Thursday, October 22, 2009

Notes from Another America

How long, would you say, can the corpse of a mosquito adhere to the inside of the windshield of a mini van?

At least a month or two? I won't keep you in suspense. (You know I am horrible at that). I'll tell you that the remains of two mosquitoes have been clinging to the inside of my windshield since at least July.

They are just below eye level, and I don't always notice them. The light has to be just so. On Tuesday this week, in the late afternoon, as I and the kids were driving down the heartbreakingly beautiful Route 22 A along the western edge of Vermont, I noticed them dangling there still. I resented that they were intruding on the view of farm fields and distant Adirondacks, but I didn't brush them away. I was sort of fascinated that, what with the defroster and all, that has been pressed back into service a lot lately, what with the FROST and all, that they hadn't fallen to bits. Maybe this would make a nice little contest, like our annual "ice out" raffles in Vermont, where people bet on the day when an object placed in the middle of a frozen pond or lake will drop through into the water?

Or maybe not.

All that by way of telling that I have been traveling this week, and further afield than usual. My brother and his fiancee decided about three weeks ago to move their wedding date from the end of the year to late October. (Speculation running wild, if quietly, among us all for possible reasons for the date change. ahem.) Plane tickets were purchased, but there seems no good (cheap) way to fly to Dallas from the northeast. The trip thus began with a drive from Vermont to Albany, NY as a base camp near the Albany airport. The journey was completed the following day when our wee, crammed jet touched down at DFW.

About my brother: he is my only brother and two and a half years younger than me. He left our native northeast when he was 21 to go to law school in deepest, darkest most Baptist Texas, at Baylor University. After he finished (uh, at number one in his class, btw, which is why I can come to you now from a large house in a swish Dallas neighborhood - the house pictured here is not his, but it is in his neighborhood).

His house, I am pleased to say, was built in the 1950s and is positively historic down here. Lots of these post-war houses, despite being perfectly congenial and serviceable and attractive, had been viewed during the boom years as impediments to be scraped away so that better, bigger, [specious, horrifying] mansions could stand in their place. His house is quite charming, although one room [billiards] is decorated [by a former bachelor] with the heads of Cape Buffalo, various long horned grass-eating creatures from afar, and a garage with a Ferrari for every decade of his life).

I guess that makes him sound like a complete jerk, which he is not. He actually doesn't like spending money (He told me this himself, once, which made me wonder if we are really siblings). He has restrained himself to these few indulgences (cars, guns, hunting). He, has, however, adopted the mores of Texas to a considerable extent and he moves among the Texans of Dallas as one of them. Compare and ontrast: my indulgences (the part-time government lawyer in Vermont) are blogging and an occasional filet o'fish.

I have been down here half a dozen times now and I am always sort of fascinated at how different these seem to be from the ones I am used to in the upper right hand corner of the country.

I had a secretary once who was born and raised in Austin, Texas and she assured me that Dallas is not really Texas. Who am I to argue? I can believe that it Dallas is an enclave of outworlders, like my brother and my new Russian-born-and-raised sister-in-law. I can also say without exaggerating that it is true, nevertheless, that the Texas cliche of bigness appears to be observed in Dallas.

Thankfully, owing to a certain natural personal restraint of both the bride and groom, the wedding was very low-key and the reception a cheerful sort of gathering for 45 or so people at a local hotel - the kind of thing that could be put together with two weeks notice. I attended the reception with my camera (picture-taking being my contribution to this hastily organized event). I was a bit like a Wild Kingdom photographer as alien, in my shapeless outfit and Dansko clogs, in Dallas as Jim and Marlin Perkins were at any African waterhole.

My sister-in-law's friends arrived in gowns that reached the floor and heels that would make it possible for them to change the light bulbs at Madison Square Garden. Dresses clung and, other than me, there were no fatties in evidence. Hair colors were becoming, if not altogether, uh, "convincing." The kids and I looked around and even the Understudy (who is only 11) was very clear that we were not in Vermont anymore.

Travel is broadening. I am glad we got to come here and see how the other half, or three quarters or whatever the US population balance is these days, lives. My brother took Shackleton to his office and showed him the Texas School Book Depository on the way home (assasination tourism - we don't have that in Vermont).

Odd thing is that Shack has declared his intention to move to Texas when he grows up. He didn't mention whether the warm temperatures or the women who fawned over him on this trip have had any part in that decision...

We are back to Vermont, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, tomorrow.