So, part of the Tulsa Tribe is in town, visiting, and we’ve split into two SUV-loads of people darting about the metro-plex taking care of various errands and missions. This split in destinations took place after I gracefully confessed to the assembled family members that the thought of “all of you people in one mini-van screaming and hollering will drive me to the edge.” After a moment of silence, Dawn, my sister who always faces things head-on and pushes through the issues, calmly stated “Well, at least he’s being honest.” Let’s take two different cars.
And we did. Terry, Dawn, niece Tristany and nephew Crispy took off to who knows where. There was some vague talk about hitting Sally’s Beauty Supply (very long story, just presume that this quest was necessary) and a fancy hair straightener. Me, Mom and sister Roni had our own objective. (For loyal fans, you might recognize among this assemblage various cast members from “The Paris Chronicles” and “Six Drags Over Texas”. You would be right, and therefore win a murky prize for your dedication. You would also be aware that both of those previous expeditions had some disastrous scenarios. Things did not look especially promising.)
We leave the house and get really far, almost to the end of the driveway, when Mom suddenly announces that we have to get tamales today. This is a deviation from the intensely-long, painful discussion that was taking place all morning long as we tried to get 7 people to agree on the same agenda. (As mentioned, we never reached full agreement, ergo the “taking two cars” business.) But no one has been assigned tamale duty, and that just won’t do.
I whip out my phone and call Terry, who is approximately 20 yards behind me, back under the carport where people are still dealing with unfamiliar seatbelt arrangements and doing that general “family from out of town thing” where it takes them entirely too long to simply get in the damn car and shut up
He is not impressed with me calling him. “What?”
“Mom wants tamales.”
I can hear his teeth grit over the phone. “So…. are you going to get them?”
“Well, I thought that you could.”
He sighs. “We’re not going near there.”
I sighed as well, but not as loud as him, because he’s better at it and there’s no sense in competing. Why did this have to be difficult? He was going closer to the tamale place than us. We were going in the other direction. But we were in this together, through thick and thin and nieces who insist on doing surprise body slams when you least expect it. “Okay, I’ll pick them up.” Then a thought struck me. “It’s getting kind of late in the day. They might be sold out and we’ll have to try again in the morning.”
Beside me, Mom made a small noise of utter devastation and despair. Okay, then. We were getting tamales today. “I guess I could see what they have.”
Surprisingly, Terry changed his career path, probably because he just got body-slammed by the niece and needed to end this conversation so he could attend to his internal bleeding. “We’ll go get them. Bye.”
Anyway, I throw my car back in gear, and the three of us head out. During a random moment of Internet searching, we have discovered that there is a Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop outlet in our area. This means nothing to me. But it is something akin to the Second Coming for my sister Roni. She worships the Dallas Cowboys. With much more fervor than one would think necessary, but still. For years now, she has carried a small Cowboys bear around with her in her wheelchair. Very long years, because this little bear has been reduced to nothing more than a wispy bag of sad and dejected beans that no longer have the will to live.
It was time to replace the bear.
Now, despite having a firm destination, unlike that other SUV where the doomed occupants were just going to “drive around until they found a Sally’s”, our own travelogue was not without a few glitches. First, the DFW metro-plex is a very big place. The journey to arrive at a location that is supposedly “right nearby” can be the same as driving across three entire states on the Eastern Seaboard. You can start out all smiling and happy. By the time you actually get there, internal organs have begun to fail due to lack of nutrition.
So we head up the west side of Loop 12. This is one of the most boring stretches of roadway known to mankind. There’s nothing to look at. Well, there is, but you don’t want to. Have you ever seen an artsy coffee table book that contains pictures of low-rent housing, questionable furniture outlets, tractor-trailer repair stations, seedy motels where you can apparently live for only $40 a week, and vast stretches of nothing? No, you have not. Because nobody cares about that. Nobody.
We traverse this bit of unpleasantness, and eventually get to the intersection of Loop 12, Hwy 183 and Hwy 114. These numbers mean nothing to you, and they shouldn’t, trust. The only piece of worthwhile information is that this is where Texas Stadium used to stand, until two years ago when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones got something up his butt and decided to move the team from Dallas to Arlington, Texas.
A move which should have made them the Arlington Cowboys, not the Dallas Cowboys. Am I right? But no one really wanted to listen to my opinion on this matter. And on the flip side, this highway intersection is actually in Irving, Texas, not Dallas. So we’ve been lied to since roughly 1972 when the stadium was built. No wonder this country is in chaos right now. We haven’t been told the truth for 40 years.
Anyway, we roll into this traffic mix-master, try to switch roadways, and almost immediately come to a halt. Because once the Cowboys hightailed it to Arlington, some really smart person somewhere decided to just demolish the old stadium, rather than reuse it. (Doesn’t make sense to me, but once again I wasn’t consulted.) And once people started banging away on the stadium, lots of other people thought it would be really fun to totally change everything in the area.
Like where people actually drive.
There’s some big ole mess with restructuring the traffic exchanges so that things flow more smoothly. I’m all for that. What I’m not for? Not bothering to put any signs out about what’s going on. You want to maneuver from Loop 12 to Hwy 114? Great. But figure it out on your own. We’re not going to tell you where to go. You just have to drive your ass around through blowing billows of construction dust and ramps that are blocked off. We are not going to help you in any way. Good luck with that!
And since the traffic-flow planners don’t care, the workers don’t care, either. You can be innocently driving along, at 15 miles per hour because you have no idea where to go, when suddenly some butt wipe in a dirt hauler will burst out of the shrubbery on the side of the road and nearly flatten your much smaller vehicle in a roar of tonnage and unconcern. There were enough screams in our car that you’d think we were watching “Friday the 13th, Part 46: Carnage at the Construction Site.” Starring Meredith Baxter Now-Lesbian-Not-Birney.
Several years later, we finally make our way to Hwy 114. I’m lighting votive candles because I’m so thankful. Everyone else in the car has fallen asleep out of sheer boredom. Because this does not please me, I purposely hit every bump in the road I can spy. Soon enough, Mom and Roni are once again wakeful and fearing for their lives in this place of unsupervised road construction and missing signage. Look, if I have to deal with this mess, I want some witnesses on my side when I eventually snap and start waving a deadly implement fashioned out of empty beer cans and a GPS.
We drive for a while, then, following the Internet driving directions, we exit the freeway, make a few turns, then find ourselves in what might be an extensive business park or a Japanese internment camp from the 40’s. It’s hard to tell, all of the buildings have that vague “what the hell is going on in there” look, and there’s not a single soul in sight. Apparently it’s not socially fashionable to be seen in this particular area, at least not on a random Saturday in January.
But we persevere, plodding along and craning our necks to read street signs, some of which are partially hidden by clearly untended landscaping that desperately wants to reclaim the land. Finally, I spy the specific road where one can supposedly find discounted Cowboys paraphernalia for perusal. I slowly turn down this street, quietly texting my location coordinates to three close friends in case they need the information for the Amber Alert when we don’t show up for three days.
We mosey down this street for a bit, a particular avenue that has certainly seen better days, probably around the time that Sue Ellen shot JR. It’s not like there are crack houses and people named Bumpty calculating what he can get for the spare parts from my car after he kills us in a ditch, but there are definitely unoccupied buildings and a clear unconcern about winning Best Lawn in the Neighborhood.
In fact, I’m starting to think that someone hasn’t updated that stupid website in a while, and the outlet store has been closed for years. What am I going to tell Roni, who is gazing about with rapturous anticipation, eyes searching for the first splash of blue and silver that will confirm Cowboys Nirvana is near at hand? If I disappoint her on this expedition, there could be an intense family rift for decades to come, with bitter glances exchanged at Thanksgiving and extensive updates to inheritance proclamations.
Suddenly, we round a bend and there it is, a ginormous building with massive lettering announcing to the world that this is the official Cowboys Merchandising Extravaganza Center, or something like that. But there’s not a single car in the parking lot. Hmmm. Not very promising. Then we notice one tiny corner of the building has a little door and a small sign announcing “Outlet Store”, with a few cars way over there. Apparently, people who work with the full-price Cowboys propaganda don’t work weekends. If you are cheap and picked-over, you have to work every day and live in a crappier apartment.
So we get parked, with Mom struggling to get Roni in her wheelchair while Roni is practically crawling across the pavement to get to the door. I scamper ahead to hold said door, and take a gander of the interior while Mom tries to roll a bucking and impatient Roni up the sidewalk. Oh my. I haven’t seen this many empty football jerseys lying around since that time in college when we all got drunk and… oh wait, Mom doesn’t need to hear about that. Sorry.
Mom makes it across the threshhold, and Roni nearly stops breathing, she’s so excited. She wrenches the wheelchair out of Mom’s hands and uses her good leg to make a beeline for a display of the little cowbears. She begins plowing through the miniature animals in a frenzied passion, squeals of glee echoing about the room.
“Hi there!” chirps one of the female attendants at the checkout counter, trying to be friendly and all, but keeping an eye on Roni to ensure that nothing untoward happens, because those insurance forms can be a bitch. “Welcome to the store!”
Mom grins sheepishly and nods her head at Roni. “She really likes the Cowboys.”
“I do, too!” exclaims Happy Woman, who then turns to beam at Roni, as if there’s nothing more exciting than meeting a fellow human who would unashamedly have sex in a public environment with furry animals emblazoned with their favorite team. It would not surprise me if she pulled out a vibrator and tossed it Roni’s direction.
Mom and I look at each other. This poor woman doesn’t understand. Roni really, really likes the Cowboys. She will want to personally review every single item in the store. Some of them several times. We might be here a while.
I get out my phone to communicate our current status to the other troop deployment. Turns out that someone in the other expedition forgot a very important something that they needed in order to purchase the one thing that they have been talking about purchasing ever since she got here. And they had to go back to the house to get it.
Great. Team Brian has already driven halfway across the state of Texas, while Team Terry is still in the driveway. It was going to be a very interesting day.
Why did I suddenly feel like Dorothy when the color part of the movie starts?
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