Monday, March 1, 2010

A Peek at Retirement

Touring the great state of Texas with my retired parents has been, well, interesting to say the least. They met my plane in San Antonio, and then whisked me away to the coast, where their RV is parked for the winter. Of course, we had to stop for lunch on the way to the coast, and Mom and Dad had just the place in mind. They went on and on about the little dive called Van’s at exit 65 off of highway 37 that serves Texas BBQ. So I was a little confused when they pulled off at a rest stop just a couple of miles before exit 65. It turns out that the bathroom in the BBQ restaurant (and I use the term “restaurant” loosely) is not fit for human use, which, to her horror, my mother discovered on a previous visit. So now, savvy Texas road travelers that they are, my parents stop at the rest stop BEFORE they arrive at their lunch destination. When we finally arrived at Van’s (the only structure at exit 65), I was only momentarily put off by the dilapidated condition of the building; for, within seconds the amazing aroma of genuine Texas BBQ began to fill the air, my mouth began to water, and I began to pray that the health department would overlook this little corner of the world for just awhile longer.

I am not sure where to begin with my description of this place. The paint was peeling off of the walls, the ceiling had black mold growing on it, and I was actually thankful that I couldn’t see behind the make-shift wall into the kitchen. The waitress, who looked to be approximately 87 years old, was wearing a bright yellow cowboy hat, a purple bandana around her neck, rolled up jeans, and keds. She told us to sit anywhere we wanted. There were about six tables of varying shapes and sizes, and the place was already filling up. We chose a small table near the condemned-by-my-mother- bathroom and ordered three “Senior Plates.” You may find it odd that a young 30-something like me could get away with ordering a “Senior Plate.” I found it odd that the all the menu items had the word “Plate” in their title when there didn’t seem to be plate in the whole establishment. The meals were served on butcher paper. I actually took comfort in the fact that I was given a disposable plastic fork and knife, seeing as it didn’t appear that much got washed in that place. Nevertheless, here came my lunch: A scoop of potato salad, three slices of BBQ brisket, a half a pickle, a half a jalapeno pepper, a small Styrofoam cup of beans, and a cup of BBQ sauce. I am not sure if I have ever had a better meal in all my life. Seriously.

But my excitement for the day was far from over. We reached the Pioneer RV Resort in Port Aransas in time to take part in the much-anticipated “Hillbilly Ho-Down”—a special dinner event put on by the park’s Activity Director (named Muggs). As we headed to the clubhouse, I found myself caught in a sea of playful senior citizens wearing straw hats and overalls, with freckles painted on their cheeks. Well, most were dressed in this fashion. Some went for the more “authentic” hillbilly look: Bart Simpson Boxer shorts, a tank top, and a bathrobe left open. Oh my.

When we arrived at the clubhouse, we each were given nametags with our “Hillbilly” names. Both of my parents were given the name Billie Ray. Somehow it seemed right for them to have the same name. I was Tammie Lou. Next we got to have our picture taken next to the outhouse that was made from cardboard boxes. Everyone was delighted by the fact that the outhouse looked “occupied” because there was a pair of boots with blue jeans around the ankles visible beneath the outhouse door. While we waited in line for our food (hot dogs, thankfully, not possum), I noted the beer cans that were hanging from the ceiling as decorations. I could tell you about the games and prizes (toilet brushes were involved), the Chicken Dance (bathrobe man was drafted for this) and the jokes (centering on educational deficiency and hygiene habits) but I love you too much to regale you with such tales. Not when I still have to tell you about Laughing Bird.

My parents, I have discovered, are quite the party-animals. One night we are at a Hillbilly Ho-Down and the next night we have tickets to see Laughing Bird. Live. Right here in their very own RV Resort. What? You have never heard of the traveling musical/comedy duo known as Laughing Bird? According to their brochure they have played at just about every trailer park in our country. This married couple writes their own songs. He plays anything with strings and the harmonica. She plays the wooden spoons. I’m not kidding. Sometimes they sing, but you mostly hope they don’t. Gimmicky does not begin to describe their act. During one song the woman pulled everything from a golf club to a fishing pole from the cleavage of her red lacy dress. Another “song” included yodeling and auctioneer-ing—BOTH. And did I mention she played the spoons? Did I mention she looked like she was having convulsions when she played the spoons? Did I mention that they wrote and performed an epic song about the “mythology” of the spoons and their magical powers? And they were quite dressed up. Their audience blew in off of the beach wearing sandals and capris, but Laughing Bird was wearing an evening gown and tails. Somehow it didn’t seem fitting to play folk-music in formal-wear, but that is what they did. And just when I was afraid they were going to make us hold hands and sing “kum-by-yah” they made one last plug for their CDs and let us go.

Gosh, I wish David could be here with me.


  1. *grins* I hope you at least looked in the bathroom at Van's and saw the predominantly placed bathtub... :p

  2. Jenn,
    I had tears in my eyes (funny tears) whle reading this--I can so imagine the entire day!

    Miss yoiu! Penn