14. Is It Heaven Or Is It Texas?
Darling Texas, oh how I had missed you! I want to start this chapter with saving you some reading and me some typing. Whenever you read a noun, like pick-up truck, belt buckle or hat, please always stick the word huge in front of it. This will make life a lot easier for us all. Because really, everything is bigger and better in Texas, especially if you are Texan. I guess the only exception to this is beer. Like most of America they have a healthy respect for beer and drunkenness in general. Beer mostly comes in smaller size bottles with a low alcohol content.
My American birth happened in Texas, somewhere during the mid-nineties. It was at a time when the streets were full of huge pick-up trucks and men with belt buckles, cowboy hats and boots. I was a lean green Kiwi on my first big OE(53), and I instantly fell in love with rural Texas. I am not sure if it was the ‘hill country'(54) flowers or the spring storms. Maybe it was Texan manners or their lovely singing voices. Perhaps it was the country music, rodeos and outdoor dance floors, I don’t know, but Texas and I have always got on just fine.
And here I was back flying into San Anton. The first time, I was sitting in the back of a United flight playing cards with the first black people I had ever seen, listening to station after station of country music and waiting to be picked up by people I had never met before.
This time I was on a boisterous budget airline, with my wife of ten years, listening to Radio New Zealand podcasts, expecting to be picked up by friends who I met on that first trip and whom we had returned to visit about six years previously. I was excited, thanks mostly to skype we had managed to keep in touch and somewhat up to date with each other’s lives. I had painstakingly spent hours searching Klaipėda for gifts for their kids and was excited about seeing them again and giving my gifts.
Idaho the pumpkin state had been cool, jandal-wearing weather but cool. Texas was hot and muggy. Upon exiting the plane I started sweating, this was perfect for me. San Anton airport was by far the busiest that we had stumbled upon during our trip, it was also the most multi-cultural, with large amounts of Hispanic and African American people, us whities were almost a minority.
Our friend was waiting for us just through the gate and he proved to be somewhat of an apt battering ram and navigator as we literally pushed and slithered our way through the masses of large sweaty happy Texan bodies. Being in luggage claim resembled being a rugby ball caught between sweating All Black and Springbok front-rows. After a whole lot of grunting, heaving and being pushed around, we popped out the terminal door into the rather thick humid afternoon air only to discover that our freedom was short-lived due to a case of ‘wrong door’. We re-entered the sweating scrum for a few short minutes, before popping out at the top of a flight of stairs in the car park.
Once in the car I ripped off those horrible European fur-lined boots, stripped off a layer of clothes, whacked on my sunnies and exhaled. Of course our friend had to wait until he could relax, after all he was the driver. San Anton was not his city either, he was trying to navigate this city’s extravagant maze of freeways and maintain a somewhat polite conversation with us. But alas the flyovers started to recede behind us, the city buildings downsized to warehouses, to fast food joints and eventually to paddocks and scrub lined hills. And it was here on the I10 West that I was able to catch-up with one of my most respected and missed friends. Things could have only been better if we were all in the cab of a Peterbuilt(55), but alas we made do with a trusty Honda.
Since our first I10 outing together, my friend had sprouted a wife and weans(56) and it was with some anticipation that we were heading towards them and the beautiful hill country town of Fredericksburg. But first we had to stop at the dreaded supermarket. For those of you who do not know, in my more humble that most, opinion, the Texan supermarket chain H.E.B, happens to be one of America’s better supermarkets. I don’t know why, perhaps just because it is Texan and is simple to understand, non-offensive, well-mannered and always smiling. Anyhow I bounced my jandal-clad feet into the shopping-cart-and-check-out-scape of H.E.B. Our friend told us to buy anything that we would like or need. It was very fortunate for him that American supermarkets overwhelm me and that a lot of the information stored in the crevices of my mind at this time and place were totally irretrievable, otherwise I would have been leaving with a convoy of shopping trolleys filled with among other things Barq’s Root Beer, beef jerky and cookie dough ice-cream. However being in hot and mildly humid cultures does give me a hankering for good cold cantaloupe. This is my favourite fruit alongside of mango, so I was very pleased to score both cantaloupe(57) and mango.
I have a fond memory of my friend very earnestly searching Kerrville, Texas, in effort of finding me a good Kel-style, homesickness alleviating, cappuccino serving cafe. So it came as no surprise that he suggested that we buy coffee. Farm-subsiding-thus-keeping-the-third-world-in-poverty America has yet to get a sufficient handle on free trade products, so this meant my first choice of coffee was not available. For me choosing coffee perhaps requires more research, thought and pondering than the average person uses to choose a holiday destination. However this is America and whether wanted or not every smiling face is absolutely chaffing at the bit to help you. And before long we had gleaned valuable local information from a number of passing eager-to-help locals. Bizarrely enough the locals directed us to H.E.B brand, Texan roast coffee. Texans seem to like anything, well, Texan. But the coffee was good and because I was in the extravagance of an American supermarket I bought way too much coffee. I don’t know how their marketers manage to make us buy more than we need, but they do it very well. At the end of our Texas stay we packed this coffee into our luggage and drunk it during our Wisconsin holiday and flew it all they way back home and drunk it for a couple a weeks back in Lithuania. It was good coffee.
Anyhow coffee aside we ventured through cute and rather posh Fredericksberg to the other side of town, to three waiting adorable kids and their mum. And this is where I joyfully collided once again with American and Texan culture.
Next posting will be in two weeks time, stay tuned to read about a ‘Habitat for Humanity’ kit set house dripping in barbecue sauce.
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You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry 🙁
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Ta (Kiwi for thank you)