thanksgiving weekend 2008

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i went back to the old hometown for thanksgiving. i took the pickup. fortunately gas prices dropped enough that it wasn't overly painful on the pocketbook. and the pickup made it there and back without major drama.

it'd been awhile since i'd been back to brady, and sometimes i am reminded of the difference of small towns. i'm the product of a small town, so i understand it, but i've lived for so long in the sprawling metropolis that is houston that over time my familiarity with it is pushed to the dark corners of my mind. neither is inherently better or worse than the other, but they are very different. and the products of one tend to dislike or dismiss the other. small towns live by different standards -- they are concerned about different things, and they do it at a different pace. some level of urban pretentiousness is lost, but it is traded for a mistrust of change or difference -- perhaps two sides of the same coin. there is a lack of sophistication, and it seems fake and awkward when attempted -- but that's because a small town's strength is its simplicity...in it's refreshing basics that are lost in the complexity of an urban and suburban landscape. there is good and bad in both though. sometimes it's refreshing to be reminded of it.

to perhaps try and illustrate it a bit, i'll give some thoughts/examples:

  • i ate out (as i don't cook or tend to eat at home, unless someone has prepared something since i should appreciate their efforts) and i was reminded of the differences. the places in small towns are usually very sparse and simple compared to the lavish efforts of restaurants in urban environements. a small town cafe will put out the bucket of cottage cheese -- the urban cafe will dole the same stuff into a serving tray. a small town cafe will put up some pictures and paintings that seem generally unplanned and don't really consider the space, get a hold of the cutlery and plates and glasses they can -- an urban cafe will spend lots of money making the enviornment seem just right. (these are generalizations, of course.)
  • while i was eating, a group of older women dressed nicely and probably out shopping came in and sat at a table. i overheard them talking and one said "susan is a vegetarian" to which one replied "what kind of vegetarian? i mean, is she vegan?" and none of them seemed unfamiliar with the term. it was kind of funny, because hearing a group of older women talk about veganism in a small town cafe shows how far the term has come. of course, when i told my dad this story, his response was to ask if i knew any freegans. the world truly is becoming a smaller place.
  • i ran into cynthia (an ex) at the super walmart in town. (i know, i know. i'll explain why i was there later.) you run into almost everyone when you go out in small towns. in the big city you can be almost anonymous -- you can go out every day and almost never run into anyone you know but don't see regularly. in small towns, you see most people most of the time. especially at the wal-mart, because that's about the only place in town to get stuff (especially after about 6pm).
  • i went to a butane and hardware store while i was in town to get some j-b weld and stuff to try and do some stuff to my pickup exhaust headers. (i had actually run into one of the owners or managers of the place while i was in the bank talking with my mom.) a lady there was very helpful, walking around the store to show me where things were and talking with me about them. while i was doing this, i overheard an old man somewhere in the store say "well, you know with the niggers and mexicans...". it was shocking, but at the same time it wasn't. racism in urban areas tends to be either hidden or very, very obvious. racism in small towns can take on all kinds of hues, and can't always be judged by the same standards as in big cities. i don't think small towns necessarily have it better or worse, just different.

so about me being at wal-mart. i went there -- on black friday of all days -- because my mom wanted to get a new flat screen tv. she had been looking at a philips i think, but i convinced her to get a sony. it was the same size, and at $100 off it was the same price as the philips. she also wanted to pick up a blu-ray player, so she got a samsung bd-p1500. so now my parents have a better tv than me. : ) it took a long time to get some help (and i ran into more people i know), so i had plenty of time to look around at things. my parents' computer's mouse and keyboard (both bluetooth) had stopped working after i'd uninstalled some software they were annoyed by, so i bought a usb keyboard while i was there. i needed to fix it right then. but then, since i was already buying something, i ended up buying some blu-ray dvds that were on sale for black friday. i felt kind of bad since i have a sort of personal thing to not patronize them. i returned the keyboard once back in houston, but i'll keep the movies. i did restrain myself from buying an 8-gig pny usb memory stick that was cheap. *sigh* anyway, here are the movies i got:

  • the fifth element - luc besson (columbia)
  • hellboy - guillermo del toro (columbia/revolution)
  • curse of the golden flower - zhang yimou (sony)

the day after seeing cynthia at wal-mart, she called to see if i wanted to go to a movie with her and her brother and his daughter. but it was madagascar 2, which i'd just seen. then she called back later and said her brother had forgotten, so she wanted to know if i wanted to go to supper with her and her daughter. the phone conversation leading to this was kind of amusing, as it went something like this:

me: i've eaten at "down home cooking", dairy queen, and flores cafe.
her: i guess that leaves la familia and tex-mex.
me: la familia isn't tex-mex?
her: *laughing* well, it is, but they aren't.
me: so the food is, but the people who own it or run it aren't?
her: *laughing more* uh...yeah, something like that.

it wasn't until i relayed this odd exchange to my dad that it made sense. i told him and he said "tex-mex is the name of another restaurant here in town." when i told cynthia, she thought i'd known that and was joking with her. anyway, she came by and picked me up and we ate at la familia. her daughter is really cute, and was being pretty funny sometimes. after eating, i ran an errand with her to wal-mart (more wal-mart! but i didn't buy anything.) and her daughter rushed to hold my hand instead of hers in the parking lot going in and out. it was funny.

as for the j-b weld, i was trying to fix some leaks in my pickup's exhaust headers. i'd looked a bit earlier and noticed a crack in one. i figured i could slap some j-b weld on it and that would fix it up. unfortunately, after i bought the stuff i started looking more closely and the other exhaust header appears to be both cracked and shifted. or maybe even a piece fell out. whatever the case, j-b weld isn't the right thing for that kind of hole. so i guess my pickup will sound crazy until i get the engine rebuilt.

on the way back to houston i stopped at the graves of my grandparents and great-grandparents, as well as the house in art. once in austin, i stopped at linc and heather's. they had just bought an xmas tree and were putting stuff on it. my parents had given them their old tv, so i helped my brother bring it in and move everything around and change the way some of the things were hooked up. (having just changed the connections on my own tv/stereo equipment a couple of times, i then got to do my parents' and my brother's.) i ate supper with them, watched a charlie brown special i'd never seen before, then was on my way back to houston.

3 Comments

Hey, that was a good slice of Texicana! Cynthia, huh? Sounds interesting. Before that, when was the last time you talked to her?

Interesting perspective on small town vs. big city. I've spent most of my life in the city, but have lived in small towns too. I've always said that the difference between a small town and a very small town is that you know everybody in small town, but in a very small town you know everybody's car. So at a glance, you can tell who is at the store, the church, the bar, etc.

ash: i've talked to her online a few times via im. i had supper with her maybe a year or two ago when i was in brady one time. i don't talk to her real often, but we've talked a few times over the last maybe 3 years i guess. she has read my blog from time to time too, i believe.

ack: that's probably not a bad delimiter. although even in a small town you tend to know a fair number of people's cars, and thus where they are.

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