Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Desert Drive: Kiss My Texas

We started our Desert Road fairytale in Houston, TX crashing at Friends House Downtown hostel. Run by a couple so sweet you might need an insulin shot after leaving reception, Danny and Leah were sympathetic to our horrendous night's sleep in the dorm and moved us into a spare private room the next night for no extra charge. We had been sharing our dorm with a bunch of hugely irksome manchildren who shot each other over-playful jibes and spent most of the night shouting their heads off to illustrate how amazingly fun and party ready they were. Leah and I were becoming telepathic with our constant shooting of annoyed looks. For the forty-eighth time in my life I cursed the Gods for failing to bless me with Carrie White's telekinetic powers. I could have exacted fiery revenge on these dweebs. It's Sunday night - DIAL IT DOWN.

Thanks to our over-exertions in NOLA, neither of us had the sufficient number of functioning electrodes to operate properly. So we went to Macy*s, where we found the shelves stocked with cowboy boot Christmas stockings and racially segregated Santa Claus's. Then we went to Walmart to balance everything out.

It wasn't until we were leaving the city that we actually got it together enough to see some sights. First stop was the Beer Can House.
Built in 1966 by John Milkovisch, who still lives there, the house looks like the secret den of a bored alcoholic. We stood outside on the pavement marvelling at yet another American roadside oddity, this one  created by approximately ten million cans of Texas Pride.
The Beer Can house sits weirdly among the other suburban homes and even in a gentle breeze sounds like an elephant trampling on a hot tin roof. It's only open on the weekends though, so we loitered outside gawking for ten minutes before heading on out to...

sleeps three. cosy.
The National Museum of Funeral History! You can't spell funeral without a smattering of FUN. We pulled up outside a suitably sombre building on the outskirts of Houston, ready to delve into the macabre world of the Grim Reaper. The museum began predictably with the funeral traditions and corteges of late US presidents and the lives and deaths of various popes (this exhibit's only draw being the actual POPEMOBILE! Duhna duhna duhna duhna POPEMAN!) before dissecting the Mexican's Day of the Dead ritual and the oddball world of Ghanaian fantasy coffins first chiseled by sculpturer Kane Quaye. They know how to go out in style those Ghanaians, commissioning coffins styled as cockrels and rockets and rowing boats to capture the essence of the departed. Why go for boring ash or dry old oak when you can travel to the afterlife in a marfuckin' lobster?! 

There was also a coffin covered in dollar bills and coins, protected from grave robbers' sweaty paws by three inches of impenetrable perspex. For those who believe you can take life's riches with you. It's the Kim Kardashian of deathware - flashy, trashy and without a drop of soul, but super photogenic and strangely desirable. It's really shiny.

There was also a section on celebrity passings, focusing largely on US entertainers and accomplishers but also a death wall dedicated to The 27 Club featuring our very own Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain. No idea what Christopher Reeve was doing there though. 

Austin next. We drove west under skies that seemed pregnant with rain but never came good on that threat. We'd been in Texas for three days but as yet had no recorded sighting of that elusive rhinestone cowboy. Or any cowboys at all for that matter. I'd been expecting a line of John Wayne look-a-likes lassoing cacti in perfect synchronicity on the Louisiana/Texas border, but to no avail. Oh well, life can be hard, that's one thing this trip has taught me. That, and that Britain has the best selection of salty snacks in the world. Took me near on two months to find a pack of salt and vinegar crisps, yet pickled pig lips are freely available at farmer's markets across the land. What kind of world is this?

In Austin we met up with a teacher we befriended back in our hostel in Boston, Marcela. She had entertained us the weekend before Halloween with stories of gangland kidnappings in her Mexican homeland. Austin, a tiny drop of blue in an otherwise hardcore Republican state, was now her town and we arranged to liaise at a bar called the Lustre Pearl on Rainey Street  for a few drinks and a chit chat. Rainey is lined with houses renovated into bars, so that the entire street looks like it's in the running to host the world's biggest house party. There was one bar fashioned to look like the White House with an alien landing on its lawn and another that felt like the inside of a gentleman's country cabin. The Lustre Pearl was doing drink combos including a can of beer and measure of whiskey for three bucks (named Long Hair Don't Care. Charmant) and it sounded like Austin was a hip little town too. Marcela told us about the cute boutique stores and shops making me wish we could have stolen another day from our tight travel schedule and stuck around for longer, but the clock was ticking and our desert trek still had a way to go.

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