Archive for September, 2013

Argghhh… I flew into Vancouver Canada last night and guess what….pouring rain and freezing cold…. as always. I knew what I would be getting into…after the Texas sunshine this dreary berg seems like hell on earth. We woke up this morning to dark grey skies and pounding rain on the windows….definatley not sexy. Luckily I only have to stay here 12 days. I regret leaving Dallas… this is the best time of year for weather ( under 100 degrees is better for pool time believe it or not) …and the skies are pristine blue.

Landing in Vancouver, if you have to rent a car, it’s like a soviet nightmare from fifty years ago. The facilities at YVR are  antiquated, disorganized and unfriendly . Luggage carts seem to have been banished from the arrivals facility. There is no car rental kiosks inside the airport, you have to take your luggage and walk down a dark exit ramp with sketchy sidewalks in the rain…and there are no signs btw. The city itself feels loathsome and creepy. People present themselves as anal and self-conscious.

Our Texan suntans attracted jealous glares rather than smiles. Our rental rep in Vancouver, once we found them underneath a parking garage some ways away,  accused Dallas of being ‘focused on customer service’…as part of his explanation as to why the service was so poor…as if that were a dirty trick played on Vancouver’s argumentative and ‘a-hole’ style of receiving guests. There is no comparison between the service we get at DFW compared to YVR….night and day…..apples and rotten fruit.

OK…Texans are overly polite as a culture…I get that. In fact they are so friendly, welcoming, receptive and complimentary that a Vancouverite is shocked by the initial experience of open handed civility. Coming from the critical and covetous culture of Vancouver…the friendliness and high level of customer service in Texas is at first overwhelming. Having to fly into Vancouver on business is like getting a rectal exam….you want to get it over with and get out.

Wayne 2

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I’ve seen where  people go wrong. They fade into  the misery of a life unfulfilled, as if living is a pulp fiction novel that must reconcile predictably.  Trish and I surmounted every false dictum society set in our way.  We did the parenting, the home buying, the career chasing, and the suburban drudgery…. We managed to avoid the usual traps of china figurine collecting, filling a garage with useless junk and hunkering down to wait for old age. We are self-made, having relied on no one and never having received an inheritance by waiting for someone to die. The trouble with inheritance cases as I have observed is that they always live the rest of their lives knowing they haven’t deserved or earned what they possess. Our fight for success has given us self-confidence and we enjoy the crap out of what we’ve earned. Trust me… enjoying yourself when you can stand on your own two feet is the best revenge. If you’re past middle age and you’re not having fun… you’ve done something wrong. It’s late September here in Dallas and life is good.

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I’m living in one of the most under appreciated and most vilified places by foreign ( non Texan) media  the United States and loving it. Most days  we feel as if we have the place to ourselves and couldn’t be happier. The number of tourists in some  global hotspots has depreciated the quality of  traveling there….. not so in Texas.  There is so much to do here , spread out over such a huge area that crowds ( except for sports venues) are rare. The cost of living is extremely low compared to most other places I have been in the developed world and that really takes the bite out of world class travel.

We chose Fort Worth for today’s day trip. It was back in the spring when we were there last. The streets, shops, venues and bars are much more lively now that the sun is shining every day. We added the Amon Carter Museum of American Art to our list of free public facilities to our list. And guess what…the parking is also free and we didn’t have to make any advance reservations or take transit to get there!!!  ! Ft. Worth has it’s roots in the cattle industry, being the end of the Chisholm Trail of Old West fame.

On the way, we stopped at a road side diner for a traditional Sunday lunch of Southern home style cooking…   fried cat fish filets, fried okra, pecan pie and sweet tea. The catfish was excellent, spicy hot, the way it should be. Did I forget the corn bread biscuits and sweet bread rolls with honey and butter…..shame on me. Once down 26th Street in downtown Ft Worth….also known as The Stockyards… we were treated to an antique car show…many groups of street performers…and we stopped into the very famous ( if you’re a cowboy) White Elephant Saloon for a drink and some quality time holding up the bar with the locals. WARNING… MEN WEAR HATS. People have been drinking beer and playing pool to the sound of some of country musics most famous performers for decades. Sure… it’s smoky and stinks like sour beer….but the people are super friendly and you know you’re in one of the most famous Cowboy Churches in the country.

I’ve lived in a lot of places around the world…. but my travelers eye has spied Texas as one of the best destinations for  the unexpected.

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Texas is a widely diverse society. In fact the state leads all others in welcoming immigrants. Surprisingly this is not reported by the general media. Looking back I see that Texas has always been a diverse cultural melting pot. Many native American tribes resided here for tens of thousands of years beginning with the mass migrations of Clovis People after a succession of Ice Ages that swept people south. The Spanish were the first Europeans to discover the land, traveling north from Mexico.

A reverse migration of sorts brought a mixed population of Mexican, Indian, Spanish and Mestizo back to Texas in the early 1500’s. The first mass scale cattle ranching industry was established in Texas. The mixture of people clashing became Texano’s, and they came from everywhere. Small towns still carry the names of small Irish and Czech villages that hopscotched from Eastern US ports across Tennessee and Arkansas into what is today Texas. Lost in all this were the native Americans striving to maintain their dignity and identity after being rolled over by the modern world.

Yesterday Trish and I attended a Pow Wow, a meeting of people and tribes, in Grand Prairie Texas. It reminded me that Texas wasn’t always a maze of freeways and industry.

 

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I can’t resist the open road. My Camaro is like a fresh horse kicking the stall, anxious to run. The weather is fantastic,  I feel driven to burst out the door with the morning light. My most recent road trip included Gainesville, Decatur, Krum and all points north on the TX HWY 35 towards the Oklahoma border. In the past thirty days we have shot our silver arrow into Terrel, Wills Point, Grand Saline, Mineola, Hawkins, Big Sandy, White Oak, Longview, Hallsville, Marshall, Jefferson, San Antonio, Blanco, Johnson City, Marble Falls, Burnet, Lampassas, Hamilton. Hico, Glen Rose, Cleburne, Alvarado, Rock Wall, Grande Prairie, Greenville, Farmersville and Midlothian….among other market towns, gas station stops and historic markers along the way. We passed the Frank Buck Zoo…..a holdover from a TV show in the 1950’s called ‘Frank Buck-Bring ’em back alive’.  What a hoot !

The Texas landscape is dotted with tall water towers announcing clusters of civilization in every direction like mushrooms rising out of tall grass. There are so many freeway off ramps that it’s easy to veer off and see what might have been unplanned for. Often it’s the happy accidents that make a road trip truly special. This is another reason why I like having my own transportation, unlimited time and not be stuck on airports, trains or bus schedules….it’s necessary to have the freedom to discover whats beside and between major cities. I have talked about the tactile experience of an open cockpit. The road-song of screaming rubber on melting asphalt and passing traffic is an exhilarating cocktail mixed with burning sunshine and turbulent wind. We talk about directions we might never have considered as they come into view. Turnpikes are like a sirens calling us into the unknown. There are moments during our passage through small town America when life is transcendent.

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Armadillo’s are nocturnal creatures, the only ones I’ve seen have been laying dead by the side of the road . I am  a crepuscular creature, preferring  the twilight and  dawn hours when it’s cool. I like to head out early and come home late, before the sun explodes and showers it’s violent burning radiation onto the world . It’s the singular intensity of  radiation that really turns me on. I love the incredible color separation at high noon when every blade of grass, tree and golden hay bale in the field is glowing  and redefined as if by HDR Photoshop effect. I come from a place where the sun rarely shines…and when it does it’s weak and apologetic.

I have developed a special appreciation for the sun after growing up in sun starved Vancouver BC Canada where people walk with their hidden heads bowed submissively and that element of their miserable existence has become an aspect of their societies wider personality. It’s not called ‘No-fun Vancouver’ for no good reason. Events are contrived and politically managed….there is no spontaneity there…people are never free to be …outside. Its the sunshine and being able to live out of doors that makes places like Texas so cool.

When we drive down the Texas highways and the clouds pop out glowing white against an intensely cerulean sky as if we’re sitting in a moving IMAX 3-D theater….it’s otherworldly. I can imagine coming to an understanding why people see the face of God more often in places where nature is such an intense experience. This weekend we visited historic Jefferson in Johnson County on the Louisiana border and Greenville…further north towards Oklahoma. The higher elevation of Johnson County produced a surprise… tall pines forests as opposed to the dry deserts of southern plains. Jefferson is where the bayou’s begin and steam boat travel was once possible from Baton Rouge on the Gulf Coast.

On the way we stopped in McKinney for lunch…. a sweet and well preserved old west  town north of Plano on the 75 Hwy North of Dallas.  We stop as much as we can in whatever local phenomena happens along the way….this time it was the Dairy Queen in Farmersville, maybe one of the last whitest places in America. We caught the lunch crowd as the Baptist church across the road was getting out.

Strangers are obviously unusual in rural Texas, we turned the conversation down to a whisper when walking through the door. I wanted to apologize for Canada burning down the White House in the War of 1812….but  a mixed couple with strange accents and glowing sun tans was as much as  this crowd could handle.  I learned something….I now know you can order biscuits and peppery sausage gravy at the Farmersville Dairy Queen.

Road trips through small town America have to taken in convertibles. Its true….you can drive for days and still wake up in Texas. The open roof adds intensity to the tactile experience… like taking communion with the world around you. The scenery and sounds blast by in motion and audible parallax while wind buffets and slaps your face and  sunshine burns your skin raw so that you glow…and exhibit raccoon eyes in the rear view mirror… it’s exhilarating. Before settling on  Camaros we drove many different vehicles. I find the Camaro Convertible to be the best road trip car I have ever driven.

Having the top down eliminates the bubble effect of an enclosed vehicle with a favorite radio station keeping you anchored in the past. The open road is life being lived…most times without conversation, you sit in awe as the planet spins by beneath you….you’re tied to a strip of fading asphalt so you don’t lift off and fly. After every road trip we return home to see ourselves in the mirror…sunshine silly and smiling like delighted children….before plunging into our pool….. knowing we’ve done something important with our lives by living for today.

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