How Many Times Have I Told You!

"How may times have I told you not to hump your sister while she's sniffing my butt!"

The words had barely left my mouth when my mind raced to figure out exactly how it was that I had come to be able to put those words together. Not only that, but that I had actually said it previously, validating the existence of the "How many times have I told you" prefix.

Sadly, I pictured Jeff Foxworthy on stage, that wry self-satisfied smile splitting his face like fire wood, exclaiming to a joyous audience, "You MIGHT be a redneck...if you say "How many times have I told you not to hump your sister while she's sniffing my butt" ... and you MIGHT be talking to your dogs!"

Riotous laughter. Another HBO series. Two more books. More money than a true redneck ought to have. List goes on.

Me. I say that (out loud, just to make it worse), and this strange sense of ick comes over me.

What brought me to this point? Who is this man? When did he get THAT tone?

I know where I got it. No doubt. I heard it from the two folks who came together in that way to make me all throughout my life (less the closer I get to thirty, stragely). I watched as both of my brothers started to develop certain voice inflection and began applying certain idioms and turns of phrase to their regular speech. I stared in horror into a mirror, much in the same way as a man who has just killed his wife stares at his hands in a glossy daze in amazement at what those hands just proved they were capable of, as I myself developed THE LOOK, THAT TONE, and Worse, "Did I just say that?"

Now, for the record (legal, clarity, etc.), I must add that my parents never said "How may times have I told you not to hump your sister while she's sniffing my butt!"

For one thing, they resent it when I refer to us in any of the terms commonly describing to the colour of a neck or the hue of trash.

Secondly, I never had a sister. My younger brother tried to fill that roll, but...

Thirdly, while a very close family, we're not THAT close.

This is in reference to the tone. Still, I also cannot deny that I spoke the aforementioned collection of words.

You see, I have five kids. However, of those 5 kids, there are 20 legs. If you're slow, my children are quadrapeds. Animals. Ok? I make jokes with my honey that since we've been together for about 5 years and have 5 kids, we must be Catholic.

So...maybe people can stop worrying about why he is writing this lengthy confession about butt-smelling. I said it to my two dogs, who happen to be brother and sister. I happened to be picking up poo (as parents are wont to do around their children, apparently), and as I crouched to pick up more and bag it, that is when the strange melee of dog odds and ends came about, resulting in the ever more embarrasing statement I find myself writing about.

I'm sure I'm not off the hook. Did I really think those words would register with my two kids? Did I think?

I find that the longer I am surrounded by animals (my youngest, the kitty has just jumped up on my lap and is kneading a soft spot into my lap, occassionally pausing to bat at a lock of hair falling on my face), the more I find myself trying to reason with them, saying things my parents said and using the tones they did. I'll bet they didn't think that oldest form of parental revenge would come about in quite this way (Wait till you have children of your own!). I unfortunately, cannot use that parental threat, as I made the smart move of neutering and spaying my children. Thanks mom and dad, for not being like me!

I'll stand and give them the look. Dog grabs a pork chop off a plate? The eye. Cat scratches at the couch? "Son, what have I said?" Princess pees on the rug? "Young lady! Xena Ladybird Pavesic! What do you think you're doing?"

My eldest (don't I sound like the proud grandma at the rest home? or woman at the PTA?) is deaf. Does that stop me from standing over him, shrieking at the things he does, demaning explinations? Hell no. "WOULD YOU STOP THAT INFERNAL BANGING? WE INSTALLED THE CHILDLOCKS ON THE CUPBOARDS TO KEEP YOU OUT OF THE CLEANING CHIMACALS!" All the while, my little boy continue to struggle against the doors, creating a loud bang as each attempt is stopped by the childlock and brought back to close slamming against the frame.

I wonder what truths my parents tried to teach me will come out when I set up the fish tank?


Excerpt from a Life Coaching Newsletter

As always, your privacy is of paramount importance to us and we would hate to invalidate your feelings by betraying your trust issues and selling or sharing (although sharing is caring) your contact information with any outside (but NOT an outsider, yet perfectly right in its own existence) agency.

Be sure not to miss (although you are certainly entitled to if you wish to) "Change Your Story, Change Your Life" in the next issue of The Thriving Zone. I'll be sharing coaching insights and holistic stir fry recipes from my visit to the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. Following that, in our new column, the Carpool Lane, we will take an in-depth look at team building exercises that can maximize your workflow and corporate energy to build nurturing and long lasting opportunities for networking. Such skills as paper airplanes and pipe cleaner animals will be explored.

We'd like to ensure that you continue to receive and share in the positive experience that only stems from being a member in a life-affirming and nurturing Thriving Zone without interruption, if you choose to. It's ok if you don't want to. Your decisions are your own. And you're right in whichever you choose. Because it is yours. And no one can take that from you.


I Survived the Alamo. Chapter Three

Earlier, I promised some exciting subsections to my tale of adventure and opportunity in San Antonio, TX. At the time, meaning closer to my return from that jewel of central Texas, they seemed pretty damn exciting, or at least witty, engaging or self-gratifying. However, as hind-sight gains corrective lenses, and the temperance of time slowly pulls me from the muck, mire and drama of my own little brain, I realize that we can do without much of the detail. In fact, my mind gave up on the detail four months ago, so there really isn't anything else to tell. I'll try and breeze through to get to something really interesting.

The End.


The San Antonio Riverwalk

Way cooler than it was in Cloak and Dagger, although fewer machine guns and three fingered old ladies.

We went for a walk shortly after breakfast to view the historic splendor that is the San Antonio Riverwalk. It's a river that winds its way through the heart of downtown San Anton. And yes, you walk along it. Along the way there are a variety of restaurants, and it all seems to dump you right into a mall. Convenient.

Out front was a group of Andean musicians playing traditional pipes and drums. You've seen them in every tourist district in the United States. I don't know how they became a major fascination. All I know is many years ago, I was walking through a swap meet in Hawaii. The pleasant and oh-so mystical sounds of pan flutes and guitars and drums wafted over the used goods. I was hooked. I bought all their CDs and though t I was soooooo worldly. Well, they've moved up in the world from the days of swap meets in Hawaii. They are now ubiquitous in the realm of tourist dollars. Good for them, I say. I highly doubt that anyone at an Anne Klein or Neiman Mark-up is really concerned with sending money back to their expansive families in undernourished nations. While it seems that they all always play the same songs, this group was doing something different. They were playing covers of popular artists like Eric Clapton, the Beatles and Milli Vanilli.

And still more to come after these commercial breaks of productivity!

*Monty's Guide to the Alamo
*Lyle Lovett
*More Andean Cover Bands, La Cucaracha at your First Communion and Santa Coming through the Roof
*Dolores Del Rio Ristorante - Italian Food, Mexican Decor, beatnik vibe, Chicago blues band and a bellydancer
*Joe's Crab Shack - Got Crabs? Hope not!
*Goodwill towards Blind Men, Cold tourists, and parking restrictions on the Governor's Palace. If this is a regular candy bar: "Mommy, mommy, can Ricky come out to play?" Then this is an O'Henry: "Hi, Rick. Busy tonight?"
*The Triple Threat: Davey (I mean, David) Crockett, Casket makers and the Museum of Texan History and Taxidermy.
*So Long, San Anton.

And then!

*Port Aransas, the "last undeveloped stretch of coastal real estate in the United States."
*The Sand Castle
*Talcum Powder, Black Goo and Salt
*Giant Sharks Eat Tourists, Maybe Santa
*The Ferry, don't feed the non-existent dolphins your vomit.
*The Prophetess
*What Are Mexicans Doing at a Mexican Restaurant!?

And finally!

*This Hitchhikers Guide to Ontario California


Lose Weight or Buy New Clothes

Married life will do it to you. Then again, so does quitting smoking or cutting methamphetamines from your daily diet.

I recently attended a friend's wedding. It was a lovely affair...um, no, wait, that is not supposed to sound that way. But no, my boyfriend didn't go.

At the reception, my friend (the groom) and I were talking. We coverd such lovely topics as the intoxicated state of his new mother-in-law and the fact that I travelled further than anyone to be there, and what he should do on his pre-honeymoon. Then he smiled, sat back in his chair and said, "Well, I'm married now. I can finally let myself go." He's a personal trainer.

As I was walking home from our neighbour's house (our bathroom is being remodelled and I couldn't wait another week to go), I realized that somehow I was bringing back the midriff for men. I know it has come back for women, and mostly for those who's mid or riff you would not care to look at. How about mine? I was wearing a tanktop that was cutting into my armpits and giving my navel some peek-a-boo rehearsal. Admittedly, it was a really old wife-beater that has seen more stains than a throng of GWAR fans. It's a good thing the nieghbours are so far away, and really don't care.

Maybe it's time to get some new clothes. Now I don't mean new new. I haven't bought brand new clothing in years (except for the time we hadn't done laundry in two months and I desparately needed socks that didn't talk back). I just mean a nice trip to a thift store with actual changing rooms where I can get a sense of whether the pants would fit comfortably even if they weren't being pulled on over another pair. I probably own more pants that can be pulled on or off while wearing hiking boots.

That would be lovely. Shopping...something I don't do much anymore, unless Fred pulls me into a second hand shop because there's an awesome desk that we can't live without. I'd be willing to bet that our other five desks couldn't live without it either. They're a growing family and we're the fertility clinic.

This all unfortunately brings to mind a very important point. Where to put it? I recently rearranged all the dressers (another client in our booming fertility clinic, although their growth rate compared to the desks is like Central America to Norway). There is an entire five-drawer unit filled to the brim with T-shirts. Don't tell me I don't know how to fold. It's one of the useful things I picked up in the military without actually enlisting (entirely different and less suitable for all audiences tale). One of the other dressers has another drawer for T-shirts. There are three drawers of socks. Two of underwear. Two closets are filled with shirts ranging from cowboy shirts that look like corsets on me to oversized sweaters that are good out here in the desert for about a twelfth of the year. An entire shelf the full length of a closet is stacked with folded pants.

You'd think we should get rid of some things. But we can't.

Many of the T-shirts are collector's items. Well worn collector's items, but memorabilia just the same. It's not unlike Fred's collections of coffee mugs, tikis and crucifixes, or my collections of broken toys, renderings of the Last Supper and disturbingly tacky snowglobes.

There are T-shirts for just about every company either of us has ever worked for. Add to that a comprehensive museum of every Dot-Bombed start-up that ever said "Free T-shirt" in a 400-mile radius of Fred. There are series, such as Fred's Southwest airlines credit card T-shirts for every airport they fly out of and some depicting comic books he has worked on. Then there's my collection of small, tattered tshirts printed with a variety of Picasso paintings.

There is an entire stack of pants that Fred hasn't been able to fit into since we moved in together. It's my fault we still have those. I keep telling him to try some on and decide whether they will ever grace his legs again. Then, I throw them in the middle of a stack of my pants that I'm currently wearing. I need to just set them on his keyboard and make him try them on in front of me. Tee hee.

My pants are a different story. They each have stories. Where I got them. When I got them. Who with. How much. It's like journalism 101. Who, what, where, why, when and how much. As I rooted through the stack the other day, I came upon a lovely pair of irredescent blue plaid corduroy pants. You don't come across those every day. They were in the women's section of a goodwill, but had ample butt-room for me. They had been only $4.00. I haven't worn them in probably a year or two. There's no way they would fit right now, and I don't seem to retain the commitment to get more exercise and gain some air space between my thighs. I live in the desert. Heavy corduory that's too tight just doesn't cut it.

But how can you part with irredescent blue plaid corduroy pants? You just don't. You don't just throw that in the red cross pile. You have to carefully consider who would give them a good home. Who would wear them proudly and pass on the oral trdition of this pair of pant's history and cultural identity? Someone who knows how cool they are despite not being able to match them with anything. Those who know that's the point. Those...who don't mind you passing off hand-me-downs and aren't your younger sibling (my younger brother rolls his eyes every time he sees what I wear...and he knows it's not my mother that dresses me funny).

Hell yes I'm vain. It may not look like it. But if you dig down, way past all my surface pretensions, I'm really very shallow. I love my clothes, perhaps more than breathing. I have bad taste, but at least it is taste.

Then comes a big hurricane and there are lots of people in need. I'm torn. So are half the crotches in my pants, armpits in my shirts, toes in my socks, and, um, my underwear.

Sex on a Ladder

That got your attention.

If you ever see images of a couple having sex on a ladder, don't trust them.

With the way most ladders are built, the only way those photos were taken without the models breaking bones is by posing. No actual love making or hot action. They woulc have to be completely motionless or otherwise the whole erotic affair would end up a pile of naked body parts and bent aluminum.

Either that, or they lead such a boring sex life that they don't actually disturb the balance of the ladder. In that case, the ladder is just there to make you think they are kinkier than they are.


Reading Two Each Other. What Is High-Brow?

When I was a child, back in the days when my brother and I shared a room, my parents, especially my mother would read to us. My dad did too, but at that age, mom was the stay-at-home, while dad was away at work all hours. Only later, when we were teenagers, did that role reverse, but by then your parents reading to you is super no bueno.

I loved it when my mother would read to us. She passionately believes in reading. This is a good thing since she is a language arts teacher...imagine if she lacked that zeal. I come from reading stock. I'm not voracious, but I enjoy books. She'd curl up with us, although the bunk bed was often asking a bit too much of the girl, and carry us along into imagination on the back of her voice. My brother and I could read. We'd been able to since well before kindergarten. But mom enjoyed the experience of shared reading, and bestowed that appreciation on my brother and me.

That was where I really got into two of my all-time favourite books: James and the Giant Peach and The Fattypuffs and Thinnifers. We ride the Great Glass Elevator and Wrinkle Time. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, as just about anything Judy Blume felt like wiping her nose with, was enjoyment and life-applicable.

Alright already! I liked it.

Well, my boyfriend was recently looking for something new to read. Despite his certifiable "voraciousness" for reading and amazing pace (I once dropped out of a speed reading class to enjoy the fleeting Wisconsin summer), I knew that there were still books under our roof that he had not read. These are, as he puts it, "too high-brow" for him to read...MY books. You'd think I was this amazingly intelligent, literate person, but no.

I have developed a taste in literature that finds very little comraderie in most circles today, especially in my age demographic. Rarely do I like many things written in the past 30 years. I tend to like Victorian literature, and anything else dark and nihilistic written since. Against the better and more perspicacious observations of those about me, I do NOT like the Beats.

Trash novels are just that, although I am currently reading a despicably trashy and completely made-up narrative biography of Omar Khayyam, written in the early thirties, and complete with all the attitudes of the day. An African slave is even referred to by the pronoun "it." Alright...I tend to the extremes.

If my literary taste (or lack thereof) was a novel itself, the dust jacket would be littered with the following quotes. My boyfriend once told me years back, "You're the only 21-year-old I know who reads George Bernard Shaw for kicks." A friend back in Chicago offered thanks for giving him the opportunity "to drop in casual conversation the fact that I know someone who 'enjoys the obscure Dickens'."

I can't help it. I have no real intention of reading any Steele, King or that guy who's name I forget but always writes about lawyers and thrillers. Give me Kobo Abe instead. I like reading Orwell. I LOVE sitting for a couple months with a good Dickens (Hey! He's long-winded and I have a short attention span). Kafka is always pleasant. I could rattle off titles and authors, but the unorthodoxy should be clear.

Anyways, I don't remember who brought it up, but a friend of mine and I were chatting over the romantic and potentially sensual aspects of couples reading to each other. She asked if my boyfriend and I did.

Her response to my response was that it would make a great piece. Hence...

We read in bed. We both read side by side. He takes it one step further and pretty much reads throughout the day as well. I read in bed at night, and it shuts off the "reality-sensitive" portion of my brain long enough to drift off to sleep.

I don't really remember how much we tried. I do remember climbing into bed with him, and for a while I was reading portions of David Sedaris stories to him. We'd lay in bed a giggle. Then, he'd start snoring, and my mouth would go dry.

"Honey, would you like me to read some more to us tonight."


I know he finds my voice soothing. Why, I don't, but I stopped questioning why he loves me in favour of soaking it up while it's there.

However, the act of reading out loud actually woke me up. I did not find myself drifting off to Sandmanland when reading aloud in bed.

Occassionally, we still read random passages to one another. I'm currently reading a bunch of Erma Bombeck and inflict it upon him. He's reading one of him many books on the origin of the conscience blah blah something involving the bicameral mind or the nature of cultural something or other in post-Christ society. MY taste in literature is too high brow!

He'll pull off a line from one of his boooks. I fling a line of Erma Bombeck (or for real fun, Lytton Strachey). Thus it becomes a little battle across the bed. He hits me with a paragraph about an alternative sociological view on Christ feeding the masses, and I respond with an anecdote about being a two car family. He smacks my slowly drifting consciousness with a passage on the emergence of the subconscious in ancient Greeks and its impact on modern democracy. I retaliate with a particularly witty late 19th Century put-down directed at an emerging Catholic Cardinal.

Romance. Oh yeah. Sensual? You bet.


What is irony?

Me. The guy who barely considers himself American. The kid who grew up overseas, pretending to be Asian so that I could get more dates. The boy who went to a private international school based on European college preperatory curricula. I, despite having been a Boy Scout in a troop based out of a U.S. Navy base, have little or no reverence for patriotism, jingoism, flags, slogans, governments and the whole lot.

Once upon a time, the Fourth of July (if it does indeed deserve capital letters) was an excuse to A) not work, B) barbecue and C) get drunk. Now, it generally serves as an excuse to avoid the greater masses of those persons finding themselves "celebrating" "something" involving red, white and blue.

Now, I like ties. For many years, they made execellent colourful belts. Silk ones blew because it was hard to keep the knot in place, and thus keep your pants up (not always a bad bit of circumstance, but generally...). A numebr of years ago, as I learned more and more what a freakish offshoot of the "gay community" I was, it dwaned on me that ties could be worn around my neck. More importantly, they didn't have to be worn all the way up as the suits did. Most importantly, they could be had cheap at finer and not-so-finer thrift stores. Mostest importantly, they offered still another pallette for mixing colours and prints that the more taste-oriented segments of society find distasteful, ugly or down-right disturbing. As Robotman once warned Monty, "Stop it! You're damaging Martha Stewart's aesthetic compass!"

I'm still in search of the perfect fish tie.

Some time ago, and I don't remember where, but somewhere, obviously, I found and purchased (goodbye, shop lifting days) a stars and stripes tie. I knew it would be just perfect and darling for any non-patriotic observance or occassion. It wasn't just a plain ole every day stars and stripes tie (thank God that makes no sense). If you hold it at the proper angle to the light, small irredescent swirls start to appear in random across it. It's so pretty.

Anyways, I hadn't worn it yet. Along comes July, as it has the habit of doing. Then, through the conspiracy of ordinal numbers, the Fourth appears. I'm getting ready to go meet up with some folks, and it seems like a tie kind of day. I open my cabinet wherein lies my collection of ties. There it is. The stars and stripes. Should I wear it? I was saving it for a date other than Independence Day. Isn't it too obvious to wear this tie on this day of all days? Doesn't that go against what wearing the tie is about?


Would it be even better that I, of all people, wear this tie, of all ties, on this day, of all days?

Thinking...it can kill you.


I Survived the Alamo. Chapter One

Previously, Fred and Matthew journeyed to Texas for vacation and mom-seeing.

Runaway Brides, Waffles, and a Morbid Morning

I waited for the firemen to leave. I didn't want to wake Fred, and I couldn't go back to sleep. After waiting a safe period, I ventured out into the hotel. It was around 5 in the morning.

Hotels these days offer some amazing breakfasts, especially the cheap ones (hotels or breakfasts, you decide). This one had not only an amazing coffee machine that made it by the cup after you press the buttons for the desired type and strength, but a WAFFLE IRON! They had little cups of waffle batter set out, and a waffle iron with a built in timer to remind you when to flip and when to serve. It was early, and there was almost no one down, save for a couple of maintenance guys and the desk clerk.

CNN was rattling off, over and over, the top stories shaping our world, including the discovery of the runaway bride (the clerk and I shared views on taking her back: "Give me back the ring bitch"), some sort of sex and drugs blackmail scandal at a San Antonio area military training centre, the Jewish Cowboy running for governor, and the 60th anniversary of Hitler's suicide.

I made some waffles, vended myself some coffee and sat with my book (Burmese Days) to await the dawn. Man it got boring. The woman at CNN San Antonio reread the same stories over and over (I wonder if she was just looped), I drank more and more coffee, and stepped out for yet another smoke.

A walk! That would be lovely. I didn't have to go far. Right behind the hotel was the most beautiful abandoned mill I have ever seen. I want it. I walked around some more, found the jail, multiple bail bondsmen, two mortuary services, and a motel with "Fantasy Rooms" available. We definitely picked the right part of town.

Having had a morbid enough morning, I sauntered (I was in Texas, and could therefore not sashay) back to the motel, to find Fred awake and aggressively caffeinating.

Soon, it was time to go meet mommy for breakfast. I went in to take a shower. It was a pretty standard hotel/motel bathroom, although the room service here did not find it a "nice touch" to fold the ends of the toilet paper roll into a point. I got undressed, turned on the water, and as I pulled the shower curtain, realized that someone had burned cigarette holes into the curtain in the shape of a jack-o-lantern smile. Yay...The day was looking up.

"Romantic, Historic, Newly Renovated" the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk

Fred in his infinite internet-based intuition had booked our Microtel room only a short distance from where my mother was staying. While not exactly close to the convention centre where the IRA fest was to occur, the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk was undoubtedly costing the school my mom works for a pretty penny. Never mind the fact that my mother's boss (Mel) also dragged along the company credit card which was going to cost the school even more to feed them and us.

It was quite a fancy little piece of four star accommodation. At times, the place seemed more like a hipster club. The lobby was a split level affair with dark shades of black, red and gold. The entry way had a waterfall beneath a stone arch, emptying into a U shaped pond, lined with river stones. Speakers pumped out that strange blend of electronica, lounge and trip-hop that is all the rage in the urban-cool. The sound of the water and the tunes made for quite an impression. Not so much a fancy luxury hotel, as a high-budget afterhours club. The hallways were painted red, and the tracklighting and exposed ventilation ducts were hidden behind black metal grating along the ceiling, adding to the club atmosphere.

The Secret Knock

Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits.

Thus was the secret, and ever so original, secret knock to announce our visit to my mother's hotel room (which she shared with her boss, Mel, and coworker, Karen). The door began to open, and I was on the verge of booming out my traditional, and ever so original, "Are you decent?" However, the room was dark, and my mother hurriedly crept out the door and whispered "Mel and Karen are still asleep." So, no...They weren't decent.

It was so wonderful to see my mom. The last time I saw her,a few years previous, I was in an unhealthy and far from sane period in my life. The funny thing was, SHE looked a lot healthier than the last time I saw her, and I know I did. Fred, mom and I hugged and kissed and 'so good to see you'd in the hallway before going back down to Citrus, the hotel restaurant.

The breakfast buffet spread was a tad fancier than the Microtel's. For one thing, there was no sign of either a soda machine or CNN. There were waitstaff and white cloth napkins. The buffet was pretty standard fair (no more waffles, though), with silver chaffing dishes with an assortment of grits, oatmeal, red potatoes, bacon/sausage and croissants. Yes, standard. Very standard. Plus, you could get a made-to-order-before-your-eyes omelet. No Do-It-Yourself waffle, but pretty fancy.

Before long, we had worked through what all of our flights had been like and what was going on with dad (still at home) and our animals (also still at home). Mel and Karen appeared, and much to the dismay of the hostess and our waiter (who wasn't sure what to make of us anyways), we rearranged our table, stole another chair and squeezed in for an intimate Guamanian breakfast (in spirit, since most definitely not in flavour). My family has always left a strange impression on the employees of food service establishments. We're outgoing and courteous, but also disarmingly chatty (even in the AM hours) with people serving us coffee and food. The nicer the restaurant (which I believe provokes a certain level of pretension), the more confused the staff is by our down home lack of status-consciousness.

We casually noticed that it was raining outside, and went back to gorging on the all-you-could-eat-ness of it all, catching up on the politics of Guam, the politics of the school they work at and I graduated from, and the goings-on with my brothers (who mom would be visiting with after the convention).

*The San Antonio Riverwalk
*Andean Cover Bands, and the Mall
*Monty's Guide to the Alamo
*Lyle Lovett
*More Andean Cover Bands, La Cucaracha at your First Communion and Santa Coming through the Roof
*Dolores Del Rio Ristorante - Italian Food, Mexican Decor, beatnik vibe, Chicago blues band and a bellydancer
*Joe's Crab Shack - Got Crabs? Hope not!
*Goodwill towards Blind Men, Cold tourists, and parking restrictions on the Governor's Palace. If this is a regular candy bar: "Mommy, mommy, can Ricky come out to play?" Then this is an O'Henry: "Hi, Rick. Busy tonight?"
*The Triple Threat: Davey (I mean, David) Crockett, Casket makers and the Museum of Texan History and Taxidermy.
*So Long, San Anton.

And then!

*Port Aransas, the "last undeveloped stretch of coastal real estate in the United States."
*The Sand Castle
*Talcum Powder, Black Goo and Salt
*Giant Sharks Eat Tourists, Maybe Santa
*The Ferry, don't feed the non-existent dolphins your vomit.
*The Prophetess
*What Are Mexicans Doing at a Mexican Restaurant!?

And finally!

*This Hitchhikers Guide to Ontario California

I Survived the Alamo? (prologue)

"Well, the weatherman has been saying we were supposed to get thunderstorms for the last two weeks. Figures. It's been beautiful, but it looks like they are finally arriving." So said the man checking us out of the Avis Rent-a-Car lot at the San Antonio airport as we arrived at sunset on Friday evening. The giant Texas sky was, well, massive (Everything IS bigger in Texas, or so the T-shirt said), and the sun setting was leaving a broad smear of purples, pinks and oranges across the sky. The rains came, all two hours worth, and left us a wonderful time in Texas.

Fred and I were going on a vacation. Normally, trips anywhere involve going with some specific agenda and staying with "someone" who "knows where to go" and "what to do." While this trip did have an agenda, it was to be fairly neutral territory.

My mother lives overseas (in Guam, if precision is of any interest to you, Latte Heights if you want more specifics...Street addresses are meaningless there, so I can't go that far). She also a member of the IRA. That one gets people. No, it is not the Irish Republican Army. God, I could see our Danish and Croatian ancestors rolling if we thought it would be a good idea to be members of the nationalist army of a completely different country. Especially since the most notable of historic figures our family has produced was a lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian military that helped squash the Boxer Rebellion...Big on migratory freedom fighters us.

Actually, my mother one year, co-taught (she's a teacher, by the way) with a woman from Ireland. In order to be polite, she asked the new teacher if she would like to go with her to an IRA meeting. The vibe of the introduction changed immediately. Mom, realizing what she had just said, quickly added that she was a member of the International Reading Association. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, gurl, I thought ya were asking me to join the army." They hit it off quite well after that.

Anyways, mom was coming to the States for the 50th International Reading Association's conference. She doesn't get to the States that often (I think this is the second time in like ten years), so it was a big deal. We had already lobbied hard for her to take personal days (in contract time, that's not easy) to go after the convention to see my brothers in Chicago. Therefore, it behooved Fred and me, with our flexibility and whatnot, to go see her while she was conventioning and conferencing in San Antonio. To boot, Fred's parents have a condo on the Gulf Coast in the "last undeveloped stretch of coast land in the United States," so we would also see them on this trip.

It was about time to finally meet his parents. We've only been together for 4 or 5 years, now. I think an appropriate courtship period has passed to finally ask his parents for his hand in marriage, or at least try to turn over the first impression made with my ever preceding reputation.

So...We go.

We planned on spending 4 nights in San Antonio hanging out with my mom. Then we'd drive down to the coast and spend 4 nights with Fred's folks.

The San Antonio airport is quite lovely. They have a whole bunch of tile murals on the walls of cowboys, Mexican dancing girls and limes.

We get to the Avis rent-a-car desk (Avis was the cheapest rental of our search, so we went with Avis. Yes, I get a commission for every time I say "Avis" in this text. If I had the skills, every "Avis" would also be a link to their website. Alas... Avis.

This lovely girl behind the counter was so much fun. She wanted to know all about the reason for our trip and what we were planning to do and such. According to the name tag, her name was "Trainee." I don't know if that was her name or her title. With some people's names these days, you never can tell.

Title or given name, Trainee was lovely. She had a smile and an opinion for everything. Included in these bits of opinion was the profluence of confusing one-way streets in San Antonio that changed names after a few blocks ("I hab lived here for 15 years, and Ah steel don't know mah way from one place to anuder."), her husband's attempts to provide her with Jamaican food in Texas to stave off homesickness (Boy, dat's not how chicken is made in dah islands. What's wit da soupiness? He tries, but jus doesn't know.") and the Gulf Coast (Well, dat place is not like dah beach. You want sand? Or gravel?" With this she would hold up both hands as if weighing the possibilities). We were having a marvelous first five minutes in San Antonio laughing it up with Trainee.

Then she asked, "Are you brudders?" No, was our reply. "Oh, are you spouses?" Wow! That was not the sort of question one expected to be asked while traveling with his boyfriend in Central Texas by the Jamaican woman at the rent-a-car counter. I love Trainee. I hope she changes her name to Manager sometime soon.

We got our rental car and headed for our Microtel, chosen for its free wireless broad band internet access and price as our lodging for the duration of our stay in San Antonio. It was located in one of those typical not-so nice areas, often downtown adjacent, in cities. After getting lost, ending up literally on the wrong side of the tracks, looping around the river which seems to also loop around us, and stumbling upon a building (I think it is the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Centre) whose facade was a giant replica of one of those Virgin Mary glass candles oft seen in supermarkets and dollar stores. Way cool, but for a moment if felt like I was back in the islands myself, with shanty structures and close-to-naked children playing in the semi-paved streets. Oh boy...Where the hell is our hotel?

Finally finding it, we check in, get to our room and collapse. I figure I should call mom to see if she made it in alright and if they wanted to do dinner or something. She had gotten in earlier in the day, and I figured she was probably wiped from the lengthy air travel and already asleep. I called and left a message in the hotel room's voicemail (fancy, that). Fred and I hadn't eaten, and did not feel like going out and getting lost some more, so we picked up the flier shoved under the door. It was from a "Chicago Pizza" place in downtown San Antonio. It also made a big deal of advertising that they use "Real" cheese (with that little swoopy logo you see everywhere making you think that yes, the real does belong in quotes) and if you order using your "cell" phone, you get a free Coca-cola. Well, how could I pass up a Chicago pizza (I do believe that it most certainly did not say "Chicago-style pizza" but only "Chicago pizza") with a free Coca-cola? So I ordered, and made damn certain that I let them know I was calling from a cell phone. I want my free coke!

It arrived quickly. My coke was a generic brand "cola" and I think the reason they say "Chicago pizza" is not that it is like pizzas made in Chicago, but was probably mailed down and reconstituted for delivery in Texas. Still, it served as dinner as we lay on the bed and watched the A&E Biography on Paula Abdul (what a trooper). Hey, we don't get any channels at home, so a definite part of staying in hotels is taking advantage of cable in all it's glorious reminders that I really don't want to pay to have it at home.

By the way, mom called. She wasn't out cold from travel. She was out, having dinner and seeing the city. Bugger.

We made plans to meet up in the morning for breakfast and assorted sundry mayhem, and in the meantime: "Good night. Sleep tight. Looking forward to seeing you in the morning. Love you. Bye."

That night, pizza gone, "Coke" drank, credits rolling on Paula Abdul's life story, George Orwell's Burmese Days started upon, I slept and I dreamed. I dreamed that firemen with axes were trying to breakdown my hotel room door and kill me. In a series of amazing action hero moves I could never pull off in real life (at least, I really hope I am never given the opportunity to prove that I cannot do it in real life), I dodged axes so that they plunged into each other, kicked some fireman ass (turning heroes in gyros), and ran for the fire escape (you don't use the elevators in such circumstances).

Waking with a start, I opened my eyes yto find there were flashing lights blinking around the corners of the warped and faded curtains of the Microtel. I got up, peered around the curtains, and there were fire trucks lined up in front of the hotel.

Oh hell!

It was 4:30, and I was not going back to sleep. I know that the Fire Department's presence was the reason for the dream, but I was not about to put myself in the way of any axes. I hid in the room, lights out, paranoically peering around the corner of the curtains, waiting for the fire trucks to go home. Fred was sound asleep.

As it turned out, it was prom weekend, and an after-prom party was underway on the third floor. Some kids thought it would be fun to spray the fire extinguishers. This set off the alarms (which Fred and I somehow slept through and therefore did not evacuate the building because of), summoning the Fire Department, invoking my action packed dream sequence, leading to about 4 hours of sleep for poor Matthew.

Matthew! Welcome to San Antonio!

Stay tuned for:

*Smiley Face Cigarette burns and CNN
*The Secret Knock, our first breakfast in San Antonio
*"Romantic, Historic, Newly Renovated" the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk
*The San Antonio Riverwalk
*Andean Cover Bands, and the Mall
*Monty's Guide to the Alamo
*Lyle Lovett
*More Andean Cover Bands, La Cucaracha at your First Communion and Santa Coming through the Roof
*Dolores Del Rio Ristorante - Italian Food, Mexican Decor, beatnik vibe, Chicago blues band and a bellydancer
*Joe's Crab Shack - Got Crabs? Hope not!
*Goodwill towards Blind Men, Cold tourists, and parking restrictions on the Governor's Palace. If this is a regular candy bar: "Mommy, mommy, can Ricky come out to play?" Then this is an O'Henry: "Hi, Rick. Busy tonight?"
*The Triple Threat: Davey (I mean, David) Crockett, Casket makers and the Museum of Texan History and Taxidermy.
*So Long, San Anton.

And then!

*Port Aransas, the "last undeveloped stretch of coastal real estate in the United States."
*The Sand Castle
*Talcum Powder, Black Goo and Salt
*Giant Sharks Eat Tourists, Maybe Santa
*The Ferry, don't feed the non-existent dolphins your vomit.
*The Prophetess
*What Are Mexicans Doing at a Mexican Restaurant!?

And finally!

*This Hitchhikers Guide to Ontario California