I was pleasantly surprised to find it that mid-December night a handful of years ago after my mom and I had got to our room in the motel on the main drag, Olton Road (Highway 70), after first going to a wrong hotel. (She couldn't remember where she'd made the reservation.) Both of them were operated by Indian families. Both lobbies had doors that led to where the families lived, and smelled of curry. I remember pondering the juxtaposition of folks from *India having settled in the Texas Panhandle. A long way from home in so many ways.
We had driven the seven or eight hours from Austin for my niece's mid-December graduation from Wayland Baptist University, arriving at night and it was cold. We ate bad fried chicken at a place near the motel; the high school basketball game was on the radio and broadcast on the loudspeakers. We went back to the room and I decided to head out for coffee, or hot chocolate, if I could find some. I turned left out of the lot and drove west and found it - a Starbucks! - just on the other side of Highway 27. I went in, got a hot chocolate and coffee for mom, lingered a bit in appreciation, then went back to the room and found sportscenter and mom asleep.
There was snow on the ground the next morning. I helped a man and woman - he was black, she was white, both were probably approaching 30 - push their car out of the lot when the tires couldn't find traction on the ice. I thought about them, and their car packed like they were headed somewhere, their collective manner like they weren't sure where. What might their story be? Had they woken and flipped a coin to decide which direction they'd head that day? Was there some specific destination they had in mind, and did it lend them hope, or some specific thing they were driving away from, and were they looking over their shoulders, sneaking glances in the rearview, to see if it was following? I felt for them and fortunate for all I had. They turned left out of the lot, headed for 27 most likely and, I decided, another day of driving
I went for a walk in the nearby park, back of the motel, took some pictures of horses in the snow (pictures that didn't turn out, dammit) and wondered what it might be like to grow up in a place like Plainview. The last scene from The Last Picture Show came to mind. There was something desolate that both attracted and repelled. The quiet, the lonesome howl of the wind, the (seeming) simplicity, things slowed down. Little cowboys at Christmas thigh-high in grandad's Tony Lamas. And yet, something else, a pulse of sorts in the soil underfoot, reminding of underbelly and shadow, things whispered in church pews. Secrets. War stories. Hunting accidents. A cousin who'd
We ate a good Tex-Mex breakfast at Leal's. I had huevos rancheros. Then back to Starbucks where we stayed a little too long and got to Sarah's commencement a little too late.
I think that Starbucks isn't there in Plainview anymore.
*edit 7/24, Found Object, NYT: