It was in one of those Breakfast All-Day-and-All-Night joints so impervious to the movement of the sun & time in general there was nothing to indicate that it was no longer the 1940s; the daily paper was filled with a lotta talk about a lotta hostile Indians (boy howdy were they het up!) and Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys played on the radio behind the counter, A66ALX broadcasting from one of those towns otherwise known for its prison.
The waitress was called Barbra Beaufort — her name badge said “Howdy, I’m Barbra!” in script with the sunburst of an exclamation mark and a picture of a cow. I found the place lit like Blazes in the clean light of an Amarillo dawn, somewhere just outside of town. I’d been up all night, searching in vain for a place that served drinks on Polk Street until it became clear to me that the other kids in the street, hair slicked & looking swell in their Sunday bests, had got out & dressed up so they would be ready to go to Sunday school at the crack of sunrise, at which point I thought it prudent to skip sleep and get out of town. I could smell sausages sizzling in eight tons of Texas fat whenever the kitchen door swung behind her & see there was a load of dishes indulgently piled on the side for washing when the other Barb (Barbra Barrow) came on at 12.
By this stage in my travels through Texas my stomach recoiled from the prospect of yet another famous Texas Best-value Superlative Roadhouse Feed: sixteen tonnes of Bar-B-Que’d beefsteak, a bowl of glaucous beans, pickle-encumbered slop, green peas (as opposed to red ones) in a finger bowl meant for a single-serve of butter (wrapped in foil), fries, and the ‘Best Seafood in the West’ even though there is no sea — no water, even — for miles around, which really makes you wonder. One time back of the Pokeville Beefeater’s Gambling Parlour I asked for the Vegetarian option and Barbara Burly said, “WHAT IN THE HELL IS THAT?” In the cities like Dallas they are more used to receiving those queer kinds of requests from fags and fancy-talkin’ tourists and have the menus printed:
Prime Texas beef-steak-burger
Sliders: a buck fifty each
Half pounder: 6.50
Full pounder 7.00 (with pickles) 7.20 (with egg) 7.50 (with bacon) 7.80 (with catsup)
VEGETARIAN OPTION: Fuck off.
The breakfast menu was either eggs, bacon wrapped in pancakes (“Porkies”) or beef sausages in glazed buns festooned with curlicues of the pickled slop they had served mashed up with green peas as a delicacy the night before. Barbra could not help but notice that I, Miss Shitsville, gazed at the menu in despair. “I’m not too hungry,” I said finally. “It don’t matter none,” said Barbra. “How about a piece o’ pie? We got apple pie, cherry and peach. My grandmamma’s recipe. Won six ribbons at the county fair.”
“Ok. Sounds ok –”
“Apple, cherry or peach?”
As you know, the Texas State motto is ‘friendship’ — folks are implored to ‘Drive friendly– the Texas way’ — In fact, wherever you go in Texas folks are so friendly it don’t matter none if you are deaf or just can’t speak because it gets so lonesome out there in the desert that whatever you do people will just go on chatting. “Peach is my favourite.” [Cutting a slice.] “Can I heat it up for you, honey?” [putting it in the microwave] “It’s nice heated up with a bit of cream or ice-cream–” [she threw down the ice-cream in anticipation, while the pie went round and round in the microwave] “Can I get you a drink–?” [reaching for a glass.] “Creaming soda. With ice-cream. Two scoops.”
“Can I get whisky in that?'”
I said, “Thanks — thanks — thanks–” as she laid out the ashtray and then Texas sized cutlery on pink paper napkins (classy tru-weave quilted effect) and finally she placed the latticed piece o’ pie on the bench-top with a clink. It was steaming & oozing yokel charm, melted ice-cream & blue ribbons just like the County fair. Then “Thanks–” again, for no reason; the pie, if it had ever lived, looked repellent. She said, “No trouble, darlin’,” and wiped her hands on her apron, which was printed with cherries.
[Continued next post: Billy Bob Barnett, Dust Bowl, US.]