25. A Most Ridiculous Command.
Now, correct me if I am wrong. Rivers run, or rivers flow or maybe they meander. In the mountains of New Zealand, the rivers fair dinkum fly down the hill. That itself creates an interesting riverside picture, ‘Kids sit down or you will get your hair wet’. But in San Anton, Texas, just below street level the river actually gets up and walks. And that was the second thing on our schedule that afternoon, to go into town to see the river walk. But first we had an important visit to a couple of clothing stores.
Lithuanians have really long narrow feet. I wonder if they think my short stubby things are as weird as I think theirs are. Lithuanians are also mostly tall and thin. They make really good clothes, with horrible colours. I have always said that Lithuanians dress to extremes, extremely stylish or extremely pathetic. Foreigners are instantly recognised here. Presumably when Lithuanians see us walking down the street they have a little cack(82) to themselves and comment on the short fat people with the boring comfortable clothes. What I am trying to say is that I just cannot buy clothes there. They either cramp physically or cramp my style. We had both been given quite a lot of money to spend on clothes, this was a huge blessing for us and this was our first chance to spend it.
Our friend stopped at two no-name shops before we finally stopped at Mecca. I cannot remember the name of this particular Mecca, they all blur together for me, perhaps it was something like ‘Bass Pro Shop’. I immediately had a problem upon entering the store. And I kid you not, right at the front door was a sign which read ‘Please check all firearms and bows at customer service prior to entering the store. Thank you’. I was flabbergasted, I was not expecting America’s gun-slinging capital to be so up front about such things. So being an honest person, I found customer service, whipped into the back of my trench coat and pulled out my long-bow. Then from my extended front right pocket, I pulled out my sawn off shotgun, from the other side I declared my Soviet souvenir Kalashnikov. Then there was my Glock 9mm and my machete from my right leg, not to mention my 357 Magnum strapped to my ankle. I had to have the magnum, just in case the rest failed. Yes I jest. We all know that this arsenal couldn’t all possibly fail outside of a movie. The only death that happened here was me killing myself laughing in disbelief over the sign. It would only be in my worst nightmares that I would own such a collection of destruction, but if I did, I would wear it all into this shop as often as I could, just for the fun of having to declare it. I wonder what they would say? ‘Do you have a seventh weapon to declare sir?’ Or ‘Sir may I suggest you check out our fly-fishing department’. Or how about ‘I see Sir that you clearly understand that at Bass Pro you get more bang for your buck’. Do you think they would manage to keep their service industry smiles? It doesn’t bear thinking about; the only dangerous weapons that I took into the store were my jandals and my kick-boxing wife.
Well the shop was yet another popsicle paradise for me. I needed a one-hundred thickness breathable fleece, a pair of trousers, didn’t need any pants and I also needed a soap bag(83). All of the soap bags that they had were mega expensive and large enough to make a good waterproof house to accommodate a small Philippino family. I mean how big can a tooth brush and razor be? I know Americans can be big people, but their teeth and facial hair I presume are all pretty close to the same size. Next I searched for trousers. World, this is one of the greatest things about America, its trousers are all labelled by waste size and leg length. What a clever stupid idea, do any other countries do it this way? I had no idea what size trousers I wore. The overly-smiley shop assistant clearly expected me to know and was rather bemused when upon requesting me to relinquish my size, I lifted up my shirt to show him my waist hiding under a Texan-rib-filled-pudgy belly. But clearly I was not the first idiot to intersect his gun totalling store. He took a quick painful glance at my barbecue sauce rolls of flab and stoically announced in a rather prophetic voice, ‘Ah you must be a thirty four’, and he was right. My thirty four was too long for this half-pint, so I grabbed a couple of different lengths and after five minutes in a changing room the size of a Lithuanian flat, I had a pair of trousers. As for the fleece, well here I stumped the bundle of smiles serving me. I asked him how I would know that this fleece is breathable? In my good ole Kiwi days, the words fleece and breathable were synonyms, but after two years in cheap Scotland I quickly learned that if fleece and cheap are synonyms, then fleece and breathable are not. I found a fleece that seemed perfect, could have been breathable, but was the wrong colour, it clashed with my hair. So in the interest and excitement of walking rivers, I decided to delay my fleece purchase until we were up north in the colder, wilder climates of Wisconsin. So kacking again at the firearms sign, I rushed out to the car, where both my friend and my favourite kick-boxer were waiting.
As far as cities go, San Anton is like the western suburbs of Sydney, flat, boring and with way too many cars. But here we were and ironically enough we Honda’d into the same multi-storied car-park that me, myself and my friends parked in some twelve years previously though this was where the similarities ended. Last time I was sitting on the back of a pick-up, cradling my cowboy hat whilst playing my harmonica. I can still remember that we were followed through the car-park by a bunch of gawking kids in a bright purple, mag and trim infested, irritatingly nauseating exhaust-piped Ford Escort. Yuck, a perfectly good Escort ruined by kids who couldn’t understand that if they saved the money they had spent on all the extras, they could have afforded a car they actually would have wanted.
So as you would expect, we exited the car, walked through a very South East Asian looking-shopping centre and out onto the river. Well actually we are not Christ figures, or at least not outside of Sundays. We walked out onto the River Walk. Now listen carefully because I am serious. Outside of Texas I am the only person who I have ever heard talk about the River Walk. The San Anton River Walk is, and you can quote me on this, the world’s best kept secret. It is simply the world’s coolest humid intersection of nature and city. I don’t know how to describe it to you, but I don’t mind O.D’ing(84) on coffee trying. The place reeks of atmosphere; the humidity, whiffs of food, waves of music and lapping water created an ambiance so tangible that it is practically surfable. It is like they have picked the best of everything and slapped it into a micro-cosmos, the result is way cool and way other worldly. I like this place and have never succeeded in spending too much time here.
It was November 3, but yet this micro-cosmos actually had a Christmas tree. I guess that they wanted us to have that happy merry feeling all year round. Of course it wasn’t just any tree, it was rather large, situated on an island that served as a roundabout for river boats. I mean you have to imagine this humid H2O hallucination. It is all set below street level, if you are good you can spy the odd street level car bridge. It is totally flanked by sub-tropical trees and Texan mile after mile of outdoor-indoor luscious restaurants, each emitting food fragrances of nationalities from the far-flung-four-corners of the known universe. And everything is hallucified through the blueness of the water, the greenness of the trees and the gentle flowing humidity. If only I had had a rusty old car bonnet(85), cause I could have surfed the so, so thick ambiance. When Davy Crockett said ‘You can go to hell, but I am going to Texas’, he for sure had the River Walk in mind as his version of Texas Heaven.
I have a natural fear of crowds, they freak me and that is not just because they smell. This place was overflowing with people, though they were overwhelmingly white English speakers with a splattering of brown Spanish speakers. And kids, lots of stinkin’ carpet-crawling snot-gobbling weans. There seemed to have been some kind of kids’ convention happening and we seemed to be stuck between their buses and their convention centre ten minutes before the opening curtain. Their shiny white faces were rushing, pushing and prattling all around us, or perhaps I should say all around our ankles. It was like being swamped by a pack of man-eating chihuahuas at the final sunset of their Ramadan. If this in itself was not scary enough, there was no stinkin’ fence between the river and the pavement. I was more scared of the kids than I was of the water. In fact a nice cool dip would have been appreciated, but that was simply a no go, mostly because of the prospects of death by the bow of a megaphoned-tourist-infested-pleasure-craft and there were lots of them. It may come as no surprise to you that generally speaking the fat people were being sailed, gawking at us from these boats and the thin people were walking on the river bank gawking at all the fatties.
Our friend led us through the maze and miles of riverside walks. We stopped for Chinese at one stage. That is Chinese food but here we made a fundamental error. The English was quite clear, seats are for sitting and steps are for stepping, but as independent thinkers in the heart of Texas we overcome the English language and sat on the steps to enjoy our Chinese.
We followed this up with a perfect finale to the evening, we found a jazz bar. What a wonderful wonderful Neverland experience. The jazz bar had a coupl’a three old fogies(86), just a jammin’ and laughin’ out their jazz. It was that American thang of enjoying your work again. They were having a hoot(87) of a time, each following and leading each other, with their greying and balding heads, bobbing back and forth. Drums banging, sax saxing, guitar ringing and voices cackling. Though this Neverland had allowed their voices to get old, Tinker Bell had obviously sprinkled enough fairy dust for their minds and antics to be as youthful as ever. The Jolly Rodger had obviously sailed by, because it had deposited America’s rudest waiter for us. This dude was a pirate too callous for the Neverland River Walk, he was just rude and came close to ruining our jazz experience. I would not be surprised if America has not revoked his citizenship by now. Not only that, he did not sell either Dr Pepper or Root Beer. Well a fairy-dusted-capitalistic-American-Neverland would not be complete without a great big glass jar full of coins into which to empty our appreciation. And this we did, before floating back to the car on the remnants of a great atmospheric evening. The drive home was long and quiet, with the fairy dust not wearing off until the morning.
If you are ever passing close to Texas and yes the south of England is close enough, then you simply must allow yourself the minor detour of bonnet surfing the wonderful Neverland atmosphere of the San Anton River Walk. Like a pilgrimage to Mecca, it is simply a non-negotiable. Thanks Davy Crockett for the great tip.
Hang around for my next edition to hear of our sad good byes to good ole Texas.
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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)
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