Thursday, June 11, 2009

Future Location of the Pot 'O Gold Pie Shop

If THIS isn't a sign that I am meant to stay right where I am, I don't know what is. Could it also be a message indicating the future location of the Pot 'O Gold Pie Shop?!Or, wait. Am I in such a state of Texas-inspired nirvana the prism of light is actually radiating out from me -- and not the other way around? I'm sure stranger things have happened in this part of the world. Regardless, it's pretty fucking amazing to have a rainbow landing on your head.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Man Who Makes Peach Cobbler

Driving back from the swimming hole on Sunday – where I had spent the afternoon with some new friends seeking refuge from the 108 degree day – we stopped at a small ranch to drop off a borrowed water jug. I had noticed the ranch before, a tidy hillside homestead with a nicely painted sign marking its entrance. We drove the quarter mile up the dirt road and pulled up next to the house, which was like many of the “houses” in the area: a large RV parked under a metal lean-to, the covering essential to provide much-needed shade.
We were greeted by the owner of the property, Bob, a small, wiry man with a shaved head and dark beady eyes. He was wearing Levis and leather boots, and a white t-shirt that revealed the definition of his bulging muscles. You wouldn’t want to get in a fight with this guy. He may be only five and a half feet tall but his body mass, and his jumpiness, told me he was ready, with little provocation, to kick some serious ass.
Bob invited us to stay, look around, and “have a smoke.” Tom, who was driving, looked at me, knowingly, and said quietly enough so Bob didn’t hear, “We don’t have to stay.” He could see I was terrified to get out of the truck for fear of what someone with that kind of pent-up redneck energy might do.
But I didn’t want to get a reputation as the scaredy-cat, snotty-pants city girl so I said, “No, that’s okay. We can stay.”
I stepped outside and Bob extended his body-builder hand to shake mine, his grip extra firm. “Very nice to meet you, little lady.” Okay, so he may look menacing but he was very polite. “Let me show you around,” he said.
The place was surprising – actually, no. It was Bob who was surprising. First of all, I was standing close enough to him to discover he smelled of laundry detergent – that white t-shirt was freshly washed. I wondered where he could wash his clothes out here in the desert, and then saw the brand new washing machine by the RV, hooked up with jumper cables to a car battery.
Not only were his clothes clean, his place was immaculate. He had planted a cactus garden artfully arranged and outlined with stones. He had planted an even bigger garden of potatoes and tomatoes in symmetrical rows behind the RV and he showed us how he protects them from the sun and how he uses his gray water (from the washing machine) to irrigate. He had a horse trough filled with water, just for his dog to get wet because, as he said, “A Lab’s gotta have water.” He had a large picnic table set with candles and Mexican pottery dishes. And he had an outdoor kitchen: a raised fire pit built of stacked rocks and, in the middle of the pit, three Dutch ovens hung from chains. A Dutch oven is a cast iron pot that uses coals underneath and on top of its lid to create a baking effect. “I love to cook,” he said. He turned to me, his piercing dark eyes softening as he added, “And I make a fine peach cobbler. It’s the best you’ll ever taste. You just put the peaches and sugar in the bottom and put the biscuit dough on top.”
I went home and couldn’t get Bob out of my mind. Mainly, I was mad at myself for how I had judged – and feared – a person who underneath the tough-guy appearance was as gentle and nurturing as – and, Bob, please don’t beat me up for saying this – a little girl. How many more times was I going to have to be beaten over the head with the lesson: Don’t judge a book by its cover? Out here in Far West Texas, away from all my career-oriented, liberal city friends, I seem to be re-learning this lesson over and over. I continue to meet a new cross-section of people I wouldn’t normally encounter – river guides, ranchers, park rangers, and even a few right-wingers – and I continue to be fascinated with how, no matter what their convictions, leanings, lifestyle, or language each person reveals something good in their heart. Good enough for me to accept them as they are, and maybe even as a friend.
Continuing to look for ways to beat the heat, I drove to the store later that evening to buy ice cream. It was still so hot I dreamed of taking a bath in the stuff. There in the freezer case of the world’s smallest grocery store (the only store for miles around), among the vanilla and chocolate, was one lone pint of Peach Cobbler Ice Cream. I thought of Bob. I thought of buying it for him, but seeing as it would have melted by the time I got to his ranch, I wrote this story about him instead – and ate the ice cream myself.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The World Needs More Pie-rates

Yesterday I went to visit a new friend (and now that I have rented a house here, I can also call her a neighbor) -- Cynthia Hood, the yoga teacher who lives a mile down the road. (She and her husband are building a beautiful new yoga studio, which I hope they don’t finish too soon as I will miss her classes in the church!)
When I turned right onto Highway 170, in the bright morning light, I saw something I hadn’t seen before – a pirate’s dwelling with a huge sign declaring its crude-but-kind-of-funny name: Passing Wind.
How could I have missed seeing this garish display before? It couldn’t be more obvious – or more out of place. I shame myself for Passing Judgment. I mean, hey, this is desert life in Far West Texas -- a place where you are free to express your true self, where neighbors will either tolerate you or simply look the other way, even if you’re living out your Captain Hook fantasy.
The faux pirate ship reminded me of an old friend from college, Pirate Jim, who is living out his own pirate dream in Seattle, Washington.
(LEFT: Jim then, speaking at our college graduation)
Jim can frequently be found dressed up like a pirate – he’s got the whole outfit: eye patch, bandana, poofy shirt and knickers, sword – which he dons in the name of scaring children at Sea-Fair, riding on a pirate-ship float in the annual parade, tossing pirate’s booty (plastic beads and foil-wrapped chocolate coins) to the cheering crowds, and yelling out “Ahoy, mateys! Argh, argh, argh!” in his bass-tone pirate accent and making people laugh. (Are they laughing at him or with him?) Pirate Jim is such a celebrity he has his own baseball cards. He has even run – representing the Pirate Party, naturally – for mayor of Seattle. It’s all in the name of good fun and bringing smiles to people’s faces, sometimes to people in hospitals or nursing homes.

In the same way I, as Pie Girl, try to use pie to spread happiness, Pirate Jim has found his vehicle for giving of himself to others. As for the guy with the lost ship in the Texas desert? I’ll have to knock on his porthole one day and find out what makes him tick. Until then…ho, ho, ho, suddenly I’m getting an urge to drink some rum.
(ABOVE LEFT: Jim now, in his new identity.)