The west side of Texas, coming from El Paso, was nothing to inspire one to dream about selling the proverbial farm and packing all the kids and dogs and the plow into the truck and moving out there. It didn’t bring that dream to my mind anyway. But the closer we came to San Antonio, and then to Houston, with the rolling, grassy hillsides, and the scrub and tall Oak trees and the Cottonwood, riverside forests and the rivers and streams and ponds and draws and grazing cows and deer and lush greenery, I finally understood what they, whoever they were and are, meant when they said that Texas is ‘God’s Country.’ If there was a god who would make a countryside to his or her liking and if that god were then going to stick it in Texas and make it something that the environment there would accommodate, I guess this would have been the area in which that would have happened. I felt like bursting, literally exploding with all the greenery around me. I just couldn’t believe that a place like this could exist when I presently live in a desert where we have to import water and greenery and palm trees and swimming pools, and Texas has all of this stuff naturally – minus the palm trees, which is only fitting. Of course, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I didn’t remember the area being so damn green and full of lush, exploding life. But it’s been over 20 years since I was there and I haven’t seen flora of this kind in quite a while. And it wasn’t too humid on our drive through that verdant heaven, which was probably good for my opinion of the place, for if we had driven through there a couple months later, I might not have esteemed that part of Texas so highly.
The minutes and miles and exits and overpasses and billboards and trees and bushes and hours and cigarette butts and invitations to eat passed as they will on a trip of this length, some messages heeded and some objects not seen while others were noted and catalogued away in the recesses or prominences of our minds. Conversations came and went and ideas and thoughts were spoken and pondered and not spoken or withheld then given as the situations and specifics required or cautioned. The cabin and belongings and Boogie heard without notice the exchanges and quietudes and didn’t mark those brow-furrowing drops of syllables and throat-clearings and swallowings of messages meant and mistaken. It was hopes and desires and my side and relationships and sex and her side and commitment and the Working Model of the Child and nursing and I don’t know what you think about a lot of the time because you don’t talk to me very often and maybe you’re depressed and I assure you it has nothing to do with you and when am I going to finally be done with school and the sundry not spoken things of wonderings and my dog died in the fall of ’94 and I just don’t know if some passion or love died with him. Words spoken to and from our destination elicited thoughts not voiced and feelings that were touched in the wrong way and lacked quick amends to right the immediate wrongs and it’s easier not to talk sometimes, but the minutes and miles and navigated hours of our passing became part of the texture and memories of the moments shared and the time we had, pressed and released with anxiety and ease and coming ‘round again to the same different subjects of the one who’s doing really well and the brown-eyed angel and the red-headed baby and sex and relationships and cunnilingus and evolution and the power of a white Pasat driver and the Joshua Trees and would you be able to get me another bottle of Starbuck’s as I swallow another thought of whatever and my companion quietly disadjusts herself into the back seat as we passed a legion of blooming Century plants to quietly open the ice-chest to hand me the dripping bottle of elixir that just didn’t seem to contain as much as I thought it should.
Louisiana came with the breeze and washings of many winds across the hood of the car and swirled over and ‘round the windows and left in a curl behind our confusedly swift and illegal passing through the remnants of a Texas that decided speed-limits while nippin’ at the ol’ cider jug. Why would it be considered safe to drive 75 through the swerving, mountainous, four-laned freeway that is often crossed by the many species of wildlife that live in the hills surrounding San Antonio and then be thought dangerous to drive above 55 on the six-laned, wide-open expanse of roadway that poured into the minimally populated area in a certain locale between Houston and Beaumont and then into ‘Historic’ Orange and then into Louisiana? I might have some of the names or the particular region mix-matched or otherwise improperly construed, but the four and six lane expanses and their surrounding populations are accurate – which led to some question as to the process for determining the freeway speeds throughout the state – an unimportant subject, but one that occupied my mind momentarily, or a bit longer, as we passed through those particular zones.
Anyway, Louisiana greeted us with more greenery and ponds and lakes and rivers and bogs and swamps and streams and living and rotting green of sizes and dimensions that were astounding and awe inspiring as few things have so been to me. I suppose the verdant fecundity of the scenery in this part of our trip was equal to, or at least on a similar plane as the splendor and goddamn majesty that I experienced during my visits to Lake Powell. There was just something so soul-driven about the beauty encountered there. Yes, there were slimes of green algae and putrescent decay in the backwater regions where life and rot were teeming within a cell membrane’s reach of one another, and dead raccoons and porcupines along the roadway, but damn if it wasn’t beautiful! Live Oak and multifarious pines and vines and hanging, Spanish moss and water lilies and ponds covered with flowering, cranberry-like vegetation and blue water and green and brown, roiling, surging rivers with steep climbing bridges and trestles and elevated roadways spanning swamps and lakes and rivers and streams with boats and ships and barges and drawbridges and paddlewheeled river-boats; all alluring and inviting and seducing in their own tidewater fashion. Come and live and breathe and multiply among us. The billboards boasted of crawfish farms and air-boat rides and gator hunts and aged, historic plantations where our imaginations had to refrain themselves from hearing the shadows of the crack of bullwhips and the clanking of manacles and the shouting of color-ridden epithets of derision and three-hundred-plus years of suffering. And how could we explain, or how would they explain the reasoning that allows them to worship and sing passionate praises to the god of their captors instead of the great Mother whom they worshiped in the land of their natural and symbolic nativity and who gave life to every and each thing living? That’s something that I can’t explain for this derided and troubled and strong and proud and beautiful people.
The Monday afternoon rush-hour of New Orleans didn’t compare to that of Phoenix and our vicinity, but a parking lot and crawl on a freeway was as frustrating there as it was here. It’s a freeway! So, be free and drive! Damn! It’s not like I had to get somewhere, but I was a bit tired of sitting behind the wheel, so the sooner we could find 1440 Canal Street, the Tidewater Plaza, the sooner we could find what would be our home for the next five days. The Tidewater Plaza, or building if you will, was/is about three or four blocks north of the northern boundary of the French Quarter, and Canal Street is the western border. So, the streets were peopled with individuals who had recently left their work-sites or were en-route the Quarter and the places where they would sit or stand or walk and watch the white and brown and black and yellow people who came to visit. And, of course, those people were walking along Canal Street, as well, holding their purses and bags and cameras close to their timid or robust, touristy selves, or they weren’t.
I had never been to New Orleans and had, therefore, never seen the French Quarter, so the experience was new to me in its entirety. I think I probably had expectations that the architecture and the décor would be something unique unto itself and the people might be the same, cut from a mold unlike any other. But, people being people, as they are, the denizens of the Quarter seemed, to me anyway, to be the same kind of people that we have in the cities and areas of those cities with which I was familiar. There were strange ones and normal ones and everyone else who fit somewhere in the middle of that broad and general range. I suppose there may have been more artists and craftsmen and vendors of unique wares than one would find in our locale, but shops are shops and cafes and restaurants and bars and hideaways are all of a sort, and only the goods and foods were different. While we have Mexican and Spanish features in our area, New Orleans had eateries and shops particular to Cajun or Creole definitions. Some of the buildings were beautifully maintained and the characteristics or charm one thinks of when New Orleans is mentioned, shone brightly in the ornate ironwork and balcony gardens. The streets and walkways were sometimes cobbled in brick or aged concrete. When a gate was open, one could look into the interior courtyard or inner alleyway between the buildings and see that they are indeed ancient and sometimes decrepit behind and beneath the facades of careful paint and repair or maintenance work. To be continued….
September 24, 2009 | Categories: I Was There | Tags: Arizona, cacti, color, French market, gators, greenery, Lake Ponchartrain, Metarie, New Mexico, New Orleans, plantation, prejudice, Texas, travel, Tucson | 2 Comments