Thursday, May 19, 2011

Timewalking Archive Trap: Texas

I was born in Texas. As much as I am anything else, I am a Texan. I do consider myself a Southerner. I've lived in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina. My earliest memories were from Louisiana ('87-'90) before my parents divorced. The small town bisected by highway 90 and my first days in school. Things were good in Louisiana. I was a pretty happy kid there. I knew the crew, things went wrong sometimes of course, but there I managed to belong somehow.

Texas ('90 to '95) was one of the many, multiple current shifts in my life. I was an outside for the first time...not to see 'insider' again for some time. If it weren't for being the poor, geek kid, with glasses, and poorly developed social skills with the single mother family...if it weren't for that, I certainly wouldn't be the guy I am today. I wasted a lot of time trying to turn that around as a kid, and spent a lot of energy trying to get past it.

I've recently been reminded (as tends to happen every few years), that I'm a lucky son of a bitch. I've got no legitimate beef with the World at Large. Texas wasn't hard. It wasn't unbearable. It was just unpleasant and a little unfair. I made friends, yes. I still miss some of those people and remember my classmates from over a decade ago better than I do the people I graduated high school with.

I consider Louisiana my home because I live here. I don't particularly hate this state because I don't really care about it. I consider South Carolina('01-'02) my home because that's where I grew up. That's where I lived on my own and began to learn about the world of adulthood, and all of the trials that came with it.

I consider Texas my home because of the way I feel once I cross the Sabine. When we were kids, on the multiple trips from Houma, LA to Kountze, TX we always counted down and tried to hit zero when we reached the apex of the bridge, where the sign that said simply "Texas State Line" was displayed in standard highway white on green. At the bottom is the standard "Welcome to Texas" sign like the one you see every time you drive between states, but who pays attention to that? You've been in the great state of Texas for thirty seconds by the time you see it.

Rusted Root's "Magenta Radio" was playing as I drove up it on my first solo trip to Texas.  I don't need to get into the personal significance of Rusted Root, but rest assured that when Michael Glabicki says that "curly haired Sally says she likes me a little better that way," it manages to act as a stake pinning all of the emotions attached to The Lone Star State right to me.

A little further down, I drive past Vidor with the same low level of loathing I always associate with it from a magazine front page from December of 1993. Before she became too old to look after herself, my great-grandmother lived there. Her husband and siblings died from strokes, heart attacks, and weak hearts and she ate vaseline to keep her heart strong. My mother claims that when she died the doctors said her heart was the last part of her to go.

Truck stops, trailer house dealers, and smaller settlements
paired with
a pine-ringed lake
flank the elevated interstate.

This conjunction of factors make the strip of Vidor that borders the highway seem barren, especially when compared to the rest of Interstate 10 up to Beaumont. Usually, I-10 is surrounded by a large thicket of pine trees broken occasionally by service roads, highway junctures, and the occasional outlet or specialty store or small town.

Just a note: However big flea markets and trailer park dealers are where you're from, they're bigger in Texas. Greater than the painfully ironic surface area of the otherwise inadequate High School you graduated from. Big.

Texas-Cliche Big.

Not far past Vidor is the simple highway sign, bigger perhaps than my car, that tells me arrival at Beaumont is at hand....but, should I want to, El Paso is a mere 837 miles further down the road. A subtle display of arrogance, or maybe an indication of the sheer physical scope of this state.

I see speed signs and slow down. Almost all of my police run-ins have occurred during my brief stay in New York state. I think upon Louisiana police and highway patrol with a certain amount of disdain. They are idiots I feel; attack dogs with the miraculous power of speech. They will do what they are told and what they are programmed to do. I have respect--for no reason in particular--for the Texas Law. Perhaps it's because I associate Texas with part of my child, and as a child, I always followed the rules. I tend to follow the rules these days, but it's with the tarnished annoyance of an adult, not with the respect bordering on reverence of a child.

As I pass Beaumont and enter Lumberton, my brother's one-time home, I can see the changes better than before. Lumberton is different. It has an AutoZone and extra stoplights. I hardly recognize the city's main intersection. The pharmacy is a chinese food place. There's a new high school. The WalMart has moved to the other highway that cuts through the other side of town, and now only a haphazard plaza of smaller stores, void in the middle, try to fill the space it left. The old firehouse is now a mechanic's shop. Trees everywhere have been cut away.

I realize this is Texas now. There are now, in this town, in this state, men who wear pink shirts and/or popped collars. People listen to iPods. Time has passed, and the Texas that was stuck like amber in my mind has passed from reality, from relevance.

I've got a headache, and I think that it's either from not enough diet coke or too much diet coke.

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