The Daily Agenda for Saturday, April 26
April 26th, 2014
I’ve been absent since a week ago Tuesday, on vacation to visit my inlaws, Chris’s parents, in Abilene, Texas. When we travel to Abilene from Tucson, we generally avoid the Interstates as much as possible, preferring to travel the back roads and more scenic drives. This time, our route took us through Alamogordo, Ruidoso and Roswell, New Mexico, and then through Brownsfield, Post, Snyder and Sweetwater, Texas before picking up I-20 for the last short leg to Abilene. I don’t know, I just find this kind of traveling far more relaxing and interesting than the mind-numbing conformity of the Interstates.
Another advantage (and disadvantage) of traveling that way is the spotty cellular and Wi-Fi coverage along those routes. Which means that much of the trip was blessedly free of Facebooking, Tweeting, emailing, and blogging. And it was also irritatingly void of those things at the same time. That online disconnect continued when we arrived at Chris’s parents house because their broadband internet is wired directly to their lone desktop computer and they see no need for Wi-Fi. Cell coverage was fine, but by then I was actually beginning to enjoy the disconnect. Not that we were completely disconnected — we still had CNN on TV to keep us informed on all of the late breaking developments. (The plane is still missing! The ferry is still sinking!) But Chris’s parents had just screened in their back porch, and it was just more enjoyable to hang out there with the parents and Chris’s brother, drink a few beers, crack a few jokes at each other’s expense, and play a few rounds of cards.
We stayed through the weekend and left Monday morning for our own little adventure to west Texas. San Angelo, Rankin, and Chris’s hometown of Ft. Stockton, and then down to Marathon, Alpine, and Marfa, where we holed up at the beautiful and historic El Paisano Hotel. That’s the hotel James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor stayed in while filming Giant. I missed grabbing the James Dean room by mere minutes. Oh well. Our room overlooking the courtyard was great, and the food and drinks at the bar were a welcome diversion. Good thing, too, because the Internet there was all caterwobbly, blazing for about two minutes then dead for six, then awesome for about a minute and a half and so on. So my disconnect continued, but by then I didn’t care. The next day, we took as spin back through Alpine, Lajitas, and Presidio, to take in the beautiful Big Bend country, Elena Canyon, and the Rio Grande valley, then back up through Marfa to Ft. Davis to walk around the grounds of the historic fort.
But our real adventure began late Tuesday night, back in Marfa. I left the hotel to go a few blocks to a convenience store to pick up some snacks for Wednesday’s eight hour drive back to Tucson. Got the stuff, got in the car, reversed out of the space, went out of the parking lot, turned right onto the highway, and that’s when the transmission promptly blew up. On a three year old Ford with only 55,000 miles on it. No forward, no reverse. Just a terrible noise like rocks in a tin can and a vaguely burning smell. Shit. Fuck. All that and more. I pushed the car to the side of the road, screamed and cussed some more like a crazy person, trudged back to the hotel, and told Chris what happened. I called Ford on the phone. They arranged for a tow truck to meet us Wednesday morning for the 89-mile tow back to the nearest Ford dealership in Ft. Stockton.
Mike from Barbee’s Wrecker Service met us that morning, and his cheerfulness and chattiness kept our minds off the drama (and off the broken air-conditioner in his cab) for the two hour tow. He told us about his wife, his kids, his speeding tickets, his 73 guns, his octogenarian neighbor rancher who called and wants Mike to help him break a horse, his mother-in-law’s golf cart which he — okay she doesn’t know this yet, so don’t say anything — which he souped up with a Honda engine and off-road tires. Right after he finished his modifications, he took it out for a spin and promptly got a speeding ticket. Mike knows a shortcut, the Old Alpine Highway. Have you heard of it? Of course, says Chris, we used to go parking on that road. Mike veers off onto a washboard gravel road, and Chris’s memories come flooding back. And now the two of them are swapping Ft. Stockton tales, about tornados, Rooney park, rollover accidents, the abandoned onion barns and stockyard by the railroad tracks. And there I am, sandwiched between them watching the dilapidated plastic dashboard bounce about three inches whenever the truck hits a mild rut.
We get to Ft. Stockton, to a rather small dealership with, I don’t know, maybe five guys total working there. Bad news, says the Stockton Ford guy. They’re a really small operation and it’ll probably take about three weeks to fix the car. And guess what? Ft. Stockton’s so small it doesn’t have a rental car agency. But I gotta be back in Tucson for work now. I can’t sit around for three weeks waiting for a car to be fixed. So I call up Ford on the phone again and explain the situation. Their solution? They want to tow me to the next closest Ford dealership, which is 73 miles away in Kermit. “Where’s Kermit?” I ask. Stockton Ford guy rolls his eyes and mouths to me, “They’re smaller than Ft. Stockton.” Obviously, that won’t work. What about Odessa? Ford on the phone says their policy is to only tow to the nearest Ford dealership, and that’s Kermit, only 73 miles away. Odessa is 87 miles. It’s Kermit or nothing, Ford on the phone insists. That stupid, I say. There’s no point in going to Kermit when they can’t do anything more than Ft. Stockton. Finally Ford on the phone works it out where they pay for 73 of the miles to Odessa if I pick up the remaining 14. Whatever. Fine. Two more hours in a hot, dusty tow truck with the ever cheerful Mike keeping our minds off our misery — the old Coleman Hotel fire, his father’s pancreatic cancer, buddies coming back from Iraq, a former co-worker who escaped from the Zetas, what do you think of that Obamacare, you guys been together for eleven years? That’s awesome, man! — and we make it to Odessa, where I can rent a car from Enterprise, say thank you and goodbye to Mike, and begin the journey home seven hours later and a hundred miles further away from where we planned to start off.
We don’t make it to Tucson Wednesday night as planned, obviously. And since we need to make up time, it’s now Interstate all the way. I call in to work and tell them I’ll need another day. We decide to push on to El Paso that night and get a room there. No doing. All the hotels are full. (Seriously!!! El Paso! I know, right?) Another hour later, we finally get the last room in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Hot, sweaty, hungry, tired, and we’re bitching at each other. There’s no Mike keeping us entertained and distracted anymore. We grab a burrito, shower and go to bed.
We sleep in late the next morning because now we’ve got all day to make a four-hour drive to Tucson so what’s the rush, right? A nice leisurely breakfast, check out, and we’re loading the trunk when Chris points to the front of the car and says, “Tire’s flat.” Damn, sure enough. Luckily, there’s exactly one Enterprise office in Las Cruces. We air up the tire and make it to Enterprise. Unluckily, they already rented out their cars for the day and our tire’s getting very low again. So Enterprise guy directs us to a busy tire shop about a mile away, where tire guy removes two nails, patches up the tire, and sends us on our way about three hours later.
We got back home to Tucson later that evening, almost exactly 24 hours after we originally planned. And now we can look forward to another unplanned trip back to Odessa to return the rental car and pick up our car in another couple of weeks.
So that was how I spent my spring vacation. I’m somewhat sorry I was so out of touch, but not really. Everyone should go on disconnect from time to time. But I’m back now. Anything happen while I was gone?
Other Events This Weekend: Hill Country Ride for AIDS, Austin, TX; AIDS Walk, Kansas City, MO; Rodeo in the Rock, Little Rock, AR; AIDS Walk, Miami, FL; Side By Side International LGBT Film Festival, Moscow, Russia; White Party, Palm Springs, CA; Splash, South Padre Island, TX.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
Mary’s opened in 1972 as a gay bar in Houston’s Montrose area, at around the time Montrose was just beginning to develop its identity as a gayborhood. It quickly established a rather wild reputation: “[T]he bar was known for having it’s own set of rules, one of which made it ‘illegal’ to wear underwear. And newcomers who violated the rule would have their underwear stripped from them and thrown to the rafters, past the trapeze that was normally manned by a naked bartender or patron.” As the years wore on, the bar also became something of a community center: “On a Friday night you could experience your favorite fetish out back, and on Monday you could attend a rally to support AIDS funding.” The bar changed ownership in 2003, and experienced a long, slow decline. It’s iconic outside mural was painted over in 2006, and the bar finally closed in 2009. The building now houses the Blacksmith coffee shop.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
State Department Continues Homosexual Purge: 1950. Two months earlier, Deputy Undersecretary of State John E. Peurifoy revealed in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee that the State Department had gotten rid of 91 employees accused of being homosexual (see Feb 28). After that news exploded onto newspaper editorial pages across the country (see Mar 23, for example), Peurifoy was appointed ambassador to Greece and Carlisle H. Humelsine took over his post at the State Department. In testimony made public on April 26, 1950, Humelsine told the House Appropriations Committee that the State Department’s purge was continuing, with the number forced out rising to 148 since 1947 and eleven more under investigation.
“There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind and there is no doubt as far as the State Department is concerned, that a homosexual is a security risk,” Humelsine told the panel. “We treat homosexuals as security risks. We are not attempting to run a campaign of going after people because of the fact that they have an illness. I think homosexuality is a type of illness. A homosexual, in my opinion, is just as sick as a person who has a cancer or some other disease. But it is absolutely apparent to us that these people are also security risks and we want them off our rolls. And we are going to get them off our rolls.”
Australian Judge Sentences Nine for Homosexuality: 1950. And The Advertiser was there to record all of the details, including the names and addresses of the eight men who pleaded guilty to various charges of “homosexual offences.” Two were sentenced to twelve months for “unnatural offence with each other,” another got eight months for “unnatural office with another man,” and five got four months for “gross indecency with another man.” A ninth man was ordered to pay a ” two year bond of £25 with two £25 sureties, not to associate with homosexuals or persons of bad character.”
On passing sentence, the judge remarked, “It must have come as a shock to the citizens of Adelaide to learn that there were centres of homosexuality in this city. Such practices have always been regarded as abhorrent to public decency and have been treated in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act as serious crimes. Whatever psychology may say about this class of offender, my duty is to carry out the law and to impose sentences which will act as a deterrent to others, who are minded to commit homosexual crimes. …In the majority of the cases, the sentences will be light. They will not however be taken as precedents for the future. If, after the warning of the present sentences, the offences are found to recur much heavier penalties will ensue.”
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?