The much-anticipated and RIVETING final installment of the epic blog post
“10 Days in Texas!”
After what seemed like an eternity, Thursday arrived and those who had attended the educational technology conference cleared out. The last of my co-workers left early that morning, but my flight to Dallas wasn’t until later in the day. This gave me time to collect myself and obsess over the fact that I was now in a city with absolutely no one I knew, except of course for Milagros, the check-out girl at the Balcones Heights Target. This freaked me out a little bit, so I sought comfort at the hotel’s Starbucks outpost. Downstairs, I found the lobby packed with husbands and wives about my parents’ age, all of whom looked and sounded exactly like Hank and Peggy Hill, the protagonist couple in the aforementioned (and animated) King of the Hill.
“Hank Hill, propane,” one of them said to another in a Texan accent. [Note, for those of you who have never seen “KOTH”: This is how Hank Hill introduces himself – he provides his name and the business he’s in.]
“Heh heh. Mah nay-eem eez Haink Heel too, and I also say-ell pro-pay-in!”
It was not actually a propane sellers’ convention that had come to town but rather, a reunion of Vietnam War helicopter pilots from south Texas. I made my way through the sea of Wrangler jeans and ordered my frosty caffeinated beverage, intrigued by the whole thing and the flashbacks to the early 70s it caused me to have. But alas, there was no legitimate reason for me to be down there and I certainly couldn’t stand there eavesdropping on their memories of Saigon and An Loc without looking like a conspicuous freak. I also didn’t think they’d care that just a few days earlier, I’d seen a real Huey at Fort Sam, or that I myself lived on a NATO base during the war, so I went upstairs to pack.
At the San Antonio airport, I had a sad Quizno’s lunch by myself, obsessed for a bit about the still-unsolved salmonella outbreak, then flew (on a plane) to Dallas, where Dave picked me up at the airport. I had a lovely reunion with him, RSM and of course, my beloved furry god-dogs, Howie and LuLu, then we humans had some cocktails by the gorgeous pool. Also in attendance, but keeping a low profile, was Otis, Howie and LuLu’s elderly Shi-Tzu first cousin.
After a delicious dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in Oak Lawn, we headed to Home Depot to procure some extra outdoor tables for the impending July 4 BBQ. En route, Rob and Dave noticed a prime parking spot in front of a bar called The Round-Up.
“It’s a sign!” they agreed as Rob made a sharp right.
The Round-Up is a gay cowboy bar featuring Texas Two-Step lessons. I was fascinated! We watched the lesson while drinking Shiner Bock, and I would absolutely have participated myself had it not been for some menacing-looking lesbians on the dance floor.
The next day, Allyson and I got manicures in Plano, then had a Japanese-infused snack with Eric. Later, Rob and Dave hosted a fabulous BBQ to which I contributed my traditional July 4 white trash flag cake (strawberries, blueberries and Cool Whip) and an experimental but equally white trash S’mores casserole that turned out to be a huge success. Also on the menu was Dave’s fabulous corn salad, which involved cheddar cheese, onions, sour cream and some other stuff; grilled chicken and sausages; Tesa’s fabulous cornbread salad; Tesa’s fabulous watermelon, blue cheese and cucumber salad; and several fabulous dishes prepared by Lil, the Unsinkable Molly Brown of my life. The real star of the evening, though, was Dave and Rob’s brand-spanking-new Big Green Egg, a born-again version of a grill that had been popular in the 70s. Not only did it produce fabulous BBQ, but it was quite cute.
On Saturday, in a momentarily lapse of reason, I agreed to walk the famous Katy Trail with the boys in the brutal Dallas heat. Powered by a dee-LICIOUS Raspberry Strudel Oatmeal Bar, I was somehow able to handle this activity without passing out, although I do seem to have developed varicose veins since returning from my trip … I found it comforting that the trail was lined with signs that revealed your coordinates. That way, when you did pass out, passersby could easily tell the 911 operator where to find your limp, smelly body.
Saturday night, after dinner at Fireside Pies with the Philly-Dallas crew, we drove 20 minutes southeast out of Dallas and attended the Mesquite Championship Rodeo. On the way there, Dave pointed out a fine-looking establishment on the right side of the road. He told us that if you dared to enter wearing a tie, the restaurant cut it off. We all found that hysterical, of course, and Eric said he wished he’d had a tie in the car so he could run in and experience the chopping process.
As it happened, I’d noticed a rather unsightly tie sitting next to me and brought this to Eric’s attention.
“What about this hideous piece of shit? Did you get it at the airport gift shop? Is it a clip-on?” I asked.
“Actually that’s my favorite Hugo Boss tie. I keep it in the car for good luck. I’m not making a hundred-dollar sacrifice, sorry.”
Um … oops.
Anyway, Allyson had been to a rodeo before, in Cowtown, NJ of all places, and Dave, of course, was no stranger to the bovine realm either, having grown up in the sticks of Texas. But for HBD, a British import; Eric, a Philly native; and me, it was a virgin experience. And honestly, I have never been so proud to be an American.
The rodeo was sponsored in part by Justin, the company that manufactured the cowboy boots I’d worn every day between 1992 and 1994. Other sponsors included a trailer park developer; Wrangler; Cavender’s Boot City; Fox Sports Southwest; Dodge; Holiday Inn; and Resistol Hats, for which the rodeo’s arena is named. It was just like I pictured it would be, except no one in the audience was actually wearing a red bandana around his or her neck, and there were no bison roaming in the background. Much like a less creepy version of the circus, the rodeo consisted of different “acts.” There was the traditional bull riding and then a kiddie version, in which small cowboys and cowgirls rode and attempted to not fall off of young sheep. (I believe the technical term is “Mutton Bustin’.) There were covered wagon races, barrel races and an event during which all the children in the audience chased after a small farm animal, oft losing shoes in the process. I tried to take some good action shots, but I was wearing a white shirt and the cows do tend to send dirt and god knows what else flying. Better to miss out on the photo-ops than to die from Mad Cow Disease while looking at beautiful pictures of bull balls.
After bidding a teary farewell to HBD, Eric and Allyson back at the house, I packed and retired, slightly depressed about the end of my trip. The next morning, we rose early and voyaged to the northern suburb of Plano, where we breakfasted at Breadwinners with Lil, Hal and Judy, then toured their beautiful homes. Panic set in as I tried to mentally prepare for my return to New York. It made me sad to think about being back in my studio apartment at my mediocre job with everyone down here, living a good life in a place where people were nice, brunettes and B-cups were a novelty, and a few months of Manhattan rent could practically BUY an amazing apartment in a posh Dallas ‘hood. It’s odd that almost everyone I knew in Philly ended up in Dallas for various reasons, and I can’t help but feel slightly left out and “My Life Without Me-ish.” And don’t get me started on the dogs. I asked Howie how he felt about coming with me in my suitcase, but he wasn’t sure he’d fit given the numerous pairs of shoes I’d brought.
Alas, the time came to head to the airport, and Howie and LuLu joined us for the ride. It was hard enough saying goodbye to Dave and Rob at one of the eight American terminals at DFW. But I have to admit that I cried a little when they drove off and I saw Howie sticking his fuzzy noggin out the window, looking back at me.