Dallas (updated, again)

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Dallas is making me very lazy. It’s hot and humid. Since it’s too hot for socks, I’ve been going barefoot. My feet are dirty, bloody from the uncertainties of the front yard. Pollen and mold and cat dander are making me sneeze, but I’m contented. Time passes slowly before my imminent Thai departure.

Dallas is a good adjustment place between Portland and Bangkok. The heat and humidity is currently at Thai levels. The air smells like steaming plants and water. Mosquitos buzz and feast. My parents’ house has become dilapidated to developing nation quality. The foundation is moving downhill and is about to take the exteriors walls with it. Enormous jungle vines choke out the light from the surrounding trees. Under their twisting weight, the mighty trees of my youth have died and gone haunted. Mice, birds, squirrels, cockroaches, cats, and malnourished street dogs patter around the scorched grass. Inside, every available surface is covered with earthy smelling junk and clutter. The casual upkeep of the place feels very Thai: it’s okay if the ceiling is going to cave in, just make sure you take off your shoes.

I love being home.

In the last few days, I’ve set my parents up with my old PC since their last one (another old PC of mine) got fried in an electrical storm. I’ve also helped my mom construct a rustic wooden rail for the front stairs and done some needed vine pruning along the power/phone lines outside. During the rest of my free time, I’ve been playing the guitar at full volume, trying out a set of bongo drums, kicking a soccer ball around, watching TV, surfing the Net, playing Team Fortress 2’s Goldrush map, eating delicious, home-cooked meals, hanging out with my parents, and petting cats. I’ve attended two thai qi classes with my parents at the museum, seen and old friend, and ridden the light rail into town.

Yesterday, I open-tuned one of the guitars for some slide guitar. I forgot my slide, so I scrounged up a glass bottle to put on my finger. It was working pretty well until I noticed something moving in it: a big cockroach and a few babies. I yanked that bottle off my finger with the swiftness of a man who deeply fears cockroaches.

A few roach-free moments:

The old basketball hoop at my house that’s getting swallowed by grapevine. Sadly, I took shears to the vine in hopes of playing basketball there again.

The vines at my parents’ house are going wild and crazy. To the side is the grapevine and it’s expansion onto the roof, side yard, and surrounding trees. To the front of the house, is a huge, gnarly wisteria that’s tearing into the roof, killing the trees in it’s path, and forming a dark canopy over the walkway and top of the driveway. Its heavy branches were weighing down the power/phone lines to the house. A lot of the undergrowth was dead. Preemptively stopping them from tearing the lines out, I spent two days cutting most of them away with shears and a saw. Some of the vines were as thick as a soda can’s diameter. I’m not sure if I could have gotten electrocuted or not, but I guess I didn’t.

I did however get a lot of dust in my eyes. Once piece is still stuck in there and driving me bonkers. I couldn’t flush it out with eye solution, nor can I see anything on my eye. So it is either hidden on the underside of a lid or just an irritation. Next time I’ll wear eye protection.

A neighbor’s puppy wandered over and played around my feet when I was outside. I think it was looking for food too. When its lactating mother wandered into view, she looked emaciated. I don’t think they are feeding her.

My feet stigmata from playing soccer in an old pair of Birkenstocks from the high school era.

Bela, our 14 year old cat sits on my mother’s lap. Our pride has dwindled from a high count of 13 down to just two cats. And they are getting old. Bela has started having frequent seizures, losing her balance, falling off chairs, and splaying out on the floor shaking. It’s very sad to look at, but she doesn’t seem to be in pain. I fear this may be the last visit I’ll see her. But she is way friendlier than she used to be. She sits in laps now and likes getting petted. The Bela I used to know would scratch your eyes out if you tried to touch her. Bela’s daughter, Milo is also old. But despite a bladder operation seems to be in youthful spirits.

One of three troughs of goldfish in the front of the house.

A bluejay seen out the front window. He’s waiting for his turn at the bird feeder.

A squirrel waiting for the feeder by the door. He’s eyeing Bela, trying to make sure she’s harmless.

Another squirrel has shimmied, Mission Impossible style, down the wire to another hanging feeder. In this photo, he’s about to climb back up.

One evening while looking through my closet, I found a small cache of Legos. I had made this ship out of pieces from an old monorail set. A little rover car was still together too. I dumped out the rest of the blocks and spent a fun evening crafting three more companion ships.

This one is a stubbier warship with three core thrusters and two secondary thrusters. It has radicool saber lasers, and an awesome set of bottom mounted cannons.

Over the course of a day or two, my mom and I built a rustic rail for the front steps. It was constructed of old fence posts and topped with a cedar branch we pruned. The structure isn’t pro, but it’s fairly sturdy. The posts are in cement bases and the rail is fastened with nails and decorative copper.

I’m in good spirits when I’m Dallas, but there’s a little sadness too. My childhood home, pets, and the mental states of those I know seem to be deteriorating rather than improving. It’s like they all started shiny and new, but since I’ve been away have gone to seed and are now dying. It’s not entirely that way, but it seems so. Issues back then are still issues. Hand goes to mouth, month goes to month. Rather than progress, it’s stasis here. And time marches on, overgrowing the past and swallowing the present in vines.

Update:
On Saturday, I spent the morning juggling the soccer ball. Inside, a stray kick sent the ball into the ceiling fan which whacked it across the room into a stack of CDs. I moved the game outside and became thoroughly drenched in sweat.

For lunch, my father and I got sub sandwiches and drove to an abandoned spring near our house. The property will eventually be turned into an artists’ compound called La Reunion. Currently, it’s just a boarded up house, a creek, plenty of trees, poison ivy, and a stagnant lake.

My father leading the way into the abandoned garage.

An old railroad trestle to nowhere.

The guardian of the property: a big momma tarantula and her egg sack.

A pitch black hole at the base of the tree near our sandwich eating spot. I wonder what it leads to.

My Texas nemesis: poison ivy. These leaves of three are in every shady area, waiting to get their toxic oil on soccer balls, cats, me.

Today, Sunday, we picked J. up at the airport and went to lunch at the recently repaired Cosmic Cafe on Oak Lawn. It had been damaged by fire. I had falafel, some had portabella sandwiches, we all split a vegan chocolate cake. The hot chai is bottomless there. It’s watery but spicy. Afterward, we drove to Parkland Hospital to look at the nesting grounds of a shitload of egrets and other birds. They have taken to the treetops near the memorial for organ donors (including my grandfather and great grandfather).

The are is swarming with birds, but it was hard to photograph them in mass because they are hidden in the canopy and underbrush. Here are two egrets in the trees.

Another two in the tree tops. It’s weird to see such large birds in trees, but there are hundreds of nests and young birds all over the place.

A smaller bird walking along the ground. The bushes in the background are stained white from all the bird shit.

Egret jerky.

J. and mom looking at a king fisher in the tree.

The king fisher looking back at them.

An egret flying away.

We’ll be flying away tomorrow morning on our 24 hour transit time to Bangkok.

I wanted to make more songs while I was in Dallas, but I only got around to recording two:

Heart – My poly heart isn’t for you. Features a horrible harmonica jam.
Overseas – A song about going overseas.

See you in Thailand, bitches.

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