Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Trip to Austin, Texas. Pt. 4

I see a lot of Muslims in downtown Austin. I think that if I was an Arab I might not be too happy with the idea of moving to Texas. Austin might be okay, though. Or these folk might be Muslims from India or Pakistan. I have not wanted to intrude to ask.

Across the street from where I am seated is a bronze statue of a woman caught in action firing what looks like a field cannon, a small-bore artillery piece. She has pioneer-woman's hair. She appears to be about to shove what looks like nothing so much as a lit cigar into the cannon's touchhole. The artist gave her a sturdy body, her heavy breasts as large as basketballs, her hips wide as axe-handles are long. This is a woman who has given birth, several times if I'm any judge of pioneer women. 

So... look, to get you where I'm planning to go with this, I guess you need some background. So here it is.

When Mom and Dad took my brothers and me to visit our grandparents in Fairland, Okla., I hooked up with a bunch of town kids my age who were out of school for the summer, and were, as is common among boys on the cusp of puberty, up to no good.

 We tossed a lit M-80 into the muzzle of the city park's memorial cannon. An M-80 is a very large firecracker, and when that thing went off it made the loudest sound I'd ever heard in my life. Smoke and flame shot at least 20 feet from the cannon's mouth. Right at Mrs. Baumgartner's house across the street.

Of course, I didn't know that it was Mrs. Baumgartner's house but immediately after the blast, an angry woman with iron-colored hair banged open the screen door and stepped out onto the front porch and glared at us, her fists on her hips.

"Oh shit, it's Mrs. Baumgartner." The oldest kid blurted. The respected and feared Mrs. Baumgartner is what the tone of his voice said.

A brief standoff. The stunned kids looking across the street at the startled and upset woman. Then every one of us quickly reached the realization that any kid too slow or unlucky enough to get caught would be fingered by the others not only as the ringleader who proposed and carried out the idea, but, more-damningly, as the boy who brought the M-80. A charge impossible to disprove.

Every man of us cravenly abandoned the others to their own fates. We broke, and scattered.

I didn't get caught. But word about the incident got around town and my grandmother interrogated me about the illegal fireworks, the charge of disturbing the peace, the vandalism of city property, and even more ominously, an additional charge of vandalism to a war memorial.

I denied everything.

The bronze statue of an angry woman stabbing fire into the touchhole of the cannon with her stogie looks like Shrek's wife, Princess Fiona...a very, very angry Fiona. She also reminds me a little of Mrs. Baumgartner.

I guess that's the story. It doesn't seem right that it took me so many words to tell it. I'm sure a better writer could write a more interesting article about the lady with the cannon than this, and in fewer words.

My brother wrote to ask how I'm enjoying Austin. He's no fool, he doesn't read my blog. Here's what I wrote to him.
Actually I've been having a lovely time! I have a lovely window seat facing the main downtown thoroughfare. There are trees and a great volume and diversity of people and metro buses and cars. I am comfortable in this coffee house. I have good books to read, the espresso and food are inexpensive and excellent, the music loud and cheerful and young. There are no waiters to prod customers along keep moving, nothing to see here.
So all and all, it's turned out to be one of the most relaxing vacations I've had. I've just been blogging and posting messages and enjoying writing as a pastime for a pleasant day.
It's a fun hobby, blogging. But my readers, man, they pay the price. They pay the price.

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