Hi again! I am traveling around the US and writing about it, and there seems to be no end in sight.
US Tour Day 21: West Texas and Austin
It feels good to be in Austin. Or, I think it does. I can't tell if it feels good to here or if it just feels great to not be driving my car. The distance between Las Cruces and Austin is painfully long and dull—sort of like watching Faust, only, well, actually it was really exactly like watching Faust.
I drove six hours yesterday before stopping for the night in Fort Stockton, Texas. I drove another six hours today. And today's drive was somehow even more boring than it was long. I stopped at a few self–professed points of interest to break up the monotony of the trip—historical markers, state parks, museums, old buildings, vista points. That didn't really work. Everything I checked out just made me see that the boring of West Texas was not just skin deep.
The landscape in West Texas is barren, flat, and uninteresting—especially when compared with the majesty of Arizona and New Mexico. The state parks were empty—reeking of averageness—with none of the spectacular flora or fauna or geological formations that I always thought were the very basis of how a piece of land got to be a state park in the first place. What towns called "historic areas" were silent downtowns boasting five or six old buildings.
Everything was so dull.
Well, that is except for my brief run–in with what was clearly the most powerful hand drying technology next to incinerating your hands in the sun. Mounted on the wall of a gas station in the dreary town of Ozona was one of man's most miraculous personal drying achievements—the Xlerator. This machine packed the power of a NASA wind tunnel or two or three or seventy in a small, and painfully sexy chrome package.
My freshly–washed hands went from wet to dry in less than five seconds with the help of the Xleraor's devastating gusting force. Seconds after that my hands were officially dessicated. At that rate, I would surely soon see the skin and flesh tearing from the bone at any moment. I must say that this incredible marvel of hand drying technology almost made up for the rest of West Texas. But, only almost.
I did notice something else sort of interesting during my time in West Texas, though. Somewhere between El Paso and Fort Stockton there seemed to be an invisible line traveling north to south, a border of sorts, after which people no longer sounded the same.
On the west side of the line everyone sounds like the people I am used to—"normal" folks. On the east side of that line the people sound like Texas people, gallons of thick, syrupy drawl pouring out of them and into the ears of all who have ears to hear, long vowels stretching out to infinity. Their thick accents made me self–consciously aware of my lack of drawl like the under–endowed kid feels in the locker room.
Ah, but now I'm in Austin, the city I fell in love with my now ex–girlfriend Andie in, the city where I started the most epic love story of my short life. Because of that, there're lots of ghosts here for me—invisible feelings that remind me of fantastically beautiful moments which I can never reclaim. Maybe I'll make peace with the ghosts? Or, maybe they might start to follow me and never go away as long as I live? Hopefully, if I put my mind to it, I can meet them face to face and find ways to replace them with new, less painful ones?
As much as it hurts to be here, at least I'm not in West Texas anymore.
For the time being I'll be staying with Audrey. I met her in 2001 at a Burning Man related campout, and until very a few days ago I knew her only by her Burning Man nickname, Princess Lavender. She kindly offered to host me in the huge victorian she shares with five others here in downtown Austin. Affectionately dubbed the pink palace by locals, the rosy, three story co–op is famous for being the one–time home of Janice Joplin.
My heart tells me I'm glad to be here. And, the rest of me shouts out to the heavens how glad I am to not be driving for a while.
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