On January 3rd 1999, Cory English and I officially started courting. Our return from London’s Heathrow Airport to his then student pad was greeted by a vision of hedonistic decay. Pans lined with month old mould stacked upon the counters, sink overflowing with crusty dishes left by his occasionally sober roommates. What we had planned to be a romantic roast chicken kind of a night, turned into a flurry of industrial strength team cleaning. Happy New Year.
Twelve years later to the day, husband, boy and I re-enact a similar scene as we move into our Craig’s list apartment in Dallas’ Uptown. The cosy pad in the pictures turned out to be a dust haven pungent with candles almost covering the stale trace of garlicky cooking. Family weary from a very long travel day involving several hour’s delay at Atlanta, turned a blind eye, went round the corner for a fajita and returned for a good night’s kip. After swapping boy’s rust coloured stained pillow for one in our room, and sifting out the white sheets with faded stains he drifted off whilst husband and I rolled up our sleeves for the Big Clean.
I looked beyond the inch of dust on the window ledge, the rolled up belongings stuffed under the bed, even the hairbrush full of hair on the vanity unit. I almost refrained from gagging at the toilet remains of remains splattered inside it’s bowl. When I vacuumed around the large terracotta pot of compost in the corner of the living room spying several water bugs rigor mortis along a rug I lay down my weapon and declared surrender. Husband rubs his brow, ageing five years for the next half hour as we bicker and laugh about what to do next. We sleep. A bit. Squeezed together on Sam’s futon unwilling to share a night on the yellowing mattress in the other room. By 8.30 next morning I have corresponded with several other home owners via email, who dangle gorgeous pictures of their pads before us like evil carrots then negating to return calls as promised. We stop for coffee, boy bleary eyed, dad ringing in a telephone interview for a local station in character. Then we shrug home, lug cases down three flights and move into the company hotel. Tails between our legs. Red coat retreat. Cory puts in an apologetic call to our landlady (a former Miss USA no less!) then crashes down for a pre first show nap.
Real life cowboys not so alluring after all. Unless of course they appear in the Trucker mould, a kindly giant whom we met today in the park whose 2 and a half year old daughter follows Sam into make believe land. We, husband and I, all five foot of us, stand looking up at our playground chum and drill him on the wheres and whyfores of cattle farming. I listen wide eyed and tell him it sounds just like the soap, he agrees the show is pretty accurate except for most of it, you know, the killings, kidnaps, trists that sort of thang. That, and coming down all wossy at closer to seven in the morning than I should like to the lobby only to find two bonefide cowboy types propping up the reception desk made my day. Aswell as tracing the local suzuki academy, hidden in a corner of an Alamo style enclave of the suburbs (spanish tiled an'all) where we are introduced to a lady who not only grew up minutes from Cory's hometown but also trained a teacher I had been introduced to some years ago in London. Sam boy, eager to get his mitts on a violin is invited to make music with new friends this saturday. Grandma will be please to know that the young ones starting out, learn first with a box violin till the teacher feels sure they are ready for the real deal. Violin beginners get such bad press don't you think? We are packing up tonight, fleeing the city and this uber trendy hotel on account of our stay being more than five minutes. Gonna try our hand at suburbia instead, three weeks is probably my limit, and indulge in some home comfort luxuries: kitchens, space, bedrooms. There is even a little outside nook for us to grow a few culinary bits and pieces. Basil I mean. Not chicken or pigs. Yet.
It won't be too hard to bid farewell to this urban too-kool-for-skool enclave of downtown. It's wonderful knowing the troupe is all around you and running into folks in the lobby for a natter here and there, but, call me old fashioned, I cannot keep any semblance of order or normal-ness without at least one little drawer to put our clothing in. Granted there are four hangers each in the closet gadget they have, looking like something you would find in one of those japanese tunnel capsules businessmen sometimes sleep in, but as far as neatly storing absolutely anything else? No chance. I feel so drastically uncool for even letting these clutter ready thougths fetter my brain, but in 15 months of visiting hotels I have never seen one so absolutely theatrical to the eye and screamingly impractical. Boy looks up at the concrete patches on the ceiling and tells me it is peeling off ready to fall. I tell him it's style. One of Cory's colleagues managed to gt a room with a sofa. Placed under his tv. Boy look sup at the concrete patches on the ceiling and tells me it is peeling off ready to fall. I tell him it's style.
Poor Dallas, giving it bad press and I’ve only known her for five minutes. Give me time already. The sunshine ain’t half bad, the accent is rather appealing, and yes, there are folk wearing proper cowboy hats. Even spotted a Lucy lookalike (my idol from the 80s soap) in gentrified Uptown, her blonde locks bouncing in the sun whilst her muscle bound boyfriend beams somewhat astonished at his catch of the day. Now I type in the lobby of a hotel uber trendy in it’s concrete loft bare brick styley, club music pumping at every corner. Boy looks up and tells me the ceiling is peeling off. I tell him it’s style. I blame our recent rollercoaster on that solar eclipse. No matter, boy is busy with the scrabble game beside me trying to rope in the friendly 7ft receptionist (everything’s bigger in Texas) and I’ve still got wits enough to write and counting my blessings. Give or take a roach or two.