On Tuesday, I had lunch at my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in the world, which happens to be located five minutes from my house. My favorite barbecue joint is maybe another minute beyond that. There’s a terrific pizza-and-burger joint nearby as well. Manchaca, Texas is a near-paradise in this regard. And we just got a deli, so I’ll have to check that out. If it’s any good, I may never leave this ZIP code again.
In the booth next to mine at the Tex-Mex joint, two gentlemen were having an animated conversation in Russian. One of them sounded pissed-off about something, but I could be wrong about that. Anyone speaking Russian always sounds a little pissed-off to me. (Ditto if they’re speaking German.) (Or English.)
I had never heard anyone in Manchaca conversing in Russian before. Our two most common languages around here are Spanish and GoodOlBoy. So as I was leaving, I thought about pausing beside the two gentlemen and welcoming them to Central Texas, since they obviously weren’t from around here. But at the moment when I might have done that, one of them was gesturing with a crushed quesadilla. So I kept walking.
Now, if I had actually stopped and spoken with them, what would I have said after welcoming them to this small chunk of the world?
Well, I might have asked the same question the restaurant host had asked as he’d seated me. He’d seen that I was carrying the new issue of Rolling Stone — with B.B. King, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Carlos Santana, Buddy Guy, and a few others on the cover — and he’d asked me:
“You know what happened yesterday, right?”
Oh, yeah. I knew. So he and I commiserated over it for a few minutes.
And later, as I left the restaurant, I found myself profoundly satisfied to live where I live.
It ain’t perfect, and there are too many born-again churches and Bush/Cheney bumper stickers for my personal taste. But on the other hand —
It’s a place with tremendous brisket and chimichangas. It’s a place that now has at least three conversational languages (four, if you count Baptist). It’s a place where the veterinarian knows the names of all your dogs, both living and passed-on, and buys your books to boot. It’s a place where harp legend James Cotton sometimes shows up at the local bar just to jam with whoever’s playing that night. It’s a place where black buzzards stand guard on cell-phone towers, protecting the community from the Evil Dead. It’s a place where the volunteer fire department serves breakfast five days a week.
It’s a place where we’re glad there was a Bo Diddley.
You know what happened Monday, right?
And if you answered “Yes” to that question, here’s another one to answer just for yourself:
“Who Do You Love?”