Riding Solo In Texarkana

Our Traveller writes from the road:

Thursday, 11/25/04 Thanksgiving Day
So, in a nutshell, I’ve been in Texarkana for a day. I arrived around 6pm wednesday after driving for 6 1/2 hours. Traffic was fair, but the wind was rough; my car was being thrown around until I was almost to Henderson, TX, which is my 2/3 mark for the drive. I spent some of the evening with my sister and her kids, which was a loud, chaotic treat. Then around 9 I went to visit my mother at her place; we chatted and watched some TV, y’know, the warm family stuff. Heh. I left around 11 to get some food to settle my road-weary stomach. The Denny’s here, where I had spent several years of my life, has apparently gone downhill quite quickly. So sad. I left around midnight and got back to my sister’s house to settle my stomach and get some much needed up-since-7-am shuteye.

This morning, I had some fitful sleep as the kids were up and at ’em. Woke up a few times from noise, some times from having a cold head or soreness from sleeping on a child’s bed. Finally got up rested around 10am. Chatted with the kids for a while; seems they’re incredibly happy to have Uncle Shawn around for a visit, and they’re eager to get my attention. Heh. Around noon I had the opportunity to get away and take a shower, get myself ready for the world. We all left the apartment at 1:30pm to go to have Thanksgiving feast with my brother-in-law’s family. Spent quite some time there tonight; ate my fill (of course), snoozed, and watched some TV, y’know, the whole “football and muscle cars” thing. I left around 9:30 to go visit with some of my Texarkana friends, but I decided that it was a little late in the evening to be “dropping in to say Hi”. It’d be kind of rude of me, so I just drove around town. Tried the new highway loop that was finished this year; now I can drive completely around town without leaving a controlled-access thoroughfare. Kinda neat, I guess. But, as a testament of how small this town is, it took me, driving completely at speed limit, only 21 minutes to do the loop.

I’m currently at the IHOP where my mother and cousin work. Neither of them are on shift. Just sitting here having some coffee and typing this journal. Texarkana is so different than Austin water, because the coffee at both Denny’s and IHOP has a dusty rubbing alcohol taste. It’s so weird. I’ve gotten so accustomed to the water back home (whichever town I’m in, the other town is “back home”).

This town is growing, still. It’s becoming more like Round Rock and Cedar Park; highways, SUV’s, and “big box” chain stores as far as the eye can see. More churches, too. And bank locations. As folks here say, “Texarkana is just ‘building up’.” I haven’t really cruised the downtown area, or gone much down Stateline Ave, or gone to see my friends at Moderne Primitives, but something tells me that downtown is still lying in decay and falling apart, a scene so ghostly not even the homeless will set up camp.

Oh. Those of you in Austin may wish to take note: there’s a BOB FM in Texarkana as well: 101.7MHz. So our BOB FM phenomenon is NOT unique. Sorry to break the news to you. Try looking it up.

I haven’t gotten online since I arrived, which is against my normal modus operandi. There’s no land phone service at my sister’s house, so I can’t do dialup there, and I haven’t gone wardriving yet. Something tells me I should be successful in finding some good open signals out there. And it has recently dawned on me that I might find wireless at the Schlotzskey’s franchise here, but that’s iffy. I really don’t want to go back to Sacred Grounds to deal with, and give my money to, those rabid christians in return for their high-minded crappy coffee and wireless access. But if it comes down to it….

Regardless of my close interaction and high exposure to a ton of cats and dogs here, my allergies have been nice to me. Even my chest is getting some needed rest; the constriction and congestion has taken a holiday it seems. If things go south when I go back to Austin, I Will Know something is up. It has to be the mold there; I wouldn’t doubt that there’s some hidden somewhere in my apartment’s outside walls. Undergoing allergy shot treatments might be a smart option; otherwise, it’s either live on allergy drugs and keep coughing or move away from central Texas.

I’m watching my laptop batteries drain as I write and sip my dusty coffee. It’s reminding me that my batteries are getting old; I need to look into replacing them soon. It also reminds me that my laptop system itself is getting old; it’s about to turn 4 this January. My desktop, too, is about to turn 4. I’m considering upgrades; I can either maintain with what I have, and keep fixing, or upgrade to something new. This is similar to my own life. I’m in a pattern of just holding on to what I have and patching it, making do; things after a while become stretched, threadbare, patchwork. This is fine if a person is completely frugal and handy, and does not mind the frugal and handy image. I do, but to a point. After that point, the appearance is that of “barely making do” in my job and lifestyle. That doesn’t win friends. That doesn’t keep the bed warm with bodies. It’s a sad fact of life, but a component of attractiveness is the ability to spend, to purchase, and display new possessions, new clothing, new style. In the past few years I have been pretty slack in buying new clothes; most people buy clothes all the time; some buy clothing in bulk at the end of every summer. Me, I buy a t-shirt here, a pair of jeans there. My casual clothes have become my work clothes, and they too are becoming threadbare and worn through. It is time to upgrade myself.

One of my recent music purchases, and now my recent fascination, is a band named Seabound. I picked up their sophomore album, “Beyond Flatline”; it is currently in high rotation on my mp3 playlist and in my car cd player. Their sound is heavily electronic and industrial, with dark-hearted sound with a touch of introspective defeat musically and lyrically. Very similar to VNV Nation and some songs by VAST and Covenant. I’ve gained a fascination with dark bands with a singular “me to the world” vision. They answer something in me, they touch a chord, and I can’t turn it away. It’s so weird. Hard to explain. I need to start writing poetry again (relax, people, you don’t have to read it. damn). If you get a chance, look up Metropolis Records and check out Seabound. I’m happy with the happenstance purchase.

There’s someone here I think I recognize from when I lived here. I should probably go ask if she is who I think she is. She’s here with her husband; they both look familiar. Heh. Well wouldn’t you know it, I know these people; they are some people I knew from a few years before I left for Austin. Totally cool people. Some chatting with them, some catching up, and I learn they are now living not in Texarkana but in Conway, Arkansas, and doing much, much better. They Got Out. I could not be happier for them.

Heh. It’s nice running into old friends at random.

Friday, November 26, 2004:
Today I did a whole lot of absolutely nothing useful. I hate days like this. I stayed up a little later last night than necessary and got some not-so-good sleep this morning (I really must discuss the freezing conditions in that bedroom with my sister). I woke up around 11, groggy as hell. Had a warm breakfast compliments of my sister, then I lazed around the apartment hanging out with the kids and watching stuff on Comedy Central. They all left around 1pm to go watch the Arkansas vs LSU game, and I had some time to go shave, shit, and shower. Left the apartment around 2:30, and drove to Schlotzskeys to see if they had CoolCloud wireless — if they did, I couldn’t pick it up because my wireless card driver did nothing but completely crash my system; the dreaded NTKernel dump. Infuriated, I gave up on the quest, shoved my laptop back in my bag and drove on.

Went to visit Phil and Bob at Moderne Primitives; visited for several hours. My visits usually are intended for just a few minutes, like 15, 20 minutes, and end up being 2 hours or so. It’s good to chat, but after being there standing around for some time I was feeling really peckish and had no choice but to leave and get some food. So here I am, IHOP again. Had a big meat-and-potatos meal. Waiting on it to sink in and recharge me; it was like I was having a sugar crash or something. So weird.

My plans for today were to go visit my core group of friends while the sun was still up and see what plans were for tonight. I have also been thinking about taking the hour-long drive up to Arkadelphia for a photo safari to take pictures of the college I attended and see what’s changed in the past 6 years since my last visit. That obviously fell through. It’s still an option for tomorrow. I could also look up my old college friends Eddie and Michelle; I understand they have their own house and are working on a family; I haven’t really communicated with them in 4 years. Would be nice to see them.

What I would like to do is spend some more time with my mother and hang out, go grab something to eat. I miss being up here for when she needs help, and these days she’s needing more than usual. It’s tough to be so far away. She still has pictures of her Red Cross volunteer trip to Florida to show me.

Tonight, it’s still early enough to comfortably visit my group of friends. Not even 8:30 yet. But it’s pushing it. I’m so distant from them as well. On my last visit the thought occurred to me that it’s not always cool to drop in unannounced at any time and just crash parties. They ribbed me about it, but it was still jovial. But the idea remains; even though I’m a friend of theirs from years back, I should make moves early enough to be more than welcome for a visit. Nobody can be as agreeable as an uninvited guest. And I don’t like being that kind of agreeable.

Damn, I’m sleepy. Time to go make some visits, else I won’t hear the end of it.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

What happened today? Well, not much of that “grab life by the horns” stuff, that is for sure. Most of the daylight was spent resting, sleeping, and napping. The time I’ve spent in this household with my nieces and nephew (and the pets) has been tenuously blessed; these kids are sharp as whips, but just you try keeping them quiet and well behaved. Heh. So the rest, any rest, is welcomed. My mother came to visit today and hang out with us as my sister got her house redecorated for christmas. Helped out with fetching some supplies for dinner, which I enjoyed with my family.

I made scarce of myself around 8pm and visited my friends over at “The Block,” as I call it. The birthday party for David was underway, and most everyone, even a few people I hadn’t met, was there. Mark, who lives in Japan, was present via teleconference on the big screen in the living room. David’s brother in law was also celebrating his birthday, so he came over to exchange gifts and say hello; brought his kids who spent most of their time there running and roughhousing. Once the kids discovered the webcam and that their mugs were on TV, their energy multiplied three-fold as they hammed it up with Mark. Lots of fun, lemmetellya. After experiencing my own family’s kids for a few days, the noise of three more kids was too much and I stepped out to the porch for a while. Played with David and Angie’s dog, a basset hound which, after hearing my friends’ tales of that dog jumping or hitting them where it counts the most, I lovingly called “The Crotch Torpedo”.

The evening over there wound down early, and some of us migrated to Liz and Doug’s house for coffee and chatter. I found out some more details about various drama circles, caught up on what’s been going on with so-and-so and what’s-her-face. Chatted about gypsies and movies, and renfest, and scarborough faire, and so on. The usual stuff. Feeling the fatigue headache and the early stages of a sugar crash (thanks to the cola and pixie stick I had earlier), I left around 1:15am. Got something to eat and headed back to the apartment. And now, here I am, in my sweats, socks, and a t-shirt hoping I don’t (but knowing I will) freeze my ass off tonight in bed.

It is not in my idiom to flaunt my nose at charity. To be honest, these accomodations at my sister’s apartment have been some of the best accomodations I’ve had in Texarkana in the ages since my mother had her own house. But after the chaos and caucophany of three kids, the cold, hard, creaking bed, and my days-long exposure to the allergy-enticing pets, I will be very glad to be driving back home tomorrow. I love my family, I miss them. I wish I could take them with me to what I think is a better town, but it’s nice knowing I have my own place to go to.

I plan to spend the latter hours of my time here with my mother, to catch up, talk, go have some dinner. She still has pictures from Florida to show me. I’d like to see about helping her out a little bit financially since she’s been out of work for a few weeks; her return to work doesn’t seem eminent at all. And this worries me to no end; it bothers me that I can’t be here, in the same town, to offer help and care to my mother. It seems that job is resting on the shoulders of my sister, and that’s just not completely fair. All I can do is call more often and send money.

Optimally, I’d like to be back in Austin before midnight which means I should leave and be rolling no later than 5pm. I keep hearing rumors of a chance for rain on my drive back. That’ll add to the travel time for sure, but I’m no stranger to rain suddenly appearing for my return to Austin. The rain will fall lightly as I leave, then come down hard at sunset, usually 10 minutes after my departure, and stay with me until Henderson, TX. Seems to be the usual story. I’d like one good, clear, decent drive home. The drive up here, though it was windy, was smooth and pleasant. I’d like the drive home to be just as blessed.

My eyes are heavy from sleep, my ass is hurting from sitting on the floor with the laptop, and Chicane is playing on the Winamp. I listened to him back when I moved to Austin, and his music was my copilot on a lot of my driving back and forth from Texarkana and from Renfest back in 2000; it’s good driving music, and it only whets my mood to hit the road. So I bid you g’nite. G’nite.