Category Archives: texas

Monumental

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img_5673Earlier this summer, there was a sudden rush to finally, finally rid several Southern cities of the statues that littered them and which were memorials to the Confederate side of the Civil War.  The side that lost, but that held on to a grudge that still lasts.

tumblr_ox039q5l7o1qz6f9yo5_1280Most of them had been nominally erected by the widows and mothers and children of men who had marched off, but never came back.  That is, granted, a sad motivation, but just behind the respectable shield of grieving for the dead was the horrible reality of what those men had died for.  Those idiot boys had gone to war to protect the institution of slavery

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Growing up as I did in Texas in the 1950s and 60s seemed to be the end times for sentimentality over the Civil War.  The passionate,Victorian era clock-winders that I had read about or seen in movies were all gone.  I went to a white elementary school, but integration had found its way into my unimportant little burg by the time I entered middle and high school.  The circle of losers and nerds who comprised my friends had black members; my parents seethed that I had black friends.  The century of the war ending happened the year I turned 9, and to a 9-year-old, a century is the definition of forever.

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And then boom, this summer, we are suddenly back to Great Lost Era of mrpeenee’s Ninth Year.  I had seen the statues and memorials and ignored them.  Considering they had lost, the South had a mania for enduring no one would forget.  OK.  Won’t forget, got it on my to do list.  Only, I never once considered what we were be excoriated to remember.  I had black friends in a high school named for Robert E. Lee, the major commander of the southern forces.  I had more immediate things to ignore.

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So now the statues have been removed, some by work crews who had to disguise the company’s name and their own identities because the tempest over that removal was so hot.  And now all that’s left behind are the bases, or plinths, they rested on.  There is a much lower pitch struggle over how to deal with them.

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I say leave them, now as memorials to the struggle a lot of right-minded people fought over more than a century that their generals and statesmen graced them and that they were a constant source of irritation and pain to the descendents of the slaves those men fought and died to make sure remained slaves.

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Even with the monuments gone, no one is going to forget the Civil War or the guilt America bears for allowing some men to own other men in the first place.  Several of the plinths are very attractive in their own right and with the statues gone, all they are is sort of sad.  Leaving them standing empty is not some defiant, sore loser gesture against the fight to remove the shameful memorials but as a salute for a long, grinding fight that was finally won.

I’m proud of the people who fought that fight and congratulate them.  Maybe they should have a salute for all they did.  Maybe they should have a monument.

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It’s the Weather

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I been trying to scrape up the energy to post something, but energy seems to be thin on the ground these days.  Mostly, it’s hot.  I know my readers everywhere but here have been dealing with the atmosphere turning into something like a slow roasting oven, but this is San Francisco!   We do not do hot weather.  It is an outrage.  Records all over the place being broken, with temperatures over 100, which is something in Celsius, who knows?  It is fucking hot, how’s that?

My house has no air conditioning, which is pretty much never a problem, except when it is.  Like now.  How I hate to climb into a bed with the sheets already warm.  And only a sad fan huffing hot air around like that helps.

Last night, in the middle of sweating and being grouchy, I suddenly smelled smoke.  Wildfires are all around us and smoke has been kind of a background scent for weeks, but this was, suddenly, much stronger and getting more pungent fast.  More neighbors and I gathered in the street in this vague sort of way, asking each other “Do you smell smoke?”  I think if I had announced “No, I do not” in a firm voice, everyone would have just said “Oh, great. Thanks” and wandered back home.  Instead, I said, I was calling the Fire Department.  There was a sense of great relief.  Turns out no one wants to be the one to deal with bureaucracy, but I worked for the government my whole career.  Bureaucracy is my home turf.

So I called and the emergency operator was incredibly chill.  Speaking with her was like tuning into the Mellow Jam Hour.  Eventually the firetrucks rolled in, one on each end of the street, cause apparently someone else called and one end of the my street is one fire station and the other end is another.  Fine with me, they were as cute as the cliché.  When you apply to be a firefighter, do you have to send in a headshot?

The tromped through my house, complimented me on both my decorating and my garden (this is so San Francisco) and poked around in the brush that fills the canyon behind me.  We all agreed, yes, you could smell the smoke (which made me feel better; at least I’m not crazy in that general direction,) the short cute one said “It doesn’t smell like   a brush fire, it’s too sweet.” “Like cedar” I said and he agreed with charming enthusiasm.  If it got any more gay cozy, we were all going to have to plan brunch.

 

 

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I swear, this is what showed up when I called 911 for the fire truck.  I may have to set a fire out back myself.

We went back out front and the  truck from the alien firehouse came down to chat with their fire man buddies (probably planning brunch) and eventually toddled on off.  The smoke faded, still with no cause, and the cat and I went back to watching porn.

The hot weather finally broke around dawn, but the huge fire down in Los Angeles has already made its way up here and is making my eyes burn and my sinuses dribble down my throat.  I’m slowly drowning in my own snot.

On to more weather news, but this without humpy firemen.  My father, my remaining brother, 5 of my nephews andneices and their nigh countless children, all still live in Houston, where a no-big-deal hurricane hit late last week and then stalled and dumped an astonishing flood.  More than 50 inches in one day.  San Francisco’s annual rainfall average is less than 24 inches.

My brother and I have been texting, him airily assuring me everything’s fine, which is what everyone in my family says right up to the point when they have to scramble out of the kitchen window to escape.  When I was in high school, the morning I was supposed to leave on our senior trip, our neighborhood was so flooded, my neighbor and classmate Stephanie and I were ferried out in a National Guard truck.  We made quite an entrance at school that day.  And then Stephanie and I went off to the beach for the weekend, leaving our mothers behind to cope.  But they were tough old Texas gals, didn’t bother them.  Probably glad to be rid of us, they spent the day drinking beer and watching to see if their houses were going to flood.  The houses didn’t, but they did run out of beer and so they talked the National Guard guys into giving them a ride to the liquor store.

Now that, motherfuckers, is Texas.

Plagues Upon my House

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I have a cleaning service, which is  fancy way of saying cleaning lady, except these are a squad of them, so we need a plural reference.  The ringleader, Aline, is from Brazil where the oddity of naming your kid after an architectural fad or a little girls dress doesn’t exist cause they speak Portuguese.  We call her Leeny.

Leeny and I and the vacuum girl (she’s teeny tiny and totes the vacuum around strapped to her back.   I call her the Borg because the vacuum is just about bigger than she is which gives the unsettling effect that she is being absorbed, but, since Leeny is the only who speaks English, she’s also the only one to get the joke.  But we all laugh.  Stupid gringo.

The Borg erupts in a torrent of Portuguese and Leeny asks what are all these bugs.  Moths.  We were in the guest room which has charcoal gray walls and black WOOL carpet and is only disturbed every other week when the Dust Squad busts in.  In other words perfect breeding grounds for the mother fuckers.

Closer examination (or actually, the only examination I have ever given the room) reveals bald spots about the size of my hand where the worthless creatures have eaten the rug down to the base.  AND I only bought this rug a couple of years ago when I was trying to deal with the cat’s insistence on peeing in there.

Tomorrow I hurl my self into the world improvement.  I don’t mind it, I like decorating, but I just hadn’t planned to rid myself of several hundred dollars this month on a room I don’t use.

Also, the front door lock will suddenly no longer lock.   One of those :”You had ONE JOB….” jokes.   Of course, the two errands clash.  I have to be here for the lock guy and I need to go pick out carpet at the rug store

On the sunnier-ish side of things, the car rental crisis seems to have resolved itself.  I kept calling the Hertz guys about this and they would ask for the reservation number and I would explain it was on the paperwork in the car, which apparently was living a carefree life off in some car impound lot.   I would ask if they could not perhaps dig up said number by using my last name.  The would admit that they could, surly that I had breached their last wall of passive resistance.  I would be on hold for quite a little while, listening to what might have been music by Brian Eno, or maybe a computer that looked like Eno.  Eventually the Hertz guy would come back on and say they couldn’t find the reservation number either.

I looked in my account.  There is a long list there of all my trips to Houston and the cars I have known there.   It could be sentimental, but it isn’t.  And then when I get down to the very end where this last ill-fated journey should be, there’s nothing.  The list ends with my trip there last December.

So here’s what I think:  I had Loss Damage Waiver insurance on that little hot rod.   The cops eventually contacted Hertz as the owner of the car and told them where to go get it.  Hertz fetched the battered hulk to it to their car repair guys, along with all the other banged up vehicles that must pour into there every day and patched it up.  From Hertz point of view, the matter is concluded, I got a bill from them that I paid, so I figure it’s over, and I think Super Agent Fred has forgotten the whole sad business.

So.  One crisis down and two to go.   I ‘m going to go take a nap.

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If I had suspected this guy was involved in the Hertz fiasco, I would have paid more attention.

Texas Time

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Yes, Super Agent Fred  and I are back in the old country, visiting our respective crazy, crazy, crazy ass relatives.   Who are these people?  How could i possibly have sprung from this?

My brother is the exception and I love him, he and his wife, to whom he will have been married 50 years in September.  Amazing

Amazing also, is his saintly restraint in dealing with my father who has gone from befuddled crankiness into actual insanity.  There have been “incidents.”  There have been calls from management (who seem to be actually quite nice, and determined to give the people who have been entrusted to them both dignity  and independence.  Even if they deserve neither.  Which brings us back to my father.)

Anyway, daily calls  where Ed has to stop running his own business and take time to go straighten out today’s mess.  I feel so guilty, tucked away on the far coast, absolutley insulated from the madness.

Anyway.  Texas.  Excellent Mexican food, combat strength air conditioning, and boys who truly look like this:

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Of course, they are in the minority, squeezed in between the giant mounds of humanity that make up the rest of the population and take up far too much room.

We go home at dawn on Monday morning.  I am counting the microseconds.

In Which mrpeenee Returns to the Old Country

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Well, here I am in Texas, land of my birth and home of a bakery that spells one of their offerings as “petifores.”  Oh god.

My brother Mike has entered a hospice as part of the final stage of his cancer.  I decided to come visit, but now I’m not sure why. 1) the hospice is three hours away, much closer to Diane von Austinburg and I’m unclear on how much visiting I’ll be able to do and 2) my other brother Ed says Mike is pretty befogged by morphine.  I vividly remember how little R Man  was in touch at that point.  But I want to see Mike’s wife, who is absolutely charming and I want to show support.  Or something.   Whatever, I’m straightening my Florence Nightengale cap, prepared to visit the shit out of whoever will see me.

So I’m here, tucked into a nice hotel in a sort of out of the way neighborhood.  Its location makes it all the odder that the professional football teams playing against Houston stay here.  The hotel is always very coy about admitting that, but Secret Agent Fred and I ran into them last time we were here and they were checking in.  Believe me, it’s not easy to hide a lobby-full of gigantic tightends lummoxing about.  Just now I was squeezed into an elevator with three of them and I thought I might faint.

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Baby, let me tell you, those are some big mens.

Howdy

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I wish this was my Texas, sadly it is not.

My darlings, I write to you from a barbecue induced coma.  Yes, it’s all too true, I have returned to Texas, land of my birth and home of the world’s most delicious smoked brisket.  I have barbecue sauce smeared up to my ears and will probably never be able to degrease my hands, but it was worth it.  I’ve had fabulous Mexican food three times and barbecue just now; say what you will about Houston, the old place can certainly sling the hash.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games and enchiladas.  The night I got to New Orleans to see about selling my house there, my oldest brother, Ed, called to say our other middle brother, Mike, was very sick with liver cancer (again with the cancer!  Oy!) and I should came back here.  I wrapped up unloading the New Orleans house (which included its own share of memorable meals and innumerable annoying errands) and then hurled myself into the swampy embrace of my homeland.

It’s odd how even though I’ve been away my entire adult life, the Gulf Coast of Texas has a culture that is still my background.  As soon as I get out of the airport, my accent returns, my sinuses swell to accommodate the indigenous mold and mildew, and I instinctively start looking for tacos.

I had several visits of varying degrees of hilarity with my family, some of whom are charming, some of whom are annoying, some of whom are insane and some of whom are annoying and insane, and I haven’t even seen my father yet.  I was sort of holding the worst for last, I suppose.  My brother Mike is in terrible shape, gaunt and frail and talking about a liver transplant, which, I have to say, seems unlikely.  I’m afraid the next time I’ll be here will be for a funeral.

In the meantime, though, I continue to be faced with the odd combination of big city freeways and redneck cowboys that makes up my heritage.  Fortunately, I return to my beloved San Francisco tomorrow.  Even with its sad lack of decent barbecue, it can’t come soon enough.