So here I am, in sunny Fort Worth, Texas. Yeah, that's me over there, standing next to the steer with the triangle branded on its left flank.
Ah, Texas is okay. I mean, I was a little nervous, wondering whether a diehard Yankee liberal like me would be met by an angry mob of conservative cowpokes with pitchforks in their hands at the airport, but of course, that didn't happen. Everyone's been nice and quite polite. Maybe it helps that I left my Obama T-shirt at home (note: I did wear my Red Sox T-shirt on the way here, however).
Of course, since I'm at a conference, I haven't seen much of the scenery. Until last night, that is. We ate at a historic restaurant called the Reata restaurant that's built under a geodesic dome, and affords a beautiful view of the skyline. We took a walk after dinner, through the city, and checked out a few spots. Frankly, it was my favorite part of the trip. I'm all about the local color, after all.
I think the most memorable part of the trip has been my drives to and from the Dallas airport with my friend David. It was like something out of Thelma and Louise. I swear, the two of us were going to drive off a canyon at any moment.
You see, they really do like to grow things big in Texas, and their highways are no exception. They're huge and sprawling, which can be a bit overwhelming, but to make matters worse, the only things they don't seem to like to make big are their road signs. They're teeny tiny, and sometimes, non-existant. That's led to a lot of confusion, especially when we drove in at midnight the first night.
David would yell at me every time we'd pass a megachurch and I'd miss a turn. "Ted, what are you doing, what are you doing?"
I'd grit my teeth. "I'm trying the best I can, Dave!"
"Well, it's not good enough...oh god, now you're forcing us to drive onto George Bush highway. Kill me now!"
Somehow, we managed to make it into Fort Worth in one piece, by figuring out that we needed to take a left at the eighteenth megachurch we passed. See? Jesus saves.
So now I'm sitting here in my hotel room, staring at a framed painting of a bull.
I have to admit, this bull makes me a little nervous. The past few nights, I've been lying there, awake in bed, worrying that he may come to life and trample me. Seriously! His eyes follow me, wherever I am in the room. It's like a bovine version of "The Eyes of Laura Mars."
At one point last night, at around three in the morning, I swear I SWEAR!, I heard him call out, ever so softly
I sat straight up, trembling with fear, afraid that I was about to be turned into hamburger.
Quickly, I sprang out of bed and called down to the front desk. I demanded that room service summon a priest into my room, PDQ.
To my relief, they had someone on call that night, ready to exorcise the viscious cow demon. Five minutes later, there was a knock on my door. I scambled to open it, and outside, there stood a Franciscan priest, dressed in brown and white.
"Are you here to help me?" I asked, quivering before him in my boxers.
He stared at me, with kindly, world-weary eyes. "They call me...the cow whisperer."
I got down on my knees. "Save me, cow whisperer!"
He walked over stood by the painting, dangling a crucifix in his hand. Softly, he moved his lips close to the painting and said, very softly, "Cow, can you hear me?"
"Moooooo," said the cow picture, soft and low.
The cow whisperer moved his lips even closer to the painting. "Cow, can I ask you a question?"
"Moooooo," repeated the cow.
"Why are you tormenting this poor liberal Yankee who never once in his miserable life voted for George W. Bush?" asked the cow whisperer.
The cow in the painting growled, like something out of The Exorcist. "The cow is mine..."
Ha! How dare any silly bull call me a cow? Angrily, I ripped a bottle of holy milk out of the cow whisperer's hands and threw it at the painting. It bobbed up and down, groaning in agony.
The cow whisperer nodded to me and slowly placed the cap back on his container of holy milk. Then he left the room, with the sound of Tubular Bells playing in the background. And that, dear friends, is how I've somehow managed to make it through these past few nights in one piece.
I guess it's true, what they say about Texas. If the highways don't kill you, then the haunted bovine paintings surely will. Good thing I was able to rope a cow whisperer into action...otherwise this trip would have been one great big milk dud.