1/30/03 Day 40 of the


Day 40 of the Doing Our Part To Salve the Fragile Skin of Our American Economy Road Trip of Ne’er-Ending Strip Malls, Car Dealerships and Bennigan’s

Houston, TX

Just to show you how committed I am to bringing quality entertainment to each of you every night, I did a little “timer” picture to show you the “office” I’ve been using to “log on” to “the internet”:

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It’s actually been quite peaceful, here in the front seat of the car. I’ve got the satellite radio tuned to the XM Classics station (currently playing: Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata), and the seats in this rented Infinity go waaaay back. Our gas-guzzlin’ Land Rover we call Ol’ Bessie finally got so fucked up we had to take it into the shop. I was okay with half the lights not working, but I wasn’t going to drive another 2000 miles with Tessa’s seat belt broken.

It’s great to get this stuff done in Houston, which is a town geared to separate you from your money in the most uninspiring way possible. The miles of Office Depots, Chevy dealerships, Super Walmarts, Sweet Mesquite restaurants, and strip malls laden with nail salons and cell phone outlets is truly something to behold; like a desert of commerce, it stretches for miles and miles until the Staples stores and Thank God It’s Fridays disappear into the horizon. I’ve seen nonsensical sprawl before, but this is truly biblical in scale.

Naturally, we’re abusing it like good Americans. We dealt with the Land Rover, we got Chopin a desperately-needed bath, replaced some Banana Republic sweaters stolen from the break-in and then wandered around the Barnes & Noble in a consumerist daze. We didn’t buy that much, but somehow wandering around all these stores makes a body exhausted.

Tonight came a dinner Tessa had been dreading due to the Herculean burden her family’s past has placed on her: a roundtable at the Houston Country Club with Tom, Michelle (both half-siblings from different mothers) and Muffet, a character much-discussed in the Five Wives film. To be clear, Muff was wife #5, Tessa’s mom was wife #4, Tom’s mother was wife #3 and Michelle’s mom was wife #2. There’s all kinds of estate stuff from which Tessa was thankfully spared – but with so many twisted trunks of the family tree, and the myriad control issues of ol’ Blakey, there’s more than enough weird stuff swirling around the backwaters of Houston to keep the conversation lively.

It’s enough to be thankful that I came from modest means in a midwestern place; we never lacked for anything, yet we weren’t driven crazy by the barbiturate cocktail of Money and The South. I will forever call the South my home, since it is down here that I became a real person, but I’m not so swooningly romantic to forget the devilish limitations of this alluring swampland. Is it possible to raise kids on the bayou without them becoming so gothic?

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