Posts tagged ‘Texas’
You knew I had to get around to this tale sooner or later. Later is better than never. We were living in Nowhereville when I had my first kiss. However, my first kiss was not in Nowhereville. It would have been impossible for me to find a boy who was willing to kiss me.
I was cute enough, but I was something like a cross between an outcast and a pariah. Maybe that’s redundant. If you ever want to experience my early adolescence, rent Welcome to the Dollhouse from Netflix. That’s as close as you’re going to get to experiencing my junior high years. Thank God – now! Or knock on wood or something.
The summer between 7th and 8th grades my dad went job hunting in Texas. My parents always wanted to live in Texas. My mom wanted to attend the nursing school at Texas Women’s University in Denton, and they always liked Texas for some inexplicable reason. For the record, I always voted for Southern California, but no one cared what I wanted. Now I live in Texas, and my parents still live in Oklahoma. We don’t even have family there. Go figure.
So, we were driving all over hell. Who knew that Texas was so big? We literally drove all over hell, because it was the middle of the summer, and the car had no air conditioning. We spent time in Dallas and time in Houston, and it was hot as hell in either place. I honestly do not remember whether it was in Dallas or in Houston. What I do remember is that it happened in the motel swimming pool of a La Quinta Inn.
Why do I remember that it was a La Quinta? Well, for one thing, there was a Denny’s next door where we ate breakfast the next morning. And for a second thing, my father did not believe in (and we couldn’t afford) indulging in luxury when it came to accommodations. If we stayed somewhere other than a Motel 6 or a Super 8, then you can bet that I remembered it.
This may have been because on this trip I remember we stayed at a Motel 6 where there were hookers in the hallway, and our toy poodle barking was the only thing that stopped God knows what from breaking into our room in the middle of the night from a connecting door. It’s just possible that might have been the cause of our unexpected upgrade…to LaQuinta.
After driving around all day long in a hot car and then sitting in a hot car while my dad had his job interviews, my brother and I were in a rush to get to the swimming pool. I may never have changed clothes in such a hurry in my entire life. I put on my one-piece black and gold ruffled swimsuit that my best friend’s mother had made me. [I did have one friend. I admit it.] My best friend was the high school football coach’s daughter, and black and gold were the Nowhereville school colors. Also, I can explain the ruffles. It was the ‘80s. It’s not my fault.
We ran to the pool. I quickly befriended this young Latina girl. She was really spectacularly pretty, maybe a year or two older. I never knew a stranger. She invited us in on this game of keep away. It was a pretty spirited game, and even though I’m not generally a competitive person, keep away is one of those things like Scrabble, trivia games, and card games that I am very driven to win. I’m kind of a bitch about it, actually. I’ve had several people comment on my mean game of Spades, for instance. I’m serious! I will hurt you. A paper cut…or something.
Towards the end of the first game some boy came in and started playing on the opposite team. When it came time to pick sides for a second game the new boy became a team captain. He picked me for his team. I was his first pick. I was actually a little resentful about this, ‘cause I was probably smarting over having been beaten the game before. I asked him why he picked me, and he said, “’Cause you’re cute.”
Okay. I didn’t expect that. From about the time I turned 12 until I was 14 this guy may have been the only boy I knew who didn’t treat me like a leper.
Now this is what I remember about my Prince Charming. Since this happened in 1984, and I never knew his last name I think it’s safe to call him by his actual given name. His name was Randy. He was 14. He played football back home. He was from Oregon. And he had blond hair and green eyes and was really spectacularly handsome. Like he would have been just as handsome as the most popular boy in Nowhereville. The most popular boy in Nowhereville looked at least 3 years older than all his peers, and this guy was built like that.
We played keep away for awhile until Randy’s father came down to fetch him. I remember he had to be called more than once. And when he was about to get out of the pool he called me to him. He said, “C’mere.”
And I said, “Why should I?”
Charming, huh? This might be an example of the “intimidating” that men seemed to constantly use to describe me.
He said, “Because.”
So, I went. I’m actually easy like that. I just like to test men. Do you want me? Do you really want me? I’m like the Verizon phone commercial of romance.
He kissed me on the cheek. And I thought that would be it. And then I looked him in the eye, and he swooped in for the kiss. Just a peck. No tongue. Then he got out of the pool and walked off.
My new Latina friend said, “Wow! You work fast.”
I didn’t know if my brother witnessed it or not. I wasn’t about to ask him.
My brother and I had to leave soon afterward. Our mother called us. Something about dinner or something. You know those really freaky movies where they distort the cameras or sound to illustrate for people that the characters are dizzy or deaf or high or part of an alternative universe? Things like that? Jacob’s Ladder or What Dreams May Come or Requiem for a Dream. I was walking around in a Picasso painting.
I just could not believe it. A boy had kissed me. A cute boy. I stared at the ceiling for half the night with my fingers on my lips.
That is a happy memory. I think I just got misty eyed.
In the 90s a book came out that was later made into a movie. This book was the first book published from the pen of John Grisham, the lawyer turned author. In my opinion, it’s his best book. In some ways, it’s a modern day retelling of To Kill a Mockingbird. In Grisham’s A Time to Kill two ne’er do well good ol’ boys pick up an underage black girl named Tonia Haley and beat and rape her so severely that the damage from the rape makes her infertile.
Her father, Carl Lee Haley, realizes that in his mostly white Mississippi town two white boys will never be convicted of harming a black girl and that they will most likely go free. Carl Lee confers with a local counselor, the struggling defense attorney, Jake Briggance, and asks Jake if he’ll defend him should he need it. Jake, himself the father of a young girl close to Tonia’s age, agrees to defend Carl Lee should he need his services. Following that conversation, Carl Lee takes a shotgun to the courthouse on the day of the rapists’ arraignment and shoots the two men down in cold blood, accidentally shooting a peace officer as well, in the process.
The rest of the movie is about the fight to keep Carl Lee out of prison and away from the gas chamber. A Time to Kill is a story about a hate crime, specifically focused on race relations. In the end Jake gets Carl Lee acquitted by asking jury members to close their eyes while he describes the rape of a 9-year-old girl in gruesome detail. When he’s finished presenting the picture of a little girl tied up, raped, beaten, urinated on, and left to die he says, simply, “Now imagine she’s white.”
I want to tell you a story. Don’t close your eyes or you won’t be able to read the story, but you can see what I want you to see in your mind’s eye. This is the story of a little boy. This boy lives in a small Texas town that’s fraught with racial strife. The boy is Hispanic, and he’s 11 years old. He’s also a straight A student. His mother has been hospitalized recently with some health problems, and his father is an unemployed construction worker.
The boy has spent a lot of time hanging out with older kids in a bad neighborhood lately. People in this neighborhood have spotted him there on numerous occasions. They wonder what he’s doing there and why his parents don’t keep closer tabs on him. The boy is also on Facebook. On his profile, he says he’s 13 so that he’ll look older and tougher than he really is and so that maybe, just maybe he’ll attract older girls. He’s made posts involving drinking and sex.
One day the boy is out walking after school when three older boys offer to give him a ride. He accepts. He knows these boys, and he’s hung out with them before. They’re all African American, and they’re all much older than he is. They’re high school age. The boys all drive to a small blue house in the bad neighborhood, one that belongs to the aunt of one of the older boys.
The house is empty except for the four boys. There are no adults present. They go to one of the bedrooms of the house. They’re hanging out. Maybe they watch TV. Maybe they drink a beer or smoke a little pot. Suddenly, one of the older boys says, “I want you to suck my cock.”
The young boy is stunned. This request seems to come from left field. He tries to laugh it off.
A second older boy stands up and says, “You’re going to suck all our cocks.”
The little boy says, “And what if I don’t.”
The first older boy chimes in again. “First, we’ll beat you. Then you can walk home.”
The little boy looks at the older boys, and he realizes that they are serious. Any one of the three of them could pulverize him. The little boy doesn’t even weigh 100 pounds. These are big guys. They lift weights. They play high school athletics. One of them is double his size. His chance of taking on all three or of escaping is nothing.
The boy submits to the rape. The older boys take pictures and videos on their cell phones. The sexual activity takes place in a bedroom and in a bathroom. While the boy is cleaning up in the bathroom he hears the older boys talking on their cell phones and inviting some of their friends to also come over. The aunt who owns the house has come home, and one of the older boys takes him out of the bathroom and sneaks him out the back of the house and into the car.
The little boy has gone silent. Perhaps he is in shock. They made him do things he didn’t want to do, things that hurt him. He is bleeding. The older boys drive him to an abandoned mobile home in a trailer park on the edge of the bad neighborhood. He’s been here before. The yard is strewn with trash, and there are household items that probably belonged to the last, evicted tenants, lying on the curb.
More older boys and even some men show up, and they all use him sexually, too. Sometimes he is made to service more than one man at a time. He is afraid to say anything because there are now several men in the trailer, perhaps as many as 20 or more, and he is afraid that if he protests or fights they will beat him. They continue to take photos and video as they cheer him on. The little boy is tired, sore, and hurt. He wants to go home, but they won’t take him home until they are done. The attack takes several hours.
Finally, they do take him home, and in his humiliation he says nothing. He showers and goes to bed and resolves never to speak of it. He doesn’t want to shame his father or hurt his mother, especially with her health issues.
One day soon afterward he is called into the principal’s office because one of the perpetrators of the attack has emailed or texted pictures and video of the boy’s rape to several of his classmates. He is afraid and alone, but he tells the truth.
That’s a sad story, isn’t it? You feel sorry for that boy. You never question where his parents were during the attack. You never question why he accepted a ride with three older boys. You don’t think, like I once heard another blogger say about a rape victim, that the police were sent in to do a father’s job, as if only single mothers parent rape victims. You know, or at least you assume, that since the boy is posting about experience with drinking and sex that implies he’s no longer a virgin. You know that he’s working hard to appear older than he really is, with his Facebook profile, his clothes and appearance, and the friends he hangs around.
But you never thought he deserved what happened to him, did you? You never thought it was a racial conspiracy to get a whole generation of black men, did you? I hope you never blamed the boy for not protesting or trying to run away. I don’t think you probably thought that the boy had brought this on by his behavior or his appearance, although if his rapists were homosexuals it seems conceivable that they just couldn’t help themselves, or maybe not. What do you think? Do you think the actions of any 11 year old boy could cause a man to somehow have to rape him? You think this is a horrible crime, don’t you? And you think the boy’s not at fault for what happened to him at all. Now imagine the boy’s a girl.
This weekend was one of the Mr. Brewsters’ birthdays. Friday night we were supposed to meet at Cheesecake Factory to celebrate, but I had to leave work early because my tummy was upset Friday afternoon. So, I cancelled because I didn’t want to burp and fart all through dinner.
Saturday I spent the day with Lubbock, and we watched movies and made a pot of soup and some hot cider. I finally saw Inglorious Basterds. Pretty good movie. Then we watched Whip It, the Austin based story of a girl (Ellen Page) who decides that she wants to play roller derby instead of competing in beauty pageants. That movie was directed by Drew Barrymore, and I give it a solid B. It’s cute.
During the course of watching Inglorious Basterds, it suddenly occurs to Lubbock to tell me that she has met Quentin Tarrantino. I once wrote a post about my Brushes with Fame, more as kind of a big, fat joke than anything else, but Lubbock has met more famous people by accident than anyone I know. She used to be a model and wears a size 2; I have a theory that that might have something to do with it.
Lineman, Lubbock’s boyfriend, gives her a run for her money because he used to be a musician, so while I don’t know everyone he’s ever played with, and he doesn’t brag about it unless you coax him – Hel-lo! Jimmy Page!
But back to the story of how Lubbock knows Quentin Tarrantino, sort of. This was in 1989, and Tarrantino I guess was working on location on the crew of some movie set in Lubbock (the town, not my friend). And Quentin and Lubbock and one of her girlfriends hung out together one afternoon at the mall. This was right after Lubbock’s divorce when she was in a relationship with the Custard King, a man I finally met at a brunch with Lubbock at Trudy’s last weekend. Custard King, that is.
But back to Tarrantino.
Gooseberry: What’s he like?
Lubbock: Well, you know he used to be fat, and that he’s kind of nerdy. This was before he was famous.
Gooseberry: Yeah. Well, I can’t believe you never told me about this before. We’ve known each other for seven years.
Lubbock: It just never came up. I forget a lot now. Remember? Just the other day I forgot that you’ve aged at all in the last seven years. I still think you’re 32.
Gooseberry: Thank you.
Sunday I went to the Mr. Brewsters because one of the Mr. Brewsters was having a quiet birthday celebration at home, the one whose birthday it is. Lasagna and garlic bread and bruschetta and knockoff Olive Garden salad. Good stuff. We hung out all afternoon. I got him the second half of the first season of Glee on DVD. I had an unusually girly girl moment. I decided to buy some scrapbook stickers and decorate his gift bag.
I also bought a bunch of crap from the dollar bins at Target. Stuff for the Punky, all Disney princess stuff because every two year old needs her own Princess refrigerator magnets and her own Disney princess calendar.
The Target store I went to has a Michael’s across the street, so I bought some yarn and a crochet hook. I figured that without a dog I would have more time on my hands and so it would be good to start a hobby. So, I figured that one of the Mr. Brewsters (the older one) could teach me how to crochet. In truth, I’ve done some crocheting with thread when I was a kid, but I never had the patience for it. However, I figure that yarn has got to be more forgiving.
So, Mr. Brewster teaches me how to do a granny square, and I finish the first one, confident that I can remember the pattern because it is really easy. I finish three of them before the evening is over.
I ask him, “How many of these do I have to finish to have an afghan?” I wonder if the blanket is named after the dog and if they’re both named after the country. Or maybe the country is named after the blanket or the dog. In photos of Afghanistan, I never see anyone wearing crochet or knit wear.
“Oh, about a hundred.”
Three down, ninety-seven to go.
After the birthday dinner, I have a standing date to watch Boardwalk Empire every Sunday night with Lubbock. I finish another granny square there. Lubbock thinks it’s pretty cool that I can crochet. I was afraid that she would make fun of me. After the show ends, she flips around to some Lifetime movie called Who Is Clark Rockefeller?
This Lifetime movie is about a sociopathic con man who preys upon women and the woman who married him. It stars Sherry Stringfield from ER and Eric McCormack from Will & Grace. There’s a scene right after Sherry finds out that Will is actually this German exchange student who might have murdered someone, where she’s yelling across a table at him, with their divorce lawyers present, and she calls him a lying bastard. I think she might have spit. I laughed out loud; it was unintentionally funny.
Lubbock: This is serious. I find this movie creepy and disturbing. I tell you I watched it late one night last week, and I couldn’t get to sleep afterwards for some reason.
Gooseberry: I think they should rename this channel The Victim Channel. Have you ever noticed that all these TV movies are about a woman in peril?
Lubbock: That’s pretty good. Or the All Men Are Evil Channel.
Gooseberry: It would beat Lifetime. That’s not really indicative of the true spirit of the network.
Last weekend was Labor Day weekend. I was cat sitting for the Mr. Brewsters, who took Punky to see their families in the Chicago area for the first time. I also got the chance to have brunch with a friend and to spend some time with Lubbock and Lineman.
My weekend actually started Sunday. I met a friend for brunch at Taco More on Parkfield and Rundberg. My friend is a super smart Catholic gay man who’s not only studied theology but also taught it at the college level. I haven’t seen him in a long time, and it’s amazing to see the changes that have happened in his life, for the better.
I’ll call my friend Dave. We talked about a friend of his that has recently left his life, a woman that I’ve met on multiple occasions but have not had the pleasure of getting to know well. This was a decision that he was making to lose his friend based on choices that she was making that caused her to come across as wishy-washy and be less than reliable. Quite possibly, she is also isolating herself, and she has a habit of turning over her entire life in chaos every nine months. Nice number there. The exact gestation of a human baby.
After brunch, Dave took me back to his place that he now shares with a different roommate than the one that I was familiar with when we used to hang out. The whole house is lighter, cleaner, brighter, happier. The yard has been cleaned, and a tree where I once stared at a Christmas ornament dangling from a branch for hours, while high on pot, has been trimmed. An old bed of his has been transformed into a planter for a little backyard garden. Dave bought a push lawn mower and planted grass seed, and the place just really looks great.
We both talked about how much happier we are now. I gave him an update on The Girl From Out Of Town. She recently left her way beneath her admin job for the corporate offices of a large department store. She’s going to get training from Cornel University and start her own consulting business, working as a disability advocate, a passion of hers.
Sunday afternoon I called Katina. She’s recently broken up with her boyfriend and had to kick him out of the apartment they shared. She got a year of sobriety under her belt, but her boyfriend, a crack addict, has had two relapses now. She got him clean after the first one, and then he started using again. He’s moved into a house in my neighborhood, where he can score crack more easily from drug dealers. He’s unemployed, and he can’t pay for his fixes, so his roommates are being pestered for the money. He’s been abusive while high, and the police had to be called and she had to go to an emergency room for a fracture on her arm. She’s now drinking again, and she called me Monday afternoon, drunk, to cancel a tentative movie date that we had made.
I saw Lubbock and the Lineman Sunday night. I went over to hang out and snack on chips and queso. Lineman was watching a Texas Tech game and was quite obviously already three sheets to the wind. His speech was slurred, and it was the most drunk I’ve ever seen him get. Lubbock put him in jammies, and he passed out, snoring, for a while but eventually got back up and put his clothes on. He tried to explain to me why he drinks, which according to him, has something to do with having been a professional musician, and the fact that most people suck. Despite my offer to drive him home, he declined and drove himself home anyway. He said that at fifty years of age, he had earned the right to make his own decisions and mistakes. You can’t make someone do the right thing. I love Lineman. He’s great. But he breaks my heart.
Monday, Lubbock and I hung out at her apartment pool, and I got some sun. It was just the right amount. I got barely pink. Lubbock invited an old friend named Chris over. I’ve met Chris before. We met at Red Lobster, and Lubbock insisted that we make cheese garlic biscuits for dinner in honor of my first meeting of Chris. Chris is a cocaine addict who’s been in the program for many years. He’s also an attorney who used to command some of the highest rates in the state for criminal defense.
Chris is a really brilliant man. He asked me who my judge was, and when I couldn’t remember the name, I provided him with a physical description, and he gave me the name. Same thing with my attorney. We ate salmon fillets and Cajun cabbage and the mock Red Lobster biscuits. It was a good dinner, and then at about 7:00, when it started looking like Lubbock was getting tired of having company, Chris decided he wanted to attend a meeting at Club 101, which is in my neck of the woods. So, we went together. And that was nice. I hadn’t been to a meeting in a long time, and I forgot how important it was to be in the presence of other nut jobs like me, ones who have made the decision to be sober.
I went tubing down the Comal River this weekend with Katina and some of her friends. Some of the friends of Katina’s that joined us rode in the same car and are her roommates at a sober house in Austin. So, Katina and the lovely young women who accompanied us are all recovering alcoholics. Since tubing is a water sport that is generally acknowledged to have some risk of drowning involved, people in Texas usually do this activity without life jackets, and preferably off your ass drunk. So, the first tubing trip sober was a milestone for all of them. I’ve been tubing down the Guadalupe once before, completely sober, as a volunteer with a church youth group, and I very nearly drowned. So, I wasn’t really tempted to drink even if it wouldn’t have been a social faux pas of the worst kind.
We got on the river in New Braunfels, and we arrived near noon and waited for the rest of our party. The rest of our party consisted of a female friend of Katina’s and mine, another female friend of hers, and the friend’s daughter in law, daughter in law’s best friend and daughter in law’s best friend’s boyfriend. I was there, and I’m confused.
We waited in line to get in that river in one hundred plus degrees heat for over two hours while two girls behind exactly two cash registers took money for what was probably tens of thousands of tube rentals. During this long wait we had time to unfortunately get well acquainted, by accident, with what must be the MOST OBNOXIOUS MAN ON THE PLANET. Just trust me when I say he was a pig (because I’ll spare you most of his conversation) with a large protruding belly and a pre-existing sunburn which was peeling underneath his thick white globs of sunblock. I lived for the moments when he decided that he couldn’t handle the sun anymore and slipped away to seek the shade.
Both of Katina’s young roommates are exceptionally pretty young women with rocking bodies who are under the age of 22. At one point in the afternoon, the MOST OBNOXIOUS MAN ON THE PLANET decided to focus his attention on one of them and chat her up. I watched this with hawk eyes, ready to step in and clobber him if necessary. Sadly, I realize that somewhere along the line I have turned into a crone.
I heard an oversimplified view once of the stages of a woman’s life. First she’s a girl, then she’s a mother, then she’s a crone. And then she dies. Somewhere along the line I skipped directly from girl straight to crone. Instead of fighting men away, I am busy guarding the “virtue” of women who are easily young enough to be my daughters. My young friend didn’t pay much attention to Obnoxious, and he had just enough social sense to take the hint.
They charge $11 per tube and $14 for the tubes with bottoms where you store your coolers full of beer, or, in our case, diet Cokes. It is a cheap activity, and it’s an effective way to cool off in the heat. The water in the river is cooled by a natural spring, so it’s plenty cold all year round. If you don’t already know, tubing involves floating down the river in an innertube. Most of the activity is very serene, but there are things they call tube shoots which are like log rides at Six Flags, only you could die. On the Comal River where we got on there were three of them. Now I’m not a big sissy about stuff like this. I have been white water rafting on a big river before, and that’s a lot scarier than tubing. Also, I’m a strong swimmer.
Still, these tube shoots are nothing to sneeze at. You can get carried along by the current and lose your entire group. You can flip and get stuck under your innertube, lose your innertube, or, worse, get stuck in the current when you go under. Tube shoots are probably a little more dangerous when the river is low like it is now. You have to worry about your ass scraping along the bottom of the river.
When we first got on the river, our little foursome immediately lost the rest of our group. Then there was the difficulty of actually sitting comfortably on the innertube, which requires coordination, something I don’t have. I think I’ve probably previously mentioned that I am what polite people like to refer to as a full figured woman. Also, I find the term, “fluffy” to be acceptable. Ah, hell! I’m a fat chick.
Katina had to hold the end of my innertube where my head was down in order for me to get both feet through my tube. There was also a brief moment of cringing humiliation when the lifeguards helping us over the second tube shoot shouted, “Big One!” right before I went over the drop. I’m sure that was just a coincidence.
All in all, though, I had a lovely time. I always enjoy hanging out with Katina, who is never dull. And I liked her young roommates. They were sweet. Except for the sunburn that I will write about in my next blog, it was a perfect summer weekend.