Sunday, January 25, 2015

The People Watcher's Public Toilet: Sulphur Springs, TX

I have issues.  Bathroom issues.  I have been married 27 years and I get irritated if David is in the bedroom when I am in the bathroom.  And it doesn't matter what I am doing in there.  I could be curling my hair or brushing my teeth and I would still be annoyed.  I need privacy.  I not only close the door but I also lock it even when no one is home. 

But earlier this year I jumped off of a trapeze platform, something I was sure I would be afraid to do so in the continuing spirit of conquering fears, I decide to check out the unique public bathroom in the town square in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

Sulphur Springs a small town (population about 15k as of the last census) east of Dallas but it is far enough out that I wouldn't call it a suburb.  I started out the day in Plano (north of Dallas) and drove to Whitehouse where I spent the day.  On the way back to the Dallas area, I decide it isn't terribly out of the way to run by Sulphur Springs.

It isn't exactly on the way either.  But this side trip will take me down lots of back roads and I will never be required to drive on 635/LBJ which I am very happy about.  Even when I lived here I hated driving on LBJ.  It is perpetually under construction and people drive like maniacs.  I thought I would have a nervous breakdown on the way out of town this morning.  So, for me, Sulphur Springs is decidedly on the way.
There isn't a lot to see driving between Whitehouse and Sulphur Springs.  It is a lot like driving the back roads of Montana near where I live only it is flatter with less snow and more rebel flags.  I did pass through Lindale, the hometown of Miranda Lambert, a fact you will know they are quite proud of when you get there.  I am always on the lookout for a photo op but this route is woefully lacking.
I did stop to take a picture of this shining example of country ingenuity.  I bet these mailboxes don't succumb to high winds.  Or teenagers with baseball bats.
I am not 100% sure where the bathroom is so I have my GPS take me downtown.  Sulphur Springs is the county seat for Hopkins County.
There is a typical town square for this part of Texas (reminds me of Waxahachie or McKinney) with the courthouse in the center surrounded by antique shops and restaurants.  There are veterans monuments placed around the courthouse square and it is very clean and well maintained.
There are several places on the square to stop and have lunch or a game of chess.
Including two large chess boards on the ground.  I am slightly surprised that no one has run off with any of these large chess pieces.  While I am considering the next move, I realize I have found the bathroom.
That mirrored box is it.  There are actually two of them, the other one is identical and just across the square.
You cannot see inside from out here but I didn't consider whether someone was INSIDE watching me before I started taking pictures.  Luckily, no one was. 
This is the same chess set from INSIDE the bathroom.  You can see very clearly in all directions.  All the way to the courthouse steps even.
It is clean but industrial inside.
There is information on the web that says there are police monitored cameras in the square to make sure no one does anything to deface the restrooms or to do something to see inside like shine lasers or other kinds of penetrating lights.  I assume to document stolen chess pieces too. 
I stand around inside trying to decide.  Do I?
But then I notice this.  That is a seam between the glass door and the panel that holds it.  It has some weather stripping but still.  Someone could see through that.  It makes no difference that from both inside and outside of the bathroom I can see that there is no other person on foot in the entire square.
Of course that only occurs to me later - when I am well down the road - that if someone had been trying to sneak a peek I would have seen them coming well before their eyeball was trained on me through this tiny crack. 
I go back to my car and text David and send him pictures of the inside and outside.  "I don't think I could go in there" he replies.  I respond, "I went in there but I didn't GO in there."  No fears were conquered in Sulphur Springs.
Time to move along as I am due at a play in Richardson - about an hour and half away - and I have just enough time to get there.  About 30 minutes down the road I am wishing I had been a big girl and gone to the bathroom when I had a chance. 
Driving the Texas back roads isn't always easy for someone with bathroom issues who has had 3 people use her bladder for a waterbed for 9 months apiece.  How much further is it to Richardson?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Redneck Life: Near Missoula, MT

My husband is a redneck.  I'm not the only one who has noticed.  At his previous job it came up numerous times.  You can't go around saying things like "butter my butt and call me a biscuit" and not expect people think something is off.  There was an article on ABC News talking about the top 10 most redneck cities and how they decided the winner.  The winner was Atlanta and it had to do with things like riding lawn mower repair shops, taxidermists, gun & ammo stores and number of WalMart locations.  I've been to Atlanta and I'm not sure how they won.  I really don't know how Dallas-Fort Worth missed the top mark.  Or anyplace in Montana.  We have a taxidermist right next to the Subway restaurant in our town.

David has and does a lot of things that qualify him.  He has guns & ammo.  He likes WalMart.  He loves NASCAR (non-athletic sport centered around rednecks).  He hung a flag in the first window you see when you drive up to our house of a motorcycle.  He formerly dipped snuff.  We have a riding mower.  I am pretty sure I didn't see him dressed in anything other than boots, jeans, a western shirt and a cowboy hat until we had been dating for more than a year.  He had a really old beat up green Ford pickup he drove (and loved) when we first met.  He is proud of the story he tells where he broke off the knob on the radio after setting all of the presets to his favorite country station because he didn't want the girls he dated to change it.  Once, we were driving away from my parent's home when the alternator fell out of truck and started dragging the ground.  Bailing wire and duct tape gave out.

So when I was in a Pennsylvania toy store shopping for my granddaughter and saw the game Redneck Life there on the shelf, I knew we had to have it.

I'm not making this up.  It is a real game.  And yes, I am wearing a flannel shirt.
We have played this a handful of times over the years and one of our friends here asked if we could get together for round two with them.  They are considering giving it as a gift and wanted to remember how it works.  We arrange a party of 7 players, one more than the game technically allows. 
Because the max players the game has pieces for is 6, we had to improvise pieces.  The ladies played with the normal game pieces, the guys used various bullets.
The day before the party, I emailed David and asked if there was anything in particular he wanted me to fix for the party.  (That's to make or to cook for all you non-rednecks and non-Texans.)  He requested "something redneck like those bacon wrapped cocktail weenies".  They are baked in brown sugar and were a big hit when I made them once before.  This seals the whole party theme as redneck, not just the game, so for additional ideas I consult Pinterest and my daughter Amanda. 
Amanda is a certified party planner and I am assuming they covered themed parties, maybe even this one.  She suggests I make moonshine.  I had no idea people still did that but recipes were easy to locate on Pinterest.  You can also enter "redneck food" on that app and it will come up with lots of pins.  I consult my friend and colleague Marci, who has been to a redneck party before.  I ask what is the most redneck food she can think of and she answers "roadkill".  I am suddenly glad Marci lives in Iowa and isn't coming to my party.  As her second suggestion she says "pork rinds" which David loves so that will go on the grocery list.  I am not sure why I didn't think of that myself other than that I was trying to block out some a unpleasant memories.  First, David really likes the hot & spicy pork rinds and once he ate a whole bag while drinking beer right before bed.  About 6 hours later when I was dreaming peaceful dreams, he burped about an inch from my nose.  I almost vomited in the bed.  Second, after my grandpa died we were clearing out some things in his home when I found his old lunchbox.  It was the old fashioned kind and I decided to keep it.  I opened it to find a bunch of photos my dad identified as a "hog boiling". 
This is one of the less awful photos but it is pretty awful.  I don't know who that guy is.  I think he must be one of my dad's step-brothers or someone else related to my grandpa's second wife.  I actually witnessed this scene firsthand once in my grandpa's kitchen sink.  If my younger brother sees this he may need therapy.  I'm not sure he has gotten over the first encounter yet.
Grocery list in hand, I head off to - where else - WalMart.  I am standing in the spice aisle trying to locate cinnamon sticks which I cannot see anywhere.  I am standing next to a woman who is having obvious problems finding what she needs too based on the gesture she makes at the spices.  Not that gesture, she shrugs her shoulders in exasperation.  I say, "I know exactly how you feel."  She asks what I am looking for and it turns out she is also trying to find cinnamon sticks.  We finally locate them on the very top shelf and I reach down several containers for us.  She turns to me and says, "You wouldn't happen to know where the apple cider is would you?"  I said, "Are you making moonshine?"  Of course, she is.  She also wants to know where I got my Everclear.
I have to confess, the recipe didn't call for Everclear.  It said something like "180 proof grain alcohol".  I am a teetotaler and have no idea what that means.  My friend Tim is an ex-bartender and he tells me it is Everclear.  The lady at the liquor store has to help me find it.  When she asks what I need it for and I tell her - and that I also need vodka - she says to go cheap on the grain alcohol and spend more on the vodka.  Those red areas on the label are all about the high flammability of this product.  I am really glad I don't drink because I am pretty sure I don't want to drink something that has the same label warnings as paint thinner.
Back at home I turn on Pandora to the Outlaw Country station and cook moonshine and Spam and dump cake while listening to Waylon and Willie and David Allan Coe and CDB.  If you don't know who CDB is then you probably aren't a redneck (or married to one).

The game Redneck Life is pretty similar to the regular game Life with a few twists.  You still get a job and collect paydays and get married and have kids.  But you might have the kids before you get married.  And you will get divorced and remarried (at which point you must decide whether you will sleep with your divorce attorney - a decision which may have negative consequences later but saves you $50 at the time).  You have to ensure that your "rig" (car) or collective rigs have enough space to hold all of your young 'ens.  If at any time your young 'ens exceed the capacity of said rigs, you must buy another immediately. 
These are cards from our game of my favorite house (on the left) and my favorite rig.  I like the RV because it holds 15 young 'ens, which is usually (but not always) enough AND, if your house is destroyed in a tornado or explosion as mine was, you can live in it.
In this version of the game you roll the dice to see how many years of school you finished and that dictates your occupation.  Unfortunately, I manage to be fairly consistent every time we play with a roll of 5 which makes me the Ciggy Shack Attendant.  The problem with this is that if the Ciggy Shack is destroyed, which has happened to me twice now, you do not collect any more paydays throughout the game.  It doesn't matter if it happens at the beginning or the end, you are just screwed.  I think I missed about 5 paydays this time around.  This is made worse by the fact that you aren't issued any money to begin the game.  When you buy that rig or that home, as you are required to do, you are issued Check 'n Scrams which is sort of like a payday loan.  These come in $100 increments and we have run out so many times that we had to write in $500 on some.
The object of the game is to end with the most teeth.  You lose teeth in various ways, opening beer bottles, flossing, having bar brawls, coming home at the "wrong 5 o'clock" and so on.  At the "Day of Reckonin'n" which is the end of the game for you, you can buy back teeth for $100 if you have money or you lose one tooth for each $100 you are in debt.
I lost half of my 28 teeth during the game.  The rest, with the line through them, were lost at the end due to debt and I actually needed 10 more to cover all of my debt.  If you are noticing that my young 'ens have the same name a lot of the time, that isn't my doing.  All of your stepkids, which you will absolutely have, are named Daryl.  All other kids are either named when they are issued or you roll the dice for their name.  You lose $10 of your payday for each kid which, after my Daryl's didn't matter since the Ciggy Shack was "blowed up" and I was unemployed.  It is possible to lose your kids in various ways throughout the game (giving them to relatives, other players, leaving them at the Grand Canyon) but this hurts a little at the end when you get $25 per young 'en.  When we played this game with our son, he had so many kids he had to write the rest on the back of the score sheet.
Our winner was Kim, who incidentally had a TON of young 'ens, and we had the perfect prize waiting for her:
A regifted 70's jumpsuit blinged out Elvis nutcracker.  We have had this forever and I can't even remember now where it came from or who gave it to David.  And don't get me wrong, I love Elvis, even saw him in concert with my parents when I was a little girl.  Kim seemed happy with her prize.  We invited her to bring it back next year to pass along to the next winner.  This may have to be an annual event.  Like a NASCAR race.
Our guests are sent home with a large mason jar full of Apple Pie Moonshine and an tin filled with "redneck turtle candy" (pretzels with melted Rolo candy and a pecan half on top).  I think the party was a success.  One of our guests even inquired about the possibility of refills on his moonshine.
I like to think that David is the redneck and I am not.  But after the party while cleaning up I had to put away my birthday present he had given me earlier that day, something I had actively lobbied for.
My new tomahawk will perfectly balance the hunter's belt I wear when we are hiking.  I have a machete I wear on the other side.
And then I went in David's bathroom to get changed for bed.  No Victoria's Secret here.  David is just as happy to see me slopping around in a men's flannel nightshirt.
I forgot I hung up the washing earlier. 
So maybe I am a little bit redneck. You can't be married to someone for 25+ years and not have something rub off.
But I will always be the redneck that served the Slim Jim's in a china gravy boat. 
And that, my friends, makes me a redneck in a class all by myself.