I had checked into a motel in the downtown area of San Antonio as I wanted to be close to the Alamo and the bars, etc.
In fact I was just around the corner. As you can see from the picture, the Texans have thoughtfully placed the city slap bang next to the Alamo so there is no need to walk far, particularly in the steamy heat. I had to keep going in and out of shops to keep cool. Had a good long look at the Alamo which I recognised from a million pictures and film clips. It is of course quite small. Maybe that or it is dwarfed by the buildings that surround it.
One thing I never knew and was certainly not brought out in the film was that Col. Jim Bowie was a Freemason. In fact several of the defenders were. "OK guys whilst we are waiting to be slaughtered by the Mexicans, hows about we join an organisation that has been criticised in the past for excessive secrecy but however does a lot of good work for charity?" Now if the Mexican President Santa Anna had been a mason too, things may have turned out differently.
After all this frenzied sightseeing a cold one was in order. I went into a bar across the street that boasted live music. It was live alright but frankly not what I called music: One bloke reedily warbling "The Gambler" - it was nearly karaoke. I left hurriedly although the bar did boast a rather fine fountain which not only spewed out water but flames as well.
Went round the corner to "Ticket"- a sports bar - and watched the rodeo highlights. All the riders now boast Kevlar jackets to protect their ribs and some even have crash helmets. It was enthralling to watch for a five minutes, as each cowboy settled himself down on the steer and spent an age adjusting his handgrip on the one rein. The gate would then open and a couple of seconds later said cowpoke would be eating dirt.
Luckily the Extreme Cage Fighting was on afterwards : "Wreckage" was where blokes in baggy shorts beat seven bells out of each other with a combination of boxing, wrestling and some rather girly kicking, I thought. Being the U.S, every inch of their trunks contained sponsorship messages. The bloke who seemed to be losing had the words "Nosubmit.com" on the back of his costume. The one who appeared to have the upper hand had the rather shaming legend; "United by lending" on his bum. Probably gave him added impetus.
Went back to the hotel and fell asleep to the sound of the trains in the distance. There seems to be quite a lot of them in Texas.
Next morning I decided I had gone far enough south and it was time to head north. Like El Paso it took forever to leave the urban sprawl behind - in fact the scenery was rather dull and I was a bit bored. However there was always the radio and ads for "HealthYes Preventive screening" and "866-455-TURN - Turn to health for opiate dependence" lifted the mood. You can get a lot more things wrong with you in the U.S.
By the time I reached Crockett one of the stations had been advertising an event which probably has the edge on the "Chilli cook off" which seems a popular pastime. This was described as a "Watermelon thump". This takes place in the town of Luling and features, as part of the festival, the world championship watermelon seed spit. Now there is an Olympic event just waiting to happen....!
In Crockett itself one station was advertising the latest funeral notices. So like our local stations advertise lost pets and the Chemists’ Rota, in Crockett you would never miss a funeral nor the chance to pop round to view the corpse.
I had meandered aimlessly round Texas most of the day trying to get away from the Interstate and the urban sprawl. Eventually I found it. ‘It’ being Jacksonville. Booked into a motel that boasted its own club and diner.
After a swim in the pool accompanied by the sound of the trains I decided to hit the club. "Bottoms Up" it was called and there were only a couple of people in. I had to produce ID for membership although it was free. Some local bylaw or other. Woman behind the bar was very taken by my accent although all she knew about the UK was that we had "The Queen and stuff".
As last year I noticed when I was getting out into the sticks the number of tattoos people sported was in inverse ratio to the number of teeth they possessed. A woman who introduced herself as Betty-Lou beamed gappily. Shook my hand briskly and showed the self-inflicted tatts of the names of her children to the man next to me, who struck up a conversation. Transpired this was "Hoove". He was in between jobs as he was a big cheese in healthcare and ran hospitals. He was joined by Christa who was a speech therapist. They were very friendly and obviously besotted as they spent a lot of time examining each other. Unless it was another sudden health scare that had escaped me and they were checking for symptoms.
We chatted and Hoove (Hoover if you hadn't already guessed) bought me a drink and we drifted off to play pool despite my protests. I told him I was an artist not a sportsman. "Well it’s angles!" I told him that I wasn't that sort of artist and I couldn't draw. "Can't you do anything?" he roared as another feeble shot of mine bounced off the cushion and did nothing to advance the cause. Frankly not really by the look. They then went off to have something to eat. I suspect it was each other. So I returned to the bar.
By this time there was a new staff member on duty. Feminists look away now.
Her name was Tiffany, and you remember those tiny gold shorts that got Kylie Minogue so much publicity a couple of years back? The ones she was wearing were tinier and tighter. She seemed to spend rather a lot of time getting stuff from the lower shelves. There was quite a lot of whooping going on. As a lot of the service industries are tip based, I expect she made a fortune. Me being British. I concentrated on my newspaper very hard....