down in the Texas of my heart

To say I miss Texas would be imprecise. I don’t miss everything about it: the neverending wind, the weird traffic customs, steaming my ass in a chicken suit on a tarmac in the summer…it’s not all worth celebrating. But then I think about the drives I used to make from Del Rio to San Antonio, especially the ones by myself, early in 2004, when my ex was in training and I had to feed the snake myself. (He had graduated from rats to rabbits and was getting cumbersome to handle. The snake. Not my ex.)

I would rouse myself at six in the morning, feed the cats, make sure no tarantulas were peeking out from under the bed. Then I would grab a few CDs and set up some music for the drive in my lemon of a Ford wagon with peeling paint on the hood. I was finally used to driving again after the accident the previous Easter, though driving past the Hondo McDonald’s never got comfortable. I would get in, ease down the road, stop half an hour later at the gas station/laundromat in Brackettville to check my tire pressure. There was nowhere to stop in between. Brackett was the first chance. Sometimes I’d peruse the flavors of Blue Bell in the ice cream case, but mostly I’d head back out and drive without accommodation.

Here was the Border Patrol stop, at Cline, the one that always closed during rainstorms because of the bend in the road. Our Congressman was fixing that with funds appropriated for a new covered station with a dog kennel on site and 24/7 surveillance. It’s probably there now, but I haven’t been back.

There was Uvalde, where my friends and I went antiquing that one time and the interior decorator in the group brought home a framed windowpane to hang from the ceiling, to separate her living room from her kitchen. There was the hairdresser. There was Wal-Mart. And then there was nothing again.

Here was Knippa, with a sign letting you know it was okay to blink. Everyone knew the only cop in town attended church on Sundays, so if you wanted to speed, do it before noon. There was Sabinal, where the speed traps got serious, but you could really start picking up San Antonio radio if you tuned just right. And then there was Hondo. I didn’t like to think about it much after the accident. I always saw myself on the side of the road, in the middle of a standing takedown and apologizing to the firemen on either end of my litter for whatever gas was about to escape from my loosened body.

Castroville was my favorite. Not only did it mark the edge of San Antonio, but it held an Alsatian bakery I loved going to if I could get there early enough. A chocolate milk and a cruller could hold me for most of the day. Most people know San Antonio is heavily Mexican-American, but I’m always shocked at how many fail to recognize the area’s German heritage mixed in. After all, isn’t norteño just polka with a different accent? If you want to know what’s unique about this part of Texas, look to the confluence of those two bits of culture.

By the time the sunrise stopped troubling my eyes, I was in western San Antonio, complete with Sea World and The Best Little Warehouse in Texas, scoping out the Best Buy and Super Target and anywhere else I couldn’t visit in Bordertown, U.S.A. I knew I only had a few hours to kill. I needed to head back before nightfall, before the deer took over the road.

Now I have Best Buy and Target and even IKEA within a ten-minute drive. I have an incredible view of Mount Evans and Longs Peak every day. But I don’t have that long, lonely drive. I don’t have an early-morning cruller, and I don’t have the occasional radio transmission from Victoria or Odessa, borne on a spring fog. I don’t have any sense of isolation, and so I don’t have gratitude. The natural beauty and capitalistic abundance here breeds smugness. I miss missing things.

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About betterpast

Thirty-seven and counting. View all posts by betterpast

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