Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ya'll Want Some Cocaine?: Texas Part I

With PERPETUALWEEKENDY2K8 all wrapped up, we can now sit back and reflect. What did we learn here? What did we forget? How much money was spent? Perhaps it is better not to delve into such things.....let sleeping dogs lie.

Texas, which was the final leg of PERPETUALWEEKENDY2K8, is a very interesting place. Im still not sure what to think of it all, except that it is really, really big.....and the food is really, really bad. Terrible. Awful. And this isnt even looking at it from a vegetarian point of view. Its just bad. Drew Steele had nervous breakdowns in some of these places, and he lived there. The only exception to this rule of third world nutritional horror is Ponder's Steakhouse, where you can add an extra quail to your steak.

One of the best parts of the place were the accents. Most everyone I talked to down had a rockin' Texas accent. I was told that different parts of the state had different accents too, which is pretty sweet, kind of like southern Californians sound like bros, people in the Central Valley sound like hicks and everywhere else they sound "normal". I adapted to it pretty quickly and spoke fluent Texan for most of the trip, which basically meant saying "ya'll" a lot and drawlin' and abbreviatin'. Eet would be nas if I cud rot lock how they talk down there but I s'pose it wood be damn hord for ya'll to dee-cipher.

Oh yeah, and the "skeeters" on the gulf coast are some of the worst I'd encountered in my life. They are downright unholy down there.

I spent about half the trip lurking in the Denton area, which is about 30 minutes north of Dallas. Denton is a college town (UNT), and their mascot is the Mean Green Eagle, which makes no fucking sense at all. The first night we were there, some Texas bros in a lifted truck pulled up at a stoplight as we walked toward them. They hollered "YA'LL WANT SOME COCAINE??!!!", which I thought was pretty generous of them. Southern hospitality, you know what Im saying? There are a few college bars in town, which were pretty typical.....except you have to join their liquor club if you are allowed admission into the bar. No joke.

Birds. Birding in the Denton area was interesting. I got my life Carolina Wrens and Carolina Chickadees in the yard I slept in the first morning, and was confused at the assortment of birds in the area that I saw while I was there. Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, White-winged Doves and Great-tailed Grackles seemed awfully far east, and then there was the wide assortment of eastern birds who were getting towards the western limits of their ranges.....Brown Thrashers, Blue Jays, Common Grackles, Eastern Phoebes. It was an interesting mix. I thought I saw an Acadian Flycatcher at one point but having The Grub talk VERY LOUDLY on his cell phone was kind of distracting, and I thought about stabbing him a little bit. In fact, I still think about stabbing him a little bit on general principle, because I know he deserves it for something. But alas, he is but a writer and I am but a nerd.

Oh yeah, there were Scissor-tailed Flycatchers everywhere.

After a couple of days, and after my luggage finally arrived, we were bound for The Gulf. We had initially planned on an epic Galveston trip, but the fact that Hurricane Ike basically annihilated the area made that kind of a bad option. Instead, we arbitrarily picked Port Lavaca as a destination, which was located somewhere on the coast between Galveston and Corpus Christi. So off we went towards The Gulf......our first destination was at an esteemed colleague's new apartment in Bryan, Texas, located a few miles from Texas A&M in College Station. We went birding and saw almost no birds, then set to drinking heavily. Obtaining whiskey in any normal and convenient fashion was frustratingly difficult up to this point, so we consumed quite a bit. Lee Vining ended up slumped over passed out at the bar, so it was time to go. The nice old cab driver who drove us home told us about how it was his dead son's birthday and promptly started crying.....it was a pretty brutal thing to lay on a bunch of giddy wasted people. It was a very awkward ride home.

The next day we drove......and drove.....and drove south to the gulf. We finally arrived in Palacios, where we were immediately engulfed by mosquitoes. Finally, we could see the ocean. A young Tricolored Heron lurked in a marsh next to the road, and I took it as a good sign.

We made it down to the beach, only to find the place was deserted. We lurked around on a pier for a while, noting all the boarded up buildings in the area. We had half-expected the place to be crawling the hurricane refugees, but it turned out the town was practically emptied because they had all evacuated to someplace else. Interesting.

Finally, we were driving in to Port Lavaca. Crested Caracaras, Roseate Spoonbills and an Anhinga had all put in roadside appearances, and I was sweating pure nerdosterone in anticipation of the birding there. We immediately set about looking for a campsite, which we found quickly. Conveniently, it was also located in a bird sanctuary. Sweet. The unfriendly old man at the gate, however, refused us a campsite because we had neglected to bring a tent. I also think he was a bit suspicious and bewildered that we had claimed that we were there for the birds. This was the beginning of a pretty consistent pattern of local Port Lavacans not believing we came to their town by choice at all, let alone to look at birds. And I completely understand this. Port Lavaca is a horrible place, and you should avoid going there at all costs, for any reason. "Don't be intimidated by the town's resort-like atmosphere", the towns website says. Well, they are probably talking about the weather, because we didnt see one single tourist the whole time they are there, and we certainly didnt see anyone having any Fun. Jesus.

And so it was off to Wal-Mart to buy a cheap tent that would enable us to camp for a couple nights. I despise Wal-Mart like little else, but goddammit if you are ever in a fix they will have what you need for a very low price.

So that night we camped out next to a saltmarsh and were summarily raped and abused by ungodly numbers of mosquitoes. It was awful.

The next morning I walked around the marsh, looking around for Seaside Sparrows without much luck. However, there were a lot of wading birds around.......the standard west coast waders, as well as Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons and White Ibis. No sign of the young Yellow-crowned Night Heron who was around the previous afternoon though.

The strange thing about this place, birdwise, were its Clapper Rails. There were a lot of them, and they showed no fear of people. They would walk out of the marsh and poke around in the mowed grass.....and then proceed to walk straight into the rv park. Why they thought it was best to hang out amongst a bunch of rvs, I have no idea. Perhaps they were reincarnated Port Lavacans who felt more at home amongst a bunch of shitty trailers owned by contracters who worked at the oil refineries or plastics plants.

After waking up to a railer morning (ha!), we threw our shit into the Acura to do some local birding.....but I will leave it at that for now. Part II promises more sex, more drugs, more police, more nerds and more birds!

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