I have a tried and true theory about dining in a strange town – ask a local!  Without
fail, a local will direct you to the best eating, especially if you’re looking for
something specific, like barbecue.  Almost without fail, if I or my companions
simply choose a restaurant, the food and service are mediocre or downright
disappointing.

We experienced an exception to this rule driving through Louisiana, where we
stopped at a rundown diner called the Pink Pig.  The only dining area was a few
picnic tables out front, and there was no bathroom (which is, where I come from, a
regulatory no-no.)  But the food was excellent.  We discovered a Cajun favorite
called a boudin ball – rice and sausage rolled into a ball and keep fried.  Mighty tasty
– and spicy.

So we crossed the border into Texas.  I had been to the Lone Star State only one
time in my life, and that was to drive across the panhandle in the dead of night when
Dave and I were on our cross-country honeymoon trip.  I never had much of a taste
for the place, maybe because of that famed Texas swagger, the arrogance Texans
seem to have about their would-be republic.

In short, driving through their barrier islands, with longhorn cattle and oilrigs
seeming to outnumber the people, to the lonely expanse of Point Bolivar (though the
ferries were quite crowded) and crossing to the lovely and picturesque Galveston, I
developed a whole new appreciation for the place.  Taking a dip in the bathtub warm
Gulf was not at all like tossing with the cool waves on the Outer Banks of North
Carolina, but other than the preponderance of seaweed it was a very neat
experience.  My fascination continued through Corpus Christie to Brownsville, as the
luscious green gave way to a touch of a more desert-like feel, and I couldn’t help but
think that hey, I wouldn’t mind living here!

And so we ended our drive across the southeastern U.S. at a Super 8 in Brownsville,
TX, sitting in the bubble filled jacuzzi with a young man from Conway, South
Carolina, who had moved to San Antonio.  Rather than working in his chosen field
of radio, he was employed by a company who does inventory for area Walmarts,
and it seemed to me he had been loathe to the idea of putting in his time in the
trenches, preferring to be able to just step into the afternoon drive party DJ slot.  
Guess I could be wrong about that, but it made me think of all those young radio
geeks who have toiled away for Dave all these years, putting their cheerful energies
to good use for crappy wages.  I imagine they’re much happier doing that, no matter
the grumbling and frustrations, than they would be to spend their time in cheap
motels, counting cheap merchandise all day before heading back for their Denny’s
dinner.

I have visited many corners of our country:  certainly the southeastern states, where
I’ve spent the bulk of my life; New York City; Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD;
Burlington, VT; Spokane, WA, and Coeur d’Alene, ID; Denver, CO; Los Angeles,
CA; Gallup and Santa Fe, NM; Oklahoma City, OK, in the middle of the night; Hot
Springs, AR, and Vicksburg, MS.  (I don’t suppose you would count a few hours at
Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.)  And always I’ve noticed that people throughout the
United States live in different ways.  The grocery stores feature different brands of
foods, and sometimes it can be difficult to find something you’re familiar with back
in your zone of comfort.  When you cross a certain line you have to add sugar to
your tea if you prefer it that way.  Attitudes permeate the air of a place in a way that’
s hard to describe.

But living in a completely different country?  I prepared for a whole new change in
attitude.

#  #  #
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Deep In The Heart Of Texas
On the road to Point Bolivar, I
failed to catch any longhorns.
Pen's Essays - 5
A park on the Galveston harbor.
The Texas shore.