These words, “heroes,” “liberty,” and “defense” all seem leaden, bloated, misshapen. Where were the Indians? Where were the women? There is a series of five-foot-high plaques with timelines and photos and details of the area, an attempt to address the incredibly complex interesction of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, American, and French historical forces...but in the end, the Alamo remains a "Shrine," and it is clear that it's a shrine to a very particular group of white male Texans who were seen as fighting for something like "independence" before the clash between Texas and the U.S. over soveriegnty had begun. That this "independence," this "freedom," was implicitly and obviously tied to the enslavement and/or murder of the peoples already living in the area is somehow elided from the pamphlets handed out by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Fascinating that it's still possible, in 2011, to tell a colonial story without including our own culpability.

But I'm seeing and feeling the air change--it's getting warmer, softer, and I know that once we're in Louisiana it'll be harder to get my hackles up since Anth and I will be drinking whiskey sours and eating hush pupppies and the jazz will make my body feel more at home. 

And finally, in Houston. We eat etouffee and gumbo at Calliope's, and chat with the server named Stephanie who wishes she was back in Colorado where her hair didn't curl so much. We go to Super Happy Fun Land. Check it out. We're sleeping on the couches here tonight! 


  1. Living on the prairie seems a zen exercise: live like your waiting for the sun to sink down on top of you, where you don't need things to look at or food to eat, and all motion is sensed like wild fire, a cascade of something big coming soon, without height, without depth, strangers in a car seem so large, senses so attuned we feel the sweat bubbling from their skin and feel where it flew off and dropped on the earth. The bottom of the heart and the top of the heart, lying next to each other in matching beds.

  2. Thanks for sharing your trips little details. I love that a man said he saw you driving through town. I don't want to assume it's a one street in and out place, but at the same time, did he really see you drive through town..... :) It makes me smile and then laugh a bit.

  3. San Antonio really is a lovely city. My grandparents live there half the year and I've always enjoyed visiting them there. The Lighting Festival on the day after Thanksgiving is magical, with themed boat floats and all those trees along the Riverwalk having their lights turned on at the same time. Hope you're having a blast! xoxo