Talkin’ South Texas No Mariachi Tropical Depression Blues

“I started an entry the other night,” a 1993 Memorial Day weekend journal post begins, “but the phone [kept] ringing, and it got later so I’ve scrubbed it all.”

On May 28 I took my late parents to the Sheraton by the airport so the following morning they could board a flight to Florida and inspect work on their retirement home, which was completing construction.

I was escaping St. Paul yet again to stay at their temporary condo in Mound, not far from where I went to high school, on the site of this beautiful page torn from my teenage years. Just before they left town we had a family photo taken with us all wearing denim shirts at a Brookdale Proex (photo at right with my first nephew Colin in aforementioned denim).

In another month I’d be boarding another plane for my cousin Jason’s wedding in south Texas.

In the interim I was wrapping up a contract project at CTS in Minneapolis and volunteering at Cable Access St. Paul, where new friend Ben Simon and I did tech work (camera, sound, etc.) on the program “Docksides,” after which we walked over to Galtier Plaza and “talked for over an hour over two beers about stories & Life—and the rest of the production crew showed up (and like Techies—assholes snubbed us—it bothered Ben more than I). Much happened—more than I first sensed.”

The journal makes an odd observation: “To know your personal value is no small thing. The waves of influence. Personal power. Ideas moving people. Wow.”

I was 33 years old and writing like a maniac.

On June 3, 1993, I “paid for my flight to Jason’s wedding in Corpus Christi on June 18,” the journal reports. No indication how I was feeling about that, how expensive it was given I was unemployed for a while, but I was looking forward to traveling again and seeing new sights.

Meanwhile much was going on in the lives of friends and family—the biggest seeing my parents off to retirement thousands of miles away in mid-June, better chronicled in a future post.

For cousin Jason’s wedding, it’s best to just throw out here, mostly unedited and transcribed as it appeared in the journal (photo at left), which was one of the strangest experiments I ever did in the early 1990s journals.

I didn’t take a laptop to Texas, or the actual journal for that matter, but instead brought a small Daytimer journal where I painstakingly wrote in mechanical pencil the events of the wedding. When I got back to Minnesota I transcribed them into the journal, which took up four and half single-spaced pages.

In the interest of keeping this post short, I’ve edited for clarity where possible:

Tuesday, June 22

Here’s the transcript from Corpus Crispy:

Airlines & doctor’s offices—treat you like you NEED them. Oh Babylon! Oh Airline Industry!

Here’s my predictions on the wedding party, just by studying the invite:

Alaniz family: Maids of honor Jessica Ann & Patricia Andrea are sisters of Yvonne’s [the bride], both are obviously unmarried. No guess about ages. I’ll try: 22 & 23 [no, much younger, 14 & 15]

Ana Lisa is married, I’d guess and Luis Daniel & Sara Ann are her son and daughter [no I don’t think so]

Cynthia Canales—don’t know. I guess she’s a friend of Yvonne’s—unmarried, but with a boyfriend. There’s no other Canales listed so that’s why I’d guess that [dead on]. Seems the Vasquez & Alaniz families are pretty close [related]

Yvonne’s two brothers, I’d guess, are the two ushers [cousins]

Billy Joel’s “Rosalinda’s Eyes”

FLYING OVER CLINTON’S CLOUDY AMERICA. LBJ shudder. “See muh scar?” 1:20PM passed over Dallas/Fort Worth

WHATABURGER w/onions & jalapenos. [When I first hear about these I was asking about all the billboards, but Gabriel had said Waterburger, and I didn’t understand] Pico de Gallo: cilantro, onions, chilies, tomatoes = hot

CORPUS DAY TWO

Got in last night at 2AM. Slept this morning till 9:30, wedding’s at 4 PM today.

Jason & Yvonne, Joe & Cynthia got in a tiff.

Bought Gabriel a Whataburger after midnight $10.00 between the two of us [but that included fries and drinks] In [my Uncle] Gordon’s van: Lou drove. Jason shotgun, me, Greg the Best Man from Albuquerque NM, Freddy, quiet guy, Gabriel & Joe (19) all the rest of us were at least 21. Greg married, wife stayed in NM.

TALKING SOUTH TEXAS NO MARIACHI TROPICAL DEPRESSION BLUES

Big grass leaves—like steroidic Astroturf. Reading Molly Ivins’ column on John Connally’s death. Big Sky—huge Clouds—Hot wind—Palm leaves blown, birds madly chirping

Article of Concealment or Fashion Statement? Black guys wearing hoods at Starlite Dance place [like a drunk crazy bastard I ask one black guy why he likes ’em. He shrugs and mutters something like “cause they in, man…” His breath reeks. We all walk out Lou Sitter is amazed at me]

Cynthia returns Joe’s ring (were they engaged?) I talk to her in front of the van and she reaches out, touches my face and smiles. Emotions move in torrents here like the hot wind and then the rain. Sex on the beach.

Bratty children. Fidelity in marriage. The monsignor (priest) spoke of “Cheers” final episode and “empty characters.” It was, I thought, a pugnacious sermon. But from the beginning…

THE WEDDING—got some sun Friday.
Miscue on the wedding march—had to start again. I sat w/Kelly, Bret, Marcy & Andrew—who fussed. Virginia sat at the end of our pew to my right. We said “Peace be with you” to each other as everyone else did during the Mass.

Wedding went from 4:00 to 5:30 or so. Monsignor Michael Heras was amusing, as I said. He instructed the congregation not to chew gum during the Mass [I suspect not just because they’d take the Eucharist]

Pictures after—there was a brief rain shower during the service

THE RECEPTION
Eagle Lodge #2…? Mariachi band & regular amplified band that played things of a more polka flavor. Margaritas, beer and champagne. Supper: Beef brisket, onions, pickles, white bread, rice & pinto beans, slice of pork sausage. Groom cake and wedding cake with lighted pink fountain spray of water. More people came to the reception than came to the ceremony. I tried to talk to Ginny at the head table where she sat with Greg. No husband, no boyfriend, no reason. She seemed detached, uninterested.

What is a punta?

“Menudo”—tripe soup red (tomato?) base with lining of cow’s intestine. We ate this late Friday eve after the reception & dance to wish the bride and groom good luck. Back at my motel room while getting ready for bed, Curly of the Three Stooges on TV sits at a lunch counter putting crackers in his bowl of clam chowder. Each time he puts one in, a clam eats it while he’s not looking. He hits the clam with his spoon, and ends shooting the bowl of soup with his side revolver. Just another hot night in South Texas.

3-20-93 SUN AM re: Sat
Oil refineries glow like mini-cities in the night, burning well stack. They were disorienting when I first saw them Thursday night. I thought Corpus Christi sure looked small, but well-lit.

Arlene’s been downgraded to a tropical depression. Gordon’s shock in the men’s room of the Eagle Lodge when I was chatting with the band (Los Campeones de Raul Ruiz, to reach him you may call him direct or his “beeper” #) about R&B, and Steve Ferguson (late of NRBQ)’s “Midwest Creole” and a proper 4/4 downbeat. They seemed fascinated.

Gabriel’s belt buckle. Freddy’s belt buckle. Texas’ belt buckle…

Some regrets:

—not near the beach, see & smell the Gulf of Mexico
—not getting to see San Antonio & the River walk
—Indefinable “not belonging” yet honorary belonging (will get into this more)

About Saturday:
We were late for the gift opening at the Alanizes at 2:00—getting there closer to 3:00PM. I’d wanted to go to San Antonio or the beach for the day, but it was raining all over South Texas.

It was at the gift opening that I noticed Jessica—a 13-year-old cousin (I assumed) of Yvonne’s. She acted a little older than her age—which I learned when mention was made of her “Turned 15 years Party—like a “coming out” or “confirmation” celebration big, I gathered, in Hispanic culture—an event two years in the future. She was proud of planning for it already. She was wearing a sleeveless blue denim shirt, with a black & silver crucifix on a chain around her neck, and pink denim shorts. She’s a classic Mexican beauty—long clumpy dark brown hair, and golden brown eyes that really twinkled, tiny pink lips and skin that was perfect. She had gangly long arms and legs and really was a child—I, of course, thought of the youthful Ellen Terry in spirit, which in a land of symbols can still mean anything [?] She was curled up in a lounger in the living room watching Poltergeist III when I first saw her—her twinkling eyes spraying everyone with generosity and cheer. I was a little embarrassed I was so struck with her beauty, in light of her age. I tried to tell myself I was appreciating beauty for its own sake, of course.

[The beers sanctioned by Texas State Law: Bud, Bud Lite, Miller, Miller Lite]

[Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”:]
I started out on burgundy
But soon hit the harder stuff
Everybody said they’d stand behind me when
The game got rough
But the joke was on me
There was nobody even there to bluff
I’m goin’ back to [St. Paul]
I do believe I’ve had enough

[Ginny didn’t have an opinion about Bob Dylan]

[U-turn lanes—what a concept! Texans don’t stop—they YIELD to oncoming traffic. Humidity’s always high. Everything sweats—windows, eyeglasses, pop cans…and the cockroaches! I saw one dead in the men’s room of the Eagle Lodge & one alive on the wall of the motel outside—alive and pokey: he gingerly scratched his hairy insect ass like it was nobody’s business, nobody—and NOBODY fucks with a South Texas cockroach!]

At the [Greyhound race track] I was tired, but was still glad we got out of the house on a rainy night. Joe had the right idea. He seemed to warm up to me after Friday night—maybe because I stuck around after the Menudo. I think Joe’s looking forward to when his son Daniel (now 7) will be my age, so he can take him hunting and to the track.

Some words then about belonging…or my frustration about not belonging…I’ve got to find HOME. That’s my career for the rest of my life.

I’ve seen so many alternatives. [Aunt] Joyce said when I was young I was too picky. She’s dead right—But! We all go our roads & find our paths as we may (or as we go).

I looked back: England, Minnesota, Kentucky, Indiana, now Texas—where next? California? Mexico? Florida?

Texas accent. I actually heard little of it: a few old white folks at the wedding reception and dance. The drawl—it’s deceptive. Punch and push—go—go—get it! Give it gas! Use it! Plastic-pushing, nail-biting Yeah.

I’ve got to remember I have an artistic mission. It’s no small thing.

Remember that.

Always.

~ by completelyinthedark on April 3, 2020.

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