Let’s face it: I was terrified of Texas. As previously mentioned, I was pretty sure it was just a giant, flat, boring expanse of hot sand waiting to murder me. Maybe not that bad, but I was sure I’d at least get an unwarranted traffic violation if not an unlawful prosecution for murder. But I figured it wouldn’t be America without at least a little Texas, and set my route to go through the panhandle. By my math I would have to spend at least two nights in the state: one in Lubbock and one in Amarillo. I only had one loose connection with this section of Texas. The parents of my mom’s friend’s sister’s partner live in Lubbock. I may have that train wrong, but suffice it to say they are close enough to me for an introduction to seem reasonable, but far enough away that I had no knowledge of them before this trip. My ideas about Lubbock were even worse than my thoughts on Texas, due to a rather scathing song by The Dixie Chicks.
George & Katherine were absolutely lovely. They are very old, very retired, and very sweet. I parked outside their house and noticed that despite the hot weather and the three-year drought, every one of the big, beautiful brick houses on the block had a large, green lawn. I’d been told that maintaining a nice green lawn is a point of pride in Texas, so this wasn’t so much of a surprise but a pleasant affirmation. George asked if I was okay with my car on the street, or would I rather park it out back. Considering they lived near the end of a cul-de-sac in the nicest neighborhood I’d seen since Beverly Hills, I told them I was fine on the street. Katherine showed me the guest room with the four poster bed and chandelier, but said if I didn’t like it there was a second guest bedroom across the hall I could use.
George & Katherine suggested a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner. It’s a chain restaurant, but Katherine said it started in Lubbock so it doesn’t feel like a chain to them. The local college was having a free jazz concert, and the three of us arrived just after the second song was ending. The theater was freezing cold, but the music enjoyable. The band seemed to be composed of both current and former students, and mid-way through a jazz cover of a Christina Aguilera song I was forced to consider my preconceptions about Texas, and about Lubbock. When one thinks about chilly jazz concerts one usually does not think Texas. But I suppose there’s a market for that sort of thing everywhere you go.
We get back to the house and George turns on the news in the background. It seems there’s an abortion bill being pushed through the Texas legislature, but it’s being filibustered by a woman I hadn’t heard of before. Neither George nor Katherine were very aware of the bill until now, and George looks it up on the computer. According to the article, the bill would make abortion illegal in Texas, though it would do it through roundabout means. Katherine expresses disapproval of such a thing, saying that on an individual basis you just can’t decide that sort of thing for someone else.
In the morning I awake to find both of my hosts out on the back patio, watching their turtles. They have a small but flourishing fenced-in garden, and a few years ago they bought a few box turtles to control the snails. Those turtles gave birth to a few more turtles, and since they are kept in by the fence, protected from predators, and likely to live an average of 50 years, George and Katherine now have over a dozen turtles wandering through the garden. George bought some cat treats that the turtles seem to like, and if you hold one out they will come up to eat it right our of your hand. George identifies them by putting a small dab of colored paint on the shells, leading to names like Blue Dot and Yellow Dot. It occurs to me that all of the turtles are likely to outlive my hosts, but I don’t bring it up.
I talk with George and Katherine for awhile. She remembers visiting Carlsbad Caverns as a young girl, and I ask if she remembers the Rock of Ages tour. As I begin to describe it, she nods her head with recollection. They both lived in Roswell for some time, but left in the 1960s when the installation of a missile site seemed to make the town too good of a cold war target for George’s tastes – especially after one of the missiles blew up in an accident. He says that back in those days, there was no alien paraphernalia in Roswell. “Back then, when the government told you something, you believed it,” explains George. “The government said it was a weather balloon, so that’s what it was.” He tells me that shortly before witness accounts began to surface and people started to raise questions, the Roswell economy had flatlined. As far as George is concerned, the “alien pub” is what saved Roswell.
I tell them I’m going to the Buddy Holly Museum later, and Katherine explains that most Americans don’t realize the impact he had, especially in Europe. She tells a story about when her and George traveled to England once. People would hear their Texas accents, find out they were from Lubbock, and ask if they knew Buddy Holly. This was especially humorous to her since Buddy Holly had already died. “When was this trip?” I ask. “Oh, it would have been about 1996,” she tells me.
We go to Einstein’s Bagels for breakfast. Sitting there, George makes the casual but astute observation that this seems to be the place for ladies to come sit and chat. Katherine and I look around and we realize that there are no other male patrons, and that most of the women are gathered in groups of five or more.
We go back to the house, take in a few more minutes with the turtles, and I head out. I tell George and Katherine that I now regret planning such a short time in Lubbock, as they have been so nice, and Katherine had found so many other nice things for me to do in Lubbock if I had the time. She hugs me and says I’ll just have to come back.
I make it to the small but interesting Buddy Holly Museum. I didn’t realize what a direct influence he had on both The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. As in, they are called The Beatles because his band was The Crickets. Among the museum items are the glasses Holly was wearing when he died. It’s amazing how little damage there is. A small crack and some scratches. They look like a prop from a movie. I suppose I always thought of plane crashes as fiery explosions, but in the end humans are fragile, and it doesn’t take much.
Across the street is a statue of Holly, as well as a wall of fame celebrating musicians from Lubbock. Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks isn’t there, despite achieving a greater level of fame than most of the others. However this may have more to do with the rule that inductees must be present at the ceremony (excluding the deceased), and Natalie Maines has made it clear she’s not wild about coming back to Lubbock. However her father, producer and musician Lloyd Maines, is represented on the wall, which is some small consolation.
Two other women were admiring the statue while I was taking pictures, and one asked if I would like her to take a picture with me next to the man himself. I say yes, and go to hand her the camera. As I pull my hand away I snag the wrist strap, yanking the whole thing straight down towards the pavement. The woman is concerned, but I tell her it’s fine, I’ve dropped the camera plenty of times. She takes the photo and hands the camera back to me.
I went to take a few more shots, which is when I realized the real extent of the damage. The end of the lens had been smashed, and it takes very little time for me to realize it isn’t fixable. I look on my phone for the nearest electronics store, and it seems Best Buy is my only option. I’m not a huge fan of Best Buy, but desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s also harder to up-sell a woman who walks into your store asking for the exact camera she has in her hands. They didn’t carry the same model, but I got the closest thing. It’s a step down from my old one and a little inferior, but it will have to do. I will consider it my sacrifice to the gods of Texas for thinking so little of Lubbock.