As I get older, and travel more and more across this great country of ours, I find myself returning to one thought more and more. From sea to shining sea, across amber waves of whatnot, the same fact resurfaces again and again.
It never ends.
You enter Texas, and you are there to stay for a good long time. The sign just inside the border says “El Paso – 895 miles.” You laugh hysterically, then remember that you’re going THROUGH El Paso, and the laughter gets real brittle real quick.
Since our schedule got kind of compressed, and I wanted to spend at least a day in Arizona with my Dad and stepmom, we wanted to get Texas out of the way as quickly as possible. (Well, that, and we just wanted to get Texas out of the way as quick as possible.) And of course, the quickest way to cross that much space is to drive all night in shifts, right?
We’re tough women. We’re hardcore. We said “All night? SURE!” and off we went.
It’s good to prove to yourself that you can do these things. That way you don’t have to do it again.
The hard part isn’t the driving, it’s trying to get enough sleep in the passenger seat when you’re not driving that you’ll be able to take over again. My seat doesn’t recline, because there’s a bunch of suitcases, some art, and a giant stone fish in the backseat. You just kinda wedge a pillow against the window and try to catnap.
So I waited until Carlota had passed out, slotted in all the music she hates (Tool, Tom Waits, Firewater, Nick Cave) and the vast bulk of Texas passed in the dark, accompanied by my own brooding, which is the best way for Texas to pass, if you ask me. I love nature, and even I don’t find much of Highway 10 terribly pretty. Having it go by unseen is just fine by me. On the bright side, if you enter Texas brooding, by the end of it, you will be either at peace or psychotic. There’s just too much of it to allow any otheralternative. (I shall leave it to history to decide in my case.)
Unfortunately, since Texas is very large, and very spread out, towards about three in the morning, I was pouring coffee down my throat by the gallon to stay alert. The vagaries of Ursula’s bladder have been discussed at length here already, and coffee is the worst offender by far, so I will say only that by 3:30 am, I was managing about twenty minutes between pit stops. As Texas does not HAVE a pit stop every twenty minutes, a number of unsuspecting off-ramps have been marked as my territory, probably to the bafflement of passing coyotes.
Carlota took over a little before four, promptly got a speeding ticket, and grimly carried us along another few hours. We finally took an hour break at the bottom of a nameless off-ramp somewhere in a dark prairie, where the wind moaned and the broken metal signs clanged together off in the distance, and the air of being a slasher movie was extremely strong. Fortunately, the slashers were all off somewhere else–I hear they migrated to the HP fandom awhile back–and we escaped with our lives. (Maybe all that territory-marking warned ’em off.)
Half-starved, we fell on an IHOP like starving wolves, and eventually, like a long illness, Texas ended.
Punchy with relief, we stopped at a gift shop in New Mexico, which took tacky to levels previously undreampt of by mortal men.
This is dangerous. Carlota is a terrible instigator, and I have a horrible, sick, sick, sick weakness for Southwestern motifs. It’s sick and wrong. Show me silver and turquoise, copper and terra cotta, and some dreadful darkness arises in the bottom of my soul and whispers “Hey…we could put a whole cowhide on the sofa, and it would be COOL!” I have no excuse. My mother raised me better. I know it’s tacky. I suspect you imprint aesthetically at a formative age, much in the way you imprint on religion, and that window passed while I was living in Arizona as a child, with unfortunate results. (Yes, many of the monsters in the well are multi-eyed beasts tied to power and sex and identity, but there’s apparently a couple of pastel coyotes and a stuffed jackalope down there, too.)
I have a finely honed aesthetic sense. And now I have a finely honed aesthetic sense and Kokopelli earrings. And then she talked me into the bone choker–okay, it was purple and ivory and lovely, I admit, although people really ARE going to think we’re a couple if we go around wearing matched chokers–and then I picked up the black cowboy hat, and it all went to hell.
“Buy it!” she cried. “It’s you! And it matches the shoes you bought in Alabama!” She offered this last as a trump card. I gazed at the ceiling, and the stuffed jackalope, who was not helpful.
“When am I going to wear a black leather cowboy hat?” I demanded, while my brain tried to argue that we could always find room for a stuffed jackalope, they have thousands of uses, possibly we should get two…. “Especially with those shoes?”
“We’ll go clubbing. We’ll get you a black leather corset, trim it in purple and silver, it’ll match the hat and the shoes…”
I stared at her. “You….want me…to go clubbing…dressed as a goth cowgirl?” I squeaked.
A line formed between Carlota’s eyes, which is an indication that resistance is about to become futile. “It’ll be fabulous. It’ll be hot. It’ll be totally you. Now buy the damn hat.”
I stared at the stuffed jackalope and thought dark thoughts, mostly relating to my will or lack thereof. Fortunately, efore I could launch into a tirade that no one, least of all me, would have believed, the clerk came over and said “You bought a hat! You get free larvae!”
It is a sad fact of my life that “You get freelarvae!” no longer merits even a batted eyelash. I looked at him. He held up a box that said “BBQ Larvae,” and looked at me with desperate hope.
Perhaps I have the kind of face that says “Tell me about your larvae.” Nothing surprises me any more. “We got a shipment of these in,” he said sadly, “and we can’t even give ’em away. They’re not bad…” He opened the box and poured out a handful of dried grubs. “They’re barbecue flavored, but no one wants them.” He ate one.
“I’ve got nothing to prove,” said Carlota, backing away from the grubs.
By that point, however, I rather did, and so I said “Hand ’em over,” tossed a couple of dried BBQ Larvae in my mouth, and chewed. They tasted like slightly crunchy air, with cheap BBQ flavor. I straightened my back, gathered the remains of my dignity and my new hat, and stalked away.
And that’s how I drove into Arizona, wearing a black leather cowboy hat and an ivory choker and looking like a particularly emo rancher’s daughter, while picking bits of BBQ larvae out of my teeth.
I blame Texas.
(updated with larvae, ‘cos I can’t believe I forgot those…)