This was a very interesting adventure. I had originally booked a weekend retreat at Unity of Beaumont this weekend and for a number of reasons Rev. Sondra and I decided to cancel it. After some discussion we decided I would come anyway, and do the talk and the music at the Sunday service, as well as a concert that afternoon. My last moment travel plans included a flight to Houston, and a bus ride from Houston to Beaumont. My “inner whiner” was finding all kinds of things to complain about, but I shifted my focus and affirmed that this trip was indeed an adventure, and a lot of fun, with plenty of opportunities to explore and engage in situations outside of my usual life experience.
I arrived at IAH around 11:30 and took the Metro bus from the airport to downtown. I must say that the flight was a bit circumspect: I went to Houston by way of Memphis. However, I got to eat in a great little cafe in the Memphis terminal that looked more like a local bar than an airport restaurant. It was very ‘down home’ and the people were sweet and polite, obviously local Memphis folks. I watched TV, ate hashbrowns, and smiled at everyone.
The Metro bus to downtown Houston was much more comfortable than the little plane from Memphis to Houston, and it only cost $15, altho I felt a little guilty because there were only two of us on this giant bus. They deposited me right around the corner from the Greyhound stationl; however, my bus didn’t leave until 6 pm and it was only noon. On the ride in, I noticed this cute little Thai restaurant, and decided to have lunch there after I bought my bus ticket.
It took me a few minutes of wandering around, checking maps and making phone calls until I got to the bus station. The Greyhound station in downtown Houston is a very interesting place – more about this later. I bought my ticket ($20 one way), asked a few questions, locked my backpack and suitcase in a rental locker, and headed out for Thai food.
I walked into the restaurant and was immediately greeted by a happy little fellow who invited me to sit at a nice table out of the sun. I decided I wanted to sit in a chair facing away from the one he wanted me to sit it, and then he later laughed at me when I moved to the chair he had suggested, because I was so hot in the one I had picked. Another lesson in going with the flow. I ordered pad Thai with tofu and it was some of the best I have ever eaten! Not at all expensive either. It’s called the Nit Noi Cafe (http://www.nitnoithai.com/midtown_location.php) and it’s at 2020 Louisiana, right off 45.
I still had a few hours to play in downtown Houston, and I had never been there before, so I walked up and down Main St. I was impressed by the electric Metro train. I visited the Historic District and the Skyline District. I spent some time at Barnes and Noble (very cool!). I noticed that there seemed to be three different distinct groups of people moving around down there: lots of people who appeared to be street people, or who may have lived in some of the crappy looking apartment buildings down there, mostly black, another group of young mainly white male business types in suits, and lots of construction workers of all races working on the buildings. One group was certainly taking their time, wandering around, another group was obviously in a big hurry and acting very important, and the third group was either trying to look busy or standing around staring at or chatting up the women passing by. You can guess which group is which. Almost everybody had cell phones, and most of them were either talking or texting – even the stinky guy sitting on the toilet in the bookstore!! A certain phrase about “getting off the pot” came to mind but I didn’t mention it to him. Maybe that was his office, I don’t know.
I passed by a young white man who looked not much older than my son, head in hands, sitting on his jacket on the sidewalk outside a fast-food restaurant, and he politely asked me for some spare change, sir. It almost broke my heart, but I didn’t give him any money. Out of all the people I met that day, he was the only one who asked me for money.
About 4 I headed back to the bus station and got my stuff, and went over a few blocks to Starbucks, had a cup of decaf (soy milk, not steamed, with sugar-free vanilla) and checked my email. Talked a bit with the cute barista, and then headed back to the bus station to wait.
The culture of the Greyhound bus station in downtown Houston really fascinated me. I was definitely a minority group. Most of the people who work there let you know right away that they don’t take no crap off nobody, no way, no how. There was a lot of conflict and defensiveness. Being as how I am not there every day, I took it as my opportunity to be the Light: to be polite, courteous, to smile, and to generally send out waves of good energy. It was fun to get a little smile out of the lady who worked the snack bar, especially since she had crawled all over the man in line before me and told him “there ain’t no reason to get smart with me”. I had a nice conversation with a man at the drink machine; I was trying to trade him some of my quarters for some of his one dollar bills (I had just gotten $5 worth of quarters from the change machine) and he ended up just giving me a dollar, for a reason I didn’t understand, but I took it and thanked him anyway. It was especially sweet because he seemed to have a lot of one dollar bills but not very many 10’s or 20’s.
Anybody can afford to take the bus, and so there were a LOT of people in line to get on my bus, so many that they ended up splitting us up into two buses. The bus ride to Beaumont was much more comfortable than any of the planes I had been on that day, and the people seemed to be having more fun. The young men were all hitting on the cute nurse sitting in front of me, and the mothers were trying to get their kids to sit down and ‘be good’. The driver came on board like a stand-up comedian, cracking jokes and letting us know that anybody caught smoking would be ‘put up off the bus on the side of the road, no discussion’, and everybody was pretty much asleep by the time we were out of the Houston city limits. I dozed until someone yelled “where we at, boss?” and the driver let us know we were 10 minutes out of Beaumont.
I stayed in Beaumont with two wonderful men, Michael and Bryan, who treated me like I was royalty. Michael greeted me at the bus station with a kiss and a hug, even tho we had just met, and I felt right at home. They put me in my own private bedroom with a king sized-bed and a really nice comforter. They have 3 very cute little wiener dogs who would stand outside my bedroom door until I opened it and then run off. By the end of the weekend the dogs and I were best friends, and I felt like I had found two long lost brothers.
The highlight of my stay with Michael and Bryan was our Saturday afternoon trip to Winnie, TX to experience “Larry’s Old Time Trade Days“. Please believe me when I say that I am not making any of this up. Trade Days is like a carnival for grown-ups with piles of every kind of “stuff” you can think of, and it’s all for sale. There were pick-up trucks everywhere and there must’ve been a few hundred people wandering around all the booths and stands. For a moment I had a weird deja vu of living in Athens, Alabama and going to the Limestone County indoor flea market, only there were the obligatory Texas stars everywhere.
Larry has a whole row of little shacks selling every kind of junk food you can think of and we ate all we could hold. I stood in line for almost 30 minutes for a bag of kettle corn, and this sweet plump blonde lady, assisted by her goth daugther, was bagging it and selling it as fast as the guy at the cast iron popper could stir it with his boat paddle.
We saw a giant homemade cross, taller than any of us, ordained with Christmas lights, with a flashing circle in the middle, and discussed buying it for the Beaumont Unity church. There was a man behind it holding court in a tent filled with smaller homemade religious items, obviously pontificating on the metaphysical significance of his handiwork, or maybe just warning his listeners about the government or abortion or the Anti-christ or something. I saw more than one person that afternoon wearing a solid color tee-shirt with big white letters that read “Want the Truth? Read the Bible!”.
I met a guy named “Greyhound Ray” who lives and travels with his family in an old Greyhound bus, and sells quartz crystals from Arkansas and old license plates and glass bottles. He goes to Jonesboro every year on April 20 for a some sort of “grass”-roots gathering, and he said “4-20” to me a lot. They are no prices on any of his crystals; if you ask him how much one is, he will pick it up and look at it for a minute, and then say “twenty bucks” or something. His teen-aged daughter was minding the store and I wondered if she went to school. Everybody knows Greyhound Ray, at least they do in Arkansas, and I’ll bet they do in Winnie too.
Throughout the day I kept running into this creepy Deliverance-looking guy wearing a mechanic’s uniform and a greasy ballcap, who would stare intensely at me like he either wanted to kill me or screw me. When he made a big deal of tongue-kissing his main squeeze (she was much older than he was) right in front of me and my new friends while we were sitting at a picnic table in the food court trying to eat our homemade authentic nachos and sugar-free snow cones, I guessed he wanted to kill me first and then screw me.
The day ended with a nice little neck rub from a sweet New Age type lady who was selling a concoction of herbs and essential oils that is gare-on-teed effective on Aches & Pains, Acne, Allergies, Arthritis Asthma, Athlete’s Foot, Bone Spurs, Bronchitis, Joint Pain, Menstrual Cramps, Migraines, Poor Circulation, Prostate, Psoriasis, Rosacea, Shingles, Sinus Problems, Sore Throat, Snoring, Tendinitis, Urinary Tract Infections, Vaginitis, Warts and Yeast Infections. Again, I am not making this up, you can read all about it on their website at http://mountainmagichealth.com.
UNITY OF BEAUMONT
The Unity church service on Sunday morning was awesome! The people there are so sweet, and there was a great number of LGBT people in attendance. I even met a small group of lesbians who rode their Harleys to church and came in wearing leather chaps. You just can’t beat that to round out a Sunday morning service at Unity. I gave one of my best talks ever, and it was very well received. The afternoon concert was just as well attended, and the Unity folks there are very generous. Susan, the church admin person and all-around angel, is a wonderful, beautiful lady, and went the ‘extra mile’ to make sure we all had a fantastic day. By the time the day was over, we were all laughing and crying and hugging and feeling the Love.
BACK HOME AGAIN
On Monday, my journey back to KCMO was blissfully uneventful, and I am grateful to Joe for giving me a ride to the Houston airport. My plane stopped in Atlanta on the way back, and even tho my connecting flight was late, we landed in KC on time Monday afternoon. I picked up my little Kia in economy parking and drove home smiling all the way, full of gratitude for another great adventure. Life is good.
Next stop, Alabama!