Monday, March 26, 2012

"I've Forgotten What Normal Tired Feels Like"

I didn't have time to get a picture, but that's the sign we saw in a tiny town as we drove through South Texas on our way to McAllen. That's McAllen as in "five-and-a-half hours away from Austin" McAllen.

We were going, of course, to a hockey tournament.

This would be the fourth hockey tournament (and last) of the season. Our driving total to and from these tournaments, in miles: 2,000.

First, though, we had to get there.

"I really want to wait for an iPhone that has 4G," Eli 10.7 said, since Gloria inexplicably promised him that he could get one when he becomes version 11.0.

"That's probably a wise move," I said.

"But I don't know if I can stand to wait," he said. "I wish I could just have one of those old-school cellphones in the meantime, the kind that flips open and you can't even text on it."

This is how far the present has overtaken my previous future: when I was a kid, the phone was on the wall. It had a rotary dial. My sister, on her 14th birthday, got a powder blue "Princess" phone that was the hottest thing going:

That was cutting-edge cool in 1969. Now, cellphones are so established that they have an "old school."

Sometimes I make notes on these trips that make absolutely no sense when I see them later. For instance, I have the phrase "the bacon poncho" written down. I only wish I remembered the story that went with that phrase.

The quickest route to McAllen involves getting off the interstate and driving through some towns that haven't seen tomorrow in many years (aka "redneck"). We stopped at one little store to go to the bathroom, and besides the numerous animal heads peering at us from the walls, there was a bar in a side room. From a distance, I looked through the door, and an American flag was hung in the back window, illuminated from the sun outside.

Yes, in that context, it was super creepy. Let's get out of here.

When we reached McAllen, there were many pleasant surprises. The first was that our hotel was rated the #1 SpringHill Suites in the country, and after spending a little time there, I was not surprised. It was immaculate and quite attractive. "Except for the kaleidoscope, I think this is almost as nice as the W," Gloria said, laughing.

"I think this is better," I said. "No snobs and the soft drinks are $2." It was true. Even the inside of our room was strangely similar, down to the seafoam green color scheme that is apparently all the hotel rage these days.

Second nice surprise: a gigantic outdoor shopping mall less than a block from our hotel. Half of McAllen looks like it was built in the last six months, seemingly, and both our hotel and the shopping center looked brand-new.

Also, not crowded. We walked into a Macaroni Grill at 7 p.m. on Friday and it was half-empty.

"I think we need to move here," Eli 11.0 said happily.

Since there was a Gamestop 50 yards from the restaurant, I took Eli over for a quick Skylander figure hunt (Gloria stayed at the restaurant because we had just ordered). There were no figures in Austin, at least almost none, and Eli wanted to make a quick hunt to see if they had any. Of course, being McAllen, they did.

When we got back to the restaurant, Eli showed the three-pack of figures to Gloria. "And how did you pay for that," she asked, smiling.

"I didn't even ask that question," I said. "I just forked it over."

"Well," he said, "if you remember--"

"Here, I can do this," I said. "Your explanations usually start something like this: 'an old prospector found a map in the dusty hills of California in 1852.' "

Eli and Gloria both burst out laughing. "That's pretty good, Dad," Eli said.

Tomorrow: part two, which explains the post title that I should have waited to use.

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