Midnight at the Waffle House
02 Oct 2013 · by Brennan Storr · Be the first to comment!
On September 24 I returned from a two week vacation during which I flew to Texas and ended up taking a 3600 mile road trip across six states, along the way visiting four national parks and catching up with a friend I hadn't seen since the first time we met five years ago, when I threatened his life over a card game in Morocco.
From finding out that my beer at Denver International was going to cost more than the sandwich it accompanied to taking off in a thunderstorm and seeing the clouds outside my window light up from within, God's name got a lot of play during my journey from Seattle to Austin. It's not that I'm religious - far from it - but if you're going to lodge a complaint you may as well take it to the very top.
Dr. Broseph, DDS doesn't go in for $9 beers. Too many carbs, brah. And yes, he did have his name and "D.D.S" sewed into the front of his shirt.
Consequently, when Southwest Airlines flight 409 safely touched down in Austin just before midnight and I stepped out of the terminal into 86 degree heat I decided to give God a break and cursed Texas Governor Rick Perry instead; the back of my shirt was darkening with sweat regardless of whether or not that reptilian bastard believes in global warming.
You're a bad man, Rick Perry
My last visit to Austin had been in the summer of 2008; I'd arrived around the same time, but on a Greyhound bus from New Orleans rather than a plane from Denver. That time, instead of a lightning storm we had a group of teens harassing other passengers to the point where our driver called Houston PD. The teens, who were black, called the driver a racist before fleeing the bus and hiding in a nearby gas station. Demonstrating a level of restraint one step removed from sainthood, the Hispanic man they had most recently been hassling for, well, being Hispanic, remained silent through their pulling of the race card.
Thinking back to that, a plane ride through a thunderstorm didn't seem all that bad if for no other reason than it didn't last 12 hours. Also improving on last time was my choice of attire - my first visit to the South, all I had packed was jeans and black T-shirts, and I spent a month on the brink of heat stroke - this time I had exclusively brought shorts. Also black t-shirts, but that's because anything brighter makes me look like Gumby gone to seed.
Still, even with shorts I was grateful that Mike, the friend who was picking me up, had the air conditioning in his new car set to "Fortress of Solitude." Mike and I have been friends for around six years now, having first met through the Couchsurfing network in 2007.
"Can you turn it down another degree or so?"
Earlier that year he had left his New York City home and begun hitchhiking across the USA, stopping to catch the odd NBA game and, memorably, a sermon by none other than the Reverend Al Green. After a spell in Olympic National Park he journeyed north to Victoria where I met up with him on the steps of the library; I wanted to vet him before letting him into my house. He looked much the same way then as he does now: bearded, six-foot-four, about the same across the shoulders and possessing of an enviably booming voice which, under the right conditions, can change the course of rivers and tropical storms.
"I'll have a Coke, please"
I liked him then and still do, which was invaluable considering we were about to spend the night 12 days in each others constant company.
After saying our hellos and stowing my bags we were faced with the question of what to do next: the plan had been to drive to the Grand Canyon, which Mike had never seen, but his work schedule meant we had to leave within a couple days of arriving in Austin. Prior to my arrival I had half-joked that we could leave right from the airport as long as I got some pancakes and coffee along the way and as we pulled away from the curb he said, "
"Were you serious about leaving now? Because my stuff is in the back."
Questions like that are the stuff of which friendships are made.
"Do you know a place I can get pancakes?"
That partially explains how, 30 minutes later, we ended up at the Waffle House on Ben White Boulevard eating grits we hadn't ordered, pining after the hashbrowns we had and looking at a grainy cellphone video of what the waitress claimed were the ghosts haunting her apartment.
To be continued in Part 2: Meth, Grits and Life After Death