Free-Floating Hostility

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Hostylefax: Nacogdoches, Texas

This weekend's trip was different than the previous two. Instead of parachuting into a town late on Friday and drinking with the local beat writer, I ended up getting there early and kicking around a city that was not really built for tourists. Nacogdoches (pronounced NAGA-do-chez) is supposedly the oldest city in Texas, which is actually a fairly interesting fact. But it's so generic in a sprawling Texas sort of way that it's pretty hard to find anything worth doing there. The fun of trying to pick out the differences between West Texas, our old stomping grounds, and East Texas was sufficiently interesting to occupy me once all the Houston radio stations (Rush Limbaugh, country music, country music, Rush Limbaugh) cut out. There are more towns and fast food along the road in East Texas. Also instead of brown and dead, things in the East are green and full of pine trees. It's also really humid, more on that later.

Here are the highlights, y'all:

  • I was greeted upon arrival in Houston with news that a death row inmate -- in town to receive another death sentence for a murder-for-hire plot from jail -- made an audacious escape from custody. Apparently someone smuggled him clothes and he pretended to be with the attorney general's office. The angry-leftwing-activist-with-no-sense-of-proportion in me wants to say, "With the number of executions in Texas, it's hard to tell the difference between someone in the AG's office and a blood thirsty multiple murderer." But I let that pass. The story is pretty amazing, though. He showed the county jail people his state prison ID with the word "Prisoner" covered in tape, and then walked out of jail. And that worked. He was still at large when I flew back today.
  • I have a weak spot for the chain Sonic, mostly because of the Tater Tots. Every town in Texas has a Sonic, and most have multiple locations. Even Hobbs had two of them. I wonder if anyone has done a study to see if Sonic has a Wal-Mart-style effect on local restaurants. The good news was that I limited myself to one visit for the entire trip. I also managed to eat an order of chili-cheese tots while driving 60 MPH without spilling anything on myself.
  • Hurricane Rita hit the town fairly hard a few months ago, but the only lasting aftereffect seemed to be that the wireless Internet router in my hotel room no longer works. Supposedly it was working everywhere else in the hotel, but I limited myself to dial-up. That meant I really limited myself to checking e-mail.
  • Someone in my office has friends who lived in (as the locals say) Nac, so I did arrive in town with a list of two good restaurants to try. I couldn't find the first one, but instead managed to criss-cross the old downtown. My eyes perked up everytime I saw cars, but the only people I saw out were sitting in Church-sponsored "Recovery Centers." And there were multiple sitings. That was depressing and reassuring all at the same time. Dinner turned out to be chicken wings and chimichangas. Anna is rolling her eyes.
  • Saturday morning I breakfasted at a place called "The Hot Biscuit." It's a chain, and not really that good, but when there's a place called "The Hot Biscuit" across the parking lot from your hotel, you eat there. That's really all there is to it.
  • The game started at 4 p.m. instead of the usual 2 because of the opening of whitetail deer hunting season. So I found the sports bar in town and had more chicken wings (Garlic flavored!!!). One table over were two women who were loudly rooting for Boston College to beat North Carolina. It turned out that one of the women was the mother of a B.C. player. I imagine this happens a lot in Texas, but it was kind of cool. I had sat between mothers of players on the plane ride to Texas, and it's interesting to hear the way present their understanding of the team. It's very different from mine.
  • The stadium is against a mountain, and from the press box you can see the pine trees that line that mountain. It's actually fairly beautiful, and beauty was not anything I expected in Texas. Luckily the game started, and that wasn't beautiful. Any port in a storm.
  • My ride back to Houston went quickly, although the humidity was so bad that the wipers on my rental car proved completely impotent when it came to handling the condensation. It made for a fairly harrowing ride when I got lost two exits from the hotel and struggled to see my way to the Holiday Inn.
  • I was at the back of the plane on the flight home, meaning I was right next to the bathrooms. This is a wretched way to fly.

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