Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Deep In The Heart of Texas

With June busting out all over and my daughter safely tucked into a cruise ship cabin alongside her school friend on a week long sail to Alaska, I finally got a chance to hop on a Southwest jet and fly out to Houston to visit my hubby. The economic recession has hit many industries, including the travel industry that employs him. Texas is one of the few western states with a relatively sound economy so he went where the work was. It's a hardship being apart but it makes the much longed-for reunions sweet. My husband made this reunion even sweeter by greeting me at the airport with a bag of freshly baked pan dulce from Houston based Arandas Panaderia.

"The first thing you have to know about Houston..." my hubby explained as we crawled to a slow roll behind a line of brake lights on the freeway, "is that it's very much like L.A. It's spread out all over the place, most people live in the suburbs and there is almost no public transportation, which means you have awful traffic during rush hour." He dutifully pointed out downtown, Minute Maid park ("where the Astros play") a new outdoor venue called "Discovery Green", the museum district and the area he described as one of the original four wards of the city. "Houston was originally divided into four wards and slaves were almost half of the population of the city. After the civil war, some of the former slaves created an area in the Fourth Ward called Freedmen's Town and part of it still exists. They're practically the oldest buildings in the city but they want to knock them down to build luxury condos." I realized that he was right about the city resembling LA; even the attitude towards architectural history was similar.

As we headed north, I was struck by how lush Houston is: acres of tall trees form green borders alongside the roadways. We continued driving northwest towards Austin on Hwy 290, passing through gently rolling countryside and cattle ranches, punctuated only occasionally by a small town where we'd gawk at signs for the local taxidermist, like the one that read "Blast 'em and Cast 'em."

In Austin, we decided to check out the historic and supposedly haunted Driskill Hotel. We found some friendly spirits at the upstairs bar, where the bartender poured with a heavy hand. After a couple of rounds, we started our ghost investigation. In the Maximilian Room, where we went to view the Carlota Mirrors (a gift from the Mexican Emperor to his wife) my husband noticed a dark shadow rise up in the reflection of a mirror hanging on the opposite wall, right after he'd seen my reflection pass through the same spot. "You're not going to believe this, but I just saw a shadow pop up behind you in the mirror." He had no idea that a few seconds before, I'd suddenly gotten very cold and the hairs on my arms were now standing up on goose pimples. As we looked for more apparitions in the mirrors, one of the overhead light fixtures flickered. Thoroughly excited by these occurrences and inspired by my viewings of the Ghost Hunters Sci-Fi Network show, I attempted to provoke the spirit by daring it to touch Greg. He shot me a worried look but apparently the spirits decided not to come out and play.

We found a great place to eat called Mr. Natural where we enjoyed the $6.99 lunch special: tofu and black bean gorditas, mole cheese enchiladas, spicy pepper potatoes, zucchini and chickpea poblano, homemade tortillas, veggie tamales...I was in VEGGIE HOG HEAVEN and decided it would be ok to live in Austin if I could live within walking distance of Mr. Natural. We both gave it thumbs up.

Later that evening, we made our way to the Congress Bridge to watch a local phenomenon: the flight of thousands of bats from under the bridge to begin their evening feast of insects. But first, we had to wait. And wait. Hundreds of people showed up, lining the bridge and the banks of the river: adults with batman shirts and capes, kids with bat t-shirts, people camped out with snacks and six packs of beer, all awaiting the emergence of the nocturnal creatures. Excitement mounted as the squeaks from under the bridge grew in volume and a few random bats took tentative test flights, circling out from the bridge for a few feet then circling back. It seemed as if the bats needed to build up steam in order to take flight, either that or they were waiting to build the crowd's expectations. Finally, the cloud o' bats emerged in waves, starting at one end of the bridge and rippling across the river. They flew off in a serpentine pattern toward the forest alongside the river and just when you thought they must surely be done even more emerged, darkening the sky with their multitudes.

Although part of the trip was for pleasure, there was also work to be done. I wanted to help my husband move into his temporary home in Houston, so upon returning from Austin we got to the business of stocking his new apartment. It was nice to be able to help Greg get settled. I wanted to make sure that despite his being away from home and family he would have a place to call his own. It's difficult being apart and having to commute such a long distance but I try to remind myself that economic hardships are cyclical and I have faith that things will get better and our family will be together again.


comms79 said...

it looks like your having ball of a time. Houston must be a happening city. The sun is hot, the air is fresh, and the people are alive(so to speak). From the pics you took, looks like a great vacation from the norm of L.A. LIFE. I have never been to Houston, but i bet it great, only thing i always worry about, (getting bitten from the bats j/k) but all is fair and hott and sun. I say keep a POSTIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE, in terms of life. everythind should work out, love is love, and life is life. luv ya alice.. see you in the pit j/k;)

d.w. said...

i liked the ghost story.

but after what happened in Santa Fe, I would of asked the ghost to touch Greg. (he he he)

Vaginal Davis said...

I just had to have my fix of the great writings of Ms. Alice Bag. Congrats on the book deal with Adam Parfrey´s Feral House. Can´t wait to read the book. I am still here in Lady Berlin. Tomorrow I am off to Malmö, Sweden for a job interview to teach performance art at the Lund University Malmö Art Academy. Wish me pluck and give kisses to Jailbait and sweet little Sophia.