14 June 2004

ya'll come back now ya hear?

It didn't really sink in until two days before the trip. I would be entering the belly of the enemy, the Republican hive. I would be flying into George Bush International Airport, for godsakes! What would become of my left-leaning-non-ribs-eating-country-music-loathing-personage in HOUSTON TEXAS?

To prepare, I started a list of things that might be good about a visit to Texas.

1. Could become first person in family to ride a mechanical bull.
2. Might get to pose for comedic photo in front of life-sized statue of Bush.
3. Space shuttle simulator at NASA could provide opportunity to vomit into 10-gallon hat of evil oil baron.
4. Possible opportunity to talk with everyday conservative-types about Bush administration and help them to realize they (in conjunction with Haliburton) have royally screwed American public. Conservative cries on my shoulder while promising to donate to Moveon.org.

Unfortunately, none of these things came to pass. I didn't see a single cowboy, didn't hear any country music, didn't ride a mechanical bull or vomit. The people were extremely nice and Houston itself was actually very green albeit very very humid.

Oddly enough, the moments where I most felt like a fish-out-of-water happened when I was around my co-workers (all CA natives). At the start of the trip, before we had even left the airport, I tested the waters.

ME: So, did you hear George Tenant resigned?
COMPANION ONE: Who's George Tenant again?
COMPANION TWO: He was the director of the CIA. The guy was probably tired.
ME: Uh-huh.
COMPANION ONE: Did you hear they're doing another season of The Simple Life?

Now, to be fair, the two guys I traveled with were EXTREMELY nice. But it was clear from the beginning that I was going to have to spend a lot of time talking about food and the weather.

Once in Houston, we took a tour of NASA. It was interesting, but only in a "let's go to NASA to pass the time," kind of a way. In other words, don't plan your next family vacation there. That night we met up with the Texas Regional Manager, let's call him Walter, and went to a place called Joe's Crab Shack for dinner.

First impression: the walls were festooned with collectable Joe's Crab Shack shirts, boxer shorts, and trucker hats that say, among other things, "got crabs?" I didn't check, but I'm sure they didn't stock a size smaller than XXL.

The hostess seated us at a large picnic table in the middle of the restaurant and paired us off around metal buckets set in the middle of the table. "That there's the bone yard," said Walter, gesturing at one of the buckets.

Just then this siren thing goes off and someone yells "All servers, there's a 'special' on aisle five'" (and the word "special" is pronounced in such a way that you know the speaker is winking). Seven or eight servers and kitchen staff all line up and proceed to do some kind of disco line-dance to Y.M.C.A.

My crowning achievement was to lean over the table and ask Walter with a straight face, "So, is Houston the more cosmopolitan of the cities in Texas?" I was politely informed that, surprisingly, Dallas was really the cultural hub.

I had a salad and a potato while the rest of the group ordered Dungeness Crab. I stared at the crab across from me, and he stared back (while being dismembered) and I thought "we're both a long way from home." I thought the worst was over until Walter insisted that a visit to Joe's Crab Shack wasn't complete without eating some crawfish and besides, there was still room in the bone yard. He ordered two pounds of them, boiled and spiced, and I ordered my sixth Lone Star. I then tried to suppress my gag reflex as he described, in detail, how to purge and kill crawfish while simultaneously sucking the brains and tails out of several of them. "They eat mud, so ya got to stick 'eem in salt water and purge 'em. But leave 'im in there to long and ya kills 'im."

DID YOU KNOW: You should never eat a crawfish with a straight tail because that means it was dead when it was cooked. Also be sure to crack the tail at the third joint as this is the most convenient way to strip the major vein out whilst also removing the shell. WHY THE HELL DO I KNOW THIS!?!?!

The rest of the trip was actually okay and fairly mundane. Seeing as this e-mail is already pretty long, I'll cut it short here.

I booked a flight to Portland! I'm coming to visit Friday July 30 - Sunday August 8th and I CAN'T WAIT!!!

Miss you all!

-MD

P.S. If you know Barry, congratulate him for swimming all the way around the Huntington Pier!

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