Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Baytown: Where Oil and Water Really Do Mix (city motto)

"What can I get for two dollars?" bellowed the woman as she entered the convenience store, waving in the general direction of the beer cooler.   (At this point, I am sure most people avoided eye contact and left her to her quest).  

After her purchase, she crawled into her Jaguar and pulled away, peeling out.

It was right around 9 a.m.  
We had attended my aunt's funeral the day before, so spirits were pretty low, and we were headed back to Austin, but not, apparently, before we experienced one last little Baytown vignette. 

Baytown is where my parents live, and where I both spent some formative teenage years and picked up some horrible, aggressive very un-Mrs. Fritch-like driving habits. Home to one of the largest petrochemical plants in the world, there is frequently a cabbage-y, oniony fug in the air, as well as a higher than average rate of cancers of all kinds.

Another thing to know about Baytown is that they have no bookstore.  Yes, a town of almost 100,000 that does not have a bookstore (aside from Christian specialty ones).  Thankfully, when I lived there, they did have a bookstore (where I worked for a few years) or I would have died.

In my parents' neighborhood, which is by no means a rough one, it's not unusual to see things like a dead deer skull on someone's front lawn (out there so the ants can "clean" it) or a bedraggled trampoline or a pair of chained dogs.  Lots of chained dogs.

On a recent visit, my mother casually informed me that there had been a shooting next door. She was not surprised, and neither were we, because we know the neighbors are...DRUG DEALERS.  They even have some weird tunnel dug into their backyard.  

I looked into the shooting and learned that it was an attempted murder-suicide. AWESOME!  My father--picture a Clint Eastwood type--has two guns (one for each hand--har har) that he keeps under their mattress.  Two at last count...could be more.   My parents don't want to move,  but they did recently install an eleven foot tall fence.  Yep, an eleven footer. 
I have not been to that many funerals.  I always worry that I will do something completely inappropriate, like giggle for no apparent reason, so I made sure to get all the giggles out before we entered the church.  Long-stemmed yellow roses, the thorns removed, greeted us. Dale, my mother, and I headed to the front pews, while my father and brother (who were to serve as pallbearers) moved to the middle section.  I did not want to be separated from them.  

I hugged my uncle and cousins and sat down, right behind my cousin Ricky, who shook with silent tears throughout the ceremony.  He felt feverish when I touched him.  I wondered about the etiquette--I had not been all that close to my aunt, so should I try not to cry, as if tears belonged more to her immediate family?  I almost felt like I did not deserve to cry, but I've always been someone who tears up as soon as I see someone else cry, so I did.  

The funeral ran long, as they sometimes do, but we eventually entered our cars to head to the burial site.  In true Baytown form, someone cut us off as we waited in line to follow the first car.  I mastered my outrage.  Our police escort spit right near the hearse before we left. I mastered my outrage once more. 

And we pulled away.  


I won't be buried there, nor will I stalk convenience stores in the morning for their discount beer. 

Full Size Image
Yellow Rose / / Redoute 1835. Illustration. Encyclop√¶dia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 3 Mar 2015. 

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