The Austin Trip – 2003 III

Although Suzi had e-mailed me explicit directions to her apartment, I let her sister have full reins on navigating the rest of the way, you know, just for own pleasure. I finally stopped for gas and she gave me a twenty plus a sawbuck. As the pump was running, I poked my head through her open window and said jestingly, “Ma’am, would you like me to check the oil, water, and tires?” Just having fun. Son-of-a-gun, if the gas bill didn’t come to $24.75. I was a quarter off my estimate. In her own charitable way, Dodi said, “Keep the change.” Gosh, she had been such a great traveling companion. You just had to love her.

With Dodi’s navigational expertise, we pulled into the parking lot of 2308 Wickersham. We trundled up four levels of stairs with me pushing and her pulling her airport-roller bag. Suzi greeted us with open arms, and we chatted awhile until I excused myself for a much-needed bike ride. As I pedaled around the apartment complex, I noticed all the kids biking in the area were non-white. Dodi was right when she said Suzi lived in a highly-diversified ethnic area. When I got back, there was a plate of “sgetti and balls” waiting for me. We dined in the chubby called a living room in front of a 51 inch diagonal TV screen that you could more easily watch from the kitchen. “Wow, it must be awesome watching football on this screen,” I exclaimed. Wrong choice of words! Rick and Suzie, it turned out, were not sports enthusiasts.

We had a very amiable evening in front of the panoramic TV. Rick had retired to the bedroom to do some computer work, so it was just me and the girls. Dodi, not having cable at home, was like a kid with a new toy, going berserk with the remote. She couldn’t get enough of the clickity-clicking. Bless her heart. While she was at Control Central, I asked her if she could find ESPN so that I could catch the score of the Dallas Maverick playoff game. She finally did, and I was happy to see the Mays in front. That’s all I wanted to know. We entertained ourselves with some movie trivia (I love it), and I asked Dodi who was the best actress. She replied, “Merryl Streep.” “Absolutely,” I agreed. “What’s the best picture ever made?”, I asked. They were stymied on that one, so I suggested: Dances With Wolves. They kinda agreed on that. I had to add, “No other movie has ever portrayed the Native Americans as faithfully and accurately as that movie did. It was a masterpiece.”

I occasionally retreated to the balcony with the cordless phone to call all my erstwhile friends in Austin. I tried Hal Box (an old architect friend), Bill McGrew (an architect from the Harrell & Hamilton days), Ted Edwards (cousin Paula’s ex-hubby), Lynn Buckner/Rich (my good friend’s sister), Judy Schrecker (an old flame from the 60s), and Jan Walner (brother Franz’s ex-love and long-time friend from highschool). I batted zero. No one was home. The girls had decided to watch a video of Meet the Parents, so I decided to retire for the night (I had seen the flick several times). I asked Suzi if I could have a plastic bottle of cranberry juice for a morning shot. She obliged and added another bottle of skim milk along with a banana. I thanked her and said, “You must be telepathic. This is just what I have in the morning when I’m on the road.” As I was leaving, I said, “You girls are going to love Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. And watch for Owen Wilson — he’s a `sleeper’. G’night.”

Back at the van, I turned the passenger seat around to its “normal” position of facing backwards. As I sat in my “easy chair”, I remembered asking Dodi if she minded riding in the backward position. I told her, “Hey, look at this way. You can see where you’ve been instead of where you’re going. People ride on trains facing backwards.” She wouldn’t buy it. She preferred riding in a “normal” position. As it turned out, I was glad she did. Besides, the carpet on the passenger side needed some wear.

The cargo door was wide open facing north, and a cool breeze was wafting through (I had opened the skylights). Gosh, I was so thankful for the north wind that had prevailed all day and into the night. It was kinda ironic. I had been apprehensive from the start about the tepid temperatures I might encounter 200 miles south of Dallas. I even had the prescience to commandeer an oscillating, table-top fan from Mom’s house just in case of having to hook up with my extension cord to Suzi’s apartment. Lots of luck. I was about 500 feet short! Well, it was all academic now. The thermometer read 63 degrees. It was perfect sleeping weather. I crawled under the comforter and thanked The Lord for a most serendipitous day.

The next morning was a fun time. I brought up my collection of prints for Rick and Suzi to pan and select their favorites. I noticed Rick was wearing a T-shirt with a New York Central steam locomotive emblazoned on it. I asked, “Are you a train buff?” “No, not really. This was Bill Thompson’s, Dodi’s husband.” I said, “Anyway, maybe you’d like several of these prints of steam locomotives I watercolored.” I had been wondering how the Maverick game had ended the night before, so Dodi said, “Well, let’s go visit Mr. Website.” She was so endearing and cute, asking questions such as: “Now, what sport were they playing? What city do the Mavericks come from? The other team was the Portland what?” By golly, she persevered and finally came up with a Mavs victory.

Then Suzi started in by giving us a blow-by-blow account of how she and her comrades had orchestrated a protest to the Iraq War. She had spread out lengthily a roll of paper in the hall of the apartment and painted anti-war slogans. Then, in the middle of night, they hung the banners from overpasses. I asked, “Wasn’t that illegal?” She said, “I don’t know. Maybe it was. Anyway, they were all gone the next day. We gave it our best shot.” Then it hit me.

It was déjà vu all over again. Here were the Sisters of the Sixties, still protesting as they did against the Viet Nam war. It was almost like Hippiedom reincarnated. I was really in the bleeding-hearts liberal country. Hey, don’t get me wrong. I love those two ladies. They’re the two of the best people I know. And I aged with them: “No Blood for Oil.”

Rick and The Two Sisters were off to Corpus Christi to see some friends. We bid farewell in the parking lot where I told Dodi, “Thanks for the opportunity to drive you here. You made it a great trip. Love `ya.” Well, now I was free to go where ever I wished. My first stop was the nearby Albertson’s for my favorite roady comestibles — fried chicken thighs and potato salad. I was still having no luck getting Jan at home, so I called The Market where she worked, knowing full well she was off for the weekend (she had emailed that info). I simply wanted the directions on how to get there in hopes that one of her fellow employees might know how to get to her house.