Big Texas Road Trip Part 5 - San Antonio and Austin (Photo Link)
|Austin, TX, can be a bit Tippi.
I swept slabs on construction sites in San Antonio during 1983 instead of graduating from high school. My daughter's father's father lived in Universal City, and we landed at his place for a few days before finding a trailer and getting jobs in the booming home construction industry. I sometimes did carpenters' duties if the carpenters preferred to sit atop the frames and party. Here I learned that there's probably something hiding in the walls of your home, most likely empty beer cans. I also learned about taco trucks, chiles rellenos, and freshly-made corn tortillas. Later I was hired on the cleaning crew, prepping newly-finished homes like Maz's sister's house for the new owners. Her house wasn't in the tract where I'd worked back then, but I still felt like I was re-visiting the old workplace.
I told Maz about the time I went looking for zebras with my friend Zippy the Pinhead (known to his family as Clay.) A couple who'd once owned a circus kept zebras and cows on their property. Zippy knew the location. We stopped at 7-11 for ice cream and then parked a few blocks from the pasture.
Once we determined the fence wasn't electrified, we climbed over it. The wide pasture was lit only by stars. We could see animals huddled here and there; we knew which were the zebras because they were FAST. The cows just huddled closer and lowed when we came near. Zebras kicked up turf and snorted. Zippy and I made jokes about what we were going to do if we caught one.
"I'll grab him by the ear," he said, "and then you could jump on while he's distracted." We didn't get close enough to grab anyone by the ear. We finally gave up and headed to Zippy's house to eat the melting ice cream. Once we arrived, his cousin called for his assistance.
"Clay? Have you seen my giraffe?" We fell out laughing - no, but we've seen zebras tonight... Zippy's cousin was not amused. She was looking for an Avon perfume bottle. My daughter's father and I left Texas mid-1984, with my daughter a newly-hatched egg to be born in New Orleans.
Maz and I strolled the River Walk like proper tourists. We walked into a restaurant the wrong way and got handed off to several staff members before settling in at a good table. Mariachis were propositioning each party - $10 a song - and I caved. The song they played was one of my favorites: Guantanamera. I sang along the best I could.
After that excellent meal we needed to move around a bit, so we continued down the River Walk to the Alamo. It seems so small in the big city. Here I showed Maz the name of James L. Ewing on a plaque of Alamo Heroes, and explained that nobody's really sure which James L. Ewing it is but everyone wants to claim relation. If it's James Leeper Ewing, then he's my cousin 3x removed or something, but I have doubts.
I've really enjoyed going back as a tourist to places where I used to live. Life was hard back then - every bit the cliché - so I draw some measure of success when I can come and go with a plan. The River Walk is a little bit different when you can afford to eat there, when the mariachis are confident enough to come ask you for money.
After San Antonio, we hied us to Mazzy's home in Austin, where we ate mithai and watched Bollywood while I did my laundry. She gave me a bag big enough to carry my clean clothes and all the Igneus Press grail and rocks and cotton bolls I'd collected on our journey. The bag was damned heavy, and I ended up leaving a journal (sans written pages) and duplicates of the poetry books at the hotel. I hope somebody likes them. Words can be lost or, when found, change lives.
|Thanks to Mazzy-jaan and the crap traffic, I got this great shot of the Owl Building.