Month: November 2004

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.

Overglobed

Memo to icon designers: Look. I get it. I’m on the Internet, and the whole world is all interconnected, and my computer is this global information nexus, and it’s cool. Do half my application icons need to remind me of this? My dock looks like a freaking warehouse full of UN flags.

These are all the globe-themed application icons I could find on my hard-drive in 3 minutes. There are a couple representing other planets as a bonus.

I ♥ Huckabees

Saw I ♥ Huckabees this weekend. Fun movie. The whole existential angle seems more of a plot device than an opportunity for serious philosophical exploration, though like the director’s previous movie, Flirting with Disaster, there is a sort of existential core to the thing. But the fun, the awkward situations, the snappy dialog with people talking on top of each other, and the characters are what really make the movie. Putting Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin in a movie together is gold, I tell ya, comedy gold.

Permanent majority

I’ve heard three Republicans refer to their party has being a “permanent majority” now: before the election, Tom Delay; after, Karl Rove and a party strategist whose name I didn’t catch.

On the one hand, I’m tempted to write this off as self-destructive hubris. On the other, I look at the party’s willingness to do what it takes to maximize that majority–mid-term re-redistricting, the rumored end of the Senate’s supermajority rule for cloture, the unusual step of going after the other party’s leader, not to mention tricks like requiring lobbyists to only hire Republicans, and commandeering DHS staff for partisan purposes–and I think that writing it off might be a little too easy.

Message to the world

All of you who are citizens of other countries, it’s officially OK to start hating Americans now.

Four years ago, perhaps you were feeling charitable and realized that we didn’t exactly elect Bush. He lost the popular vote, and only won the electoral vote through a process that was dubious at best. He went on to govern as if he had a clear mandate, and with a friendly Congress, has run the country with a free hand, not vetoing any legislation, and getting away with winners like the USA PATRIOT act and the Iraq war. Senate Democrats have managed to stonewall a handful of judicial appointees, which Republicans laughably refer to as “gridlock.” Corruption and contempt for reality in the executive has become the order of the day, and the friendly Congress has not been inclined to make much of a fuss over it.

Things are different this time. Bush clearly won the popular vote, and Kerry has conceded the race. Not only that, but the GOP’s hold on the Senate has strengthened, with the election of a candidate in Oklahoma who has called for the execution of abortionists (even though he himself is one) and another in Kentucky who practically needs a drool bucket. Eleven proposed state amendments to ban gay marriage (and in some cases, any hint of official recognition for gay relationships) all passed easily.

In short, Americans have clearly demonstrated what kind of country they want. It’s not a likable one. While I’ve always identified strongly as an American–my citizenship and my country mean a lot to me–I have to ask myself whether it is worth it to fight for the country I believe in, or cut my losses and concede that it simply doesn’t exist. Today I feel like a stranger in my own country.