Dear Diary #22
By Marty Lloyd Woldman
What is this place? This Houston? Some accident of commerce and filth, the differences between which have become so scarce, one can hardly differentiate.
Yes. I was drunk, as happens periodically. Diana and I held our drunken ritual on this here patio. Making merry. Talking things that seemed important, and by their seeming, became important. And come 4am, the hunger turned on me and only What-a-burger would do.
There was the singular trodding. I was hard-wired for grease mouth. I needed taste. And the mile to the What-a-burger was first accomplished through the back-street plodding which was new to my eyes. Everything here was built just after the war. Used to be we folks could say THE WAR and that would suffice. But there have been a lot of them and I guess if pressed by the public, “what do you think of when I say THE WAR?” Most folks would say WWII. I would say WWI. But I have a particular affinity to that war which is unnameable and indescribable and inexplicable.
But this neighborhood was built after the second of the wars of the world and it looks exactly like all the rest in America built in that time: squat brick buildings built for breeding and relief; the burgeons of suburbia and vestiges of Americana. I grew up in a neighborhood just like this in another city. A lot of people did. And so here now it is home-like and sound.
I walked past a Byzantine Catholic Church. Which was weird. I’d never heard of such a thing. At least not in Texas. I didn’t even know Byzantium had its reaches in the Americas. But that just shows how little I know of history.
But round the corner, horror of horrors, the What-a-burger dining room wasn’t to open til 7am. All the able-driving car-owning citizens had full access to the drive thru bounty, but myself, the feeble-footed pedestrian, was without satisfaction. I needed grease in my belly. But moreso I needed to make this venture fruitful.
Google maps told me that plodding eastward would yield the greasy fruition I craved. I began the further journey and I resolved that there would be no ceasing until greasy food was in my maw.
In this movement there was no need to think of how my exes found it necessary to tell me how they may be with tweaker bikers or rocket scientists respectively. All that mattered was the getting of the thing that was not the thing I had. God bless.
And the streets were both mean and without character. They answered the question: how can a thing with no life sneer. The apartment buildings which lined my way were built within months of my birth. They answered questions pertaining to my origin while exactly mimicking my rate of decay. I may still be structurally sound, but everything in me is rotten and flawed. Because that too was built in me. We plan obsolescence because we don’t really want the garbage we make to somehow have a chance at immortality, not when we each eventually must end.
I’d needed to piss since What-a-burger but it hadn’t been legally viable. There was an instance at the car wash that seemed a good bet, but then I thought better of it. Eventually I found a park. It wasn’t a real park. It was a drainage ditch that the developers were legally required to provide and the developers figured if they could put a running track around it and a batting fence in the ditch, it would be a selling point rather than an an infringement of maximization of spacial profit ratios.
So I pissed in that park and felt bloody good about it.
There within this new set of industrial hovels were new families, their owners much my age. They were of the new set here. “No, Houston isn’t our ideal, but John was offered a position we couldn’t pass up.” And they didn’t. And it was just a major compromise in the beginning of a lifetime of major compromises. And I pissed in their drainage ditch. And I’m not sorry. Because theirs is a lazy ontology imposed upon us all. God bless.
Los Angeles and Houston are the sister cities of fame and fortune, respectively. Fame traditionally involves some amount of culture. Fortune… not so much. In my experience, fortune kills culture. And as I walked through some of the city falling to disrepair, I realized that after the apocalypse, the first thing I will do is come back to Houston to dance on its grave. Because this city would be most beautiful without itself.
And there, shining like the actual manifestation of Reagan’s shining city on the hill was a Shipley’s Donuts gleaming out from the darkness of all surroundings. They were open because I’d been walking for over an hour. It was after 5 and I was drenched in sweat and starving.
I ordered 2 sausage jalapeno and cheese kolaches and one orange juice. I ate one kolache there and stared at the workings of the Shipley’s crew. There was something really depressing to me about the crew who has been here since 3am, and their movements, and the very existence of this store. Mainly because everything was so bright. The florescents were oppressive. So as I ate my kolache and drank my juice, I imagined Tom Waits narrating the everything around me.
Then I walked the 2 miles back to the house, having gained 2 kolaches and not much else, ready to expel some diarrhea and then sleep like a proper American. God bless.