Last night, I worked on a freelance manual labor job with my brother-in-law, who has a vent-a-hood cleaning business. I joked at the end how this maiden voyage of mine into this work might be Titanic in quality. A true one-off.
Here’s a real purty vent-a-hood in a private kitchen:
It doesn’t need cleaning. It is kissed by the gods every other Wednesday.
Here’s the kind–if not the extent–of the vent-a-hood we cleaned in the commercial kitchen of a well-known local restaurant (which makes really awesome chicken fried steak):
Though I’m trying to keep to BxW photos in this blog, this natural patina had to be retained for your viewing pleasure.
But, yeah, I haven’t experienced work as physical as this since I got sober in 1994 and went to work at Burger King, where a black girl saw me put on a back-support belt while unloading the delivery truck and said to me, somewhat teasingly, “you just a spoiled white boy who ain’t done a hard day’s work in your life.” She was wrong then (about the hard day’s work at least), and I’ve proven her wrong again.
When I was two days or so into living in Kerrville, I stopped by Starbucks (oddly the only one, but which has a killer view for sunsets) on Junction Highway.
As I entered, one of the baristas was saying to another barista, “Nice haircut, dude.” It was the compliment of colleagues who’d spent many an hour making lattes together and occasionally bumping elbows.
“Man,” the other started, “everyone who comments on my haircut says I went to the place where they cut grandmother hair. Everyone tells me, ‘Oh, wow, you shoulda gone here or there‘. I sure wish they would have told me before.”
I studied his coiff. Sure enough, on the right octogenarian, it would do her proud.
So when it came time for my haircut, I scoped it out. Many on Yelp suggested Sanchez, also on Main Street, but it was closed Sunday and yesterday (Monday). I needed a haircut. So I went to Water Street Barbers, and got my cut from a neatly groomed silver-haired man named Autry. (C’mon! This is Texas, baby!) He grew up in Comfort, just south of here, and we had a delightful talk, including where all the speed traps were there and here in town. At the end, he shaved my neck with a straight razor.
It was only after the razor that I reminded him that though my wife was from here, I was born and raised in New York City.
It would be a great vehicle to use for camping. Or fly fishing. Or, as one New Yorker used it for: surfing. He used to park it in the same place on West 11th Street near 7th Avenue. I’d walk by it and admire.
A Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
Great, that is, if I camped (haven’t since a family wilderness experience in April 2017, and that didn’t count; before that was 1985 after graduating college), or fly-fished (never; well…as a boy I’d go with my grandfather, but he’d fish while I ate Dunkin’ Donuts), or still surfed (I now live in south central Texas, but there is a man-made wave park in Austin that I’ve surfed). My point is that the Grand Wagoneer seems to be the ultimate sportsman’s vehicle (again, that is, if I were actually a sportsman and not a foodie who likes to use hair product from time to time).
Problem is: Grand Wagoneers are not cheap.
I’ve been driving by Wagonmaster on Memorial Boulevard for nigh 25 years since first coming to Kerrville, and when my in-laws lived over on the grounds of the VA Hospital (where my father-in-law was a surgeon), and have developed a growing and gnawing desire for one of these beauties. To take camping again, to try out fly fishing with, and even to strap my surfboard to the roof rack and drive the two hours to Austin’s NLand Surf Park, the 17 hours west to Blacks Beach in San Diego, or the 25 hours east to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina (dang, I really do live in the middle of the country), and hit the God-made waves. But the lot’s inventory is a bank-buster. And it’s not that these vehicles aren’t worth it: the owners take low-mileage, well-kept autos, and they restore them.
Maybe I’ll go apply for a job there and see if they offer a 90% employee discount. That would bring one into my budget of under $6,000.
[NOTE: I am now writing about Texas towns, and other places that are noteworthy, here at Small Town USA.]
I will never be “a Texan” like I was “a New Yorker.” Not that I wouldn’t want to be a Texan. I’m simply not allowed to be.
Of course, that’s not exactly true, as many on Quora and elsewhere point out. Being “a Texan” is more a state of mind that, for instance, compels the non-Texan to say, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could!” It’s a willingness to identify.
Perhaps I’m experiencing Statehood Dysphoria.
People who come to the Big Apple, on the other hand, consider themselves New Yorkers after some quirky milestone or major event, such as:
They find themselves no longer looking up at the buildings.
They take the subway more often than they take cabs, and they never take the bus unless forced to, because it slows you down.
They find themselves annoyed when tourists who are walking on the sidewalk drift left or right out of their “lanes” and into their paths. (So annoying. “Get the F@#K out the way!”)
They lived through 9/11.
They fold their slice of pizza lengthwise and eat it while walking, quickly, careful to avoid the drifting tourists who are busy looking up at the buildings. They never order pizza with broccoli or pineapple on it.
They got mugged and still renewed their lease.
When going to their parents’ house outside the city for the holidays, they return to the city, throw their keys onto the coffee table, flop on the sofa and think, “it’s good to be home.”
There is a length of time or an event or series of events that will cause the transplant to say one day, “I am a real New Yorker.” Some of these will stay; some will move. Of those who move, most will cease to call themselves “New Yorkers.” They might opt for, “Oh, well, you know—I’ve lived all over.”
For a non-Texan to move to Texas, it’s like a foreign word coming into the French lexicon. It happens seldomly. At least not without a full background check on pedigree or certain qualifying attributes (one was born here but as an infant was whisked away criminally, etc.). I mean, “Le Breakdance” really doesn’t sound French now, does it? Is it possible that occasionally the State agencies at work might make a mistake and let in a forever-foreign element? I worry.
When I first came to Texas, I apparently needed an introduction to the way things are done. Or, more to the point, what real grocery stores look like.
My fiancée at the time, Karen strolled me up and down row after row of copious food and copious people. Our cart was the size of a Chevy Suburban. The aisles’ end caps were wider than the span of Bevo’s horns. Karen recalled and lamented the narrow New York City grocery store aisles with shoppers inching toward each in a slow-mo game of “chicken,” and then we came to the dairy section. In front of us was a forty-foot long refrigerated case filled to the brim with Pillsbury products. Orange rolls. Croissants. Grands. Etc. and etc. I imagined a polite, red-shirted stockboy must have come every couple minutes to replenish the inventory. Labels were facing out. The case itself was clean and humming.
“Now this,” she pronounced with a sweep of her arm, “is a biscuit aisle!”