Tumbling through Amarillo

17 12 2009

The drive to Amarillo was boring, a scenary consisting of flat lands dotted with oil rigs and cattle ranches.

We got to the motel — another Holiday Inn undergoing remodeling — early and Jim recommended going down to the train yard to watch the choo-choos. He drove us right down next to the track and together we marveled at the sheer volume of freight ramblin’ by.

Earlier, during the drive, I had caught my first glimpse of a tumbleweed. It was a vision fitting of Amarillo, a cow town if ever there was one. I got the impression, things tended to tumble through this place a lot — Trains, travelers and livestock.

For the life of me, I couldn’t see anything sticking around here very long. It had an air similar to that of Monroe, minus trees.

We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant which was packed with families still enjoying the holiday weekend. Jim walked right through the crowded lobby and into an even busier bar.

Despite this mass of humanity, Jim managed to catch a young waitresses’ eye and we had our drinks quicker than I would have predicted. Almost as if it were clockwork, two seats at the bar opened up and we promptly plopped down and ordered food.

Behind me some young WASPs were discussing real estate prices and stock options. It was almost nauseating to listen to, but I had no choice considering our close confinements. Jim didn’t have to worry about overhearing young yuppie talk. His hearing was fading and I had to repeat myself a lot.

Several times we would exchange seats so that I was positioned on his right side. This, Jim said, was his good ear.

To my right at the bar was a hungry young fellow with a black eye and a lot of tattoos on his arms. He was friendly, but not overly chatty. I told him Panama City Beach had some of very fine tattoo artists and he wished us luck in Vegas. I didn’t ask about his black eye and Jim never acknowledged his existence.

After dinner, we headed downtown to check out the bar scene. The first stop, a dive called Sassy’s, catered to the lesbian crowd. We had one beer there and walked down the street to another bar where the scene shifted to a more nightclub feel.

With another long drive ahead of us, Jim advised heading back to the hotel after one drink. I agreed. Jim never insisted that I leave any of the bars when he did and he often told tales of how Gabe would venture out on his own late at night, only to turn up at the hotel just before it was time to head out.

“I really wanted to leave his ass a lot of times,” Jim said.

As it has been noted, Gabe knew how to work a pool table. He would meet people there, win drinks and usually a ride home.

I was too old for that act and my finances left little room for error. So when Jim was ready, even as the club in Amarillo was starting to show some signs of life, I followed.

“The trip really starts tomorrow,” Jim said on the ride back to the hotel.

And he was right. My eyes were in store for scenes I had only dreamed of before. Tumbleweeds were just the beginning.

We left before dawn, conjuring up a famous country song…. Amarillo By Morning. Jim punched in the data and our drive to Colorado was underway.

“You haven’t seen nothing yet,” he said.

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