December 22, 2005

My Ordeal: Day One

Well, that wasn't so bad. The only problem is I bought so many treats for myself I don't know how I'm ever going to make that restaurant date. I may have to stand myself up. Last night I pan-fried a couple of Central Market's exceptionally good crab cakes, and backed them up with an organic spring mix salad and Gleneagle spring water (Scottish, with a long tapering bottle that must be worth far more than the water inside it). Tonight it's going to be calf's liver, and I also got some Central Market bulk pesto -- which obviates the need ever to make one's own pesto -- to put on noodles. Also got some Terra Red Bliss potato chips -- red potatoes and olive oil -- for snacking.

(Once, back in the Seventies, a friend accused me of being a potato chip connoisseur just because I had a preference between Charles Chips and Wise. Little did we know!)

Then for exercise I walked to 37th and Guadalupe to see the 37th Street lights, a homegrown Austin Christmas tradition, but for some reason this year there weren't as many cool lawn displays as in past years: no phantasmagorias of underwater Santas swimming among mermaids, no Bush parodies, just a lot of lights strung on houses. The house that had perennnially been turned into an erupting volcano was no longer decked out as such. The most distinctive new display -- nodding reindeer and polar bears made of wire and white lights -- would not have been at the top of the list in previous years. The house that is traditionally most outrageous had nothing notably new, instead falling back on its basic displays. Is everyone tired this year? Did crucial participants move from the block? The outstandingly new thing I saw was a popcorn vendor's cart: is commercialism taking over, sapping the block's energy?

Back home, I talked to Agents 61, 95, and 97 on the phone. The redoubtable Agent 61 had driven 650 miles in twelve hours and found a motel on the far edge of Memphis. Today's leg, across the whole length of Tennessee to the northeast corner, will be in the 500-mile range. She ordered a cheddar burger at Steak 'n Shake and it came dripping with processed cheese sauce instead of sliced cheddar as the menu described, and when confrtoned, the waitress merely said, "This is how we make it"! O America, whither goest thou?

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