Road Trip! Thursday, September 15, 2011-Dallas

My Uncle Bob was always one of my childhood heroes.  It seemed like to me he lived a life full of action and adventure working in the manly oil exploration industry back when cars got 8 MPG, Alaska was still a frontier state, and Barack Hussein Obama was just learning to hate America and fake votes for ACORN.

  Bob was the first person to do a geological survey of the ANWAR area (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) and was an executive at Marathon Oil up until his retirement over fifteen years ago, when he began ”living off the fat of the land”, in his own words.

We got here by driving from Amarillo, and this is another of those boring trips, so thankfully Jonathan allows me to catch up on my blog in the car while he’s doing the steering.  We take Highway 287 south, going through Bowie, Wichita Falls, and Electra, and we don’t see much but cows and open range, so we amuse ourselves by spotting misspelled roadside signs, whether intentional or not.   Jonathan’s favorite is Kwik Kar Wash, and you have to wonder why they thought this was clever or catchy (is the hard “C” in car that difficult phonetically?), but I guess it worked, since we notice it.  My favorite is Travelor’s Lodge, because it’s just plain spelled wrong, and I’m amazed that no one thought to check this before they committed money and time to making a tall sign advertising the sad state of education in America, in general, and Decatur, Texas, in particular, but they didn’t, so there it is, and has been for a long time, because it’s obvious from the condition that it’s been proudly displayed for years.

But you can only spend so much time making fun of other people’s stupidity for so long before you start to think about your own ignorance, and one of those thoughts is that I’ve made a lot of assumptions about visiting my aging relatives, namely, that naturally I’d stay with them for the night, and that may have been all well and good when my mother and father were alive, because they were after all visiting their siblings, but now everyone’s older and it’s harder for them to entertain, and my Mom and Dad are gone for all practical purposes.  If I had half a brain, I’d have stayed in a hotel and bought my own dinner, but I don’t, so all I can say is thank you so much, you’re all too kind, and I’m a fool!  Now, I feel better…J

Dallas is one of my favorite cities, because not only does it have America’s Team, the Cowboys, but now it also has the World Champion Mavericks as well, and even the Texas Rangers have a chance to win the Series this year.  Everybody loves a winner, right?  But more than that, I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents here when I was just a kid, it has a nice new looking skyline, and there are signs of growth everywhere, as the city is home to banking, insurance, and oil giants.  Like the Lone Star State, it’s as big as the open range, as flashy as a diamond ring, and as country as Luckenbach.  What’s not to like?

Texans sometimes get a bad rap for being overbearing and boorish, but I think that perception is only formed by New Yorkers and other uppity urbanites.  Yes, a Texan will generally tell you exactly what’s on their mind, but they’ll never be intentionally rude, they’re honest to a fault, and they’ve been raised right as gentlemen and ladies.  If being overly friendly or casual with strangers is the worse thing you can say about them, then maybe you’re a little too judge-mental.  Look in the mirror.

So I’m having dinner with Uncle Bob and my Aunt Dorothy at their home in a tony enclave just 5 minutes north and east of downtown Dallas, and he’s telling Jonathan and I a story about how he’d almost died in a wooden boat piloted by a Norwegian captain while searching the Bering Strait for petroleum.  He’s got a lot of stories like this, and he’s a fascinating character.  AT 84, his mind is still as sharp as a tack, and he makes awesome coleslaw and baked bens as well, which he is serving us with BBQ ribs and beef brisket from Off The Bone, a local eatery, and I can certainly recommend it, because Jonathan says they’re the best he’s ever had, which is truly amazing in view of the fact that his Mom makes some incredibly fine barbecue ribs herself, and he’s had some of Tennessee’s finest.

Every Southern state can rightly claim a legitimate BBQ heritage (indeed, it’s almost a religion), and each has its own unique take on the secret to a perfect combination of sweet or vinegary sauce, pulled or sliced meat, and open pit or smoked cooking, and a hundred other subtleties that I can’t even begin to comprehend.  I won’t pretend that I know how to cook, because I can burn water so it smells bad, but I DO know good Q, and this is fantastic stuff.  The brisket is tender and moist, the meaty ribs fall right off the bone and there’s almost no fat, and Uncle Bob’s corn on the cob, shucked just this evening, is perfect with a little butter and salt.  Texas BBQ is some of the best in the country, and we’re eating it tonight, and enjoying a nice Cabernet to boot.

After dinner, we catch up with each other and lament the fact that it’s been too long as usual.  Aunt Dorothy is a Dallas native and raised a wonderful daughter, Patricia, who lives and teaches in Toronto.  Of course my aunt and uncle are proud of their grandson and they visit as often as they can with each other.  We spend most of the time talking about getting together again for a reunion and trying to get the World’s Best Organizer and General Family Booster, Jill, to do all the hard work of motivating everybody, but the conversation ranges from politics, to travel, to stories from reunions past, and the general consensus is that we should get together during the summer when everyone has a chance to get off work, but in a cool climate.  Aunt Dorothy thinks that maybe Mackinac Island would be just perfect, and maybe she’s right.  I’ve never been, but I did see “Somewhere in Time”, and I’ve had plenty of Ford friends that highly recommended it as a destination.

I don’t think we should underestimate the good that people like my aunt and uncle do for society.  When he’s not working out, he’s president of his homeowner’s association and regularly makes the rounds as a neighborhood watch block captain.  He and Dorothy have the kind of comfortable familiarity that only 50 plus years of marriage can bring, and it’s touching to watch the way they look out for each other.  I dare say after all these years they’re still in love, and there’s a message there for someone like me who’s been twice divorced.  I hope I can decipher it someday.  They’re a good example of what a devoted couple should be.

Although they’re both in their 80’s, they seem to be in good shape, though I notice Aunt Dorothy has slowed down a little and some of the memory details are a little sketchy.  But mostly I just hope I can be in as good a shape when my time comes.

Tomorrow I head for the San Antonio…Remember the Alamo!


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