Tuesday, July 26, 2005

You Make Me Feel So Young

Still deep in the ... what? It's not the heart, it's too far to the west, and not quite the head... I guess I'm deep in the right shoulder of Texas! We're flying home tomorrow, and not a moment too soon... I'm exhausted! Who knew that being bored was so much work? Actually, it's not the boredom that's so much work, it's the effort involved in trying to not be bored.

I had all these grand ideas of what I was going to do with my time on this trip, I was going to get a lot of writing done and maybe a lot of reading, too... but instead, I have been doing a hell of a lot of driving, a good deal of eating, an awful lot of sitting around listening to old people talk... and have only achieved a little writing and hardly any reading to speak of.

Fortunately, all the motels we've stayed in have the WiFi, so I've been plugged in when I'm idle here in the room. But there's less of that here (idle time) than there is at home, so I'm not really doing anything out of the ordinary. Most of the writing and reading I've been doing has been on the message boards of my new favorite web domain, Just Us Boys. Porn and discussion, what more could a person ask? And I have written a little bit on Worst Luck, but I'm having a hard time framing the purpose for this next chunk of story. It's coming along, but slowly.

I've also been kind of stymied by the lack of privacy. I've only had about three hours alone since I've been here, Grandmother and I are sharing motel rooms and going everywhere together. It's not unpleasant, it's not like she's bothering me, and it's not like I can't go off by myself if I want to. But there's a psychic difference between thinking while I'm alone and thinking when there's someone else in the room with me. It's strangely stifling of my creativity.

What I've been trying to do, too, is to translate what I see and hear here into useful language. But this place isn't the kind of place I want to write about, these people are not the people I want to write about; and so while it's good exercise to wordsmith my way through people and places, it doesn't go very far... these people and places are simply too gloomy for words.

Visiting with Alice and Charles (my great-aunt and -uncle) is depressing. Charles has entered into the Reanimated Corpse stage of superannuation, and Alice is so shriveled up I'm afraid she's going to fall between the couch cushions and be lost forever. They have no conversation, either, only their rapidly deteriorating bodies and the various minutiae of their intensely boring days, interspersed with shorthand reminiscences that are only interesting to those who share the memories they invoke. But they're nice enough people, and Grandmother gets a lot out of visiting with them (Alice is her last remaining sibling).

But more depressing than the shrivelling up of old people is the shrivelling up of the towns. Alice and Charles live in Hereford (pronounced "hurr-furd"), which is a cattle town, and it's dingy and treeless and just wildly unattractive. It's also surrounded by feed-lots, so when the wind is up, the smell is stupefying. Pretty much everything is run-down and cheap-looking, and there are a lot of vacant businesses. After a couple of days in Hereford, Lubbock looks like a paradisaical metropolis with its one Starbucks and its big gorgeous university and its parks full of trees and its buildings more than two stories tall.

Worse than Hereford, though, are the tiny little out-of-the-way towns where Grandmother actually grew up. Returning from Hereford to Lubbock, we took a detour to go through some of the towns of Grandmother's childhood: Muleshoe is the county seat and seems to be alright, but Needmore is all boarded-up buildings and Baileyboro is simply gone, only a barn and a grown-over cemetery remain; Maple and Watson disappeared without even that much to show, the only thing left of Grandmother's childhood was a small adobe building that was originally a blacksmith's shop and is now being used as some kind of a storage shed; Enochs and Bula are similarly decrepit, with uncounted abandoned houses and abandoned storefronts and abandoned mills and abandoned everything. It was kind of creepy, really, so much abandonment... post-apocalyptic in a way.

The abandoned houses depressed me more than anything else. There's something about a sweet little brick or stucco residence of turn-of-the-century to 1920s vintage, a place where families lived and loved and fought and cared for each other, where generations struggled against an inhospitable land and carved out an existence and a little sliver of civilization despite overwhelming odds... now lost in an overgrowth of grass with its windows out and its roof gaping, tilting on its foundations or folding in on itself. These remnants are like corpses, skeletons testifying to a lost battle some time ago, the detritus of an industrial revolution, the sad leavings of the war lost by agrarianism and won by agribusiness. (It took me an hour's drive to come up with all those phrases).

We passed through Littlefield on the way back to Lubbock, looking for some ice cream and to get some gas, and it was depressing, too. At least half of its stores were closed and boarded up, the downtown area was like a 1960s ghost town, and it didn't even have a Dairy Queen! Waylon Jennings was born there, and that's the nicest thing you can say about Littlefield.

There is one thing about all this, though: I feel really young. Being around Alice and Charles made me feel like an absolute infant... and even though Alice is only four years older than Grandmother, the former makes the latter seem so robust and hearty by comparison that she feels younger, too. Perhaps its a form of Schadenfreude, but looking at myself in the mirror after spending a couple of hours looking at Charles' used-wax-paper skin, folded-up shoulders and hands, red-rimmed rheumy eyes, wispy-bald head, and puffy curled-up feet, (he looks exactly like David Bowie in The Hunger, when Catherine Deneuve is carrying him up to the attic), I feel quite pretty.

So here we are back in Lubbock, in a different motel, nearer the airport. My fellow B'Way-lovin' fags will appreciate that this motel is on Avenue Q, one of the main drags in this town. I've been humming the opening number every time I see the street-signs... I don't know the words, though. I'll have to get the soundtrack and memorize it.

We're getting up at the ass-crack of dawn again, though we have so much less to do to prepare for our flight home than we did for the flight out. But Grandmother is a worrier, and she'll worry less when we're sitting safely in the airport two hours before the plane is meant to leave.

You know what the first thing I'm going to do when I get home? Drink a big glass of crystal-clear additive-free EBMUD tap water! And make a pot of black strong French coffee with that crystal-clear water. The water here is sooooo nasty, it's like pool-water it's so hard. And so the coffee tastes indescribably nasty, and everyone makes it really weak so you can taste the water, and the only water you can drink is bottled. Geah!

Well anyway, that's enough for now. I'm off to bed, and you're off to whatever you're about to do.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?

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