Interstellar Adventure
Adventure: the pursuit of life — Daniel Roy Wiarda

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Out in the West Texas town of El Paso...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

...is where I spent my Memorial Day weekend. Nick and I flew out Friday evening on a very full American flight. Packed in like sardines, as they say. I'm not a good flier, but once we made it past the take-off, I was able to relax. I also got some really good shots of the clouds and the sky while in-flight. The landing was also, fortunately, uneventful and we made it back down to the ground with no issues. The El Paso airport is actually quite convenient, with the baggage claim and car rental areas directly across from each other. We ended up with a Ford Freestar. Nick kept insisting it was a mini-van. It's not a mini-van. I asserted. It doesn't have a sliding door! It can't be a mini-van! We went back and forth for a while, before agreeing that it looked more like a station wagon on 'roids. Pop looked just like he did when we left him in February. Joe Boxer pajama pants, well-executed comb-over, cane, white Reebok tennies, and a button down-shirt. He was so glad to see us. We went to La Casita for dinner, where I feasted on the Verde Casita special. A ginormous burrito, with cubed beef, potatoes, green chile sauce and more chiles. Fantastico! And, to make it even better, the Mavs won game 3 to go up over the Suns 2-1. Saturday morning I woke up earlier to hear Nick on the phone, talking to his Uncle Larry. We were going to meet him for breakfast. I'd never met him before, and he's rather estranged from the rest of the family, so we had to go before Nick's sister arrived. Uncle Larry turned out to be a sweet man, and I hope I get to hang out with him again. Sadly, this sweet man has a battle with the alcohol demons, a lot of stories, and not much else to show for his years. Still, I liked him immensely. We picked up Nick's dad and took him out to see the house in which Nick was born. I didn't take a picture of it because it was just too sad. A lot of the neighborhood had deteriorated, and despite the neighbor's house being pristine, Nick's house looked awful. Shutters torn off, Christmas lights still hanging, a single bush in the yard, and lots of dirt and weeds, the house needed a paint job and a lot of work. But, there was a new Camero in the drive! Nick pointed out a set of house numbers hanging from the front eaves. "My dad made those." Yeah? I said. Do you want them? He said he did. I grabbed $5 out of my purse and jumped out of the car before Nick could stop me. I walked up to the door and knocked. After a few moments, a hung-over face looked out the window at me and motioned for me to wait. After a minute, he opened the door, standing in a ratty blue robe, dirty bare feet, and I don't want to imagine what (or what not) underneath. Hi. My husband was born in this house. His dad made those house numbers hanging there. His father is now very old and ill and we'd like to see if we could have the house numbers he made. The man stared at me with a very confused look on his face. I paused a moment, before repeating my story, more slowly this time, and re-emphasizing Nick's father's age and the fact that he made the house numbers with his own hands. Would you mind if we took the numbers? The man stared at me again, wondering what the hell I was going on about. I was just about to offer him the $5 for them, when he said The numbers? Yeah, you can take them. Thank you very much I gushed and turned around and didn't hesitate to get the numbers off the rusted J-hooks. I high-tailed it back to the car and told Nick to step on it. Around the corner, we stopped for a minute and gave Nick's dad the numbers. He was surprised and couldn't figure out how I'd got them. Warm fuzzy for the day. We then stopped at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery to visit Nick's mother's grave. As the spouse of a retired military man, she had priviledges to be buried there. As we drove in, I gasped and immediately teared up. The cemetery was decorated with American flags. Large flags lining the main drive, and in front of each headstone, a small American flag had been placed in the ground. The effect was immediate and emotional. As we walked through the section where Nick's mom was buried, his dad spied a fallen flag. He immediately shuffled over to the flag and picked it up, returning it to it's upright position. Nick was so moved by this, as was I, and we shared a special moment there together. Back at the house, Nick's sister finally arrived. It was a bit tense at first. She's not exactly a warm, fuzzy person right off the bat. But, after we all relaxed a bit and chatted over dinner, the mood lightened. I taught them all to play spades. We played boys vs. girls and the girls came back and won. Sunday was more relaxing. After an attempt at running in the desert air, I nearly was sick. I couldn't control my coughing and I really thought I was going to lose my cookies. Even 20% humidity (compared to a usual 70%+) wasn't enough to keep my breathing moisturized. A nice, hot, steamy shower made me feel somewhat better. We had breakfast, then made a run to the book store. I had to scout around the store for a comfy chair for Pop, which I finally found. Nick's sister shopped, and I watched Pop and did my Sudoku. Back at home, we went through some of the shelves in the garage, and threw out a bunch of Nick's old junk memories. We selected a few items to bring home, and a few to put aside to be brought home at a later date. Photos, Christmas ornaments, and more photos. One of my co-workers is also from El Paso. He'd raved about this place called Chico's Tacos. They're only found in El Paso. Believe me, this is a good thing. I'd begged Nick to take me. He assured me I'd want to get it to go once we got there, but I stuck it out. Nick and I turned out to be the only white people in the place. The review I linked to pretty much says it all. Our order was exactly as is noted there. Except I had a root beer to drink instead of water. The people are better to watch than the food is to eat. The guy in the white wife-beater, the guy in the black mesh t-shirt, the guy with the excellent ink (read tattoos) and the table busser with the completely bald head except for the little tuft on the back of his neck. Yes, stereotypes exist for a reason. Monday, all the 'good' places to eat were closed. One restaurant even closed down for an entire week for vacation. I've never heard of a restaurant closing for a week for vacation! "This is El Paso" is all Nick had to say. We ended up opting for Village Inn, which is like a Dennys or an IHOP. Except VI has great chorizo dishes for breakfast. We cleaned up a few things around Pop's house, then headed for the airport. Being a holiday, we had no idea how the security was going to be. Turned out it wasn't that bad, plus our flight was delayed because of thunderstorms at DFW. The best part about the flight back was that we got upgraded!. I've never flown first-class before, and I certainly never want to fly coach again. Alas, I'm sure I will fly coach more often than first. But it was great. First off the plane even! On our way home, we picked up the kids. It was late and they were tired and we were tired. I also got a bit of, um, news. Last week the Brilliant Ex was out of town for a week on vacation. A cruise evidently. Where he asked the Girlfriend to marry him. Best of luck to both of them. Now I'm back at work, back to the grindstone, and back to this. I missed ya'll! I'll be around sometime in the next couple of days to catch back up. I have some work to do on the photos from the trip, but I'll have them up and done soon too.

5/30/2006 10:22:00 AM :: ::
  • LOVED that story about the house numbers. Such a small thing, but so many memories! You ROCK!
    The way you described the heat brought back memories of Vegas. We were there in July heat and every time the wind blew, it felt as if my skin was being peeled off from the intense heat.

    I was never so glad to get back to the humidity in my life.

    By Anonymous Laura, at 5/30/2006 06:00:00 PM


  • You are just the sweetest!! Lucky Nick.

    By Blogger Raehan, at 5/30/2006 10:53:00 PM


  • Glad you had a good weekend.

    We're flying premium class wehe we go away. I'm pleased to know you think its worth it!

    By Blogger serendipity, at 5/31/2006 02:49:00 PM


  • Time with family is always good. Sounds like you had a great time. Minus the running thing.

    By Blogger Carnealian, at 5/31/2006 02:49:00 PM


  • I loved this piece. Felt I was there in El Paso with you. You wrote so beautifully. Seems like it was a very moving and yet calm time.
    And you got quality time with Nick...

    By Blogger Tori, at 5/31/2006 11:08:00 PM


  • Great job getting the numbers (but I would have taken a picture, too. Perhaps of the guys face as he's trying to figure out what is going on, heh)

    Sounds like a good weekend overall.

    By Blogger Silly Old Bear, at 6/02/2006 08:43:00 AM


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