Back home from my holiday retreat to Texarkana. Got to see the family. We had a rather non-traditional holiday feast. I grilled fajitas, and it was awesome. Steak and chicken fajitas with the onions and bell peppers, skewered some veggie kabobs with zucchini, tomatoes, and pineapple (yes, I know tomatoes and pineapple are fruits). We also had Spanish rice, refried beans, all the toppings, chips & salsa, and fudge pie for dessert. The house smelled like a Mexican restaurant. So good.
If you’re interested, I can give you the recipe for the marinade I used; you could still taste its citrusy spicy goodness on the meat even after grilling.
Now that I’m back home, it’s time to unwind from the unwinding and spend the last two days of “freedom” before I have to return to work on Monday. Sucks that I have a family holiday in the middle of a week of paid vacation; it’s like three three-day weekends in a row, and each weekend has its own flavor. The first weekend is frustration, the second is exhaustion, and the third hasn’t happened yet.
I took the opportunity Wednesday night to go driving around Texarkana. Instead of driving around to ogle the construction and the new churches that are sprouting up all over the place like pimples, I decided to take my wheels to the far north end of the county to an old haunt of mine.
Oak Ridge Road is a lonely stretch of back road north of Wamba, just off of FM559, where my friends and I in ’96 would hang out with smokes and beers and nothing around us but fields, empty roads, and the stars above. So damned peaceful out there that it’s my place to go for contemplation. It’s a sacred place. And so on occasion I have to go back, to pull the car to the side of the road, get out, gaze at the stars, the moon, the constellations; to feel the cold breeze; to breathe the crystallized air; to be alone with nothing around me but the rolled hay bales standing out in the fields like grazing cattle keeping silent vigil.
Try as I might, I can’t think of a single place here in Austin that I consider sacred. I’m sure there’s somewhere, but nothing comes to mind. I could easily say Epoch, but this place isn’t sacred. It’s just a hangout where, sometimes, someone will hang out with me. Not very sacred. I could say Pease Park since I like walking there, but it’s not really a nightime hangout (well, not for me, anyway). There’s the overlook on Castle Hill, but it’s off limits. The boat ramp on west Lake Austin Blvd is OK, but it’s not quiet, private, or cop-free.
I guess most of my “sacred places” are not really destinations, but journeys, neighborhoods to drive through. All the rich neighborhoods to the west of MoPac, along Exposition. The hills south of the river, along Westlake Drive. West 6th and West Lynn. Those are fun because of the hills and curves, and they afford me the opportunity to turn off and be contemplative, but there’s just nowhere I can sit, watch, observe, turn off and feel. I just don’t feel too welcome anywhere; it’s the problem of urban density, where every property has trespassing rules, where sitting too long is considered loitering. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder for the security guard on his golf cart coming to chase me off. That’s what I hate about this town.
In 2000, just days before I moved away from Texarkana for good, I made it a point to visit my field on Oak Ridge Rd. for one last bit of closure. It was just after sunset, the stars were coming out, and I sat on my trunk while the radio played. As I reflected on my impending life change, the radio belted out the opening strains of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”, and after all the times I’ve sat through that song waiting on it to be over, it struck a chord with me that night. No matter how my life was about to change, all I had to remember was to stay simple, and I can keep myself sane.
Nine years later, I’m still trying.