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Three for Texas


The Observer is going to be taking our first vacation in quite a while in a few weeks, an out-of-state jaunt to the Republic of Texas. We have our passport in order and the phone number of a good attorney in our wallet, so we feel we're pretty well set. As for you, dear reader, never fear. Our devoted Deputies will be filling this column with almost-as-good drivel that week, so close to The Real Thing that only an expert in anonymous eavesdroppery could tell the difference. We just so happen to be the only one of those in the world to our knowledge, and we'll never tell.

Our upcoming trip will be The Observer's first footstep inside the borders of Texas in over 25 years, the last having been a nightmarish, high-summer trip across the widest breadth of the state on the way to the Grand Canyon when Yours Truly was 13. Even when we try these days, we remember Texas not as a place, really, but just as a flat, yellow glare, punctuated by the suffocating wind that scoured our face every time we slid open the door of Ma's Dodge Caravan. We've clearly blocked out everything else.

Beyond that, though, it's really just been convenience that has kept us out of Texas for a quarter decade, not some kind of Aggie hatred and definitely no burning desire to "Mess With" them, as those bumper stickers warn against. We just haven't gotten over in that direction in a while.

The real vacay is going to be the road trip, an activity we've long loved dearly for its own sake, but we're officially heading down there for — and it pains us mightily to admit this in public, even anonymously — the Texas Renaissance Fair, a two-month event where they get medieval on the asses of over a quarter-million visitors at a 55-acre site just north of Houston. It's the biggest one in the world, apparently, and features a special spooky-themed weekend just before Halloween, which is what we'll be attending.

Our lovely bride talked The Observer and Junior into going to a similar — though smaller — event in Oklahoma last year, and it turned out to be ye olde fun, with costumes and spook houses and turkey legs and non-alky grog and a hatchet throwing booth. Once we put away our inner teenager and got over the fact that we were participating in pretty much the geekiest thing in the universe outside of putting on a pair of Spock ears and attending a Star Trek convention, it was a really good time. Junior, in particular, enjoyed himself last year, and with him skidding ever onward toward adulthood, we have to take our good times with him where we can find them. Besides, The Observer loves people who are passionate and dedicated about things, and you don't get much more passionate and dedicated than somebody willing to buy an honest-to-god suit of armor and clank around in it in the hot sun in The Year of Our Lord 2012.

That said, we're not going to be in the market for a furry vest, tights and a puffy shirt any time soon, so get your dreams of a photo of that right out of your head. We will, however, bring back some photos of Texas, if only to remind our future self that it's more than heat and a dull-yellow smear.

The Observer loves October, the month when summer finally quits the country and the world starts winding down to winter. We put on our jacket for the first time the other day, the black jean jacket we've been wearing as our primary wintertime cover since marriage, child and mortgage was but a dream. It's always a momentous day when we step outside and realize that it's jacket time — that there's a low-hanging morning mist, and the air is chilly enough that a polo shirt ain't gonna cut it, even with a T-shirt underneath.

There's a ritual to it, and we love it: Go to the back of the bedroom door. Take down the jacket, frayed at the hem and cuffs, which has been on our back drunk and sober, near and far from home, joyous and sad, in rain, sun, snow, sleet. Shake it out. Slip it on, praying that no black widows or brown recluses have taken up residence in its folds. Dip a hand into the pockets to find out who you were the last time you wore it. This time: two rumpled dollar bills, a receipt from the grocery store (taco salad night!), assorted pens, a half-filled reporter's notebook, two tickets to a movie we don't quite remember seeing, and some change.

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