Date: Sun, 27 Aug 1995 00:35:29 -0400
Subject: Adventures in Abilene
ABILENE, TEXAS: In a rather dark comedy-like turn of events, I escaped getting my butt kicked in a convenience store in Rising Star. What a name for town for an Astrologer to live in — Rising Star. It’s only a hundred miles or so from Abilene, so it must be a suburb.
Something about the fact that I had 1] long hair, 2] earrings, 3] no shirt, and 4] no shoes might have exacerbated the problem. The locals were dressed in their Friday best for sitting around the coffee pot. A notice in the window said the place didn’t sell pornography because the store was Christian and all that. It was a home for the real thing: Good Ol’ Boy, Bubba with a Real Bubba Attitude — Polyester clothes because they have that stay-pressed look.
Anyway, I escaped unscathed and chalked it up to experience. Here I was again, a year later, back on the road, driving to Abilene because big airplanes don’t fly here. We got in early so we hopped on down to the mall. The idea of mall walking in West Texas is a scary proposition. I remembered what I’d overheard at another West Texas event: “Oh, I’ve been to the big city, I went Lubbock once — they have a mall there.” Maybe I’m a bit provincial, but I’m used to large cities being big places. So here’s what I have to report from the Abilene mall, thus far: several mixed couples, shall I say, to be politically correct, culturally mixed couples. This shattered my notion that Abilene is a backward town.
Then again, there was that one lady who sat down to get a reading last year; she took one long look at me — computer, tarot cards, long hair, and she asks, “Are you evil?” Of course not. An ex or two of mine might disagree, but basically I’m a nice guy. My tarot cards have a nice, big cross on the back of them — a Rose Cross but the symbolism smacks of Christianity. Evil? Like a Satanist? ‘Fraid not. I don’t even follow a dark path. Except when that path leads to Abilene.
Perhaps I’m wrong about this part of Texas. I had a nervous flashback when I realized that the the area’s nickname is the Big Country. Bubba, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that a name of a mid-’80s rock group? From England, or Scotland, or some such place? One-hit wonder? Then I keep hearing that song playing over and over in my head, “in a big country.”
The drive up from Austin (take 71 Northwest out of town, go to Brady and hang a left) was spotted with light rain clouds and one torrential downpour. The weather held over with brilliant sunshine and scattered thundershowers in the area. I suppose the rain helped add to the fair’s crowds.
It must have been a slow news day in Abilene because three, count them THREE (3) television stations sent camera crews. Now, I like the media, usually, even when I was once quoted ENTIRELY OUT OF CONTEXT WHEN THE CAMERA WAS SUPPOSED TO BE OFF, but I have mostly forgiven the Austin television station that did that. The Abilene media was kind despite the area’s usual conservative political and social views.
We made the news, Bubba, but there wasn’t really too much to see. And no print media, either, which is sad since I love newspapers.
The best time I had was the drive up to a friend’s place to spend Saturday night. She has this little red convertible. With the top down, the summer breeze was dancing along my skin as we cruised along the highway, north out of Abilene. The Central Texas Hill country becomes gently rolling plains becomes wide open prairie, all in the space of a few miles. And then it’s nothing but wide open spaces.
There are the few refinery-looking places, some rusted out, some not, and one place on the road just north of Abilene in the middle of nowhere, in front of God and everybody, a giant red neon “Jesus Saves.” It’s a landmark, I was assured.
The skies cleared up as we drove north, and the smell of the new rain on the fresh turned earth almost overpowered us with its intoxicating fecundity. The pleasures and pace of West Texas are different. Perhaps it isn’t wise to come here and judge it by city standards when it has a pace all unto itself. This Big Country is separate from Texas: Half the people want to leave as fast as they can, and the other half want to stay, avoid too much change, and enjoy the more relaxed pace.
Remember this: Abilene was the town, right before the oil bust of the 80’s, where they drilled a fake well in front of the county fairgrounds (1981, Abilene Centennial) and accidentally hit a pocket of the the real thing. Only in Texas.