From “Tales From a Great Indoorsman”–(Originally posted on Thursday, December 08, 2005.)

Saturday – 11/5–Today was the day for the Austin Collector’s Show. I’d been looking forward to this for awhile, and was intent on buying lots of old postcards.

You may remember how several months ago I went to our local National Guard base to research an article, and was driven by a cabbie who looked quite a bit like Saddam Hussein, which made for a lot of fun at the base gate. Well, this man lives a few buildings down from me in my complex and has often driven me all over town. He even saw me walking to the grocery store one day and offered me a lift for free.

Well, I’d not seen him for awhile. I didn’t call specifically for him, but he was the one who showed up. I barely recognized him. He looked ashen and tired and barely spoke above a whisper. It turns out he’s been getting treatment for colon cancer. He explained more about his condition during the trip, but unfortunately I couldn’t hear anything else that he said, because he had the windows down and the wind drowned his voice out. I’ve felt really bad about this news and hope everything turns out all right. He’s been a real gentleman with me.

I reached the exhibition hall early, and wound up standing in line with a bunch of paunchy guys aged between 20 and 60. Many had mullets. One wore a T-shirt, jeans, sneakers, greasy hair–and an ankle-length hooded black cloak.

I had planned to spend the whole day at the show, but it turns out there was only one postcard dealer there. The rest of the vendors sold sports memorabilia, over-priced old toys in dodgy condition, comic books (I guess that’s where Gandalf was headed), Beanie Babies, and a bunch of other stuff I didn’t want.

One guy had a small collection of old architectural magazines from the 20s and 30s. Normally I’d have been on something like that like stink on shit, but he wanted $20 or so for each, and they weren’t in that great a shape.

There was also an autograph dealer that had some stuff that interested me, including some autographed photos of Bill Shatner and a canceled check signed by Jack Lord, but I was there for postcards and postcards only.

The postcard dealer was an older man from San Antonio with whom I’d had profitable dealings in the past. Since the crowd did not consist by and large of postcard collectors, I pretty much had the table to myself, and I stayed there for two or three hours and amassed quite a few cards. It took the guy 15 or 20 minutes just to figure out the price of it all. I spent way more money than I should have, and was in sticker shock for quite awhile after I left, and that’s even after he knocked off $100 from my total (his idea, not mine) because I’m such a good and regular customer of his.

I like talking with this man, because he’s lived in San Antonio for decades, and likes to reminisce about the way San Antonio was when I was a kid, vacationing there in the 60s and 70s, when it was a hopping town. We discussed the O’Neil Ford estate sale. He said he had thought about going to it, but he’d been elbowed and trampled at so many sales in the past he decided to skip it. He said the biggest estate sale he ever attended was that for Atlee B. Ayres, my favorite SA architect, who dominated the San Antonio of the first half of the 20th century the same way Ford dominated the second half. The old dealer said, “Those people had everything. They’d been everywhere. I’d never seen so many belongings and artifacts in one place. They must’ve gone all over the world.”

(I once worked in a children’s bookstore and took a check from a woman named Mrs. Robert Ayres and I asked if she was any kin to Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres, and she got very excited and was amazed anyone still knew the names. The men were, in fact, the great-grandfather and grandfather of her husband, and she encouraged me to go to the UT Architectural Archive and look at the firm’s drawings. I never got around to doing that, but about two years later a definitive book on Atlee Ayres’s work was released.)

The Collector’s show was in James and Nyssa’s neighborhood, where I lived a couple months last year after the fire, and which is mostly populated with working-class Hispanics, blacks, Asians, and Middle Easterners, which means lots of Mom and Pop groceries, every kind of automotive-related business under the sun, and lots of really cool ethnic restaurants that Whitey don’t know about.

(During my time there I really dug patronizing taquerias where you actually had to order in Spanish because no one on the premises knew English. There was also a halal market I prowled once. The owner kept giving me the fish-eye, as if he thought I was a shop-lifter, until I spotted a stack of brochures on various aspects of Islam, and asked, with genuine interest, if they were free. He said they were, I grabbed one of each, and he lightened up considerably.)

Anyway, I made a beeline for a Vietnamese/Chinese place I’d wanted to try out. Although it was 12:30, there was only one other party in the restaurant: a man and a woman, both in their 30s, both fat. He wore shorts and a t-shirt, while she had on a wife-beater, ugly turquoise-colored tattoos all the way down her bare arms, and a droopy black Goth-style dress that ran down from the middle of her ponderous belly to her ankles. She was, in fact, shaped like a giant bell.

The owner/hostess/waitress seated me by the window. The fat couple was seated in the center of the room. Maybe they wanted me and the owner to hear them talk, maybe the fact they were almost alone made them think they were at home, but for some reason, these two carried on their entire dinner conversation, when not stuffing their faces and gnawing, speaking at full volume, as if they were seated at opposite sides of the street and not three feet apart.

He was a displaced New Orleanean. She was his know-it-all friend. She lectured how his benefits would soon be ending and that he needed to go find a job. She held forth on all the things she likes about Austin—all the same banal shit everybody else always mentions when they extol the “quality of life” here—things which I either never cared about in the first place, or of which I eventually grew indifferent.

She bitched about what a loser her ex-boyfriend and all his friends were, but said she might take him back if he ever grows up. She boasted about what a mature, take-charge person she was. And then she went into an embarrassing level of detail about her sex life, bellowing, “As far as looks go, I’m mostly still attracted to women—the way they’re shaped, their skin, their overall looks, but the thing is, I really like to be penetrated. I like having that cock in me, and that’s not something a woman can give. I’m basically just an old dyke who likes cock.”

I don’t like loud people to begin with, but this was really too much. I put down my fork and gave them a “Do you fucking mind?” look, but they didn’t even see me—they were too engrossed in their spare ribs.

One of my problems with that is I suffer from a sort of reverse racism, I guess you’d call it, in that I get really offended when Americans are rude in front of foreigners, be they visitors, temporary residents, or naturalized citizens. Most of the foreigners I’ve dealt with in this country have been so polite that it just pisses me the fuck off when my fellow Americans break out their rudeness and crudeness for all to see. It reflects badly on us. And yes, I realize that people from other countries are rude too, but you know what I mean.

Sunday – 11/6–[I’m deleting this entry, as it has mostly to do with controversial views on marriage and children.]

Monday – 11/7–Started my local history column, but got bored with it 1/3 of the way through and went back to bed.

Tuesday – 11/8–Finished my column, but not before running out for chew strips for Fred and dinner at a Carraba’s Italian restaurant. The meal was so-so. The waitress was obnoxious in her zeal to try to sell me pricier dishes after I’d already placed my order. She also made like she was gonna sit down to take my order, but I gave her a look that conveyed I’d snatch her bald-headed if she tried.

But the most significant thing about the meal was the almost complete absence of light anywhere in the dining room. There weren’t even little candles on the table. It was all I could do to read the menu. I felt like I was dining in a fucking aquarium.

Wednesday – 11/9–Sleep. IHOP. TV.

Thursday – 11/10–A guy killed his girlfriend in the Austin area today, bused it to San Antonio, and killed the security guard at the bus station there–the same one I patronized in August—before finally being caught by the cops.


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