There’s one vegetarian in Texas…

It is not very easy to be vegetarian in our traditional part of Texas.  Not only do we rear cattle but the original settlers were mostly German.  I laughed out loud when I saw this Stop sign a few hundred yards from my house.  Graffiti usually annoys me but this was clever and funny!  Although more flexi than veggie, I rarely cook meat and many of the local restaurants balk at me asking for the steak flatbread, for example, with no steak.  My weakness is real ham….  Every Saturday I have a ham and cheese Arepa at our local brunch place – they smoke their own ham.

Longhorn steer

The Germans have been joined by a very diverse group of immigrants including many from Latin America thus the Arepa – maize based flatbread.  We live in a very tight series of cul-de-sacs with traffic circles.  To stop trucks and school buses churning up the corner, our HOA has put cobbles and more large boulders to deter them.  Do you think the vegetarian created this zen stacked rock cairn?

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The Dystopian State of Texas – 2038

My favorite reading genre is science fiction.  This is just a tale of the future inspired by current events.  It is written in the first person.

Map key

Red line – fortified wall between Texas and Mexico

Green line – almost impenetrable forest between Texas and The Louisiana Wasteland

Gray dotted line – new El Paso territory

It has been 15 years since Imperator Trump became leader of the New American Federation.  No longer the 50 United States but some 30 disparate states, many with new boundaries and names.  In 2018 we were unaware that medical and DNA facilities were collating data about our ethnicity.  Under the guise of scientific advancement, the government had colluded with the data gatherers to make America as white as possible.  Anyone with 85% white or Caucasian genes was reclassified as Pure Citizens.  All others were no longer citizens but subjects; in a caste system.  On rare occasions, subjects could pass as citizens but dare not procreate for fear of recessive genetics.  The caste system is not truly based on darkness of color but your worth to this new society.

A Nigerian doctor might be part of Caste #1 but a Guatemalan farmer could be Caste #4.  Many people of color fled after rezoning to Free States such as those in the Pacific West (formerly known as California, Oregon and Washington) or to other continents.  Curiously, white Neo-Nazis from Northern Europe and Argentina flocked to immigrate to New America and they were welcomed by Imperator Trump.  No one dare call him any other name but they can’t control our thoughts.  I am now an old woman stuck in a country I despise, the country of my birth and ancestors.  Despite my mixed blood, I have 85% Caucasian genes and look as fair as any Aryan.  My hair is snow white, my faded dark blue eyes are cloudy and my skin as fair as milk.  I am treated with veneration to my disgust; for safety I smile at all the compliments and kindness.  Even monsters have some capacity for good, don’t they?

Those subjects who were unable to escape New America now live in ghettos.  Some are better than others; just old suburban areas but clearly differentiated.  No one from Caste #1 can marry, live or have a relationship with someone in Caste #4, for example.  Two doctors of different color in Caste #1 can marry even if one is of Chinese ethnicity and the other Mexican.  To the white citizens, they are all less than pure.  The 85%, as we are known, live in fully armed and gated communities.  A very few are similar to the Mar-a-Lago estates of the old days.  Fort Trump is an example with multi-million dollar homes, gilded from top to bottom.  Imperator style is ornate and gaudy; like one of Imperator Trump’s many casinos.

When the states separated, I hoped that democracy would prevail in Texas but “Make America White” struck a chord in a Republican State.  El Paso had always been blue and was able to create a new territory which is governed and protected by Mexico.  New Mexico, mostly Hispanic, is a Protectorate of Mexico.  Oklahoma and Arkansas merged into what they once were – Indian Territories. In this strange new world, Native Americans have retained power and sovereignty but are not Citizens.  Louisiana is a wasteland; devastated by flooding, hurricanes and poverty.  It has become a disease ridden swamp that only Cajuns and other indigenous people can survive in.

Houston too did not survive the vagaries of the increasingly turbulent weather systems.  The coastline has retreated further north and Galveston has reverted back to a sliver of sandbar.  New Houston has taken the place of Austin as State Capitol.  It is a grim city with no rainbows or sunshine.  It is full of dangerous ghettos as is South City formerly known as San Antonio.  All Spanish words are banned, so Amarillo was renamed Yellow City, a literal translation.  Many times over the years I wished I had kept my Spanish maiden name but a white name kept me safe.  I whisper it under my breath to remind myself of who I am.

So why didn’t I escape to Mexico or Pacific West?  By the time I realized that Texas would succumb, I was a widow and too frail.  I live in the Big Thicket in the same house that I always did.  The forest has encroached and the roads are barely passable.  The ocean is much closer than it used to be and you can smell the ozone on the breeze.  Since I was stuck inside the New Federation and inconspicuous, I have secretly volunteered for the Underground Railroad.  We are close to the Louisiana border and despite the danger many people are willing to brave their lives just for a chance at freedom.  Small boats are guided through swamps by the Cajun Navy until they reach open water.  If they are lucky a refugee rescue boat will attempt to take them to safety.

I laugh bitterly because all we used to worry about was a wall.

 

Katniss has Help…

Katniss playing

This post is an excuse to tell you some random stories and wish everyone Happy Easter, Passover, Pagan spring thing or whatever.  I hope you enjoy scampering naked through a field of wildflowers, eating too much chocolate or going to your church.

Katniss has Help…

As most of you know, we have a feral cat who visits twice a day for dinner.  We named her Katniss and have a collection of little plates just for her.  Rabies is quite common in Texas so I am very careful to separate Katniss’s plates from Toffee’s (our indoors cat from Egypt).  I am also lazy and end up with a pile of dirty dishes after a few days.  Then I will put them in a bucket of soapy, bleachy water to soak and then will clean them.  A week ago, I forgot to finish my task and left the bucket outside overnight.  I sleep with industrial ear plugs because Teddy really snores like a bear.  He commented in the morning that he wondered what the raccoons had been doing in the night (how could he hear anything over the snoring?)  He said that it sounded like they were breaking something and were chittering noisily.  Later on, I remembered my bucket and went out to do the dishes but someone had beaten me to it.  I looked at the bucket quizzically because the saucers were all placed tidily alongside.  I burst out laughing when I realized that the raccoons had ‘washed’ the dishes for me.  They are very smart little critters who love playing with water.  They will dip toys in the water as well as their food.  Our neighbor found them swimming in her pool one night, chittering happily.  I wondered if I should get them a toy kitchen.

The Help

The back-handed insult

St Mary’s Catholic Church
Brenham

I will be volunteering on Easter Sunday, as usual, and my doctor refers to it as my church service.  I love that idea and the next time a rude customer asks me if I have nothing better to do on a Sunday, I will say I am at my church doing something more useful than singing hymns.   Last week a pleasant older lady asked me where I was born (Scottish accent).  I told her the long story short – Californian Irish Mexican hybrid.  She looked at me carefully and then said, “You are a beautiful woman” “You don’t look a bit Mexican”.   I really didn’t know how to respond to that ‘compliment quickly followed by insult’.

The real compliment

Bluebonnets by the side of the highway

On my recent trip to the Texas countryside, I was driving along the major route between Houston and Austin.  The speed limit is 75 miles per hour but in Texas we read that as 85 or more; it is some kind of state dyslexia…  I noticed a group of cars had stopped on the side of the road and then saw the reason – BLUEBONNETS!!  To my own astonishment, I slowed down and did exactly the same.  Every Texan gets excited about our wildflower season but bluebonnets are an indigenous little blue Lupine that sets our hearts aflame.  Here is a link to a previous funny post about Bluebonnets.  After acting like an idiot on the road, I noticed a field of them next to my hotel which was near a super Walmart and, even better, A THRIFT STORE!  Kerry was in heaven, both with bluebonnets and cheap clothes.  It was a treasure trove with rich ranchers’ cast offs.  One top still had the ticket on it – $50 for $5.  At the desk, the young girl tentatively asked me if I was over 55 (30% senior discount) and I brought out my driving license (yes, they really gave me one).  She said that I didn’t look 55.  As I related this story to my colleagues later they expressed surprise at my real age and willingness to admit it in this age obsessed society.  Again I burst out laughing – I just told them I shopped at thrift stores so why hide my age.  Dang it, I would do pretty much anything for a 30% discount…

Katniss with snowflakes

Too cold for a sub tropical cat!

Most of you know that we have an inside cat and an outside cat. Katniss (the outside cat) is utterly feral and I can’t touch her (so is the inside cat…). We live in the sub tropics and she normally uses my deck as shade but the weather is crazy right now. Here she is with some snowflakes in her dense black fur. She complained bitterly to me but doesn’t believe that I am only the Goddess of tinned food, not the weather.   Fortunately, I have been feeding her like a Christmas Goose and she has a nice layer of blubber.  Houston has just closed for two days because of a ridiculous cold front. It went down to single digits (F) in some places.

Here are icicles still frozen on my bush.

Icicles!

I drove to the airport today and it was scary to see how much ice there had been. Not only do we not have the capacity to deal with this kind of weather but none of us know how to drive in it. I learned to drive in Texas so my only skills are driving fast (breaking fast when I spot state troopers), avoiding flash floods and parking under the only tree in the summer.

Poor cold aloe

Even my poor little Aloe Vera is completely frozen. About 10 years ago I planted an inch of aloe and it grew and grew like Topsy. I hope she survives this freak ice storm.  Teddy flew to Oklahoma (I always burst into song when I say that) and it will be even colder there, brrrrr!  I am desperate to share my adventure in Mexico with y’all amigos but am too tired to do it justice. Next week…

Until then, keep warm my friends.

Snow in the subtropics!

My street

I was just about to take some photographs of our late autumn foliage when this happened.  The last time we had snow was in 2009 so it is a big event.  Everyone gets a bit silly when we get snow and the mechanics at the auto shop had been throwing snowballs.  My next door neighbor’s daughter, who has grown up with us, is now very tall and at university.  She created this miniature snowman.

Snowman!

Last week I told my girlfriends that it was going to snow this week.  I doubt they believed me.  My sixth sense has been hyper recently and I had a premonition of my death.  Nothing awful – just that it would be my lungs.  I had the last rites when I was a baby (lungs full of fluid), so I am good to go! 😇  Yesterday I drove downtown in the most awful weather, icy rain, crazy drivers and a warning light on my car.  I was working outside and remarked to my colleague that snow was coming.  He didn’t believe me either.  As I drove back home in the same conditions, I noticed that odd look that the sky has when snow is in the clouds.  Just a faint hint of pink with a heaviness to the clouds.  All those years living in the north of Scotland has honed my Farmer’s Almanac skills.

My Japanese Yew and Mountain Laurel

Some of my plants are suited for a wide range of weather including these two buddies but some tropical plants look overwhelmed.  Katniss blames me for all weather events and has been hissing at me this week.   Just call me Freya…  Today, at her first sight of snow, she had no words but later wailed at me for the cold.  There is a lovely deck to shelter under and she has a thick, glossy coat.

A.W.O.L.

Random photo of Teddy standing dressed as Ace Halloween 2009

Another random photo of me dressed as a naughty school girl. It backfired because everyone thought I was someone’s daughter!

The strange thing about blogging is that you feel a responsibility to followers and friends.  I have been absent without leave for a few weeks and can’t help but feel guilty about it.  Like most of us, life has intervened into my usual routine and I have been a little frazzled.  Lots of new contract work has kept me busy but my mind has been blank despite all the opportunities for people watching.  I wondered if my health was deteriorating but my psychiatrist seems happy with me – I had some wonky blood results (that’s a clinical term…) which raised anxiety levels.  My cholesterol levels shot up but my inflammatory markers that indicate plaque, risk of stroke or heart attack were good.  My extended Irish family has a huge file on our family risk of heart problems in the main hospital in Dublin, so I have always been proactive about eating well and exercising.  But I can’t think of anything nicer than a baked potato smothered in butter…

Then I had a skin biopsy.  My dermatologist just went straight to the point – “I am taking a biopsy to check for basal skin cancer”.  Yes, it also appears in the Irish family – dang those genetics.  Why couldn’t they just leave me money in their will??  I didn’t truly enjoy my short vacation in San Diego which is why I haven’t blogged, although looking back there were some lovely moments including finding ancestors graves.  The news has just been so awful that I have started watching Fixer Upper instead of CNN.  We finally got around to ordering a new door after Hurricane Harvey only to have the wrong one delivered…  Teddy wondered if I made a fuss but there was no point; many of our residents have lost everything.

One of my friends housed their neighbors whose house was flooded.  The children just moved back last week and my friend was sad – what a beautiful person she is.  All of my contract work dried up immediately after the hurricane because no-one was able to or wanted to hold conferences in Houston.  One of my employees had a wee party for their staff in the garden of the office.  It was so much fun and I won the raffle for 4 tickets to Kemah which is our equivalent of Coney Island.  Well, I have no kids and don’t know anyone who has apart from my angel friend.  Apparently her neighbor was overwhelmed that a complete stranger would give them a gift.  No one could have felt happier than me, paying it forward feels good.

Two of the events that I have worked for recently have incorporated the conference contributing or volunteering to the Houston Food Bank.  Thank you!  One day when I was working at the airport, I helped a volunteer by translating for a passenger who only spoke Spanish (then three more turned up).  After that, I was still standing there when two men came up and said very loudly and incomprehensibly, “Haw Missus, how do ye get out of this airport?”  The volunteer looked perplexed.  Was it Serbo-Croat or Icelandic?  I recognized the accent from Glasgow in Scotland where I grew up.  Laughingly, I said, “Come over here boys!” Their faces lit up when they heard my (much posher, think Maggie Smith) Glasgow accent.  One of them had his arms wide open and said, “Gie us a cuddle” which I did and the other one hugged from the other side, kissing my ear.  I sent them on their way and laughed at the look of horror on the elegant volunteer’s face.  They were either oilmen or mariners who had travelled from some far flung place, Kazakhstan perhaps?  A few refreshments had been imbibed but there was nothing sexual about the cuddle.  It was one of kinship and comfort in a strange place.  Gosh, I felt homesick for the first time in years that day.  Despite all the turmoil recently, Texas mostly feels like home.

Get ready for some fun blogs and sorry for my absence.

 

Hurricane Harvey – please go away

Everyone was rescued, even the cat

I imagine that most of you have seen this photo and your heart sinks. It is hard to imagine but it just gets worse with our reservoirs releasing water to protect their structural integrity.  I, and people around me, can’t help yet because so many roads are flooded and we don’t need to add to the rescue attempts. I got to the supermarket today, less than 5 minutes away, and started asking the staff how they had fared. Quite a few had water in their homes but none devastating. We laughed about how good Gorilla Duct Tape was and wished each other well. I am on the north of the city which is much less badly affected but areas near Lake Conroe have been evacuated and that is further north than us.

As I approached the supermarket, I could see a police car blocking the bridge over Spring Creek which is now a raging torrent bursting over its banks. Our creeks are mostly rivers but they can dwindle down to almost a trickle when there is a drought. You must all feel so frustrated looking at the TV and wondering what you can do. The Red Cross website is hard to access at the moment but your money would be so appreciated. I have survivor’s guilt, stuck in my house, unable to go to and volunteer. This morning I cleared my closets of everything that might be useful. I have towels, sheets, clothes, shoes and even a pet crate to donate.

Kim of Glover Gardens has an excellent series of posts about the hurricane and ways that you can help. As Kim pointed out, we don’t want you to travel here yet unless you are a specifically trained volunteer (Red Cross, for example) and they will start arriving at airports over the next week or so. There may be a need for volunteers in other parts of Texas where the evacuees will go after the immediate triage. Hope is in abundance with people like Mattress Mack, a local furniture magnate and benefactor. As soon as people were being evacuated, he opened the doors of his furniture stores for people to stay. Can you imagine that kind of generosity? Then there was the Cajun Navy and all the boat owners who came from all over Texas.

We have a wonderful phrase in Texas – “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as soon as I could”. That spirit will help us through this. Last night someone with a giant Caterpillar truck came to the rescue and people were helped up ladders into the truck. The news reporter asked the police officer who the volunteer driver was. The policeman said you can ask him but he doesn’t speak English! Actions mean so much more than words right now. Some of our medical facilities have had to evacuate and I felt so sorry for the patients and families. My heart goes out to psychiatric patients and those with dementia. I am struggling to keep my anxiety under control but ironically I am really good in a crisis. Teddy is still in Austin, on his third visit to the doctor. Now he has reacted very badly to some bug bites and sometimes he gets blood poisoning with the red lines going to his underarms. Really, Teddy???

I saved an armadillo today! As I came back from the supermarket, I noticed a disoriented armadillo crossing the road to our subdivision in daylight. I stopped the car and persuaded him to hurry up before he was squashed. Maybe he will be under my deck tonight, safe and sound? Now I have a dilemma. My dead mother made me promise never to give away the teddies we had bought her. Her childhood was teddy deprived but that’s another blog. We are all allergic (including the cat) to stuffed toys so I have had to put them in the attic. Despite my promise, I think I would like to donate some of them to a shelter where the children have lost everything. I am going to sleep on it and if you are reading this from heaven, Mum, send me a message in a dream.