“We ain’t got them fancy trees like that in dang ol’ Oklahoma”
When last we spoke, Sarah and I had taken the car and hit the open road to make our wildest dreams come true of seeing Iron Maiden live. But we’re not to that part yet, since there was a whole day of just hanging out in San Antonio beforehand and another one after, which is going to screw with the timeline here some, but you weren’t there, so you won’t notice. Anyway, the original plan was for this extra day or two of our Iron Maiden Vacation to be spent mostly just lounging around the hotel room, finally running free from the responsibilities of a house full of dogs, with the drooling and the shedding and the crapping and whatnot, just eat our cooler full of Walmart deli sammiches when necessary, and maybe stroll around the general walking-distance area of the pretty touristy section of town we were in at some point. Basically, just take it easy, do the whole Iron Maiden thing, maybe check out the market and the Alamo, then take it easy again, then go home.
Then, Sarah’s dad decided to join us. He lives right at the border, so this was a much easier trip than going all the way to south Oklahoma, so I guess it made sense. On one hand, when you’re both grown-ass adults and are getting away from real life together for the first time ever, having someone else just sort of announce that they’re coming with you is potentially awkward and strange. But you know, he had been really flaky with several previous instances of “I’m gonna come up there next month,” resulting in her not having seen him in a couple of years, so I was cool with it. Of course, I didn’t really know him all that well and didn’t really take the hint of hearing the phone conversation on speaker of him saying “Iron Maiden? Oh, that sounds like something I might like to see,” followed by Sarah frantically, emphatically being like “Oh, it’s sold out, no more tickets, ever ever ever, and county authorities are burning down the AT&T Center after the show,” (possibly not an accurate quote) so I had no idea that our little getaway was about to turn into us being background characters (along with her grandfather) in his BIG SAN ANTONIO VACATION ADVENTURE.
“Enjoy your stay, you guys.”
So all that time we were going to spend wearing pajama pants and enjoying a room with cable TV and no thin layer of animal hair on every surface was going to be cut drastically short, because he had places he wanted to go, and we were going to go with him. For the most part, this was still not too big a deal, because this just took us to the Alamo and El Mercado, which were probably the only two touristy places we were going to check out, anyway. But it got really clear really fast that anything we wanted to see or do was going to consist of a quick glance as we jogged to catch up with Sarah’s dad, as he was drawn ever forward, as though compelled by the siren’s song of anything relating to firearms and liquor. And he was really, really insistent that we eventually had to go to this place called the Buckhorn, which doubled as a Texas Ranger museum and bar, with the selling point being that they had taxidermied animals all over the place, leading me to believe that he and his daughter had never actually met before. But anyway, once we were in the market, we were both completely pumped to thoroughly check out the crazy-ass assortment of goods made in China, shipped to Mexico, and then brought up to Texas, such as bootlegged t-shirts, possibly bootlegged lucha libre masks, and possibly legit assorted glass Talavera decorative-type thingies, but we had to quickly abandon any hope of actually buying any of that stuff, because, “hey, there’s this bar I want you to see.” So for the time being, I had to just accept that luchador masks can wait; luchador masks can wait till another day. Because we would quickly have to move on, and go somewhere else. In a truck. A truck that was being driven… By Sarah’s father.
I never figured that driving around in a major city would be a simple or easy thing. But dudes. Dudes. DUDES. You ever see people do that thing in movies or whatever, where they get off a plane, and they’re so afraid of flying that they’re so happy to be out of the sky and back on the stupid ground that they kneel down and kiss the nasty-ass runway? Well, that feeling is real, and I have had it now. I have been in a vehicle that’s gone close to a mile without the driver ever actually looking forward. I have been in a vehicle that’s made a left turn out of the right-hand lane. I’ve had to yell at a driver “whoa whoa whoa, there’s people behind you, stop, stop, stop” multiple times in one trip. I’ve had to try my damnedest to not visibly show my fear when the driver – who had popped a handful of assorted prescription medications shortly before he got in the truck – explained that he was okay to drive, because he drank all those beers slowly. In those frantic, misguided treks around San Antonio, in my last hours as a slave to the power of death, I came face to face with my own mortality, looking through the glass at the last sights of a world that had gone very wrong for me. So I sat there, tensed with sheer inner terror, holding Sarah’s hand in a death-grip, while she kept her steel resolve as a navigator and was desperately trying to steer her dad in the right direction, which was usually a losing battle:
“Okay, turn right here. RIGHT. Left goes to the highway, and we don’t want to do that.”
“Huh? Well, maybe we’ll take the highway…”
Seriously, I know now what soldiers are talking about when they tell you that you’ll never understand what they’ve been through unless you were there. I’VE BEEN IN THE SHIT, YOU GUYS.
But we all survived, and of course, being a bunch of bullshit tourists, we had to see the Alamo before we left. And you know, I’ve only been to a small handful of historical sites and museums in my time, and despite being the most famous one of all of them, this place was the most underwhelming thing possible. Aside from the church – you know, the part that’s usually just referred to as “The Alamo,” which was where Pee Wee’s bike was supposed to have been kept – almost all of the original compound has been gone for well over a hundred years. And hell, that part is almost shockingly tiny has been rebuilt and restored so many times that if William Travis ever used his mutant powers of time travel to see what was crackin’ in 2012, he’d probably barely even recognize the place. There’s the church, a tiny remaining bit of the barracks, and then, a bunch of buildings made in modern times, and even in the museum part, most of the “hey look at all this history!” stuff is bare bones as all hell, and every so often you’ll see a gun or a knife or something that was just built around the time, and based on the information given, might not have ever been on the Alamo grounds until the 1970s or so. The whole place just really seemed like a flimsy excuse to build a gift shop in a highly populated area for the most part. There was a really cool monument outside the place that Wikipedia tells me is referred to as a cenotaph, which sounds like something that a Norwegian black metal band would be named after or some sort of mythological horse-monster, so that’s pretty cool. Also, a truly kick-ass koi pond, where some of those sumbitches had to be at least two feet long, but it probably would have been weird to put a giant koi on the Texas state quarter design. Anyway, not to brag, but based on the historical sites that resulted, Vicksburg, Mississippi had a way more kick-ass tragic siege than San Antonio.
You’ve been living so long in hiding, in hiding behind that false mask...
To throw the timeline of things off a bit, we actually made it back to the market the day after the show, (I’ll get to that part next time) and while the four of us were eating frozen grocery store burgers in the food court, Sarah masterfully suggested that they could go check out that Buckhorn place, and we would just wander around the market, like we had originally intended. And it was completely awesome, and we ended up spending way too much on a wide assortment of trinkets and doo-dads, and I managed to pick up the teeny-tiny El Santo mask that had caught my eye the day before. Or maybe it was an El Hijo Del Santo mask; I’m not really sure, but I always assumed they wore the same stuff anyway. But the true masterful find of the day was when Sarah stumbled across the L.A. Park mask I have on in that picture up there. In addition to being way more fancy and up-to-date than the WCW-era La Parka mask I already head, it was a size bigger than how these things are normally made, so I can cram my giant noggin in it with no problems at all. And man, the names and personal relations of Mexican wrestlers can get really confusing at times. So you had La Parka, but then he got fired by the company he worked for, and they owned all the copyrights, so they just stuck a different guy in his costume, and the real La Parka switched to the Darth Maul mask and became L.A. Park. But since then, L.A. Park patched things up with AAA and has actually wrestled both with and against La Parka as opponents and tag team partners, while wearing nearly identical outfits. Oh, and then, the original La Parka (L.A. Park) has an uncle who wrestles as Super Parka, and he’s wrestled in six-man tag matches teaming up with the two other La Parkas. So anyway, yeah, I have the mask of both La Parkas now, even though they’re both the same guy, but also two different people. Also, this one time when I was playing a bootlegged copy of Fire Pro Wrestling A for the Gameboy Advance, I tried to create a disco-themed luchador named “El Hijo Del Sabado Noche,” and I’ve never mentioned that to anyone until now.
“There’s no time! You’ll just have to shoot us both!”
The plan was to spend all our grocery money at the market, then call Sarah’s dad and have him pick us up, then go do whatever the hell we were all going to do. Funny thing though, when faced with the prospect of going to the Buckhorn – which he had lovingly spoken of his desire to see for about 48 straight hours at this point – without dragging along two people who were clearly not interested in matters pertaining to whiskey and antlers, he just sort of decided he didn’t want to go anymore, and instead crashed back at their hotel room. So we were stuck a few miles away from the hotel, without the ride we figured would be withing walking distance of. Then, we remember who the ride was and what it was like riding with them, and just decided that two or three miles isn’t really that far, all things considered, and with chaotically-steered tons of steel becoming involved, it could possibly become just two miles from here to eternity. So yeah, we walked. And it was pleasant as hell, the shade seemed to follow us wherever we went, and we even got a much better look at the Alamo than the day before. Then, when we got back to the hotel, we decided to order food from this delivery place that had menus in all the rooms, they screwed up the order, and when Sarah decided to walk outside to the Coke machine for frosty beverage of some sort, some sketchy-looking dude was hiding behind the machines, peeing in the stairwell. So you can never win, dudes. You can never win.
Also, a lot of the highway overpasses in San Antonio have parking lots underneath, and some of them have crazy light show crap going on after dark, for some reason. It’s like a dance party for all the parked cars, and it’s the best.
NEXT TIME: The last part, with the actual Iron Maiden concert, wherein the ritual has begun and Satan’s work is done.