Archive for October 25th, 2009

While I normally prefer my narratives to be linear, I felt moved to post on my birthday, and appreciate the feedback and support that post garnered.  And of course, thanks for all the great birthday wishes.  It was truly a memorable day.  Now I will backtrack in time, to pick up this tale where I left off earlier.  Thanks for bearing with me and the time-travel.

After leaving Dallas-Ft. Worth, I drove through Oklahoma, headed for New Mexico.  Even though sticking with the interstates was longer, (going north into Oklahoma, then turning westward), it was faster than taking the shorter and presumably more scenic route; and since my time was limited, I went for efficiency.  Besides, I’d never been in Oklahoma before.  But first I had to go to the gun and ammo store with my friend Bella.

Bella (by now you know that every friend’s name in this blog is a pseudonym, right?) is an elegant singer friend, who always looks very put together and polished, but can talk (and drink) down-and-dirty Texan with the best of them.  Need I say how much I love her?  We met singing several years ago in England, and cemented that friendship this past summer.  Bella and I met for good ol’ Texas barbecue as I left town from my stopover in Dallas-Ft. Worth.  Over a long lunch filled with pretty hardcore girltalk and equally hardcore Texan cooking (had my first fried okra!), I asked her if she might know of someplace in the area I could purchase pepper spray.  I had thought to take some with me before leaving (that old “female traveling alone” issue), but the ancient canister I had was dead, and I hadn’t been able to come by any yet on my trip.  But I figured, “This is TEXAS.  If a girl can’t get weaponry here, where can she?”  Of course, Bella knew of a place, sort of, and had been thinking of getting pepper spray for herself due to some overly excitable Dobermans along her morning walking route.  After lunch, we went to Bella’s favorite liquor store, where her friend the proprietor gave her kisses before telling us how to find the nearby ammo store.  Quickly found, we went inside and fell down the proverbial rabbit hole.

To say we were not in our element is absurdly understated. There aren’t many firearms involved in the world of classical choral music.  What surprised me was that Bella was even more rattled than I.  My Texas girl was freaked out and doe-eyed at being in the gun store, while her lefty, hippie-chick, “live-by-the-sword-die-by-the-sword” friend steered her by the elbow and said “It’s OK, you’ll be fine.  We’ll find the stuff and get out of here.”  Which is, of course, exactly what we did.  Stocked up on pepper spray for the whole family (she has several daughters), we said our goodbyes back at the liquor store, and off I drove northward.

Almost immediately upon crossing the border into Oklahoma, I passed an enormous casino complex alongside the interstate.  It went on for some ways, and I realized that the building façades were all built to look like famous edifices from around the world.  The far north corner was a mini-replica of Big Ben; adjoining to the south was the Roman Colosseum.  Not being a gambling type, I am always startled by such anachronistic, out-of-place replicas, which are for some reason popular in the gaming capitals of America.  Or so I’m told.  But I was out of place myself, having just stepped out of the ammo store, and driven into Oklahoma for the first time.  Who was I to judge?  I didn’t even know that gambling was legal in Oklahoma.

I had arrived in Dallas unsettled and emotionally raw, and departed feeling further churned up by a half-dozen different conversations with different friends.  Still feeling somewhat oppressed by the weather front that was literally overhead, I just drove, setting the cruise control at nine mph above the posted speed limit, and waited in a state of abstracted desperation for this sense of intense disquiet to abate.  I felt myself in a state of semi-suspension, not knowing what to expect, what I would see, or where I would even stop for that night.  I only knew I would turn left at Oklahoma City, which I hit at “rush hour,” and where I found temporary comfort tuning in “All Things Considered” on the local NPR station.  But there was no question about it:  I was well beyond anything that had ever felt like “my element.”  I had no idea where exactly I was going, what I would see or do, why I was going, or what solace – or further unrest – I might find.

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