I was able to get the car in at Bastrop Ford and they had a technician scheduled in about an hour so I used the opportunity to work on-line. The waiting room was very comfortable, the service manager telling me they had just finished a renovation. Hurricane Harvey was on everyone’s mind and I listened in as two other customers were talking about it. They were talking loudly so it wasn’t like I hitched my chair close to hear their whispers. They both seemed starved for conversation so they talked for quite a while. A man was telling a lady that his rain gauge registered 29 inches of rain after emptying a few times, and that was in this area. The lady, who lived in Houston never lost power because she is on the power grid with the local hospital and somehow it stayed on. I have never heard of this before and assumed that if the power goes out, the hospital better have a back-up generator. It sounded like this woman lived in a rough area of Houston as she enthusiastically answered “Yes” when asked about a conceal to carry permit and has had her home broken into six times. She has even talked with the criminals as they were trying to get into her home, her door the only separation. She seemed well practiced in the art of conversation and I am sure she could stall the would-be robbers until the police came. If not, she always has her conceal to carry permit. They will not stop talking and the man brought up a time when he was waiting for maintenance at another dealer. Apparently, he takes good care of his truck; it is Texas after all. As he was sitting in the waiting room he noticed everyone’s nose was buried in their phones so he loudly asked, “would anyone like to have an actual conversation?” Lo and behold a few did and I guess the moral of this story is sometimes you just have to ask. I am rescued, sort of, by the service manager. It turns out to be struts, they need to get the parts but it should be fixed by later in the afternoon. Not sure if I feel good or bad about this, but these are the cards I am dealt and it could always be worse. I grab my stuff and am shuttled back to the KOA.
It’s a different feeling when you know you can’t go somewhere than when you choose to not go somewhere. I felt stranded, and there wasn’t a lot to do around the campground. Shade was at a premium, the pool wasn’t opened, and the dog park was closed. But, I can’t complain when I think about Houston and what they are facing. My problems are small potatoes and I realize this as I watch CH-47 helicopters pass over on their way to Houston. No Metallica playing this time. I use the hours to do some writing, picture organization and laundry. Laundry is a pain in the butt but so essential in so many ways. You realize the importance of it when you no longer have clean undergarments to wear, or the last pair of socks are dirty. This hot weather doesn’t help matters either. The facilities are nice and equipment is open. The only thing worse than doing laundry is waiting to do laundry. I hate the delay, it’s as if my brain has been programmed for the task at this specific time and if not done accordingly, anxiety results. I make conversation with a man who has lived at the park for eleven years. Yes that’s “Eleven” and not “Ten”. He has seen three different owners over that time and likes the current ones best. A native Texan, his family has been here “before it was Texas”, and rattles off names that escaped my Texas history classes; required to graduate college. He sold pharmaceuticals for yeas in West Texas and New Mexico and gave some rather sage advice. “No mama wants to hear she has an ugly baby so I always tried to say something nice about where I was.” I take this to heart as I continue to travel through the American Southwest. It turns out he was in the Navy during Viet Nam, a Corpsman assigned to a Marine Unit in Da Nang. I told him I worked on Phantoms and he had a lot of admiration for the Air Force. “Those planes and pilots saved our ass more than once,” he replied. He continued to tell me he has suffered four strokes which he attributes to Agent Orange poisoning but the VA has thought different up until recently. “I guess enough of us have died off that they can finally recognize it,” he says. Horrible if true. Laundry is finished so I head back to give Mabel some exercise.
Tonight, I am scheduled to get together on 6th Street with some Air Force buddies. For some, we haven’t seen each other in over 15 years. We have been texting back and forth and I sense a general excitement at “getting the band back together”, as I am also stoked. But still no car and it is getting late. Finally, a call that it is done, a young mechanic is sent to retrieve me at the KOA. We talk on the short trip and I find out he is restoring a truck at his Dad’s house and he likes the work. I tell him these are skills that will be in demand during the zombie apocalypse. “We will need people to weld and fix things, not lawyers and accountants.” I tell him. He looks over and smiles.
6th Street holds a very dear place in my heart because that is where Sheri and I met in a little dance club called Arena. They played the best music at the time and the drinks were cheap until 10:00. I was running late tonight as usual, but traffic helped contribute. I met Randy on Trinity after finding parking, meters now on all the spots. We walked to the Iron Cactus, my mind racing to figure out what the clubs we passed were named when we used to come down. They all escape me. Phil Deriggi, Ray Hudy, and Brian Moody are already at the table and have started with the adult beverages. We had a great time, Shiner Bock can help with that and I don’t remember laughing as hard as I did. The stories flew and it was fun to reminisce because we have all moved on. None of us were pining away for the old days, we are at a point in our lives when we can celebrate them. There was nothing pathetic in our “remember whens”. Brian’s name recollection was amazing, I think it’s because he hasn’t hit 50 yet, and he brought up people I hadn’t thought of in years. There were times on 6th street that I had forgotten and I realized we really had some good times back then. But not too good that we all didn’t settle down. We renewed our brotherhood over beers, conversation, and lots laughs, I just hope it doesn’t take nearly as long to see them again.
I said good bye to my brothers and opted for a walk down memory lane on today’s 6th Street. It is different and not because I was looking through 50-year-old eyes and progressive lenses. The people looked the same as when we used to cruise the sidewalks and it’s hard to think I was ever that young. The clubs seem to have a darker motif, not in a bad way, but in a different style than when we were there. It also seemed a little dirtier than I remember, maybe that’s because of the 50-year-old eyes. I guess more changes, things just don’t stay the same. I found my car, the journey open-eyed by Austin’s homeless population which seemed greater than I remember. The lights and action of 6th Street a natural draw for many types of people providing a multitude of opportunities. The ride to the KOA is now familiar and I smile when I pass the Mr. Gatti’s pizza place near the base, I mean airport. After 30 + years I still remember “Dial 459-2222 and Mr. Gatti’s Pizza delivers.” Some things never change.
As Frank Zappa said, “goodnight Austin, Texas, wherever you are.”
Thankful tonight for the opportunity to share laughs with my Air Force Brothers