Wednesday, June 6th, 2012: Heading north on Jupiter Rd. in Plano, Texas at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Our dachshund, Coco, chasing water sprinklers.
I bought a birdfeeder at the flea market last weekend, made out of an old brake drum and railroad spikes welded into the shape of a stick figure man. I also bought a birdhouse made from Texas license plates, but so far no birds have shown any interest in moving in. Maybe because it’s Texas, or maybe because I need to lower the asking price.
Really getting into this bird-watching stuff. It’s so peaceful watching those guys hop around doing their thing. Thinking to make a birdhouse from some of those old wooden pallets I scavenged from work. Might as well do something with them. Don’t have enough material to make another bookshelf.
One of Plano’s finest pulled me over just as I was about to merge onto the freeway on my way to Dallas for some Mexican food Friday night.
Probably got me for speeding, I thought, pulling into the U-Haul parking lot. But no. He says he pulled me over for failing to signal a lane change. Okay, fair enough.
He asks for my driver’s license and proof of insurance then walks back to his squad car. He returns a few minutes later. “What’d you get arrested for in California?”
“Uh…what year?” I say.
“It doesn’t give a year. It just says you were arrested,” he says. “You don’t remember what you were arrested for? Most people would remember.”
“Well, I haven’t lived there in years. What incident are you referring to? I’ve been arrested a number of times.”
“Where ya headed?” he asks.
“Why you going to Dallas?”
“What, I can’t go to Dallas? I’m gonna get something to eat.”
“You’re going all the way into to Dallas to get something to eat?” he says. “What restaurant you going to?”
I mumble random Mexican-sounding restaurant names. “La Panchillo…La Paisano…La Bamba. Ahh, I can’t remember.”
“You can’t remember the name of the restaurant you’re going to?”
“It’s a hole-in-the-wall place, but I go there all the time.”
“You go there all the time, but you don’t know the name of the place?” he says. “You’re going all the way into Dallas on a Friday night to have dinner by yourself?”
I shrug. “My wife doesn’t like to go.”
“So you’re leaving your wife at home to go eat dinner by yourself? That doesn’t make sense.” He smirks. “You going to visit your girlfriend?”
“No,” I say. And even if I did, what fucking business of it is his? I’m getting annoyed that this cop is jumping all over my back asking idiotic questions. I’m about to tell this dude to go fuck himself, but I try to remain calm. He’s younger than me by about fifteen or twenty years, and I’m getting too old for this shit. I have a mortgage and a family, and I’m thinking now that I should have just stayed home.
“Do you have anything in the truck that I should know about? Guns? Drugs?”
“Would you mind if I searched your vehicle?”
“Go right ahead.”
He pulls me out of my truck there in the U-Haul parking lot just off the service road along I-75. He pats me down, and then we wait for his backup to arrive.
I’m at a point in my life — and I believe most people arrive at this point sooner or later in their own lives — where I feel absolutely no need to make small-talk with anyone for any reason. Better to simply remain quiet.
But we start chatting, anyway. He tells me my inspection sticker is expired. “Shit, I always forget to check that.”
“Most people do,” he says. “Also your right tail light is out. You might want to get that fixed before you get it inspected. You can get a ticket for those.”
I say nothing and change the subject. I ask him how long he’s been working out here. “Five years!” he says. He says he’s from Kentucky originally, and suddenly his thinly-veiled hostility and accusatory questioning from the outset starts to make sense. I’m not white and I’m dressed like a bum, so I must be guilty of something.
I ask him how he likes it out here. “I LOVE it out here!” he says excitedly.
He tells me they’re searching vehicles along the freeway because there have been a lot of guns going into Dallas from Plano. Which makes no sense to me. In fact, it sounds pretty fucking retarded. How does one search vehicles along the freeway? Randomly? Stop every fifth one? Stop only the drivers who look Mexican or black?
“Huh,” I say.
“What year’s your truck?” he says.
“How many miles?”
“I got a 2004. Hundred-twenty-five on it.”
“I’ve driven this thing out to West Texas twice,” I say. “Blew out a few tires just outside of Pecos the first trip. The sidewalls just started bubbling up. Blew out the engine on the second trip.”
“Did you try any Pecos cantaloupes?”
“Pecos cantaloupes. They’re known for their cantaloupes,” he says.
“I didn’t know that,” I say. “I was heading out there to check out some land I bought on eBay.”
“How much you pay for it?”
“Just over a grand.”
“Not bad. Does your land have cantaloupes on it?” he asks.
I start laughing. “I recently bought some land out in Sulphur Springs. It’s got electricity, water, septic.”
“My parents own some land out near Paris,” he says.
“How much acreage?”
“Couple hundred acres.”
“There’s a lotta meth labs out there,” he says.
“Really? I’ve heard it’s really bad in Oregon. Didn’t know they had that problem out here.”
“It’s real bad,” he says.
His backup arrives after fifteen minutes or so. My new friend takes a few minutes to search my truck while I wait leaning against the bumper of his squad car. He returns and hands me my driver’s license back.
“Enjoy your dinner,” he says. “Sorry to take up so much of your time.”
“No problem,” I say.
I hop into the truck and drive into Dallas for some Mexican food. He didn’t ticket me for the expired inspection sticker or the broken tail light.
Took the truck in for an oil change and tune-up. From the shop I walked out to a set of abandoned railroad tracks on the other side of I-75.
You don’t always need to buy round-trip plane tickets to destinations exotic and unknown in order to go traveling. All you need to do is step out your front door. You’ll be surprised at the things you discover on foot that you would otherwise miss when you’re speeding by at forty miles an hour in a car or bus.
Found some railroad spikes and an old Mexican man sitting by his lonesome.
“Hola,” I say. He nods quietly without smiling.
Further down the tracks I am joined by an old Mexican woman who comes out from between the trees that separate the tracks from a trailer park next to the highway. She hobbles up to the uneven tracks, limping along. I wonder if she’s getting her morning exercise to rehabilitate an injured foot or something. “Buenos dias,” I say. “Buenos dias,” she says without smiling.
I see two black cats wrestling in the tall green grass. They stop and watch me as I draw nearer. Then they dash beneath a gap in the skirting of a trailer home. One sticks his head out and peers at me as I pass.
I follow these tracks to the end of the line where it runs into Parker Road. On the other side of the street the tracks have been incorporated into the DART rail system. Four dollars buys you an all-day pass anywhere on the system. I catch a ride into Dallas.