Friday, November 7, 2008

TEXAS PART II: "There's Gonna Be Flurrs"

After waking up with the Motorhome Clapper Rails, we headed over to The Skillet for breakfast, which featured some of the worst coffee ever made and food that tasted like cigarettes. It seemed pretty popular with the oil workers. In other words, it was great, but this seemed to be lost on ASOC.

Afterwards we cruised down the highway, stopping next to a flock of spoonbills next to a road. We were on our way to Magnolia Beach, which was covered in large pieces of trash from the hurricane. Or at least I hoped it was from the hurricane....because there was a lot of shit there. People were walking around picking up coolers and things like made me wonder what beaches looked like in third world countries. Probably not much better in some places. At any rate, the willets and turnstones seemed to be a bit confused.

The wind had picked up at this point, which plunged me into a catatonic depression. Birding and high winds are generally about as compatible as Catholics and abortion clinics. We had just arrived at Magic Ridge, with its Tamaulipan scrub community that allegedly held a lot of migrants and birds more common to south Texas. It is very hard to see birds in the wind, and I had come too far to be able to cope with it with very well. Songbirds were almost impossible to see....although I could hear quite a few birds singing in the bushes that were probably pretty rad....Long-billed Thrashers maybe, as well as a couple other mystery songs. There were quite a few Ruby-throated Hummingbirds around and a couple Eastern Kingbirds.....but I was stoked to see a young Seaside Sparrow fly out of the saltmarsh to come take a look at me after some pishing. This was one of the only birds that responded to my pishing in the entire state, but it was a good one! A number of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and a Reddish Egret in the marshes bordering Magic Ridge were also pretty nice to see.

That night The Grub and ASOC lurked up and down the fishing dock back at our campsite in Port Lavaca, throwing in a terrible neon green and pink fishing lure that nothing would possibly want to put in its mouth. They were using a reel on a stick, and they had no pole. Whenever they "cast" the lure, it invariably did not have enough line and would drop straight into the water beneath them. It was the worst example of fishing that I had ever seen. I abandoned them after a while and walked out to the viewing platform in the saltmarsh and promptly passed out.

I was awakened by a couple people walking up on me in the darkness, and I bolted upright and nervously gave a quick hello. No doubt they thought I was doing something terrible out there in the darkness, and they quickly turned and left. I couldnt go back to sleep, so I followed them (probably creepily) out of the marsh.....where we were all promptly stopped by Texas cops. They ran background checks on us and watched us squint (me, annoyed and drunk; the couple; a bit nervous)into the headlights of their cruisers....the nicer one just stood there and chewed tobacco while the fat one kept dropping stuff and really awkwardly had to pick it up all the time. I was eventually let go, and that was that.

This reminds me that ASOC is terrified by police. The day before he had already eaten a sizeable ball of drugs on the highway, as he thought we were getting pulled over (we werent), and he had just come down from a terrible panic when I arrived back at the campsite. It was all pretty humerous, particularly since I was talking to the cops with a deep Texas drawl instead of my California accent, which I should have been using since they were looking at my California-issue driver's license.

The next day we went back for another cigarette-laden meal at The Skillet and headed out of town, which was kind of a relief. Port Lavaca was a wretched place, where people live by going tragedy to tragedy with no end in site. People who die here do not go to heaven.

Our next stop was at a big marsh next to a nuclear power plant. There were dozens of Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Black Terns and all sorts of things. But, by the time Grub and I had finished looking the ponds over, we had found that ASOC was once again deeply engrossed with a phone conversation with his ex-girlfriend (this happened several times a day, every day) and had apparently no interest in either stopping the conversation or leaving. After a shrug, Grub and I walked up the road to see what else we can find. Eventually, we found a Matagorda County Sheriff, whom I again for some reason talked to like a Texan. He informed us that we couldnt park on the road, and then drove right behind us at about 2 miles an hour as we walked back to the Acura, which was pretty creepy.

We returned to a terrified and shaken ASOC, who was talking to another sheriff back at his car. The sheriff had a large automatic weapon lying openly in his Charger's passenger seat, and had denied ASOC's claims that neighboring Calhoun County had the highest Christmas Count total in Texas.....Matagorda County clearly did, according to the sheriff. We couldnt really argue with that, and the cops left eventually. I had thought we wouldve had worse problems, loitering next to a nuclear power plant with strange and exotic-looking optics, but whatever.

Our last stop before heading back to "The Plex" was Matagorda Beach, which was, surprisingly, fucking awesome and where we should have been camping the whole time. It was warm, sunny, and happy with thousands of birds, kind of like Disneyland without all the shitty parts and stupid kids. This was the only time I got to see big flocks of shorebirds and terns, and also where I finally got my life Boat-tailed Grackles. If youre ever in the area, check it out.

At this point, we felt haunted by the man called "Iron Horse", who drank a 40 oz of Mickey's, knew all about the weather, disliked war, liked Killdeer and had been inexplicably stuck in Port Lavaca for 6 years. On the back of his truck the phrase "2 Fast 4 U" was stenciled mysteriously on his window. We assumed he lived a sort of Groundhog Day type existence, waking up in that shitty town day after day no matter how far away he got the day before. It was agreed that this was destined to be our fate, but God was on our side and we made it back to the comparatively tolerable Denton.

The last few days in Texas were a little mellower, and I even had to sit out a night due to my failing bodily functions. We did manage to do some canoeing (and more "fishing") on the Trinity River, go to the horse races and come to know and love the greatness that is Cracker Barrel. Being a sleazy, filthy, heathen, immoral, crazy liberal in a relatively unfamiliar, very red area felt quite good. I definitely felt like a vagrant, in both senses of the word.

Texas was many weeks ago, and was also the end of PERPETUALWEEKENDY2K8. But that was Then....and this is Now. Things are changing quickly; we are about to have a black president (sweet), Californians have reiterated their homophobia and bigotry (thanks a lot Fresno), all my friends are somewhere in the process of having babies (weird), and my strange, kinky, socially useless roommate has moved out (she went to "pee parties", no joke), only to be replaced with lowly Dan "kind of a dick" Maxwell. He also goes by Dan "cooler when he's single" Maxwell. But he is a birder, which is what is best.

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