The Power and the Glory – The American Dream — up and down, ying and yang – all in one day, while Bitsy visits friends.

The pasture was silvery with frost under the early morning moon as I stopped to roll a fresh bale of Texas coastal hay out of my little white car to feed the horses. By the time I get to Austin, I thought, most of the little bits of hay will brush off my hair and slacks. Austin knows from nothing anyhow. A 20-mile perimeter around the town has fallen under the concrete, friends are gone and the air is worse than anything I ever met in Southern California. And off I went.

First my face turned red. It always does that when the air is filled with toxins. Next thing, my ears started to ring and then hurt and and then pop, and then they wouldn’t pop. And then we added a new symptom of the chemical smog. As we entered what I’m thinking of as the “cloud of evil,” it looked like ordinary dust, but I could feel my brain disconnecting communication from my eyes. Like — I could see what to do but had to try very hard to actually do it. Driving. In traffic. Rush hour.

I was contemplating what this might do to the developing brains of the millions of babies who are raised up breathing such toxins, when we drove out of the cloud of evil and arrived almost immediately at a new ramp someone created in formerly empty space, and with approximately half a second to choose I had to decide right or left, guided by a sign that listed two places I never heard of before, and shunted us off north, instead of south (now wouldn’t you think they could have mentioned that on the sign?) and spit us out into about ten lanes of rush hour traffic.

So it took about an hour to get turned around, figure out how to get on 35 headed south, and (I really DO KNOW WHERE I AM GOING if they would stop changing it) taking the correct off-ramp, drive up MLK to the top of the hill, pull to the right around the new (brand name omitted) Conference Center.

130131-IHHouston-asc_2237SsThere was a parking lot right in front of my face, I pulled in just as another pulled out and went over to figure out how to pay $10 for 24 hours, which is not a bad price in Austin, put the ticket on the dash and ran into the building, arriving exactly on time for the Adobe Lightroom course, given by Kelbytraining.com, which I need because I signed up for a more advance course at Santa Fe Photographic, pre-requisite that I be comfortable with Photoshop and Lightroom. I have used every version of Lightroom, pre-publication, but gave up every time trying to make it seem useful. So this is my treat to myself. Plus they added a brush that changes things.

The course was excellent, but the room was a festival of toxic fumes emanating from about 400 or 500 people (perfume and whatnot) as well as the chemicals the hotel puts into the air in an attempt to separate your sense of smell from your brain so you won’t know you are surrounded by that festival of toxic fumes. So I was standing up in back, trying to get a breath of clean air. (The air was MUCH fresher in the smoking area.) No point complaining; I knew what to expect and was not surprised. But here’s the thing, this instructor sitting clear across the ballroom, apparently noticed me standing there and called someone to unobtrusively ask me if I didn’t have a seat. I said yes, explained, and the hotel A/C came on in a few minutes so I was able to return to my seat in the back row, where I got what I came for. Excellent instruction from Mr. Kos-low-ski.

There seems to be no food at the new (brand name omitted) Conference Center for someone on a half-hour break. They have two gourmet eateries, where I got an excellent cup of coffee, found a bag of peanuts, but as 5 pm approached after 5 hours of instruction, I was EXHAUSTED. Sometimes I forget I am an OLD PERSON. So I asked the (brand name omitted) Conference Center how much it would cost me to just crash there overnight before heading home. $250. As I said, Austin knows from nothing.

130131-IHHouston-asc_2245LsSo a friendly co-student gave me a little map of how to get out of Austin the other way, and I went out to my car, which did not start. Another friendly co-student jumped the car, he knew what he was doing and did it well, and off I drove feeling guilty because he was still trying to put HIS car back together, and got lost again in rush hour traffic by getting into the wrong lane and then assuming that Riverside is on the north side of the river, which it is not. I think I was on Cesar Chavez. The road was clearly familiar, though I couldn’t remember why, and was much more friendly than 35, so I kept on going, ended up crossing the river almost in front of the Austin Hostelling International (www.HIAustin.org), stopped and went in and had the best night’s sleep in the cleanest air in the cleanest facility in Austin unless I miss my guess. Nothing toxic except the air itself. And so then I drove home, the sky becoming bluer as I approached the Brazos Valley, my ears beginning to un-swell, my eyes and brain back to normal.

And then just as my little white car reached the Brazos river, a bright yellow airplane swooped low overhead, completing its turn before going back to spraying some kind of poison over the spring crops that will eventually end up on your breakfast table.

Moral: If you are going to Austin, take a plane, rent a car and stay at the International Hostelling. It’s at a pretty spot on the river, only a few miles from the airport, is very clean, and the people know up from down.

Moral #2: If you want to travel anyplace else in Texas, there is a bus company offering a promotion. $1 to anyplace. Nice big bus with internet access. That’s what my roommate was doing. But I was VERY VERY TIRED and missed the name of the bus company.

Moral #3: There are lot’s and lots of nice people, even in Austin.

Moral #4: When your hunger finally talks you into stopping at McDonalds for a burger – and they WON’T SERVE YOU A BURGER, and you walk out laughing hysterically because the world has flipped upside down, and when the employees don’t get the joke – you know it’s all over.

Moral #5: When you are staying at the hostel and they serve pancakes – eat.


Recommended Reading
:
Poisoning our Children. Nancy Sokol Green

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