The South, Or Texas - is it the South? - on the Way to New Orleans
After our ever so intriguing stop in Farmersville, Illinois, we moved on to Little Rock, AR, where The One And Only's parents live. We hadn't spent Christmas with them this year - no, no, thank you, Modern Language Association, for scheduling the conference in such a way as to render personal attachments even more difficult than they usually are for academics! - and so we decided to hit town for TOAO's mother's birthday and a belated Xmas celebration.
It pretty much rocked in all aspects, though I should mention that present-wise, in particular, they went all out. Since we have a lot more wall space than we have pictures right now, I'd asked them for some family photos, and hot damn, did they deliver. His parents' wedding photos; photos of great-grandparents and great-uncles nearly forgotten; and more, and more. It totally rocked.
From there we headed on to Austin, which I hadn't really missed until I got back there and realized that good Mexican food was five minutes away (El Caribe in particular, on Lamar just south of Koenig, is just amazing, and we were rather pitifully gratified when the waitress recognized us), used books were contained in emporiums rather than hole-in-the-walls, and most importantly, our friends were all over the place. So yeah; while I'm happy as hell with Oshkosh, it was a solid reminder that there is a lot in Austin to miss - and to come back for. (See also Mali, above, whose expression...well, if that doesn't make you want to come back, you have a heart of stone.)
From Austin we headed east to Houston, to visit The Lawyer Formerly Known As Sarah (TLFKAS), a friend from my high school days who, in addition to completely rocking, also has an adorable cat (see below). She - the lawyer, not the cat - also sponsored us some tickets to see Ira Glass, and while I don't think I've yet waxed rhapsodic about Ira Glass (seriously, follow that link and watch all of the interview with Ira (about 4-5 minutes) - it's wonderful, and also just terribly cute!) and This American Life in full-on geek mode here, suffice it to say that seeing/hearing him live was amazing. We went to the pre-show meet & greet, and I was actually too flustered to do much more than admire TLFKAS's cojones (or, as it were, ovaries), which permitted her to not merely approach but have an actual conversation with Ira Glass. Knowing that I would have done what I usually do when I meet people I admire - especially people who have, in times past, been my super-secret radio boyfriend - I decided that both Ira and I could do without an awkward pause, my stammered "Whoa...Ira Glass... you're, like, so cool!" and his probably charming but befuddled reply, I merely admired TLFKAS from afar and basked in the reflected glory of her actually speaking coherently with Ira Glass.
After Houston, we drove toward New Orleans (more on that - especially the post-Katrina Ninth and Seventh Wards - next week), and that drive offers a number of fascinating diversions. For one, there's the town in East Texas that features billboards accusing various public officials of colluding in some murder. Since we're speeding through on the highway, I never have enough time to read the details, but these billboards have been up for at least five years, so there's a certain homeyness to saying "Hey, honey - we're in that town with the homicidal public servants!" Also, you know you're on your way to NOLA when you start seeing the billboards for microsurgical vasectomy reversal. I don't know why everyone on I-10 needs to know about these procedures and everyone on other interstates apparently is unconcerned about their vasectomies, but those billboards make me feel kind of homey too.
Yes, I know that's wacked out, but it's true.
Finally, on this trip I also noticed for the first time some small town en route. I know it was in Texas, because only Texas breeds such hubris, but I don't recall the town's name. All I remember is that we were driving past their little podunk exit - which didn't even advertise food or lodging, although it may have had gas - and then we drove past their proud city sign, which put everything into perspective. "TOWN WHATEVER, TEXAS," it said, "HOME OF THE MUSTANGS." So far, so fine, but it was the next line that almost made me scream at The One And Only (who was driving at that moment) to pull over so I could take a picture, because the next line?
"CENTER OF EVERYTHING."
I am not kidding. So not kidding at all. "Whatever, Texas, Home of the Mustangs, Center of Everything."
It does not get much cooler than that. Or more Texan.
We ended up not taking the picture, because it was a blink-and-you-miss-it town and the next turnaround wasn't for tens of miles, but that town motto will stay with me in my mind's eye for a damn long time.
CENTER OF EVERYTHING.
It really makes you wonder what the hell "EVERYTHING" might be...
20. January 2008
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