I was recently home in the great state of Texas. As I write this I’m realizing that Texas is so supremely awesome, it should always be written in all caps, like: I was just home in the great state of TEXAS. I know that probably annoys any non-Texans so I’ll spare you the caps and the exclamation point I’m also tempted to add to my state’s name (TEXAS!). I want you Yanks to keep reading.
Anyhoo…It was the weekend before Christmas and we were snuggled into my sister’s house paying obsessive attention to my niece and her new kitchen set. My dad casually steered the conversation away from my niece’s monogrammed pink plastic spatula and toward my employment status. I guess he’s given up on the Human Resources path for yours truly because this time he suggested: “Well, while you’re writing and trying to make that happen, why don’t you look into the medical field?” I took a breath, careful not to blurt out that my degrees are in English Lit and Film (let’s just say I’ve never been a logical person, and my diplomas make that pretty clear).
The only possible explanation for my dad suggesting I look into the “medical field” is that my sister Jaclyn just became a phlebotomist. Don’t know what that is? I didn’t either. Jackie peppily told me over the phone one day, “I’m gonna become a phlebotomist!” That word sounds a wee bit like taxidermist so I was a little worried. Once she explained that a phlebotomist is the person that takes your blood at the doctor’s office I relaxed. Not that there’s anything wrong with taxidermy, but imagining my baby sister in a musty, dark room stuffing owls and raccoons and some crazy lady’s pet poodle creeped me out. I told Jackie I was proud of her, and immediately made a mental note to one day write a novel called My Sister, The Phlebotomist.
Hit the Jump to continue reading Bureaucracy for Breakfast vol. XIII: You can’t go home again…
“I went to bed feeling how Holden Caulfield must have felt about duck ponds and humanity at large…”
I nearly puked in my friend’s lap when I sat through the arm-cutting scene in 127 Hours and when my dillion-dollar surgeon friend gets into the minutia of operating on a five hundred pound woman my face contorts and I practically flee the room like a refugee. I look away dramatically when a phlebotomist has hold of my arm, and the word “scab” makes me feel all wilty and want to faint. And puke. What I’m trying to say is, the medical field and I don’t mix. Sorry dad.
Back in the Formula D racecar era, when I was newly laid off, the idea of moving back to Texas started to sound heavenly. When I moved away to California at eighteen, I firmly believed I would never, ever live in Texas again. I was young, naïve, and a vegetarian then. I knew nothing of life or of the joys of hamburgers and lambwiches. When the boss man booted me last spring, and I was free to roam and live anywhere I wanted, visions of Austin danced in my noggin. My sister Amy (aka Sister X — cat’s outta the bag now!) started emailing me apartments and houses for rent in Austin and when I compared the prices to what I was paying in Los Angeles, it had the same effect 127 Hours had on me. I wanted to puke.
For a brief two months I was pretty dead set on leaving the magical land of California and settling into a bigger apartment with an actual oven and an actual refrigerator in Austin. So what there’s no ocean, there are like five lakes sans sharks! So what there are no mountains, the hill country is purdy, even with water moccasins, cottonmouths, rattlers and scorpions. There’s (sort of) a film industry there, or so my parents like to remind me constantly. You can get Blue Bell ice cream and Tex-Mex on every corner. Problem is I’ve been in Los Angeles so long now I‘ve grown some roots here, for better or worse, and even though my roots in Texas reach way deeper, the decision ain’t so easy. I know a few people who’ve been laid off and have made the decision to leave Los Angeles and go home, whether that’s Ohio or upstate New York or Michigan. They seem pretty happy. But as I waver between wanting to go home to Texas and wanting to stick it out in Los Angeles, I wonder if going home equals defeat. And if so, why?
This is all getting way too serious and I’m not making a decision on where to live today, so let me leave you with two night-on-the-town episodes, one in Los Angeles, the other in Fort Worth, where I was born — for comparison’s sake and, as always, just for fun.
Los Angeles: I have two holiday parties in one night, yippee! My friend and I hit the first, which is at a gorgeous place in Beverly Hills full of gorgeous well-dressed people and gorgeous desserts. It’s fun and the people are sweet and we have Johnny Walker Black on the rocks gratis (note: holiday parties are an unemployed person’s dream-come-true. Free food, free drinks, and you can get dressed up and feel like your bank account is bursting at the seams). I get a text from another friend that there’s a party at the house of a “famous Spanish actor” in West Hollywood. Like any red-blooded hetero female my imaginary cartoon thought bubble goes: Javier Bardem! Then I remember he’s married and about to have a bambino. I read it in US Weekly at Ralphs grocery store. Probably not his casa – Penelope would be pissed! I can only think of one other hot famous Spanish actor (notice I just assume this mystery actor will be fantastic looking). I’ve seen Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith in person in the lobby of the Death Star — aka CAA — and not kidding that woman was clutching him with long red nails like a succubus! Antonio seemed to dig her femme Hitler energy… I would not like any part of that bizarre love triangle.
One perspective of the City of Angels…
We pull up to a modest house to find the famous Spanish actor is a ridiculously hot Spanish TV actor dude we’ve never heard of. And he’s married to a hot blonde girl. Anyhoo, as usual at LA parties pretty much everyone is fit and fabulous. There’s lots of double-cheek kissing going on which makes me nervous. I’ve never been good at this custom and never remember which way to kiss first, so my lips usually land on some stranger’s eyeball or lips or chin. This is not sexy. It’s clumsy and — according to my friends — highly comedic. I was raised to hug. At the end of the night my friend and I find ourselves leaning against the kitchen stove talking to a fabulous looking Italian “actor” who proceeds to tell us he’s been deeply in love eight times in his twenty-seven years on earth (EIGHT TIMES people — I mean, I know he’s Italian but come on!) and he repeatedly slips into the conversation that he comes from Italian “nobility” but that’s really tough for him, coming from such wealth and privilege. He’s so tired of dating models and beautiful women who don’t know how to discuss philosophy — at which point I blurt out in a kinda-sorta, possibly hostile tone: “You’re seriously telling me you want a girl to discuss philosophy with you?” Sometimes I have no filter. It’s a thing. The Italian nobleman-slash-struggling actor focuses his attention on my less hostile friend and I continue to eye him with what can only be described as gobsmacked cynicism. This guy is so totally full of shit I secretly wish I had a spy cam on me to record him so I could submit the footage to the anthropology department at UCLA. By the end of the party my mind was so amazed by this dude’s ridiculousness, I went to bed feeling how Holden Caulfield must have felt about duck ponds and humanity at large. Boggled.
Fort Worth: We’re on our way to Billy Bob’s, the largest honky tonk in the universe, which is actually in the Fort Worth stockyards, and my sister Kathryn has already married me off to our Lebanese cab driver Georgie. His name is really George, but we’re two vodka sodas and one tequila shot in (each), so my sister has taken to calling him Georgie and she keeps cooing, “I love my Georgie! I want you to marry my sister!” Georgie seems hip to the nuptials and I’m playing along from the back seat – he does seem sweet. We discuss what our centerpieces will look like.
“One side of our family is homemade jalapeno poppers and pickup trucks, and the other is store-bought TV dinners and yarmulkes…”
As per usual in Texas, by the end of our Tex-Mex dinner we were fast friends with the bartenders (hence the free tequila shots) and every single person at the bar. Eventually we exchange emails with a couple wearing head-to-toe purple TCU outfits, hug everyone within a thirty-foot radius, and say our goodbyes. Our mission at Billy Bob’s is to see the Randy Rogers band. I’m excited. I love Fort Worth, and the fact that my parents and maternal grandparents used to go to Billy Bob’s when they were young’uns makes me happy. Our paternal grandfather Big Papa went once too, which must have been an odd sight since Big Papa looks more like a Jewish mob boss than a cowboy. One side of our family is homemade jalapeno poppers and pickup trucks, and the other is store-bought TV dinners and yarmulkes. Big Papa represents the latter.
Before we left for Billy Bob’s our mom kept repeating, “Now, you girls hold hands and stick together!” as if we were in junior high and heading to see Depeche Mode play at Six Flags. Once we walked into Billy Bob’s I saw her wisdom; the place is ginormous. It’s a sea of people and foamy beers and cowboy hats and mechanical bulls and we did actually lose each other several times – until we started holding hands like we were in junior high and going to see Depeche Mode at Six Flags. We met a cute cowboy-hat wearing dude in line for beer who actually took his hat OFF and tipped it when he introduced himself. I swooned a little – this behavior does not happen in Los Angeles.
We share a table with several strangers who we’re best friends with within about six seconds. Randy Rogers kills it and we’re having a damn fine time, despite the fact that our waitress turns out to be a drunk fifty-something woman with no short-term memory (we’d order three Shiner Bocks; she’d return with one Bud Light. Every time). The show ends and we gravitate toward a huge bar in the center of Billy Bob’s, and proceed to make friends with several strangers within about three point two seconds. More beers and more hugging, Texas style. No fancy-pants cheek kisses for us.
Billy Bob’s kicks everyone out and we grab another cab home. The guy’s not as charming as Georgie so Kathryn eases off on the matchmaking. We’re about five minutes from home when my sister Amy yells in my ear, “I need to pee PULL OVER!” I calmly remind her we’re in a cab, with a meter, on a freeway, four minutes from home. She turns to me, and growls like a she-devil, “You’ve never had a child you don’t know what this FEELS LIKE!!!” Her fury scares me so I just mutter, “OK.” We pull over and Amy disappears for about fifteen minutes. It suddenly dawns on me that she’s probably made best friends with someone inside the gas station and has no memory that there’s a metered cab outside with her sisters in it, so I hurry inside and lo-and-behold she’s deep in conversation with some random chick in the middle of Texaco. They hug, I drag her into the cab and we head home.
I didn’t go to sleep feeling boggled like Holden Caulfield about my night out that night. I did wake up smooshed into a small couch with Kathryn and Tanner, her eighty-five-pound Golden Retriever, feeling right at home.
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