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Dealey Plaza (Part 2)

June 2, 2016

We had gone to the airport to pick up the rental the night before. Mr. Houston is a master charmer. He always manages to get a good deal or persuade people to do what he wants. When the rental guy told him to go pick out a compact car, he picked out a white Volvo Passat instead and drove it to the gate just to see if he could get away with it. He did. When we returned three days later he even managed to get a cheaper rate.

We packed up the large sedan with snacks and suitcases. I agreed to take the first leg of driving. He agreed to a stop in Dallas so I could see Dealey Plaza. It was on my bucket list of places to see.

As I adjusted my seat and got accustomed to the car, Mr. Houston was quiet. I wondered if he was having second thoughts. I wondered if he really wanted me there at all. I wondered if I had made a mistake.

After a few miles, he loosened up. We talked, listened to music and laughed our way easily to Dallas.

We followed Siri to the plaza and found a parking spot. I was anxious to see it. To be in that space that I had seen in countless movies and read about it conspiracy books. As I turned the corner around the Book Depository and saw the grassy knoll, the white monuments and the x on the road, I was overcome. It was so small. I tried to get my bearings. I sat on the grass in front of the x in the street imagining Jackie reaching back over the convertible. I stood where Zapruder filmed the assassination. I could imagine Jean Hill in her red coat standing on the opposite side. People were going into the street and standing on the x, taking pictures. Tour guides claimed superior knowledge and hawked replica November 22, 1963 newspapers. I finally took out my camera and took a few photos. But it wasn’t photos I was looking for. I just wanted to stand in that space. Even as fast traffic made the curve and drove under the overpass, an everyday routine for some perhaps, there was a sad energy to the place. Or maybe it was just me.

After a half an hour or so, we left, opting out of the museum experience. We had some ten hours to cover. We had lunch and got back on the road.

Mr. Houston was an easy travel companion, though he didn’t like my music collection.

He encouraged me to read one of the books he brought along about money. It had some cliché title like, “How to think like a millionaire.” Mr. Houston is a self-help connoisseur. An annoying trait in many. But when you realize where he’s been and what his life has been and who he is now, it makes sense. And it makes him a person open to change and new ideas.

Nonetheless, I was skeptical of the book, but I gave it a go.

I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t really about money but about psychology. Your attitude about money growing up dictates how you see money as an adult. That sort of thing. It’s the same theory behind the reason lottery winners always lose all their money. They don’t know how to have money. They didn’t earn it and it’s not a part of their way of being so they find ways, unconsciously or not, to get it out of their lives. We talked about what my money psychology might be. I told him that something had always come around to rescue me each time I was close to being in real financial trouble. And I think I don’t really believe I’m good enough to have money. Maybe I need to work on those things.

Somewhere in north Texas we started to see the windmills. Or wind turbines I think they’re called. Weird, elegant designs of three blades, leisurely turning. They were like tall, alien giants, all pale grey turning out of sync. The farther we drove the more we saw. They seemed to be everywhere on my side of the road. Near the highway and on and on endlessly into the flat landscape. They were beautiful. I hung out of the window taking photos. My cameras were acting up again. My zoom lens refused to autofocus and the D7000 was being a bitch. This sort of thing used to drive me into hysterics. In the past I would have pouted and bitched, lamenting the missed opportunities. But now, I just fiddled around with combinations and tried to manual focus. I have no idea if any of those will be any good. It didn’t matter.

Mr. Houston pulled over so I could get better shots and he could look at them up close. I took pictures of him in front of the white giants and then we continued on our way.

Soon, the landscape began to change. Hills popped up. The vegetation was increasingly foreign as the we slowly loss the summer sun.

Throughout the trip Mr. Houston expressed how crazy his friends and family thought he was for taking this trip, even when he was planning it on his own, but even more so with a “friend.” He kept calling me a stranger. “I can’t believe I’m going on a road trip with a stranger,” he would laugh. I underestimated how much of a leap of faith the excursion was for him. He was more nervous about it then he showed.

I couldn’t relate. I didn’t have anyone in my life who would question me if I said, “I’m going on a road trip to Santa Fe with a friend.”

“Great. Awesome. Good for you. Have fun!” Those are the responses I got. But Mr. Houston got doubt, confusion and discouragement. These outside fears were seeping in and he was feeling trepidation as we slowly entered the beautiful southwest landscape, though he didn’t show it to me.

In Santa Rosa we pulled over for dinner. On historic Route 66 we found Joseph’s Bar and Grill and shared a Tex-Mex meal that was delightful. We learned the Santa Rosa has “natural” lakes where many come for scuba diving lessons. As opposed to manmade lakes? I wondered.

Just before the sun fell below the horizon we pulled over at a rest stop, took a couple of solo cups and the red wine we had left over from the night before and sat and drank, soaking in the new vegetation and strange birds. “I’m happy I’m here,” I said to him. He smiled in return with an unequal sense of contentment. I had that feeling again that maybe he wasn’t sure he wanted me there.

As we approached Santa Fe, the darkening blue sky provided the perfect backdrop for the rocky hills and flat cliffs, formed a million years ago by a volcano, that sprung up as we drove up and down. It was breathtaking. My music was on shuffle and an instrumental from a soundtrack began to play. Normally I would forward such a song, but it was the perfect soundtrack for the scene before us. I turned it louder, sat up toward the windshield soaking in this part of the earth I had never seen.

I looked over at Mr. Houston. He was quiet again.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

“I’m just soaking in the moment,” he said. “Just enjoying this scene and this music. It’s like a movie,” he said laughing.

After over 13 hours and some 870 miles we finally pulled into our Super 8.

“Well, we did it.” I said to him in the room.

We took a shower together and happily tucked into the bed, falling asleep intertwined into each other.

 

 

 

 

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