I woke up this morning around 6 AM to what I thought was the sound of my phone going off. I’ve left the ring on the distinct Samsung or Droid factory ring that came with the phone, because I’ve never heard it on anyone else’s phone, so I am always pretty sure it’s my phone when it’s going off in a room. I woke up in the baby’s room, because the wife was snoring again, and I’ve found that with her pregnancy snoring it’s not even worth bothering trying to put up with it or give her a nudge to make it stop.
I was having one of my classic dreams–actually it was a twofer, in that it combined two of my most classic dream themes: the dreaded elevator and the final exam.
In this dream, I was with a large group of people who were taking a series of tests to join an elite group of smartypants types–this was a much more exclusive group than Mensa, and the battery of tests and information about them came in a stack almost as high as half a box of printer paper. Apparently, I had made the decision not to neatly staple together all of my sections, which the test proctor had strongly recommended we do.
I stood up to go ask the proctor a question I had about the first set of instructions, and when I turned around, all of the paperwork associated with my tests was missing. “You really should have stapled your sections together,” someone said, “The cleaning crew came by and probably thought they were scrap paper because they weren’t stapled together like everyone else’s.”
At first, I wasn’t worried. I’d noticed that my best friend from high school, James Keese, happened to be there in the room, and I’d just discovered that we were going to be roommates at the hotel we were staying at to take the tests. I knew he would let me make photocopies of all of his paperwork.
But, James looked up at me when I walked over and said, “I don’t think you’re going to be able to do that, because the proctor has instructed us to begin filling out the first test.” Now, in real life, James was one of the sloppiest test-takers and generally did poorly in school. In spite of this, his standardized achievement results on the state tests always managed to come back higher than many of the people who were jostling to become class valedictorian. He was a very intelligent fellow, but hardly the kind of person who took any sort of institutionalized rules that seriously.
I was a bit nonplussed at his unwillingness to let me borrow his paperwork to make the photocopies, and so I decided for whatever reason that I would go upstairs to my room to find more copies of the paperwork. I got on the elevator with some random people in the hotel who weren’t part of the smartypants club testing group (even though the entrance to the elevator was, of course in perfect dream logic, right there inside the conference room where the tests were being administered), and was hardly surprised when the elevator started to go down when everyone had pushed for floors to make it go up–another standard feature in a lot of my dreams.
I woke up inside the baby’s room and the new shades that I’d installed yesterday made light leak in differently than the newspaper that had been covering the windows from the painting last month. At first, I thought one of the windows was the doorway, and I started to make my way toward it, but I knew that this wasn’t quite right. I checked myself before I slammed into the crib I’d also put together yesterday, and exited the room to go find my phone, which hadn’t rang.
But, I was up, so I came in to the kitchen and let the dog out and made myself a coffee.
I started thinking about my terrible behavior yesterday, and how my wife is probably starting to really get tired of it. I don’t know why it happens. I guess I get sick of the two speeds people drive around here: ten miles under the speed limit, or twenty miles over the speed limit. Yesterday, after I stopped writing and decided to take the dog for a quick walk down at the dam, I was driving down the lake road that is two lane at a certain point where it makes large dips and curves around. You have maybe a minute to go before it opens up and becomes four lanes again.
I saw the standard and predictable appear in my rearview mirror. The good old boy with the oversize pickup truck who wants to go really fast, and so he’ll tailgate the shit out of you until you either pull over to the shoulder or speed up to match his speed. You see this more here in Texas than anywhere else in the country. I know, I’ve driven through just about every southern state, and it’s like night and day when you cross over the border into this state.
Now, if I’m out on a country road where there are miles to go before the good old boy has a clear shot at passing me, I will do what seems to be the common practice and pull over onto the shoulder and slow down to let him pass. But, on a stretch of urban road covering less than a full mile before the passing opportunities open back up–no way. Jesus, you can wait Redneck Joe–there is nothing you need to be in that much of a hurry about that requires you to tailgate the shit out of me.
This guy did something I only occasionally see people do. Usually they just fume and fret because they’ve been incapable of making me speed up–intimidating me with the sheer size of their vehicle in my rearview mirror and causing some evolutionary instinct to kick in where I’m powerless but to either speed up or get out of the way from the much larger beast riding my tail. Then, within less than a minute, they have their chance to pass me with the extra lane and I can hear them gun the engine and watch them fly by with some kind of bumper sticker that is either a Confederate flag or a Nobama or Nope sticker, or all three. This guy passed me on the shoulder.
Then, there is this other spot in our town which I always seem to frequently need to approach, where cars must yield because they aren’t given any lane of their own to merge onto a busy boulevard, and the visibility requires you to basically put your neck out of whack, turning around like the Exorcist girl to look up and down the hill behind you where traffic is approaching. A lot of folks don’t even pause at this yield sign and always somehow manage to avoid getting hit by oncoming traffic. One such old granny in a Buick did just that in front of me, and the approaching driver put on their brakes for them.
Now, I know that me in my tiny little Honda Civic am not as well-received around here, because I fit the profile of one of those goddamn librul college educators down at the university, or am otherwise up here doing librul indoctrination of somebody. I turn and look and the lane is empty, but as I pull on to merge I get a horn blared at me, where some good old boy in his oversize Ford F-X50 had decided to either pull into this lane at the last second or he’d been speeding well above the 40 MPH speed limit.
I went berserk. I turned into the Exorcist girl at this point, for sure, because it is like some kind of demon takes over me. I honestly think about following the fellow and getting out a tire iron and beating him to a pulp, charging like a zombie even as he’s ripping a million holes into me from his assault rifle.
I went berserk once yesterday while hanging the blinds. Shit just wasn’t working like I thought it should, and I had to remove screws and redrill holes, and the screws still weren’t going in. I suddenly saw my dad hanging over my shoulder, fretting and telling me that I was just doing every last little thing wrong, and trying to take charge of the whole thing and do it himself like he’s done my entire life.
I think I made my wife cry.
I’ve never yelled at her. I’m pretty sure she’d leave me if I did. But, I get so damn mad at all of these characters from my past and present who all come together to represent a troop of loudmouth bullies and douchebag snobs that once got the better of me in a conversation where I didn’t have the wit to retort evenly and could only think of saying something like “Go burn in hell for eternity while I fuck your mom,” or some similar nastiness where I am really hoping to put a hex on them that will cause all manner of terrible things to happen to them from now until forever.
“If you don’t like it here, you can leave,” has been the standard retort of just about anyone and everyone. Believe me, I’ve tried. Something holds me here fast in Texas like one of those towns with a forcefield around it in a Stephen King book, or the Truman Show. I’ve been to NYC twice and instantly fell in love with it both times. Same with SF, same with Charleston. I’ve even found myself thinking about all the ways in which Kansas City, Missouri is actually a better place to live than Austin, Texas. There are a few, but you wouldn’t know it unless you had lived in both places. To be certain, I’ve forgotten a lot about what made me despise Missouri, but I also think a lot of it was me despising myself.
While I wouldn’t be so bold as to say I’ve completely gotten over the despising of myself, I can clearly see that I am NOT a Texan, and there is something about Texas that has always (and will always) just rub me the wrong way. It’s really an attitude–an attitude of people who have bought their own marketing but don’t really want anyone else to buy it. When it comes to natural attractions, Texas isn’t the greatest state. If you take away all of the flat, boring land that is more or less like the state of Kansas, you will find a few large hills, some muddy brown beaches, and a couple of swamps. You get a tiny bit of the flavor of the west, a bit of the southeast, and a whole hell lot of the Midwest, though no self-respectin’ Texan would admit that most of their state is like the Midwest.
But, more than the natural areas that have never quite resonated with me, I’ve had a hard time understanding the mindset of the people, especially the white people. I say the white people, just because I haven’t had anything more than passing experiences interacting with Blacks and Latinos in this state, and don’t feel especially qualified to comment on them. When I have interacted with them, they, for the most part, appear to be living separate lives from the white conservatives and liberals of the state.
The white people of Austin are liberals who don’t want to lift a finger to try to turn their state blue again–although, I’ve seen a few more Wendy Davis stickers this year down there. I’m not used to seeing any statewide Democratic candidate stickers at all. Aside from Obama, Kirk Watson and Mark Strama, you typically don’t catch any liberals in Austin caring much about who is the Democrat running for U.S. Senate or Governor, because they’ve all been cowed into thinking that the rest of Texas is completely red and there is no way to win.