Day XLI of the Impenetrable Labyrinth of Other Peoples’ Families Road Trip
Just to let all of you out there blogland know our schedule (since I’m sure our trip has seemed random to many of you) wait a minute, I just thought
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
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”:
click for bigger
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?
Day XXXIX of the All The Things That White People Like To Do Road Trip of Golf Courses in Deserts
For being pissed-off liberals, we sure find ourselves doing a lot of things that upper middle-class white people do whilst wearing pleated pants; we took a day trip to Tessa’s dad’s ranch/golf course combo, an 18-hole paradise that some say is one of the hardest in the land. We’d come to find some of Tessa’s things that had been squirreled away in the upper floors of the pro shop after her father died, but it turned out to be only a couple of dubiously artistic renderings of Kenya and a musty love seat.
Undeterred, I found the big-screen TV and cranked it up to watch my beloved Tar Heels get their ass handed to them by Georgia Tech. Thankfully, we had the whole golf course and cabin to ourselves, or else my profanity-laced cries of anguish would have been unappreciated by those living in these parts. We let off a little steam by thwacking golf balls into the 2100 acres of forest woodland. My hair kept me from seeing much of my progress.
I golf like I ski like I play basketball flashes of brilliance with the occasional move so ridiculously awful that I think truly the Gods must be fucking with me. Of course, it’s hard to do anything well when the goddamn dog has a psychic break every time you swing the club. Chopes would not shut up the entire time I was practicing, eventually forcing Tessa to cart him away like a mental patient.
time for your medication, Mr. Border Collie
This golf course was meant to be Blakey’s crowning achievement, and now it may be the one thing (besides his descendants) to truly outlive him. Those woods are lovely, dark and deep right now, but it is only a matter of time before Houston hemorrhages in this direction, and transforms this lonely patch of undulating bluegrass into a sea of golfers testing their wits against the ghost of wily Thomas Blake.
Day XXXVIII of the Such Huge Projects Hanging By the Thinnest of Threads Road Trip of Rant Preparation
I know you’re supposed to keep a game face in this business of filmmaking, your cup must runneth over with untethered optimism and you’re never supposed to believe for a second that it isn’t all going to turn out great in the long run. I even hesitate to put such feelings here on the blog, because there may be repercussions down the road if somebody gets an itchy google finger and wants a little dirt. But we’ve been on this road trip for almost a month and half now, and the money attitude in this country is really beginning to piss me off.
We’ve done so well, you know? We shot a movie for $256,000 or thereabouts and the film itself turned out to be a funny, soulful, intelligent, raucous, fantastic joyride. We have a legitimately hot young cast, a murderously good soundtrack, and a demographic most producers would kill for. The sheer magnitude of talent we gathered together for this thing is basically the Manhattan Project for indie film; this group of people is only half of our arsenal:
Early glimpses of the film have been met with more success than we imagined; not only did we get into the IFP Market in September, but we heard second-hand that the only film to watch from that event “was this film called ‘The Pink House’.” The footage we took into Technicolor has been called by those in the business as “the best digital footage they’d ever seen.”
Tessa and I both have track records that aren’t too shabby either hell, she was on the short list for the documentary Oscar
Day 37 of the Sam Houston Galleria Full of Homosexuals Road Trip of Oh The Historic Irony Dept.
Cut & Shoot, TX to Houston, TX
Have I mentioned before how much I adore clandestine wireless pirating? I believe I have, but a big, modern city like Houston offers all sort of wifi opportunities; you just need to know where to look. I had a hunch about the butt end of a Comp USA, and sure enough, here I sit in our Residence Inn parking lot with three choices for surfing: a transmitter called Airport31oCb, one called James, and another called (boringly) Linksys. I chose the latter, because it has the best reception and they didn’t ask for a password. Once you have the signal, just go to the Tools section of dslreports.com and you can find the outgoing email server and then the world is your oyster.
I’d feel bad about it, I guess, if I were to spend my entire internet life out in this goddamn parking lot suckling the hard-earned broadband teat of someone else’s toil, but three or four days isn’t going to hurt anybody. We can always go to Starbucks for wifi, but I don’t feel like paying TiMobile 25 a minute for the pleasure. Plus, it’s WAY more fun to do what Tessa and I do
Day XXXVI of the Every Day is Like Sunday, Every Day is Silent and Grey Road Trip of Morrissey Ruminations
Cut & Shoot, TX
The second day of our sojourn in Greater Cut & Shoot was pretty miserable athletically, as the piercing cold rain and unmitigatingly gloomy skies made exercise an unapproachable option – and because the bad guys won both the Carolina/State game and the Super Bowl. I only cared about the Super Bowl because I think Warren Sapp is a fat, sick fuck who should go to prison for the kind of bullshit he’s pulled on the field this year, and to see him celebrating with a World Champion hat on (three minutes before the game was over, mind you) further convinced me that we are deep into an era of American History I call the New Mercilessness.
I believe the New Mercilessness manifests itself everywhere from reality TV to our Republican-held government, but it’s been a saturnine enough day to skip it for now. One more rant and I’m going to get that GERD acid reflux disease that Sean’s always getting.
We spent most of the day with Nonnie, Tessa’s grandmother, and it only nails home the Buddhist prospect of remaining in the moment. Tessa asked me (after having some family personality difficulty of her own) how I’ve always managed to stay friends with both my mom and my dad, and I think it is largely due to my thankfulness that I have them around. Not everyone does, you know. Plus, as Tessa said, very few people actually bother me, which is funny given that everyone thinks I’m such a rant-monger.
I did tell her the story of my mom’s biggest fight with me: in 1995, I was pretty sure I got scabies from a houseguest at the Pink House (everyone in Chapel Hill deals with it at some point, and no, it isn’t a sexual thing), which meant my erstwhile girlfriend and I had to sleep in the nude, covered in some radioactive lotion designed to kill the little buggers. Afterwards, you burn the sheets and pray it never happens again. However, at this juncture in my career, I was too poor to buy any new sheets, so I grabbed some extras from the Holiday Inn where my mom was staying.
She found out about it and thought it was a metaphor for everything else in my life where I’d abdicated responsibility, where I’d acted classlessly, and intimated that my life was careening apart at the seams. I screamed back that I was itching too bad to care, and we had an hour-long blowout that left me feeling like something of a worthless cad. We got over it, though, like parents and children do.
My mom and I never fought like that again, most likely because I got a job. And the only thing I bug her about now is an exercise plan, which I dearly hope she starts again. She’s 71, and if she wants to see any of our kids – should we be lucky enough to have them – she’s got to lay off the Snickers and enact a regimen. You hear me, mom?
Speaking of mothers, I found pictures of my dad’s mom’s farm while scanning images at Uncle Chuck’s place. It was her childhood home in the piedmont of Tennessee back in the teens and 20s. A picture of their fields looked familiar, and when I started going through pictures of our farm upstate, I suddenly realized why:
above, Geneva’s farmland in 1920; below, ours in Columbia County last year
Day XXXV of the HeeeeeeeeeeeeeeHawwwwwwwwww! Road Trip
Center Point, TX to Cut & Shoot, TX
So before any of you start asking any questions about the town I’m actually in, let me just prove it to you right now:
Cut & Shoot is part of Greater Conroe, which in turn is a distant satellite barely revolving around Houston, TX. I sit here tonight in arguably the most earthy down-home environs we’re likely to find during this immense Iliad and Odyssey we’re on. Off in the distance, packs of hunting dogs are chattering away at each other; the horses are whinnying in the black, and some kids are having a campfire/tent night about 200 yards off in the woods, where no doubt someone is enjoying their first kiss.
We came here to see Nonnie, Tessa’s grandmother, who has lately been stricken by a car accident that destroyed her jaw, and might have also had a stroke (although we can’t find any evidence that it slowed her down). The nursing home looks rather exciting compared to the dreary environments where they stuck my great-grandma Pearl and my Grandpa Red’s mother. Normally, you walk into these places and can smell the desperation and try to ignore the craned necks all hoping that you are their long-lost kids.
three generations: Tessa, Nonnie, Sandy
There was no barf here, though: we walked in and stepped right into a raucous game of dominos played by five old-timers who barely cared we were there. Nonnie herself was in the TV wing bored senseless by “Wheel of Fortune” turned up to 11, and was damned glad to see us. She can barely talk, but after 5 minutes or so, you realize how little diction you need to fully understand pretty complicated phrases.
Since we’re going back to the nursing home tomorrow, we cut out pretty quick and went to the Black-Eyed Pea where I got the Chicken Fried Steak Fried Chicken Steak. We got to Cut & Shoot an hour later, greeted by Tessa’s Aunt Brenda, along with her kids and their kids too. Brenda herself is the Nicest Human on the Planet and her place is done up with every last rodeo, cowboy, leather and Lone Star artifact ever created. I thought it was a bit much, but then I realized I’d probably do the same thing with North Carolina stuff if Tessa would let me. I have to say, though, I’ve never actually used soap shaped like Texas before, nor have I slept under leather curtains.
Day 34 of the Y’All Come Back Now, Y’Hear Road Trip of Once-Roaring Rivers
Center Point, TX
No trip to the Hill Country is complete without a stop in charming Fredericksburg, Texas, where the quaint jalapeo jellies and weird German Cowboy figurines flow like Americana ambrosia. We checked out the Five & Dime store and found that everything there was considerably more expensive than that. A pair of generic socks for $8.99 here in the middle of nowhere? No thanks, ma’am.
I will say this, though this is the most courteous place we’ve been to on this trip, and we’ve been almost everywhere. At the drugstore, the pharmacist answered his phone “thanks for waiting
Day XXXIII of the Importance of Knowing the Limitations of Every Environment Road Trip of Non-Renewable Resources
Center Point, TX
I went running today along Verde Creek Drive, the L-shaped country highway on which Sandy Blake’s house sits, and it was damned cold so cold I wondered how bad it was back at home. Then I saw on the news reports that the Hudson River is actually starting to freeze, that Columbia County is basically the tundra, and there are four inches of snow in Charlotte, NC. Which leads me to believe that there is no milk left on the shelves in North Carolina
Day XXXII of the Out in the West Texas Town of El Paso, I Fell in Love With a Hyperintellectual Catholic Girl Who Went to Choate Road Trip
Carlsbad, NM to Center Point, TX
Have to give credit where it is due today: Tessa got up first, straightened out our schlumpy motel room in the 1.5-horse town of Carlsbad, NM, and drove us clear into the Great Bend of Texas before I took the reins. The road itself US Hwy 285 South, for those of you playing at home