Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Heat + Sun = Party!!!

Turns out the day after a fun packed fabulous party day leaves the family somewhat bleary eyed. Something however, about the incessant heat and sunshine brings out the partier in even the most weary traveller. Gone are the days when days off were spent huddled in the warmth cosied up as three musketeers against the elements. Out now come the sunshine coloured clothes, the happy sunkissed skin the twinkly eyes of summertime frolics for the troupe. With this new summery spring in people's step yesterday saw us bundling into a shuttle bus to.... The Game.

Now, although my father did a fantastic job of educating me on the details of world war two aircraft, tanks and general locomotives, he was never big on sport. Engineering yes. Ask me about a hinge and I can wax lyrical, but sport? Not so much. One conversation springs to mind as I write this of the time I told my parents I was about to become the cox of my university's rowing team. My father, huffing and puffing red steam down the pay phone told me in no uncertain terms that I had been given the chance to study theatre film and television and that I had not bloody waste it on cavorting with a bloody sports team. "Plays! Films! That's what you should be getting involved in!!!" Then he passed the phone over to mum, and, with a queue forming behind me in our echoey dorm hallway, she went on to somewhat more gently persuade me to stall a decision before I committed to a 6 day a week dawn training regimen. Life would have turned out quite differently if I had chosen to spend those three years crouched at the end of a little boat. So, you can appreciate the excitement of the unknown that pumped through me as I followed the crowd into Minute Maid stadium. As we entered I could make out the green expanse and I got that ancient-tingly-big-crowd-game-in-a-minute feeling that has been around for our species since the days at the colosseum and before. As well as the steam engine high up on the ridge of the stadium that peeped its whistle carrying a car of "oranges" behind it (Brits - Minute Maid makes juicy fruity drinks. Gettit?).

In we went with the sea of fans swelling out before us. I praised our lucky stars that the designers had been thoughtful enough to not only install a retractable roof but couple it with Texans' lifeline, commonly known as the air conditioner. Seats found, beer in hand, smoked turkey roll drenched in tangy barbecue sauce and we were a go. After a heart felt rendition of God Bless America sang whilst servicemen and women held open a giant American flag the game began. First pitch was thrown by a major in a figure hugging army uniform (later I spotted him sat with his wife and four kids a few rows in front of us). Course my thorough understanding of the game is still somewhat patchy (have to wait three years before applying for my american passport so that's ok) but I can follow the gist of it. Especially when there is so much food involved. The incessant calling out of vendors took me back to what life may have been like in Covent Garden circa 1750s. Only their products were somewhat more multicoloured. Luckily boy only had two sips of a psychadelic blue ice concoction leaving him bouyant but not totally drugged. I finished a large portion of it off. Made me talk even faster.

I took in the stadium and was most struck by the sweeping cross section of society attending. Admittedly I have only been to one football match at home but I don't remember many 60+ year old women in their sunday lipsticks sat watching. Or so many babies. Die hard football chanters yes, dads and their kids yes, but not like this. Young, old, rich, poor. Actors. Sport is a beautiful thing. Made all the more exciting by not one, but two, spectators who sprinted across the field, halted the action and subsequently dragged off by law enforcers. Each episode was followed by a thorough explanation from the troupe to Sammy, who was drilling them for the exact meaning of the action and its repercussions. Then followed a spat with the Houston team's pitcher against the umpire leading to his subsequent dismissal from the field. It was kinda all down hill from there for the Astros bless 'em. Probably didn't help that half their fan base left at the 7th inning because winning was seeming increasingly unlikely. Don't see that at a Man U match. I thought I had missed something important when several hundred people jumped out of their seats and ran for the exits like wilderbeasts pounding the African plains on their way to the river's edge.

And therein another puzzling element to the game; all the fans sit together in one democratic America free-for-all mosh. No chanting. No touting of the opposing team's fans across the other side of the stadium. No bottle throwing, geering. No songs. Except when told. At the 7th inning "stretch" (we all stood up) it was time for a jolly old sing song. Our side of the stadium offered up a beautifully harmonised version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, God Bless AMerica and The Yellow Rose of Texas (on of my father's personal favourites) following karaoke style the words on the huge screen. Then we all politely sat down again. Not so polite I thought was the word ERROR flashing on and off on the same screen a little while later when the opposing team fluffed up a simple double play. See, gettin the lingo. Or bluffing as the case may be.

At the end of the game, and with a summer afternoon spring in our step we went on to the poolside. Not ours exactly. The hotel next door (sssssshhhhhh its hush hush) has a roof top pool and some of the players have gotten friendly with some guests (not that kind of friendly you gossips) which means we get to essentially break in to dip-in. No harm done right? Right?! Hey ho, so there the troupe were, swimming and splashing and generally demonstrating water acrobatics to the boy whilst mama lost herself in her book and caught the setting sun's rays. It really is a tough life but someone simply must do it. A few hours later, boyo was wrapped up in a pile of towels, eating crackers like he hadn't seen food in two months and with both eyelids heavy with a happy day. Did we turn in for an early night? Settle boy into bed? Put our feet up? Nossir!

Fifteen minutes later, we were brushed up, washed down and ready to hit the tiles for a Mexican feast. Fourteen of us bundled into the shuttle bus once again (and once again reassuring Sammy that it was not the space kind - he seemed concerned about the fiery lift off) and sang (loudly) on our way to the joint. Food and drink was ordered, boy collapsed into sleep after two tortilla chips and slept his way through the rest of the evening on a collection of chairs at the head of the table. Mama and our friends sipped Margaritas and scoffed fajitas. The word small has officially been removed from the Texan dictionary. At least that's what it seemed like as I tried to lift all 30lbs of my drink. It was more of a chalice, no, vase than a glass. Needless to say I didn't get to the end of it! Biceps got a good work out though. Back we trundled into a bus, carrying a sleeping Sam into and out of it and back down onto a new, armchair bed in the hotel's lobby bar. Nightcaps all round and then a relatively early night for all.

Today then, was all about household chores. You know the kind of thing. Laundry. Groceries. A little matter of practical duties. Still, there is something about walking a baking street lined with palm trees and bursting with bouganville blooms even whilst dragging a two tonne bag of clothes that makes the task seem a little more exciting. Festive even. The smell of the dried pine needles along the sun parched sidewalks takes me back to Sardinia and makes the state feel like a whole different country. I love it. Course I couldn't possibly operate for longer than 15 minutes in these temperatures. Not without looking like I have just finished a second marathon.

When we arrived at the laundromat, a sullen fan girating on the ceiling to the rhythms of the soap dialogue form the television across from it, we were greeted by a couple of hispanic kids who Sam gravitated towards whilst Cory and I negotiated the task at hand. Washers, loaded, friends having left we went on the hunt for food. That is to say we crossed the street to find ourselves in a formica tiled white room with white plastic 1980s chairs and clear plastic vases on the table stuffed with brightly coloured (real) carnations. The walls, on the one side lined with enlarged photos of every type of novelty cake you could imagine and on the opposite signed photos of the owner with celebrities for whom she has baked amongst which Clinton, Elizabeth Taylor and George W. Bush to namedrop but a few. I guessed she was going for the hospital store room meets bakery kinda look. We ordered our lunches and helped ourselves to the iced tea with a capital Texan T (strong as a good ole British builder's tea). Neither Cory or I expected such fresh sandwiches or deliciously home made veggie soup. I was particularly interested in my pickled okra garnish. Never thought I would put those three little words in a sentence together. It's just fantastic when you try something for the very first time. After more oooing and aaaaahing over our food, the boys went to finish off the mundane stuff whilst I did what I love to do best. Shop. Bargain shop.

Yes, by the side of the washateria I stepped into my familiar world of the charity shop. Course being in Texas it was as big as a small warehouse, and instead of one or maybe two volunteers behind a slightly sad looking counter there was an army of veteran debutantes their white locks impeccably quoiffered with texan twangs to boot. The till rang out under the tip tap of manicured nails. Everything from dressers to children's shoes stocked the full shelves. I delved into rail upon rail of barely worn clothes and came out the other side with ten items amounting to just over $60, each more beaded and bejewelled than the first. I am all set to twinkle into more summer nights. Yes I know, I know, I promised myself to approach the travel with some relinquishing of the material world, and yet, a good bargain, that will be used and used and loved, is near impossible to pass up. Especially if it's under $10. If I was a true Zen shopper I would let go of 8 items I have with me. Not quite at that stage methinks.

And now, after a bimby'd (she is back!!!!) dinner from out of our bathroom, sorry kitchen, I have kissed my fella tarrah, kissed our boy goodnight, gazed at the pink ball of fire that was the sunset tonight and sent out a little prayer of thanks for a couple of very special days. A whiff of texan debutante perfume wafts up from the shrug I bought this afternoon. Not a world away from my late aunt's white rose scent. God only knows how she would have enjoyed a little spending spree this afternoon a la Texan.

Y'all enjoy the view from up there y'hear?

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