Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

Lubbock

Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws in Lubbock this year. Gwen likes the town about as much as anyone with a lick of sense should, but is a dutiful daughter and didn’t feel she could shirk her filial obligations. I was along for the ride, I guess you might say.

I’d been to Lubbock with Gwen once before. We didn’t see much of the town at the time, and what little we did see reminded me a lot of Westheimer in Houston. One damn strip mall after another. This time, I wanted to see more.

We got a late start—about 6:00 PM the day before Thanksgiving—and pulled into Lubbock around 12:20 AM, so all our driving was in the dark.

The dinner itself was fine. Gwen had picked up an organic turkey from Central Markup and brined it two days in advance–we transported it in a brining pot in our ice-chest to Lubbock. It turned out pretty well, and the brining did add to the flavor, but it wasn’t the super-juicy, flavorful sensation one might hope. Not bad, but perhaps not worth the trouble. All the other traditional T-day foodstuffs in abundance–white and sweet potatoes, green beans, apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies, cranberry sauce, stuffing, etc. After dinner I dismantled the carcass, extracted the wishbone, and gave it to Gwen’s sister so she could break it with her 5yo daughter.

We had packed our road bikes, and the day after Thanksgiving decided to go for a ride in the countryside. Gwen called a local bike shop for tips on a route, and we headed south on Slide Road to FM1585 and headed west into the stiffest, most unremitting wind I’ve faced since…I don’t know when. I was struggling to get my speed even as high as 12 mph, and Gwen was struggling to stay in my wind-shadow. The barren, flat landscape does nothing to slow the wind’s progress, and provides no visual distraction for the weary cyclist. In short, an unredeemably unpleasant cycling experience. After about six miles of slogging through this, we came to an intersection and I decided that enough was enough. We turned around and flew back. My cyclometer’s battery had crapped out, but I estimate we were doing 20 without pedaling, and I was topping 30 when I put a little muscle into it. That was fun, though brief.

We made our way into what we though was the center of town, around the Texas Tech campus. 19th Street seems to have the only fancy-looking houses in the whole town–the rest of the city is brick ranch houses, circa 1968. It’s as if the town takes all its architectural cues from the landscape–flat and desolate–and has a sort of altitudinal humility that prevents buildings from sticking up too much. Even the roofs have shallow pitches. The campus at Tech is not much of an improvement, and the buildings are inexplicably spread apart, making me wonder if the students take golf carts between classes.

We noodled around the small neighborhood just east of Tech, which seemed to be historic, judging from the cobbled streets. Eventually we found a bike shop, run by a friendly guy who commiserated with us about the wind–he told us the wind that day was as bad as he’d seen in a long time. He told us a better route back to Gwen’s parents’ place, and we followed that, taking Boston Av south to the loop. On the way, we passed what appeared to be Lubbock’s funky neighborhood–an intersection with a small grocery store, a coffee shop, and an organic food store. We made a mental note and rode on.

That night, on a suggestion from Gwen’s sister’s husband, four of us went to Hub City Brewery, Lubbock’s sole brewpub, on Buddy Holly Street (a two-block stretch that appears to be Lubbock’s entire nightlife neighborhood). Three of us had the oatmeal stout, which was OK. Gwen’s sister had a chocolate martini, which was not: it’s as if the bartender knew of chocolate martinis by reputation, but had never tried one or seen a recipe for one, so he had to fake it. Chocolate syrup and gin in a martini glass.

Saturday, Gwen and I headed back to that coffee shop we had seen during our ride, and discovered that it had the shabby atmosphere of a neighborhood coffee joint, the coffee itself was little better than the swill served at most diners. Again, it’s almost as if the coffee-shop operators knew of coffee shops by reputation, not by direct experience.

I had to do some work, but later that day, Gwen, her sister, mother, and I went to an antique mall where Gwen and I scored this weird masonic chart, apparently a sort of diploma.

Sunday morning, we got on the road pretty early. We stopped at a Krispy Kreme (which, sadly, had much better coffee than the funky neighborhood joint) to fortify ourselves for the road and were underway by 9:30 AM. As before, I marveled at the emptiness of the region. Lubbock is a very Christian town, which kind of makes sense: if you live there, you probably want to believe you’re bound for something better. Then again, it would also be the perfect place to situate a Zen monastery, because there is nothing to distract you from contemplating the void within.

Random highlights and lowlights of the trip:

  • Passing the “New Hope Cemetery”
  • Passing hundreds of dead raccoons by the side of the road. A lot of dead deer as well.
  • Observing odd place names like Fluvanna and Flat White Road. One of the towns near Lubbock is Levelland.
  • On Thanksgiving night, observing a line of 12 cars in the drive-thru lane at Whataburger.
  • Speculating what kind of beers might be at the brewpub: Our guesses: Desolation Ale, Prairie Pilsner, Level Lager. Naturally, all the beer would have to be flat.

12 Comments

  1. Robert Earl Keen wrote a song titled Levelland. James McMurtry sang it on one of his latest albums. Great song about a dull place.

  2. dragonfly jenny

    29 November 2004 at 8:50 pm

    Whew! Your description provides a great public service, saving many people many hours of driving.

  3. Weird coincidence about the martini. On Saturday night, I was also served a chocolate martini that was accidentally made with gin. The bartender had switched the liquors in Gary’s and my drinks. His gin martini was made with strawberry infused vodka. We both took our first sips and made nasty faces, but didn’t figure out exactly what had gone wrong until we’d taken another sip or two. Truly repulsive. At least my Boulder bartender recognized that it was a mistake and made amends!

    Very cool wall art, by the way.

  4. You may not know this, but I was born in Lubbock and spent the first four years of my life there. After my folks moved us to Houston, I only had a chance to visit Lubbock a couple of times. My grandmother and cousins lived about 80 miles northwest in a couple of small towns, one of them being Hereford. Guess what their main industry was?

    My mom has many not-so-fond memories of Lubbock. As you pointed out, Lubbock is a very Christian town, and it was moreso back in the late 60s. Mom says that some friends of hers went to a local Christian college (mom and dad went to Tech), and they were afraid to visit because the rumor was the rooms were bugged. Coed dorms? Not on your life.

    My dad drank back then. He’d have to drive out of town to buy his beer and bring it back. And when he got it back into town, he was afraid to have his can of Bud sitting in open view when he was working in the yard or washing the car. Just wasn’t proper.

    I’m pretty sure Lubbock is still “dry,” in that you can’t buy beer or alcohol at retail outlets in the city — though they do have bars there now, apparently.

    Yeah, Lubbock is pretty harsh. Not quite as bad as Midland/Odessa, but still pretty bad. I distinctly remember going through some pretty severe storms, including tornados. (We didn’t have a tornado cellar, but my grandmother and cousins did.) And sandstorms. Lots of those.

    Even with all its drawbacks, Lubbock produced not only Buddy Holly, but Stubb’s Barbeque, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (as well as me and my brother). Oh, and Mac Davis, who had a minor hit in the 70s with his song, “Happiness is Lubbock, Texas in Your Rearview Mirror”

    (BTW, the song “Levelland” was actually written by James McMurtry and covered by Robert Earl Keen.)

  5. In fact, I did know that you were born there, Marty, and was kinda hoping you’d chime in.

    Yes, Lubbock is still quasi-dry, in that they do have bars but no package stores. There are warehouses at the edges of the city limits advertising BEVERAGES.

    The main industry surrounding Lubbock, apart from strip-mall ranching, is cotton, and we saw plenty of cotton bales as big as single-wide. Didn’t encounter any sandstorms, but we did see plenty of tumbleweeds. We pased one fence that faced into the wind and had collected dozens of them.

  6. Ah yes. The warehouse stores. Pinky’s being probably the largest among them. Pinky was a bootlegger during Prohibition — after it was lifted, he became a very successful businessman, though rumor has it that he was quite tied up in the West Texas “Mafia” for years afterwards.

    Another interesting note about West Texas — because of the varying liquor laws between jurisdictions, you’ll find package stores out in the middle of nowhere. And not to few of them were (are) of the drive-thru variety …

  7. Teresa Blecksmith

    28 February 2005 at 9:26 am

    I’m a native Californian, and had the opportunity to live in Lubbock for 5 years. As friends and family members from CA came to visit my family in Lubbock, I had to be more & more creative in coming up with places to visit. The barbed wire fence display at the Tech Museum and Prarie Dog Town were the two “favorites” of the visiting Californians. Wind. It was always windy. If the wind was blowing from one direction there would be a strong odor of cow manure. If the wind was blowing from another direction you could smell oil. Then there were the dust storms! I remember using windsheild wipers to clear my windshield as the sheets of sand were blown in my path. I wondered at times, when a person died and if an autopsy was done on native Lubbock residents if their lungs would have a large accumlation of sand grains at the bottom of their lungs. I still wonder? Yes, alcohol beverages could only be purchased on the outskirts of town, called “the strip.” The strip resembled a miniature Las Vegas with neon lights flashing from each liquor store roof and billboard. It made you feel kind of guilty for being a person that consumed alcohol. I preferred my husband to drive out there and buy a bottle of wine for me to ease my guilt. :-) And finally, Lubbock does have a lot of Christians. It’s full of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. They aren’t those Christians that Hollywood portrays as mean judgemental people. They are the kind of Christians that are the first people to drop off fresh baked bread, cookies, meals and a bottle of wine when you move into their neighborhoods and when you are down on your luck. Another thing, was the “spirit” that the Lubbock people had for their colleges. Flags flank the lawns of row after row of houses with their favorite colleges and I never ever saw any other college flags other then Texas Tech & A & M. While we were living in Lubbock, George Bush was running against Ann Richardson for governor and won. Segregation was still taking place as they bused white kids to the south side of town and black kids to the north side of town to “even out” color. It was a failure. The kids on both sides hated being taken out of their neighborhoods and forced to go to schools they didn’t want to be in. One last thing, there was a blue law in Lubbock that prohibited people from buying nylon stockings and beer on Sundays. I wonder if that is still in place?

  8. Uh, I think that’s what most folks call “desegregation.”

  9. Segregation

    The policy or practice of separating people of different races, classes, or ethnic groups, as in schools, housing, and public or commercial facilities, especially as a form of discrimination.

    Desegregation

    To open (a school or workplace, for example) to members of all races or ethnic groups, especially by force of law.

  10. I live in lubbock and you still cannot buy hard liquor on sundays, but you can buy beer. I think it’s really stupid. Going to “the strip” to get beer is like a tradition. I doubt lubbock will ever have liquor in grocery stores. There is nothing to do in this city! On saturday, everyone cruises down 82nd street, goes to “depot,” the 2 blocks filled with clubs and bars, or they go to a movie.. that’s pretty much it!

  11. maryjane garcia

    22 June 2005 at 5:11 am

    Yeah Lubbock is dry i live there 13 years of my life utill i had to move to denver,colorado boy o boy let me tell u i was not happy at all. If i could change places with any lubbock person i would being 15 now i cant move back utill 2 years even tho theres not much to do in lubbock u got to love it for TEXAS TECH!

  12. originally I am from Minnesota, but I went to the Med School at Texas Tech.

    You don’t have much to do in Lubbock, true, but not if you go to Texas Tech.

    There are parties all around the town on weekends, Lubbock is a fairly large city of about 200,000 people.

    If for nothing you got to love Lubbock for Texas Tech University, it’s a school that has a great academic environment, most students come here from Dallas, Houston,Austin areas, so atleast you have an urban crowd at Tech.

    I was pleasantly impressed with the way the school is coming up, but for Lubbock, well probably Lubbock will do better when more professionals come and create opportunities!

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