Spring of 2003 I

My dear friend from the halcyon hippie days back in the 1960s in Dallas, Dodi Brackin Thompson, called me in early-April saying she was planning a trip to Texas in several weeks to visit our long-time friend, Paula Bass. When she made a somewhat obligatory suggestion that I drive her to Austin to visit her sister, I was at first taken aback, but after a several seconds of deliberation, I replied, “That’s a great idea. I’m ready for a short out-of-town trip, and besides, it gives us a chance to catch up with each other while on the interstate.” I had to add, “We’ll be in the “friendly” confines of Ol’ Blue for three or four hours. Think you can put up with me for that long?” She succinctly replied, “If you can put up with me, I can certainly put up with you.” Well, I never really had any doubts about us not being compatible, so her comment turned out to be purely academic.

Dodi arrived on Thursday the 24th and called me from Paula’s house, saying in jest, “I’m here as your official birthday present.” Then we got serious, planning our ETD (estimated time of departure for those of you who do not fly) for the next day. We agreed on a PUT (pick up time) at around 11 A.M. I had already pretty well packed up the van and was ready to roll.

The next morning, it was getaway at 10 A.M., a full hour before I was due at the Bass residence. My generous time allowance proved to be a godsend. Instead of taking my familiar northern route on Hwy 183 to the Bass house in suburban Irving, I decided to head south on North Central and merge with westbound I-30 (a.k.a. the old Dallas/FT. Worth Turnpike). I inexplicably became discombobulated, exiting the interstate way too soon and wandered up and down Davis Ave. in the middle of West Dallas. To this day, I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe it was too early in the day for me to have a clear head.

Rather than making an embarrassing phone call to Paula for directions, I consulted my city map and located MacArthur Blvd. as the right exit, a good three miles farther down the pike. Geemonee, I couldn’t believe that I had become so disorientated in my own hometown, but then West Dallas (a.k.a. Oak Cliff) and Irving were like the other side of the moon when compared to how easily I could find my way around North Dallas Forty.

I eventually found 1410 Lookout Circle, arriving precisely at 11 A.M., just like I had planned, yeah, right. I immediately presented Dodi with her coveted Texas license plate, one of the later editions with painted scenery that she thought was so cool, but which I absolutely abhorred. I said, “No, I didn’t steal it. It came off the front of my Buick. But don’t worry, it’s fairly common to see cars in Texas without plates on the front bumper (an unenforced violation). Besides, I’m not about to relinquish my classic 1967 Texas plate (a plain, black-on-white, embossed relic), even for you, my dear friend.” She understood, wisely not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, saying, “Your license plate will fit right in with all the collectibles I have in my designated “Southwestern” room.” I was happy to have contributed to such a noble cause.

I had brought with me a small stack of prints of my watercolors to share with my friends, allowing them to select which ones they wanted as a part of their prize collections of “Early Memorabillia”. After Gary, Paula, and Dodi finished their feeding frenzy over my collection (only a handful of prints survived the onslaught), I assisted Mrs. Thompson into the shotgun seat, and then waved goodbye to the Basses. It had been a short, but enjoyable visit with our long-time friends.

We made our way south to eastbound I-30 where we encountered a massive traffic jam (incidentally, this was my first travelogue in which I used the plural derivative of the pronoun “I”). I said to Dodi, “This is so typical of trying to get out of Dallas. We’ll circumnavigate this mess, and veer right on Loop 12, then veer left on I-20, and veer right on I-35. We’ll just have to keep veering, that’s all.” Well, our supposedly best-laid plans went awry as the congestion still continued on southbound I-35. Dodi and I looked at each other with a sigh of resignation, but both confident there had to be the proverbial light at the end of the (interstate) tunnel somewhere down the pike.

Dodi must have downed her share of morning Java because she asked to make a pit stop at the earliest convenience. I pulled off at a McDonald’s, and while she was taking care of business, I ordered two Big Macs to go. We were hoping our little respite would buy us some time to extricate ourselves from the malaise, but as I pulled back on the interstate, our dreams were dashed by more arteriosclerotic traffic, which eventually had everyone squeezing into two lanes. To my utter consternation, I finally realized what was causing all the traffic back up – a mile-long pavement patchwork project in the left lane! I turned to Dodi and said, “This is unbelievable. Why couldn’t TXDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) schedule their roadwork on a Sunday morning or between midnight and six?”

As the traffic crept along, we could take solace in the beautiful bluebonnets (the state’s official flower) that blanketed the roadside along with clusters of colorful Indian paintbrush. I had to say, “You know, April is a great time to travel Texas with all the wildflowers in bloom. Even the scraggy mesquite trees take on a beauty of their own with full blossoms of apple green leaves, but by August, their foliage turns to a drab army olive.”