We drove up Olney to North Vandiver, then along as far as Urban Crest. At Urban Crest we took a left to Crandall, then a sort of shimmy along to Greenwich at the end, and then again at Harmon, back down to North Vandiver and home. These are streets, lanes, roads, drives and places in Alamo Heights but no-one here seems to use suffixes which don't always even appear on the street signs. I'm in the habit of saying I live on Timberlane rather than Timberlane Drive because it would seem weird to me, as though I were trying to make a point; which is something different to my continued English pronunciation of the words banana and aluminium. Were I to go native with those two it would feel like the kind of impersonation which could lead to descriptions of things as real swell, purty, or mighty fine. Yet I'll say gas rather than petrol station because it's easier. I don't know what the rules are.
We drove up Olney to North Vandiver, all around and then back down again for the sake of measuring the distance, which came to five and a half miles. Today I'm taking the same route on foot in the name of exercise because my bike is still at the repair shop. If I can be arsed, I tell myself, I might do a couple of circuits of the block demarcated by Urban Crest, Greenwich, and Harmon, and I've worked out that if I do that five times it will add up to the twenty miles I might have cycled on my bike; except of course I know full well that I'm not going to walk twenty bloody miles, so I'm just walking until I get bored.
Hailstones the size of golf balls and even larger fell on San Antonio last night. It was terrifying, not to mention deafening, and I've never experienced that sort of weather before. Thankfully, neither had my wife, so I'm hoping it won't happen again in my lifetime - it isn't one of those Texas things I'm just going to have to get used to, like incorrect pronunciation of banana or ambiguity as to whether such and such an address amounts to a road, a street, or a drive. This morning as I take my walk I'm also taking stock of the damage, because peculiarly ours seems to be the only house which didn't have one of those meteorite sized chunks of ice come through the roof. My wife's car is similarly undamaged. Walking up Morningside I pass a few vehicles with smashed wind shields, and plenty with hood or roof pitted by impact dents.
The first damage of which I take stock is my own knee as I miss a step and fall whilst walking across the parking lot at the dentists' office. This is Dr. Yarborough's surgery, so it's probably some sort of curse they've put on me because I got pissed off by the expensive and unnecessary treatment they attempted to con me into signing up for. I awkwardly get to my feet, direct dark thoughts towards the building, and then continue on roads strewn with the leaves of palms and yucca, plant detritus from gardens smashed up by last night's hail.
Eventually I reach the point at which North Vandiver crosses the Austin Highway, and I'm beginning to feel hungry. I suppose that's a couple of miles so far.
Fuck it, I decide, and enter the L&L Hawaiian Grill situated on the corner. Bess and I have been fascinated by the place for some time, wondering what the hell it is they actually serve. We have no idea what Hawaiian cuisine might look like and have assumed that the place is probably just a burger joint wherein a chef in a grass skirt sticks a slice of pineapple in your bun; but we don't know this for sure because neither of us have ever quite summoned up the courage to investigate. I order loco moco because it isn't a burger, and it's the weirdest looking thing on the menu, at least to my eyes. Loco moco turns out to be a bed of white rice, two beefburgers of the kind I used to buy frozen from Sainsburys back in England and which seem conspicuously absent from American menus, all topped with a couple of fried eggs. There's also some sort of gravy on this, and a side of what appears to be a cross between macaroni cheese and coleslaw but without the cheese. As I eat, I study the menu and find a lot of burgers, amongst them a salmon burger which looks decent, and dishes which somehow hint at sushi. Being new to this, it all strikes me as food invented by crazy people, or as a burger joint owned by a maniac who suddenly decides he's running a sushi restaurant, with a knowledge of sushi based exclusively on a scene from a 1960s Batman comic. The food is mad, but strangely it actually sort of works. It tastes pretty good, although there's too much rice, and crucially it tastes home cooked, which means even with a loony at the wheel, L&L Hawaiian Grill already has a head start over Popeye's and all of those places.
Given our working hypothetical model of an establishment selling mainly pineapple burgers, Bess and I have often wondered how the hell L&L Hawaiian Grill manages to stay in business; and now I have my answer in that it's packed with marines and other servicemen presumably attached to Fort Sam just down the road. I guess some of them will have been stationed in Hawaii, and so they come here from time to time. Bess later tells me that moco is Spanish for bogies - or boogers as she inaccurately terms them - but loco moco nevertheless tastes pretty good for something with a recipe which may as well be what do I have left in the fridge which hasn't gone off? It's hard to get past the thought that I am eating a dish named crazy snot, but not impossible.
I walk on along North Vandiver, passing the Quaker's Meeting Hall and a series of utilities trucks repairing overhead power cables brought down by last night's anomalous weather. I turn up Urban Crest, and stroll into the quieter depths of Alamo Heights. I've answered my own question of what food is served at the L&L Hawaiian Grill, and now I get to answer who the hell buys those things? This is a thought which occurs each time we pass a place on the side of the highway selling giant brightly painted figures beaten into shape from sheets of tin. It's always roughly the same line up of cows, dinosaurs, banditos, cartoon characters and so on. They're garden ornaments, and whilst the sight of them always raises a smile, I can't imagine wanting one for our own yard, and I have no idea who buys them. A hot dog in a sombrero grins at me over the fence on the other side of Urban Crest. He's about nine foot tall, as is his friend, the chicken, and so I have my answer.
At the corner of Northridge I pause to inspect a lawn embellished with a Trump campaign sign. It seems worth looking at because this is thankfully the first Trump campaign material I've seen in real life on this side of the internet. I've seen plenty of Bernie and Hillary material, and a fair quota in support of our own homegrown Republicans - Straus and others - but this is my first physical evidence of real people apparently believing Donald Trump might be worth a vote. I notice how there's similarly a Trump campaign sticker on the rear bumper of the truck parked in the driveway, next to one of the state flag with the word secede superimposed in forceful block capitals.
What sort of person might live here? I hear my inner Loyd Grossman ask. I suppose it depends upon which aspect of Trump's campaign most appeals to this individual, although given that Donald Trump seems to hate more or less everyone, it's hard to take a guess. This person might have a problem with all those Mexicans supposedly flooding across the border, and may therefore respond to Trump's vow to represent his or her views in that regard. Of course, someone who dislikes Mexicans choosing to live in San Antonio would have to be a fucking idiot, which doesn't necessarily preclude the possibility of this being the detail which has secured his or her vote. The secede sticker refers to the popularity of the idea that Texas might secede from the union of the United States, thus meaning we no longer have to have anything to do with jazz musicians or hippies who wear open-toed sandals - visits to Austin excepted - which is a nice idea but probably won't happen. I therefore have to assume that our mysterious family not only wish for a big fucking wall built across the bottom part of the state, but for Texas to become its own country, and one which logically wouldn't actually be under the jurisdiction of President Trump; unless they want Trump to move down here before we close the doors and change the locks. Maybe they haven't really thought it all through. Maybe they're just idiots.
If I have any idiotic qualities, they have been lessened by my walk, statistically speaking. I return home via HEB, our local supermarket, clocking up a sum total of just under seven miles, which seems like enough. I've eaten crazy snot, penetrated the mystery of L&L Hawaiian Grill, discovered who the hell buys those things, and observed Trump support. I am moderately wiser than when I set out this morning.