July 04, 2009, Austin, TX: Tonight, my friends (and hosts) Mary and Michael and about 75 to 100 of their pals will be grilling and eating animals, drinking plenty of booze and blowing stuff up. That's what you're supposed to do on July 4th and despite the 100 degree temperatures and high humidity, Austin seems like a very good place to be doing it.
We had Vietnamese food for lunch.
Therein lies the genius of America and the A Number One reason why I really do love this country above and beyond all others. My family were immigrants - in their case, from Poland, the Ukraine and Romania - and unless you are 100% Native American, your family were immigrants, too. And they know that, and they celebrate that but they're Americans, too and they celebrate that as well.
There are plenty of Vietnamese and Algerian people in France. Their families have been there for as many generations as mine have been here. But they are not considered fully, even quite really, French. Same with Turks and Hungarians in Germany, Pakistanis in Britain, even Uighurs in China. The United States is pretty much the only country in the world where anyone, no matter where they come from, can become a member of the tribe - "American" - just for the asking, and some waiting and some hard work and a test, but still...
That isn't to say that all Americans are treated equally and that there isn't an awful lot of racism and sexism and all the bad isms here. There's all of that. But it's only a very small minority of crazy people who regard anyone other than their fellow White Anglo-Saxon Protestant brethren as somehow unAmerican.
That is what has made this country grow and prosper. That's what's given it hope and energy and excitement and great Bun Bo Hue as well as mighty fine bbq in Austin, Texas.
It's one of the reasons that I never get tired of driving around this country, of poking my nose into as many of its nooks and crannies as I possibly can.
Well, that and selling books. At least some books.
So, Happy Fourth to you all. Drink some beer. BBQ some beast and eat it. Blow some stuff up. Have fun!
I'll write more about my actual trip soon. Probably tomorrow.
In the meantime, some recommendations:
Grimaldi's Pizza - Old Town, Scottsdale - probably the best pizza I've had outside of the greater New York / New Jersey region. Coal-fired, brick-oven cooked and yep, the coal does make a difference, and nope, environmental regulations won't let pizza parlors use it most places. (The old places in NY and NJ have been grandfathered in.) I guess Arizona places pizza ahead in the priorities list of fighting global warming, and, well, I can't blame them.
El Indio - on very far south 6th Street in Tucson. South even of Interstate 10. A very good, very cheap Mexican restaurant. The best I've found in Tucson.
Nellie's Cafe - 1226 W. Hadley, Las Cruces, NM. The only real choice to make is between green and red. Chile, that is. I guess you can also get most things "Christmas" if you can't make up your mind. I went with the green, with pork and it's nearly enough to make me want to move to Las Cruces.
I am well and truly sorry to have to write this paragraph. I tend to try and find something of value almost everywhere. But to you, the residents of Fort Stockton, Texas, all I can say is: MOVE! FOR YOUR OWN GOOD - MOVE! PACK UP AND GO RIGHT AWAY!
I recommend that you don't stop to spend the night in Fort Stockton, TX unless you absolutely have to. There is pretty much nothing I could find of interest there. The hotels? There are a lot of them and they are clean enough, I slept well enough, but they are expensive, for the only reason that they can be, as there is nothing else around for quite some distance on Interstate 10.
And, K-Bob's Steakhouse? One of the worst steaks I've ever had. In Texas, yet! Sheesh, I've had better steaks in Laos, in Bamako, Mali. I cannot imagine that steak that bad isn't illegal in Texas. Where are the Rangers when you need them? I got the smallest steak on the menu, an 8 oz ribeye and I couldn't finish the damn thing. And I was hungry. It was gristly. It would have been tough but it had been soaked, for days possibly, in some sort of tenderizer that had a livery flavor that was concocted in hell's chemistry lab. It was cheap, though.
I'd best go now and help get the grills fired up.