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Thursday, March 13, 2003
=*= TEXAS DIARIES =*=

In THREE Parts:

Plane Hijinks [] Bush Presidential Library [] Random Texas Bits

[ Part 1: WORK HARDER, FLY BETTER ]

I was going to Texas. I had to catch a flight from Phoenix (AZ) to Houston, then from there to Austin where a friend would pick me up.

I was told to get to the airport two or three hours early. Apparently, there was some kind of mishap involving a few planes a while back and it now takes longer than usual to get through security. Whatever.

The first thing I saw upon walking into Phoenix International Airport was a whole gaggle of clowns. About a half dozen people in full clown regalia were gathered in the terminal. Their luggage was standard, not of the "vagabond-hobo" style so popular in clowning circles years ago, which made me think they were on their way to an out-of-town "clown convention" or planned to meet up with a traveling circus elsewhere.

That encounter pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day because, while I didn't know it at the time, I was on my way to the center ring.

An announcement blared over the PA system:

"Do not leave your luggage or personal belongings unattended. Any unattended items may be treated as a danger to the facility."

No announcement, however, on what they'd do with small children left unattended. Just shoot them, I suppose.

We can't be too careful these days.

While waiting in line at the departure checkpoint, I saw a sign, which read: "Those refusing inspection will not be permitted past the security checkpoint."

Well, duh!

The security staff gave everybody a good looking over. Some people even had to remove their shoes and send them through the X-ray machine. Luckily, I didn't.

Note to Self: Next time you take a plane trip, be sure to wear socks.

After passing through the checkpoint successfully, I walked by the area where "questionable" passengers were being scanned with the metal-detecting wand. Or, as I call it, the "terror meter".

A white couple in their seventies were being scrutinized. I don't know about you, but nothing says "terrorist" to me quite like really, really old white people. It warmed my cockles to see the airport staff agreed.

There was also a young man dressed like a clown. The loud shirt, the oversized pants held up by extra wide suspenders, the red-ball nose, and huge clown shoes.

The airport police seemed most interested in those shoes. They were really checking them out. I guess big shoes would be a great place to hide explosives. Just ask Richard Reid, that clown with the exploding sneakers.

But, I really couldn't say.

Just don't tell Osama bin Laden what I saw because there's nothing more frightening than the concept of "Terrorist Clowns." Like we really need to give THAT guy any more bright ideas, right?

Once on board, the airline spokesman on the 'pre-flight' video informed us that we'd be flying on a (quote) "modern jet airplane."

Gee, thanks for clearing that up.

In case of an emergency landing, after which we'd have to quickly disembark from the 'modern jet airplane', the video explained, "an exit sign will indicate when you've reached an exit."

Oh my god, was I on-board with stupid people? The airline video seemed to suggest that. I guess they know their customers better than I do.

The 'modern jet airplane' started revving up its engines and peeled down the runway. Then, we were airborne.

"This isn't so bad," I thought, "its kind of like being on a really crowded, very narrow bus."

Except that buses don't slam into the ground at hundreds of miles per hour.

It's those little differences that make life so interesting.

Soon, the flight attendants came by offering drinks. The sodas were free, but the booze was four dollars a pop. And it was those tiny bottles - you know, just the right size for alcoholic children. I would've liked nothing better than to be "three sheets to the wind" just so I might've actually enjoyed the flight, but I wasn't about to spend eighty bucks to get there. I'm a really really nervous flier, so I'd be looking at an eighty dollar minimum here.

During the flight, I met this really hot chick. We got to talking and, soon, we were making wild monkey love in the lavatory. Those 'diaper-changing' tables mounted on the lavatory wall have multi-use capabilities, I came to find out.

Afterward, neither of us smoked a cigarette because smoking on the plane was prohibited by federal regulation.

I can deal with the "no smoking" bit, but the day they outlaw the in-flight making of wild monkey love is the day I stop flying. Mark my words.

By the time I got back to my seat, I had worked up quite an appetite. As it so happened, lunch was being served.

**WARNING: Paid product-placement advertising alert!**

The ham sandwich was from Hormels. The mustard was French's. The miniature carrot sticks were courtesy of Grimmway Farms ("Carroteenies - Neat. Sweet. Ready to Eat"). The after lunch mint was provided by Russell Stovers.

** End Warning **

A fine meal was had by all.

The plane landed some thirty-five minutes late, arriving at 3:35pm. My connecting flight's departure time was 3:30pm.

It doesn't take a fancy math degree to figure out what happened.

I was put on the NEXT flight out - some two hours later.

Note to the F.A.A.: Now that you guys have that post-9/11 security problem fixed, how about taking over flight scheduling? You couldn't do much worse than the airlines are now. At least half the people on my flight missed their connection.

Note to the Airlines: If you thought potential terrorist threats were awful for business, keep pissing people off with bad scheduling and you'll really feel the pinch.

While waiting, I made the mistake of going outside to smoke a cigarette. I did mention I had to wait for TWO whole hours, right? Okay, then! So, I had to return through a security checkpoint.

They sure do things differently at Houston's George Bush International Airport. Here, EVERYBODY gets magic-wanded and his or her carry-on bags are thoroughly searched. Hell, even the hardcover book I was carrying was searched, practically page-by-page. The guy really gave it a good thumbing through.

I guess you never know when some yahoo is going to try to sneak a "book bomb" on board, huh? And here I thought it was "Books NOT Bombs", rather than "Books AS Bombs". But I guess the airport police in Houston weren't up on the latest fad in high-school anti-war protesting slogans.

Or, maybe they just don't mess around in Texas. Of course, all the extra security precautions might've had something to do with the fact that the facility was named after the 41st U.S. president. Yeah, that was some good planning there. There's nothing like making yourself an obvious target for terrorism.

And here I was under the assumption that airports were named after former presidents after death. I know they made an exception for Ronald Reagan but, for all intents and purposes, he's already dead, so I don't know if that one counts.

The second flight was uneventful. No sex, no lunch, but it landed in Austin on time.

I'm just kidding about that "on time" part. Obviously.

I don't want to name the airline I used, for fear of losing those lucrative on-blog paid product-placement ads, but let's just say if I had taken a morning flight they'd have served a 'continental breakfast'.

After this, I swear to god, I'll NEVER fly again. In fact, I walked back to Phoenix. I left about the same time my return flight was departing.

I beat the plane home.
-

[ Part 2: CIRCLING THE WAGONS AT THE BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY ]

While in Bryan, Texas, I had a chance to visit the multi-million dollar facility known as 'The George Bush Presidential Library'.

On the way there, driving down 'George Bush Boulevard', I saw where that road intersected with 'Coke Street'. Do I really need to insert a joke at this point? The juxtaposition speaks for itself, I think.

As you might've noticed, a lot of things in Texas are named after the first President Bush. Yes, in Texas, they really like Bush. Men love Bush and, from what I understand, some women do too. More or less being in Texas demands it. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say.

After going through the library security checkpoint (metal detector and x-ray machine), I entered a large rotunda. On prominent display was a white Cadillac convertible, done up Lone Star style. The seats were white leather with black spots. A set of horns from a longhorn steer was mounted on the hood. Yes, they used the WHOLE cow to make that car. Standing nearby was a wooden Indian. Oops, I'm sorry - I meant "Wooden Native American." You know, like the kind taken off display at tobacco shops years ago, for being so offensive? This one was saluting. Or maybe he was wiping the sweat off his worried brow, because he knew what was coming.

Within a minute of entering, a 'staff greeter' was at my side, telling me I should really see the "introductory film" first, so I'd be "properly oriented" for the self-guided tour.

I went to see the film. While in the theatre, I listened to the people around me. I learned a lot from these obvious Bush fans. Did you know, for example, that they differentiate between the father and son by calling our current president "George W." while his dad is simply called "Herbert"? Neither did I. Also, as a child, our current president (or, "Emperor Dubya", as I call him) was nicknamed "Georgie". Who would've guessed?

The film covered the rich history that is the Life of "Herbert". His formative early years; the WWII years; the congressional years; the presidential years (both vice- and not); and, of course, the defining moment of his career - the Gulf War. The original, obviously, not the upcoming sequel. Which is good, because sequels never live up to the original.

That movie was really well done. Leni Riefenstahl would be proud. It contained lots of archival footage, photo stills with voice-overs, and straight interviews. It was about "faith, family and friends." Oh, and "common decency." The same stuff "Herbert's" years of public service were about, or so he said.

According to a staffer, there was a chance that, on any given day, tourists could run into the former president or first lady in the library. I guess when the Bushes have nothing better to do, they visit.

"Oh, Barb," I can almost hear 'Herbert' muttering, "I'm no good, dad-gummit, and nobody likes me."

"Oh, George," she replies, "let's get you over to that little library of yours. It always seems to brighten your mood."

"I don't know if that would be prudent, Barb..."

Once I entered the Library proper, the first display was "The Gallery of American History." On the wall leading to the gallery entrance were sepia-toned rodeo pictures, circa the 1920s. The bucking broncos helped to set the mood. Inside was a large cowboy boot display. Never in my life have I seen so many boots in one place. Not even at a country and western bar on a Saturday night.

Some of "Herbert's" actual boots were included, such as the pair embroidered with 'Father of the Year' and a set featuring a white leather White House replica. I could almost smell the power he wielded while in office.

A flat-screen TV was mounted on the center wall of the gallery, on which John Wayne's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" played.

And that, my friends, is all one apparently needs to know about "American History." If it ain't in the gallery, it ain't real history. 'Nuff said.

The rest of the library-in-the-round alternated between displays, TV videos, and various quotes/info on the walls.

Walk through it with me, will you?

I saw a display case in which the leather swivel chair used by Bush in the Oval Office sat. The display was titled 'The Seat of Power'.

Random quotes alert:

"He was a golden boy. Everything he did, he did well." - a classmate from Yale

"I married the first man I ever kissed. When I tell my children this they just about throw up." - Barbara Bush, on marrying 'Herbert'

"I am a Texan and an American... what more could a man ask?" - George Bush

There were TVs showing various Bush-related news footage throughout. Oddly, all the videos were subtitled in English, even though everybody in them spoke English. Chalk another one up for the Barbara Bush Literacy Corps, I suppose.

There were big displays, with lots of pictures and text, on "Herbert's" days as a congressman, an ambassador to the U.N., the Republican Party chairman, and as Liaison to China.

The "CIA Director" display was a bit smaller. A portrait, copies of "Herbert's" job acceptance and farewell speeches, and a rather curious timeline which named some 'fun facts' that happened during those CIA years...

"1977 - New movies: 'Saturday Night Fever', sparking the disco craze; 'Star Wars', which becomes the biggest box office hit of all time.

1978 - Dolly Parton is Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year."

In other words, a timeline that puts Bush's CIA years in proper perspective. Hey, I suspected the CIA was behind a lot of bad stuff but now that I know it was evidently responsible for disco, plus the popularity of 'Star Wars' and Dolly Parton, well... frankly, I'm scared.

The Reagan-Bush-Quayle years got prominent mentions.

A quote on Bush becoming Vice President: "Hello, George," said the voice soon to be familiar worldwide, "this is Ron Reagan, I'd like to go over to the convention and announce that you're my choice for vice president... if that's all right with you."

It hits you in an "Aww, shucks!" kind of way, doesn't it? It makes one a bit nostalgic for the simpler days of the 1980s, when we knew who our enemies were - those pinko commies. Oh, and those rich Japs who were buying up corporate America.

When Reagan was shot on March 30, 1981, just three months into his presidency, Bush displayed (as the sign noted), "his usual calm, good sense in a crisis."

By the summer of '88, polls showed the Republican Bush-Quayle ticket anywhere from 10-20 points behind in the presidential race.

However, the "Bush-Quayle Team" won handily, garnering some 42 states.

If you recall, they had run against Dukakis-Bentsen.

There's probably an obvious joke in there somewhere, other than the Dukakis-Bentsen team itself, but hell if I can think of it right now.

Next up was "The History of the Berlin Wall."

A section of the wall, presented to Bush on Wednesday, April 21 1993, sits in the library.

The building of the wall, and the years it separated East and West Germany, was well documented.

However, the part of the wall exhibition titled 'The Fall' had a sign in front of it that read "Exhibit Under Construction".

The wall was up for some 28 years. Hopefully, the display on its fall won't take quite that long to construct.

Let's move on to Iraq and its evil dictator, shall we?

In the 'more things change, the more they stay the same' department, here's a quotable quote:

"By August 1990, Iraq had poured money into developing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Of these, Saddam was known to have used poison gas on his country's own Kurdish minority and against Iran. There was evidence of horrible biological weapons as well, but Iraq had not yet developed a nuclear device."

Just before the start of the Gulf War, in a personal letter to his children, Bush displayed his sensitive side... Just before bombing the hell out of Iraq, that is:

"I can't begin to tell you how great it was to have you here at Camp David (during the holidays).

I hope I didn't seem moody. I tried not to."

In explaining his march toward war, Bush referenced the Nazi regime of the late 30s/early 40s:

"How many lives might have been saved if appeasement had given way to force earlier? How many Jews might have been spared the gas chambers?"

Near the end of the letter, he stated, "So, dear kids - batten down the hatches."

Still sound advice today, as the current president gears up his fancy killing machines as part of "Emperor Dubya's Folly".

Near the end of the self-guided tour, one saw a display of gifts given to the president by other world leaders. As the sign noted, "The exchange of priceless and unusual gifts between leaders and countries in an age-old custom."

Other than porcelain and crystal, the popular gift item during those years seemed to be sharp objects.

Ceremonial swords from both the leaders of Republic of Djibouti and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; a Viking sword replica from the Ambassador of Ireland; and a dagger from the State of Bahrain.

World leaders love them swords, apparently.

I guess now we know what the Bushes did with their "white elephant" gifts - they put 'em in the library.

The last hall contained a large photo display of New York City, in the days right after 9/11. ("It's just been added to the tour," a staffer explained after the introductory film, "to show how America has recovered." I wasn't aware that the U.S. *had* recovered, what with fear and paranoia running more rampant than ever. But what do I know?)

As I looked at these powerful photos (by Joel Meyerowitz), a security guard walked by. He was whistling, "Hail to the Chief" as he wandered past.

My last stop on the tour was the gift shop. Besides the usual assortment of "Herbert and Barb" paraphernalia, there was plenty of items celebrating the life of first-dog (and best-selling author) Millie. From plush toys of various sizes to key chains.

However, there was only one copy - a display copy - of Dan Quayle's book, "Worth Fighting For". Not one coloring book, or a copy of "Dan's Lil' Dictionary of Really Hard Words to Spell", could be found. Quayle really got shafted.

One book taking up plenty of shelf space, however, was Chris Andersen's recent "George and Laura: Portrait of an American Marriage".

So, in the minds of visitors, the father has now passed the torch of "Faith, Family and Friends" on to his son.

And let's not forget "Common Decency", pesky though it may be at times.

As I went back into the real world, I couldn't help but feel a bit patriotic. My heart swelled with pride and my brain felt thoroughly washed.

I was a true-blue American once again.
-

[ Part 3: LONE STAR TALES ]

Just some random Texas bits, to cleanse the palate...

= Don't Mess with Texas =

A couple of months ago, a dear friend I hadn't heard from in years got in touch. Her and I bantered back and forth. The next thing I knew, she's sending me a plane ticket so I can come visit.

As rumor has it, I can be a bit of a recluse. Some days, just stepping out the front door is a big deal. So, actually leaving the house and flying to a whole other state is a major step.

Yup, I guess what they say is true: Guys will do pretty much anything just to get laid.

As I contemplated going to Bryan, Texas (pop: 65,000; and which is located about 90 minutes outside of Austin) I couldn't help but think of a novel I once read which went something like this: Big city man meets woman. Woman talks man into moving with her to small Texas town, where her family lives. Big city man isn't cut out for small town living. The man slowly goes insane.

I think it was either a book by Charles Bukowski or Jim Thompson, I don't remember which, but that really isn't the point. The point is: The man slowly went insane.
-

= War Protest, Day Yet to be Determined =

From a flier at the local Unitarian Church:

"The Day War On Iraq Starts

We will meet at the Unitarian Church at 6pm and march from the Church to the George Bush Presidential Library to protest this unlawful act of aggression!

If the war starts after 5pm, then the same plan holds for the day after."
-

= A Mighty Fine Dessert, Dad-Gummit! =

A recipe from the "White Trash Cookbook":

"CHERRY DESSERT

1 can cherry pie filling

1 large can crushed pineapple

1 can sweetened Condensed Milk

1 lg container of cool whip (8oz.)

Mix together and put in a 9x13 pan. Put in freezer just to cool it. Do not freeze."

Them there's good eats, paw! All you need is a can opener.
-

= Texans R Us =

In Texas, if a word ends in the letter R they don't pronounce the R.

I found this out one morning when I went to a motel, the sign for which also read "Coffee Shop".

I couldn't find the coffee shop, so I went into the office and asked the young blonde white girl working at the front desk, "Is the coffee shop still here?"

She answered, "No sah, it ain't been here for ten yeahs."

From that point on, I didn't pronounce word-ending "Rs" just so I'd fit in while theah.
-

= Radio Talk =

Also while in Bryan, Texas, I appeared on the community radio station (KEOS 89.1FM) morning show, "Eclectic Coffeehouse".

I read some of my work, including (the clean version of) the ever-popular "My Guide to a Woman's Heart" (see archives, Feb. 10 '03, for the original.).

Afterwards, a couple of people called in. They always commented on that piece.

One woman said, "I think I was married to that guy" that Pete described. The DJ replied, "I guess WAS is the operative word here."

I also got to fulfill a few radio fantasies while on-air. For example, I was able to work the phrase "to all you lovers out there in radio land" into the conversation. Also, I instructed the listeners to "roll out of bed, or get up off that couch, and come over to your radio. (pause) Are you by the radio? (pause) Good! Now lay your hands on top of the radio, and FEEL the healing power of my lovin' words!"

Amen, brothers and sisters! Amen!

[]



posted by Pete 11:24 AM
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