Posts Tagged ‘Arkansas’

We had dinner at Luby’s in Port Arthur this evening. Luby’s has been a Texas institution since its founding in 1947 in San Antonio. Today, the Houston-based company has 103 cafeteria-style diners scattered across Texas, including one in Arkansas and two in Oklahoma.

Beyond Texas, Luby’s is largely unknown or unremembered. Luby’s achieved world-wide exposure in 1991 when George Hennard walked into a Luby’s in Killeen, Texas, and gunned down 24 people. The episode is referred to as Luby’s massacre in some sources. However, Luby’s rebounded and grew, although the site of the murders in Killeen was closed permanently in 2000.

Today’s menu of Luby’s family-oriented chain is classic Texas-Southern. After a diner selects a tray and eating utensils at the beginning of the line, he or she has a wide choice of salads, vegetables, entrees as varied as Cuban-style Tilapia, and desserts. The Tilapia surprised me because it’s a game fish native to Africa that is often regarded as an invasive species in locations such as Hawaii, where it gained a foothold in the lakes and streams on Oahu, largely pushing aside Bass and pan fish. I’ve eaten Tilapia but it wasn’t to my taste. However, to each his own.

At any rate, I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy meal, so I selected a vegetable platter of spicy pinto beans, corn, and fried okra. Along with my Spartan selection, I opted for a slice of custard pie and a glass of milk. If that doesn’t holler Texas Cajun, I don’t know what does.

The Port Arthur Luby’s is a relatively new diner but it has already become a gathering spot for local notables. My dinner companion seemed to know them all.  The moment we sat down, he bobbed up about five times in quick succession to greet someone. Of course, I had to stand also for introductions, and at one point I wondered if the moon would rise and set before we completed our meal.

But then the Mayor of Port Arthur, Deloris “Bobby” Prince, stopped by our table and chatted for a few minutes. She had recently won a bruising re-election battle and was in good spirits. She has a sterling reputation for honesty and is noted for her efforts on behalf of Port Arthur’s poor and disadvantaged.

The most common adjectives I heard applied to her were “honest” and “kind.”  I immediately thought that American politics could profit from a healthy dose of honesty and kindness among its Lying Class. It’s difficult to put aside thoughts of lying scoundrels, even in a nice, pleasant atmosphere.

After we finished our meal, my dinner companion piled me into a Toyota Tacoma and gave me a grand tour of the latest mall. The town of Port Arthur is growing by leaps and bounds, fueled by the refineries churning out their petroleum-based products twenty-four seven. An influx of workers and oil industry consultants has resulted in the new construction of malls, standalone stores, motels, and restaurants.  Yet, it seems most people head for Wal-Mart as a first stop.

Although the central part of Port Arthur is a severely decaying slum, life in other parts of the city is about like life in Little Rock, Sacramento, Portland, and Honolulu. The moon rises and sets over all of them. Folks work, shop, eat, and play. Only the wardrobes and accents differ.


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I’ve always taken solace in the small things in life, the things that anchor my existence and tell me that all is well with the world. Such a thing buoyed my spirits this morning after my first cup of coffee.

I followed my usual morning routine, shower, mundane middle-America jeans and tee shirt, coffee, turn on tv, boot up desktop, start sipping and listening and browsing. I fully expected to hear from CNN or read in Google’s newsfeed that the world was on the brink of collapse and only Jesus Christ could save it.

But no. Jesus is too ordinary. His name doesn’t evoke heroism, merely a continuing wonder about how the meek are going to inherit the Earth. I have my doubts about that, although I concede sheer numbers may someday raise the meek to a position of strength.

No, at this moment we do not need a Jesus. We need a…a…a…a Chuck Norris, by God! And we’ve got him. Help is on the way. The little thing that brought me solace this morning was a tiny headline stuck way down in the on-line version of the Washington Post. It read “The GOP’s New Savior.”

Wait. Don’t leave me yet. There’s more.

Right beside the headline as big as life (well, not quite) was a picture of Chuck Norris.

You may ask, and rightly so, who gives a crap about the survival of the GOP. Certainly, I do not. But Chuck Norris riding to the rescue is a matter of world-shaking consequence. A GOP revitalized would be a hazard to our health, a biological and environmental catastrophe, a catastrophe to end all catastrophes, the Mother of Catastrophes.

And therein is my dilemma. I have always liked Chuck. He’s this kid from Oklahoma, an ex-Air Force sergeant who taught movie stars the finer points of self-defense, and who eventually became a bigger star than most of those he taught.

And his television show, Walker Texas Ranger, was one of my favorites. I even listed it on my Facebook page.

That was before he endorsed Mike Huckabee in the preceding presidential primary. Huck is a fine guitar player and a master of quips and zingers. But a president? Puleeze. Sorry if I’m insulting people from Arkansas, but that’s just the way it is. We’ve had one president from Hope. That’s enough.

At any rate, when Chuck lined up with Matt, I began to question my own political judgment and taste in movie stars. I even stopped watching Walker, totally confused about my identity. Could I live in my self-created logic-tight brain? I finally decided, no. I discontinued my association with Chuck and Huck and declared my fidelity to the Democratic candidate who, I fervently hoped, would be Barack Obama.

And that was that. Until this morning. When Chuck’s picture mysteriously appeared.

So, where’s my solace?

Chuck doesn’t stand (a) (the)—help me out here grammarians— chance of a snowball in hell of resurrecting the Republican Party.

Not even the personal intervention of The Intelligent Designer could breathe life back into the tired old bromides that have sustained the party of disunity for so long.

All’s well with the world after all.

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Okay, so GQ Magazine has selected Justin Timberlake to head its list of the Top 10 Most Stylish Men in America. GQ’s on-line version has a shot of Justy looking suitably sexy, if you can call ducking your chin and gazing up at the camera with a sort of a moonie-eyed look calculated to make women swoon and men admire his savoir faire, sexy. His image is enhanced by a black suit jacket, white dress shirt and pale blue polka-dotted tie. Oh, and a little accent, a hint of a folded handkerchief tucked neatly into the right-side pocket of his jacket. He appears to have his hands casually stuck in his pants pockets, but that is unknown because the photo is cropped at the waist. He could be wearing a one-piece jock strap below the jacked as far as we know.

The problem with Justin’s entire image is that no one ever wears the kind of clothes depicted in GQ and on the other side in Ellle and Vogue. I have never in my entire life ever seen a man or a woman dressed in the manner of a fop or its feminine equivalent. Most of the people on Earth are generics, people like me who may rate a 5 on that well-known scale. And they dress generic, too.

Take my life-long wardrobe, for example.

Since the third grade, my preferred dress—my only dress—has been a tee shirt and jeans in temperate weather and a sweatshirt and jeans when the chill sets in. The tee shirt is usually white sans logo, tucked under my beltless jeans, but recently, I have begun to collect shirts with messages on them, like “U.S, Naval Academy,” and “Lewis and Clark College.” These have no meaning other than to display my maleness in the case of the Academy shirt and my feminine side with L&C. And I’ve also begun to vary the colors. Now, I switch between robin’s egg-blue, light tan, gray, and black.

With the fall weather, I defer to a sweatshirt, usually gray but occasionally black. No whites. White is not a sweatshirt color. Only one of my shirts has a logo, one that someone gave me, with a neat Reebok stitched over the left breast. This is my only concession to identifying marks.

Except once, before constant wear caused it to rot, I wore a Texas tee-shirt, a beautiful, light, off-brown color with a small saddle and the words “Texas Lone Star State” over the left breast and a larger version of the same logo on the back. Whenever I flew from places like Honolulu to Dallas, I’d wear the shirt and everyone wanted to talk to me. One young girl stood in front of me and in apparent amazement said, “You look just like my Uncle Bob.”

And in a mall in Annapolis, some guy spotted me in a bookstore and seemed enthralled. He worked his way to my aisle and stood beside me, sneaking glances in my direction and even moving outside when I left. The funny thing is, he never said a word, just looked at me and my tee-shirt.

But the oddest reception my Texas tee-shirt received was in Arkansas. I put it on one morning before my cousin and I left for shopping in WaMart but the minute she saw it, she said, “Boy, you don’t want to wear that around here. These people hate Texans. They don’t even like any kind of shirt with anything on it, nothing, nada, no Nike, no nothing. They’ll think you’re a stuck up snob.” She was kind of breathless at the end, but I decided to wear it anyway. No one said anything, but they looked at me in a strange sort of way and I’m sorry I embarrassed my cousin.

Yes, I’ve occasionally worn a suit and tie but that was on the infrequent occasions when I was actively engaged in socially acceptable work attire. But I was distinctly uncomfortable and shucked everything in favor of my regular wardrobe the minute I returned home.

The third item in my lifelong wardrobe is a pair of jeans. In my birth country, we called them blue jeans and rolled them up a couple of turns at the cuff. The jeans were loose-legged and lighter in weight and color than Levis. The latter became my jeans of choice in California and remain so today. Only in California, we never washed our Levis. We permitted them to become saturated with accumulated layers of grease and oil until they could stand alone. I fully expected them to go up in flames caused by spontaneous combustion.

My only capitulation to style was an aviator-style leather jacket with the collar turned up. But even that didn’t last long when the weather turned cold. I usually wore a generic brown jacket that I bought at a Sears in Hollywood. Later, when I needed an even heavier jacket, I picked up an earth-gray waist length jacket filled with down or something that kept me reasonably comfortable.

Which brings me back to Justin. He looks distinctly uncomfortable in his GQ duds. I have a hunch he doesn’t command a lot of attention when he walks down the street. That is the death knell for a Hollywood star of his stature. I have a suggestion. Buy a Texas tee-shirt. But avoid Arkansas.

Short Addendum. I’ve always worn shoes, but to tell the truth, I never actually looked at them.

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