Sender: English Language Discussion Group <>
From: gilbertsmith <>
Subject:      WHTMIT1

> Tuesday 6/1:  So I am making the final preparations to leave for
> *San* *Antone*, and I pick up the phone to call and cancel , then
> hang up before anyone answers.  This would be unprofessional, I say.
> And I am not, whatever I am, unprofessional.  Why don't I want to go?
> Maybe because 1) the tc/sw and I are not on the best of terms; or 2)
> the tc/sw and her teenage children are leaving for WWOCZ two days
> before I return; or 3) I hate change of any kind, so would prefer to
> stay where I am; or -- *ah* *hah*:  4) I dread going back to
> Texas, because the reason for going to Texas has, for the last thirty-
> four years, been, simply, to visit my parents and the house where I
> grew up.  Now, I have planned a trip which includes three extra days
> after the AP Reading, three days for making a last trip to West Texas
> to see, one last time, the house where I learned about life, the
> house sold one month ago to an awful woman from somewhere else, a
> woman who bitched about the price for a month and then screamed foul
> when my brother sold my mother's freezer at a yard sale after the
> woman said she did *not* want it included in the house sale.
>     Since I have to go, we celebrate the birthdays of the tc/sw and
> the boy Nick, which means that -ggs has to bake a cake, since that is
> what -ggs *always* does, no matter what.  So, cakes baked, we go out
> for a last supper together and -ggs and the tc/sw, predictably, get
> into a fight, which results in the boy Nick babbling incoherently to
> try to divert our attention, and the tc/sw muttering that this is
> <some celebration>, and I just want to be somewhere else.  For a
> while.
>     The only thing that keeps me from getting up and leaving the
> restaurant is that I wont see these people, my family, for two
> months.  No time to slam the door and then open it again.  So, the
> fight goes away, though not the bad feelings, and the birthday
> celebration is a success, since the boy Nick finds $34 hidden in his
> cake ($2 for each year of his life) and the tc/sw finds $78 ($2 for
> each year of her life--not really--but -ggs figures that if she
> insists on saying she is 39, she only gets $78... and the moral to
> that story is _lying will get you nowhere_......)
>     So to bed, and the feelings are not so bad anymore, but very
> apprehensive.
> Wednesday 6/2:  I get up early and she takes me to the airport for
> 8 a.m. flight to Dallas, where I rent a car for my journey into the
> past.  First stop:  my older brother's house, where a family
> celebration awaits me.  Older brother, OB's wife, younger brother,
> nephew and his wife, niece and her baby boy.  A very nice time, which
> includes bringing out the family <jewels>, which now belong, in part,
> to none other than *me*....   OB'sW shows off her diamond pendant,
> made from my mother's dinner ring, and it looks a lot bigger than it
> did in the ring.  Neat-O.  Then OB brings out the box of jewels for
> little -ggs.  My mother's original wedding/engagement ring set,
> without the stones, and the newer wedding/engagement rings with the
> stones from the first set, and a circa-1950 diamond watch.  When we
> first divided up this stuff after my mother's funeral, I assumed this
> was about $1500 worth of <goods>....
>     OB informs me that he has had it appraised and
> it comes to, actually, in fact, about $10,0000.  I try to keep my
> eyes from getting big, because YB is watching and *not* happy, since
> he got cut out of the major part of the estate for losing $75,000 of
> mommie's money when his religious-trinket store went bankrupt.  Then,
> I think better of my discretion, remembering that YB is a little
> *twit* (who wanted my mother's car, which OB and OB'sW and I agreed
> he could have, since he wouldnt "get anything else" and since he and
> his <friend> needed another car and since I figured it was worth
> about $3000, and which I found out later was really worth $10,000, and
> which the little *twit* took back to Dallas and *sold* within a week)
> and I can't help myself.  I say "God, this inheriting things
> is *fun*....."
>     Realizing that my worst side is showing, I pocket
> the goods and wonder what the hell I am going to do with $10,000
> worth of jewels between Dallas and *San* *Antone* and *Anson* and
> *Raleigh*.....  Where do you put stuff like this so that it does not
> end up in the hands of the trailer-park crowd or worse?
>     So, after a nice lunch, and some pleasant conversation, I leave
> in my rented Corsica (which is really a drag-car) for Austin,
> wondering what to do with the loot.
>     Big construction traffic jam on the interstate diverts me a
> smaller highway going south, which takes me through some interesting
> old towns that I have never seen before, and finally to a local
> restaurant for supper, where they serve me the large chicken-fried
> steak with gravy.  This steak is actually *two* steaks, each the size
> of my left <foot>......  I am *really* in Texas, and I find myself
> talking like a dadgummed Texas in no time, and thinking about --you
> guessed it-- my four favorite Texans: -abh, doris, nancy, and LBJ.
> =================================================================
> ......More later..... this will have to get better:  Where does he
> stash the <loot>?  What happens to him in Austin?  Does he ever *get*
> to *San* *Antone*?  Can he bring himself to look at the OHP?
> --ggs

Sender: English Language Discussion Group <>
From: gilbertsmith <>
Subject:      WHTMIT2

Wednesday 6/2.... After that big double-chicken-fried-steak
dinner, I barely make it to Austin without going to sleep or
throwing up.  Austin is a lovely city, but has the *worst*
interstate highway in the system going right through the
middle, lined with motels and restaurants and assorted junk.
I find an appropriate motel... one with doors opening to the
outside....  so that I can transport the box of momentos to
the room without going through a lobby.  It is *hot*!
After checking the area for lurkers, I investigate the car and
find a perfect hiding place for the goods -- behind the lining of
the trunk compartment.  This has to be safer than in the motel
room or on my <person>.  So, not being up to looking through the
box of relics from my mother's house, I leave it in the car and
take a little drive around Austin at night.  Then to bed.
Thursday 6/3:  ....  Decide that I need to take a trip into the
past -- all those weeks of various summers that I spent in Austin
at the home of my *Aunt* *Sister*, on such-and-such a street..--
the house with the great little hide-away rooms under the eaves,
where my aunt kept her old hats and shoes and furs so that her
favorite nephews could <play-lady> dressing up... which is
exactly what I did to my heart's content........
But what was the street?  I open the map of Austin and look just
to the north of downtown and *bam*! there it is.  Amazing.  Only
two blocks long.  I go touring and think I have figured out which
house it is, looking like I remembered it from 40 years ago.  Then
I go to the cemetery and find them lined up in a row: Aunt Sister,
Uncle Willis, Uncle Gilbert, Uncle Bob, lying there waiting for the
two who are left and will be there soon.  Like a Texas Dynasty.
That done, I head off for San Antonio, stopping for some barbeque
in New Branfels--not very good--and finally get to SA and the
campus of Trinity, where I find I have been put in a different dorm
this year, and no they cant put me back in the one with the nice
view of the skyline, because they invited too many people and some
even have to share rooms.  At least I dont have to do that, but
this dorm is really *bizarre*, designed by a very perverted
architect.  Every room has a full wall of plate-glass windows, with
blinds that cover the windows, except for the lower three feet, which
are frosted glass.  So, with blinds drawn, everyone can see what <one>
is doing--in a sort of vague, hazy, surreal mist-- from the waist
down, which is where <one> does things that <one> does not want
everyone to see.  Oh well, we're just friends.
After a big welcoming party, attended by about 200 people I already
know, beddiebye.
Friday, 6/4:  The next six days are taken up with reading 30,000
exams, and I read 410 essays on a poem that I never want to see
again.  The events of these six days include:
   1) a night at the Mercado and its Mexican restaurant, followed
      by roaming around the streets jammed with Hispanics, with
      bands playing and everyone dancing, and me, the *only* Anglo
      in sight, thinking that I might as well be SOTB.
   2) Huge fiesta party on the campus, where the menu includes
      <fajitas>, and this suddenly becomes a Words-L Moment.
   3) Attending a showing of Como Agua Para Chocolate with a bunch
      of Spaniards who have latched on to me because I have a car.
      Good movie.
   4) Farewell party featuring *real* barbeque, the Texas kind,
      and a two-step band, followed by the farewell Spanish party,
      where I am supposed to be <retired> because it is my 6th
      year, but they leave me out, either because they don't know
      I'm there or they have decided to get another year out of
Wednesday, 6/9: Goodbye to San Antone, and on the road toward
Abilene, very apprehensive about going home.  On the way:
   1) I brake for a teen-ager,  who is crossing the highway on
      the edge of a little town.  Then I speed up and a *huge*
      red Irish Setter runs into the side of my Corsica, out of
      nowhere.  I do not stop, but look in the mirror and see
      no dog, imagining that it is stuck under my car.  Safely
      away from the area, I stop and find no dog.  Maybe a
      figment of my imagination.
   2) A visit to Enchanted Rock, three hours of climbing around
      and being amazed at what I am feeling, surrounded by
      boulders in weird shapes, boulders the size of a large
   3) Just at dusk, traveling through the hill country, I see
      twelve deer in ten minutes, then seven armadillos, and a
      lone raccoon.
   4) A magnificent Texas thunderstorm with blinding lightening
      and a torrential downpour, just as I pull into Brownwood,
      where my grandmother's brother and his family lived, and
      the place where, in 1960, I spent a Saturday night before
      going home to surprise my parents, who thought I was on a
      trip to Mexico, the night when, as I was sleeping in the
      old downtown hotel, my parents house burned to the ground.
      Convinced that God kept me away, since with my history of
      burning buildings, I could not have explained that one.
Find a motel with an all night restaurant next door.  Supper is
amazing.  I am the only man in the crowded restaurant without
a cowboy hat and boots.  The language these people are speaking
is almost unintelligible, and I try to remember how to talk like
that.  My cute little waitress goes to the next table, where she
offers some more coffee to a local type:
  "Weyull, I shore cud use some more o' that there coffee, you
   purdy little thang or I could just look at yore face for
   a while."
   To which she replies, with a smile:  "Aw, you dont need any
   more coffee, yore cup is full already, dadgummit."
I love being in Texas.

Thursday 6/10: After a not-so-good night's sleep, since my
room is on the first floor and every drink-machine (or, IOW,
soda pop machine) is right in front of my door and every
cowboy and his gal from the city of Brownwood decide to have
a <pop> between one and four a.m., I get up and give a tour
to the city.  Havent been here since that fateful night in
1960, and I spot the law office of my mother's favorite
cousin, with his name on the door.  I don't stop in, but I
remember one of my strongest memories of a teenager: the day
I learned that his son --my age-- had been killed in a car
wreck.  Another strong memory of a few years later, my
mother's other favorite cousin dying of cancer at the age of
fifty.  So, I head for--where else-- the cemetery.  The office
is closed until eleven (has one of those clocks with movable
hands "Back at...." on the door), so I just start driving
around and looking for a headstone with the family name.
Two hours later, after driving and looking at every stone
in the place, no luck.  They *have* to be here, since there
is only one other cemetery and that is about five miles out
and one of those awful perpetual care with no upright stones,
and these were not the sort of <people> who would choose that
kind of place.
But, in desperation, I check out the PC cemetery and the office
is open, so I ask.  Nobody by the name SIVELLS (my grandmother's
maiden name), but there are several SCOTTs, the boy who was
killed, and one date matches, so I go find the flat plaque in the
ground that reads:  "Our Jimmy."  Why is it that death seems
so sad, and more so the older one gets?  It's the sense of loss.
Then, leaving the PC cemetery, I see a sign pointing down a dirt
road: Jenkins Springs Cemetery.  That rings a bell.... that's it.
They were old settlers around here, and that's where they are.
So I take the Corsica down the dusty dirt road, which turns into
a twisting little trail through the mesquite thicket and lots of
really pretty rolling hills and beautiful ranches, and there's the
country burial ground with about fifty graves.  But, no dice.  Not
here either.
I drive away, continuing down the country road, knowing it will
eventually end at some highway, and it finally does.  Now it is
after lunch, and headed back into town, what to do?  This has
become an obsession.  I cannot leave until I have found my
Uncle Charlie, my grandmother's only brother, his wife (whom I
dont remember), and his daughter, my cousin Leila Mae, the one
who died at 50 and of whom I have very fond memories.
Back at the town cemetery, the "Back at..." sign is gone and the
office is open.  The woman finds the card that tells where
they are.  I go there, and there they are, with small, flat
stones....  no upright monument, and that is why I walked right
by them at least three times without seeing them this morning.
So, I stand and look at them for a while, feel the letters, and
then drive away toward Abilene.  But one more stop before I
get there....  the antique shop in Baird (the antique capital
of West Texas, or so the billboards say) where I can check out
my mother's dining room furniture, which she bequeathed to me but
I sold, since I couldnt make a decision about trying to ship it to
NC.  Want to see it one more time....  I ate dinner on that table
for 18 years of my life.
I drive through the countryside on the back roads to get to this
antique capital, and I marvel at the wide open spaces, the clear
sky, the vivid colorlessness of this place.  I hated growing up
here, I hated my childhood, I wasnt happy until I got away from
here, but every year makes me feel more like I *am* a part of this.
Finally get to the ACOWT, and a tour of the seven antique shops
that are open turns up nothing, and no one can tell me who the
guy was who went to the estate sale in Anson two months ago.  So,
goodbye to the dining table.  It is important to let go of things.
So I let go and drive to Abilene and check out the motels.
I try the Kiva Inn, because my mother always talked about how
it was the <loveliest> place in Abilene.  I ask the desk clerk,
a nice, neatly dressed young man, if he has a room.  He gets a
really pained look on his face and says:  "Ohhhhh, no we don't.
We are all booked.  I am *sooooo* sooorrrrryyyyy." And he really
means it, I think he will cry if I dont leave soon.  So I just
say "Thank you *soooooo* much" and go check in at the Holiday
Inn Express because it has the best looking swimming pool, which
I finally do *not* get in because I am not in the mood.  And, there
are too many teenagers for me to bare my bod before them.
I finally have to do it.  I take the momento box up to the room
and go through the stuff, pictures and photo albums and plaques,
and throw some away and pack the rest for shipping to NC.  Then
I realize it is about 5 pm and if I am going to look at the OHP,
I have to go now.  I get that feeling of dread, and think, maybe
I won't go.  Maybe I don't want to go through the experience of
seeing it for the last time.  So why have I driven three hundred
miles out of the way if I am not going to see it?  So, I get in
the car and head north.  Fifteen miles to home.

Thursday, 6/10, 5:20 pm:  I cross the Clear Fork of the Brazos,
drive through the shinnery, and see the church on the right with
the bright red neon proclamation: Jesus Saves....  then the
farm on the left that was my father's, where he kept his "cows"
for his relaxation and his escape from the family every afternoon
after office work, and then I make the rise on the hill and there
it is, spread out before me in the late afternoon sun: the
court house rising above the low buildings, the two water towers,
and the trees, none taller than the one-storey houses.  The air
is clear.  Everything is hot an dusty, and I remember my first
wife admitting ten years after I first took her there that her
first impression was how *ugly* this place was.  She was right.
I drive around the courthouse square and see the statue of
Anson Jones, last president of the Texas Republic, sitting there
just as he did on those many nights when we dumped whitewash
on his head; where he watched me campaigning for my uncle Gilbert
for Judge when I was nine years old; where he watched me go back
and forth from the abstract office to the courthouse when I had
a job filming documents; the old movie theaters that cost 9 cents
until I was 12 and then 35 cents; my father's law office, boarded
up; the two drugstores where I jerked soda, boarded up; the Spot
Cash Grocery, where I sacked and delivered goods, boarded up; the
funeral home that put away my Grandfather, my Father, my Mother,
and everyone who has died in this town for the last forty-five
years; the home of my grade school principal, who died of a heart
attack at the age of 40 when I was 9..... and finally, I get up
the courage to drive down the street where I lived.... the first
house, where I burned the garage and my parents new car and my
brother's new leather shoes in 1946 and where my mother cried
when the war was over; the second house, next door to my senile
grandfather's house, where all those Austin uncles and aunts
would gather for family reunions and wonder when their father
would get so sick he could be put away and not be able to
wander the neighborhood naked at 6 in the morning; and the last
house, the *real* one, which looks the same except there is the
bitch-lady who bought the house, in the front yard, with *all*
the furniture in the world scattered all over the yard, scrubbing
and refinishing, and I am suddenly reminded of the Sunday when
I drove up to the burned out house and saw my mother's furniture
all over that yard (though she said she would never do that: she
would be too embarrassed.... just let it burn up rather than put
it out for the neighbors to see....)....   I drive by about six
times, and the Mexican man who lives next door waves at me every
time, and I remember that in a place like this, everybody waves
at everybody, no matter how many times you drive by.
Then, I go to the little city park with the swimming pool and
golf course (where I learned to caddy and where I learned to be
a businessman selling sandwiches made from my mother's killer
pimento cheese recipe) and sit and look at things for a long,
long time.  No one else is there.  It is too hot.  Nothing has
changed, except the little creek where my friend Gene and I
fished and regularly caught a big turtle as big as a wash tub
is now completely clogged with cattails.
So, I have seen the house, and I have seen the town, and now it
is about 7:30, about an hour til sundown, so I go to the
cemetery on a hill overlooking the town.  This will be neat.  I
can stand and look at the graves of my mother and father, and the
sun will go down behind them, since they face the east.  Make this
as dramatic as possible, because I want to *feel* something.  And
I go out there and spend forty-five minutes walking all over the
place, finding the grade-school principal and his son (who died of
the bad heart at 45--gift from his father); my grandfather and his
first wife (my grandmother dead at 45 from cancer) and his second
wife (dead at 52 of cancer), and my uncle "M", who scandalized the
family by getting divorced and going almost blind from his
alcoholic binges and leave his last years happily in a rest home
paid for by his brothers, and lots of my buddies from high
school, of whom there are five more since last summer, and then
finally, I look at the plot where my parents lie.
I hate their stone, picked out by my YB, the little *twit*.  It is
reddish marble, has the name SMITH in sculted out relief letters
in some ugly fancy script, a legal scale (since my father was a
lawyer, and it is so campy, so ugly, so unbelievably in-bad-taste,
so tacky.  But, I run my fingers over the letters and then I just
sit there and cry for thirty minutes as I watch the sun go down
over the town.  This really feels good.  Then I get up and leave,
drive by the house one more time--the lights are on now--and then
out the south highway.  Goodbye.
Back to the Holday Inn Express to watch some television, and then
what I do *next* is really perverse.  First rate fucking Freudian
.........  But that can wait til later.  Enough for now.

  Thursday, 6/10, 10 pm:  I watch a dumb movie on the tube, something
  about a house haunted by the ghost of somebody's husband who died too
  young, and then I remember the billboard I saw on I-20 on the way
  into Abilene: * ADULT-ETC 18 miles*....  Ah hah!  One of those book
  stores peep show video places, to which I have not been in a long
  long time.  The Corsica (with the loot in the trunk) gets me there in
  no time, and it is obvious that this place--in the middle of nowhere--
  serves the truck drivers of the interstate to keep them interested in
  traveling the wide-open stretches of West West Texas.  Nice way to
  spend a few hours, or so it seems.  Brightly lit sales room, with the
  videos lined up on shelves, attacking the senses with every
  conceivable intimate practice practiced by every conceivable animate
  and inanimate object, a veritable Ripley's BION of the seedy
  subculture of the gonad-obsessed.
  Little sign over the door to the peep-show area:  _You Must Purchase
  $2 in Tokens To Enter_....   Intimidated by this sign, I buy my
  tokens from a nice looking young woman who seems to really enjoy her
  job and who wishes me a pleasant time in the <back area>....  Am I
  really *doing* this?  The <back area> is dark and musty, with lots of
  little enclosed booths and corridors literally lined with anxious
  looking spectators of all ages, leaning against the walls and
  watching everyone who comes in, smoking cigarettes and occasionally
  whispering to each other.  There is no escape from these intense,
  nervous eyes, because it becomes evident that every booth has its
  little peep-holes--some tiny, some quite large--so that <one> is
  never unobserved.  The selection of movies is generous...
  entertaining 30-second segments of man/woman...  man/man...
  woman/woman... man... woman... a bargain, to be sure, at 25c a
  <shot>....   Takes me a while to use up my $2, and I'm about to leave
  when something strange occurs: two couples come in, young--sort of
  college age--and all stuff themselves into one booth.  Very unusual,
  since up until now, the customers are all men.  All the snickering
  and snorting and assorted <sensual sounds>, mixed with the sounds of
  the videos, becomes a sort of other-world experience and I have to
  get some more tokens from the machine in the corridor.  The sign over
  the machine proclaims that unprotected sex leads to some really
  disgusting conditions.
  The two couples finally leave, the young women shrieking that they
  really can't believe they are here and doing this, and I'm thinking I
  know just what they mean.  Then, the quiet sets in and everyone
  becomes very intense again, now that the disruption to this dream
  world of desperate fantasy has ended.  After a while, I leave.  The
  woman at the cash register wishes me a nice evening and my Corsica
  and I find our way back to the Holday Inn Express.
Back in the solitude of my room, I wonder what led me to that strange
place for that weird experience, and what its relationship might be
to the other events of this very very long day.  I have some ideas,
but <one> best not be too analytical about <one>'s own deviant
behavior.  At least, <one> best not go around onlining <one>'s
analysis.  Let the others do that.  And they will.
Friday, 6/11.   Get up and try to make it to the lobby of the
HIE before the complementary continental breakfast disappears, and
get there just as the woman-in-charge is closing the shutters on
the danishes and coffee.  She kindly gives me two and directs
me to the coffee.  Nice touch to the HIE.... two cold danishes
and the very last of a large urn of coffee, much nicer than the
Kiva Inn, I'm sure.  I check out after looking up the address of
the nearest UPS.  Then I go to WallMart for some packing tape and
tape up the carton in the searing hot sun.  Man pulls up next to
me, gets out of his car and says "That one could go around the
world."  I remember that *everyone* in West Texas talks to every-
one else in the friendliest way possible, so I just smile and
say "Yeah, I'm really proud of this."  He laughs quietly, slaps
me on the back (I do *not* know this person) and goes to buy his
stuff in WM.
A trip to the UPS, then a stop at McDonalds for some coffee, and
I am on my way to DFW airport.  Only two stops:  One in Ranger,
where my grandfather was the minister at the local Baptist church
in 1932 when my parents got married in my grandfather's living
room.  I find the church, but the office is closed.  So I drive
around the town and try to think what it was like 61 years ago.
Then: lunch at the New York Restaurant, on the hill, overlooking
a ghost town that once was a mining town.  Lots of memorabilia
of the late 20's and early 30's, with pictures of a swimming
pond that was probably visited by my mother when she lived
nearby.  *Very* good fried chicken livers, *very* good place to
eat and see the vast expanses of the countryside.
Approaching DFW airport, I have to keep saying to myself _Jewels,
Jewels, Jewels_....  just *knowing* that I am going to forget to
retrieve the box of stuff from under the trunk liner.  But I dont,
and I return the Corsica to its DollarCar owner, whose van takes me
to American Airlines and I wait for the flight to RDU, which is
an hour late.  Ride to RDU with a soccer team, and I am impressed
with how civilized all these kids are.
At the airport, I have no trouble finding the tc/sw's car, which
she left for me when she boarded her flight to WWOCZ two days
before.  I drive home and find the house as I left it, as if I
had not been gone for 10 days.
I light the pilot light on the water heater for my tenant, who had
no hot water for three days because it went out on Tuesday and he
didn't know what to do.  I apologize  for the inconvenience and he
assures me that it worked out fine....  His colleague at work offered
her shower until his hot water was working, and he now has *me* to
thank for a very nice three days.  This just proves that all things
work together for the good of those who love.........uh......
whatever.  In the last analysis, it *is* true.  Or at least it is
very comforting to think so.
Nice to be home.  A rewarding trip.  I'm glad I went and I have no