Carded at the Liquor Store

It was my fault. I put my hair up. I put it up in that little “poof” type thing that girls do, that I also recently learned how to do. I think it makes me look cute. Apparently, it also makes me look young.

I know it’s the hair because this has happened before. It happens when I have short hair, especially. One time when I was visiting my sister in Arizona, we went to the grocery store and she bought beer. She had just finished cutting several inches off my hair (Maria always gives me a haircut when I visit because she’s a beauty school drop-out – no joke. She’s the only stylist I’ve ever really had all my life). This apparently made me look young enough to be Maria’s daughter.

As soon as the question left the clerk’s lips, my 33-year old sister’s eyes bulged with shock and disbelief. “Is she my daughter? Are you serious? My DAUGHTER??” Maria, the black sheep of my family, has no trouble at all expressing her emotions on any given subject, any time. I’m surprised there were no 4-letter words.

There was a reason for the question, though, beyond this clerk’s total lack of ability to judge age by appearance. I guess Arizona has this law that unless you’re 21 you can’t even handle booze being purchased unless the purchaser is your parent. So when she saw me grabbing the beer off the checkout counter to load our cart, she was obligated by law to stop me. Being a child and everything.

I am still at that age where I feel more indignance than flattery when being carded. “What? I don’t look cool and old and sophisticated? Should I start dotting a fake mole next to my lips with eyeliner in the mornings? Or smoke Virginia Slims through a long cigarette holder?” I’ll have them all know that just a few weeks ago I discovered my first gray hair. Maybe next time I’m carded I’ll lay that on the table.

One day I’m sure I will be more like Maria, whom I’m certain would have loved to hear, “Can I see some I.D.?” instead of, “Is that your 20-something-year old daughter?”

Today the clerk who carded me wasn’t too bad. But I knew she wasn’t asking for I.D. from everyone, so it was the hair for sure. I had to fumble with my license to get it out of that stupid plastic death-grip thing in my wallet, and when I finally got hold of it it shot out onto the floor and I awkwardly fumbled around trying to pick it up as it slid all over the ground under my cold, dry, non-gripping fingers. All of this probably took place in about 3 seconds, but that’s sort of a long time when you’re being asked to validate yourself in a room full of grownups.

It was worth it all once I got home and had my rum and egg-nog. Mmmmm. Happy holiday to me, indeed.


My Last Night in London

So. Here I go. Off to America. To Texas. To my homeland, but not my home.

Do I have a home? Yes. I just haven’t returned to it yet.

While in England and Morocco, I never told people that I was from America. I told them I was from Texas. In Marrakech, the men would always respond, “Oh, Texas! Good country!” You have no idea, I thought.

In my hotel this morning I saw an old man. He was heavy and hunched over and walked with a cane. The BBC morning news program was on and they had some story about how much time my generation spends plugged into media throughout the week. I thought it was kind of funny that I was pulling my laptop out to be my breakfast companion while they were running that story. I wondered what the old man thought of young folks today, always sitting at the computer. Wasting their lives on machines, he might think. A few minutes later, as I was finishing my coffee, I looked over and saw that he also had a little Acer mini notebook! Just like mine! Funny, the way we assume we know what other people think.

Later on, after we had both moved to the lobby to make more room for people in the breakfast area, I walked past him and couldn’t help but sneak a peek at what he was doing on his computer. He had an email pulled up that said in all capital letters: “HEY SEXY WHAT’S GOING ON…” Oh my! I walked away, half silently cracking up and half cringing.

Last night I trampsed around London. I almost decided not to go because I was afraid of navigating London’s public transportation system by myself, getting lost and having to spend a bunch of money to find my way back. Something urged me, however, to just ask the hotel front desk guy how the Underground fare system works, and he informed me that I could purchase a day travel card for all services. That sounded good to me. In the Jack Flanders adventurer spirit, I decided to walk to the nearest station and just find my way to Abbey Road. (How could I come all the way to England and not make the pilgrimage when it was so close within my reach?)

I’m so glad I did it, because in traveling on the Underground I realized that you would have to be a complete moron to not understand traveling on the Underground. It’s so easy. I would have missed a good night if I’d let my fear be my guide by staying in the hotel.

When I got off at St. Johns Wood, I started walking in the directions Google gave me. Google has been more iffy for me on this trip. I wondered if I would be able to find the famous crosswalk and the studio. Well, when I got to the crosswalk where a bunch of people stood around taking pictures of their friends walking across the road, I figured I was in the right spot. People were there from all over the world…at 6pm on a Wednesday night! Incredible. I managed to find some Spanish speakers amongst the barrage of foreign tongues and got them to take my picture crossing the road.

I went from St. Johns Wood to downtown London, not sure where I was headed next. I decided to get off at the stop where the recorded Train Announcer Voice loudly proclaimed, “Get off here for Buckingham Palace.” Okay! I thought. This is a Jack Flanders adventure, after all. Time to just go with the flow and say, “Feets, do your stuff.”

I don’t know if people who live in London realize how beautiful their city is, especially at night (every city is more beautiful at night). Probably not – hardly anyone realizes the beauty of their own home. I walked around and took a few low-light pictures of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.The London Eye made beautiful reflections over the water – romantic. It’s too bad I always go on these adventures alone. Well, it’s not too bad. These are moments God takes to woo me. I listened to Meet Me By The Water as I walked over the bridge.

For dinner, I went to McDonalds. It was the only place still open where I could pay by credit card (I needed my last few pounds for the bus in the morning). I had been craving a McFlurry since I saw someone on the bridge eating one, and the girl at the register was cool enough to add one as the drink for my meal without changing the price. She was cute – she was from some other country and English wasn’t her first language. She accidentally pushed the “pay by cash” button on the register, so her manager had to come over and spend like 5 minutes fixing it. I didn’t mind because of the McFlurry, and because this girl was too sweet to get mad at.

When I got back home I was exhausted. Yet I woke up super early this morning. I think it’s the sunlight. I just can’t sleep too long past sunrise for whatever reason. My body must be adjusting as I transition in life. Perhaps my soul knows it needs sunlight to recharge me. Opening my solar plexus. Who knows.

What’s So Terrible About Texas?

So what’s so terrible about Texas, anyways?

You mean, what was it about Texas that made me sure – oh so sure – that I was not supposed to be there? That, after spending seven years in the Lone Star State, I was just itching to be anywhere – God, absolutely anywhere else?

Not too much, really. Texas isn’t such a bad place.

You wouldn’t hear me admit that to a lot of people. For most of the time that I lived in Texas, I happened to associate mostly with people who were also from somewhere besides Texas. And guess what one of our favorite pastimes was? That’s exactly right – making fun of Texas.

You’ve probably encountered many of the stereotypes of Texas at some point in your life. And I’ll just say as someone who aims to be absolutely fair and unbiased in one’s judgments of the world, that whatever you heard is absolutely true. If you think of Texas and immediately picture a ten-gallon hat, you are right. If you see cowboys with chaps and spurs riding on wild bulls, you’re also right. If you think of blonde well-to-do ladies with big hair and shiny white teeth, you’re right. Tumbleweeds blowing in the desert wind – even that’s not too far off. Armadillos scuttling along country roads beneath a giant sky littered with starlight…correct. Large palaces of stone fully decked with marble pillars that seem to mark some kind of royal dynasty, labeled by the familiar and sacred sign of recognition, “Local Bible Church,” – right on the money. (If you closed your eyes and pictured those giant cacti with arms reaching skyward – they’re called saguaros – I’m sorry. Those are only native to Arizona. Don’t feel bad, though – it’s a common mistake).

None of this was really all that bad. Making fun of Texas was something that we did as kids (post high school graduates to be exact) because that’s what kids do. It gave us a chance to express ourselves, to compare Texas to wherever we were from and claim our superiority over it. We also lived in rural Texas (a place called Garden Valley – can you find it on any map?) and many of us were not accustomed to being in the middle of no where and having nothing to do with our free time. So, dogging Texas gave us something to do.

I’m grateful for the time I spent in the union’s second largest state – the only of which to have stood as its own independent nation. During my time in Texas I encountered such phenomena as Zebra farms, the I-20 Mud Bog, wild boars, the aforementioned armadillo, acres and acres of wild daffodil gardens, and a whole royal family of donut coffee shops (Donut Palace, Donut King, Royal Donuts, and etcetera).

So, going back to your question, just what exactly was it about Texas that made me absolutely certain that I wanted nothing more, after seven long years, than to leave?

It wasn’t the chiggers looming in the tall grassy fields, or the mosquitoes that laid in waiting for the most romantic time of day (the time of day some of us photographers refer to as “the magic hour” – the perfect golden-hued hour of dusk) to suck your unsuspecting blood. It wasn’t the humidity or the mind-numbing heat, although I did get sick of always being slightly moist all over and peeling damp clothes off my body at the end of the every day. It wasn’t x and it wasn’t y and it wasn’t Z. It wasn’t even E=mc2. It wasn’t any of those things.

It was the fact that there were no mountains anywhere. Maybe you’re thinking, “Wait, I know of mountains in Texas – West Texas is full of them.” You’re right, but I lived in the East far beyond these mountains’ range of visibility. I lived where I could look at the horizon and all I saw for miles and miles were groves of trees and descending hills. This, to me, just wasn’t right. I grew up around mountains. I was born in a valley in Eastern Washington, shadowed by Mt. Adams and just a short drive from the Cascades. Then I moved to Arizona, where the landscape was dramatically different, yet was sheltered by the protective fortresses of monolithic stone. So no matter how I felt about Texas, however much I liked or disliked my job, my studies, or my interactions with those I met and romped with there, something to me always seemed to be missing. I couldn’t really explain it, I just knew something wasn’t right. I knew that when I looked on the horizon and was simply able to see on and on along the road or beyond the trees, I felt like I was looking off into no where and was simply lost. I needed to be walled back in again. I needed to be brought home.