I’ve no idea why I woke up this morning thinking about Terry who memorably lamented ‘I could’ve been somebody’ in On the Waterfront. Thoughts of Terry somehow dragged up lots of stuff, including toilet rolls, from the depths of my mind.
It’s a cliché to note that the mind works in peculiar ways. But it does and that’s why it’s a cliché. Suffice to say that I am very grateful for my unexpected thoughts. Without the strange memory links, I would have no journal. You might think that’s a good thing but here you are reading it. Perhaps we should be grateful for my strange experiences without which I would have no stories.
Here’s a challenge for you. Can you connect these memory dots that came into my head right after Terry?
- One million pesos.
- Free drinking women.
- An ambush by a TV news crew.
- Broom handles and toilet rolls.
I have no idea what you thought but here’s a sequence for comparison.
I knew a John who married a Terry. That John introduced me to his Terry sometime before I acquired my first million Argentinian pesos. And that was before a TV crew interviewed me for a local news broadcast. After I met that Terry in a bar full of women drinking for free, I brought a woman there to see customers line dancing with brooms and toilet rolls.
For now, there’s no more to tell about Terry. Her name was simply the link from a Marlon Brando performance that served to open the doors to many other memories.
All of these things are associated with a country and western bar in the basement of an office block where I worked for a while. I had no idea at the time that The Bullwhip on Houston’s Southwest Freeway would become such a memory palace. Back then, in the time of these memories, The Bullwhip was the epicentre of an urban C&W craze that lasted throughout the 1980s. Stetsons, shit kickers and country style had become a norm after John Travolta and Debra Winger made Urban Cowboy a global hit. The Texas chic era had perhaps started with TV series Dallas and added to this was a country music groundswell. All things country (and western) remained wildly popular for several years. Think Willie Nelson and add an emphasis on the wild.
One of my memory palace rooms holds a memory of an Argentinian colleague who was visiting from Buenos Aires. As was our group’s habit, we entertained him over a few beers in the basement. We talked of Raúl Alfonsín’s efforts at restoring a sense of democracy but not of The Falklands war because there were some British in the group. At one point, he joked that me he’d pay me a million pesos if I got him a beer. Imagine my surprise when he produced the million peso note. He talked about it over the coming days, retelling how he got a beer in The Bullwhip for 15 cents because he paid in pesos. I still have the note that says just how worthless a million can be.
You don’t need to share content from my palace to imagine that the price of oil made a huge difference to life in Houston in the 1980s. That version of Houston was the oil hub of the world but it was also a major financial centre, that in turn funded the oil industry. One example of the excesses of such wealth was to be found on a lunch menu. La Colombe d’Or was a restaurant at the time that pegged the price of lunch to the daily price of West Texas Intermediate crude. That was OK when WTI was fetching 40, 30 or 20 bucks. But when WTI crashed towards $10, the restaurant wasn’t the only victim. Some said that everyone working in the oil industry supported the jobs of ten more. A friend of ours was a chef who lost his Colombe d’Or job in that summer of 1986. Big oil was reducing their workforces in some cases by tens of thousands per company. And on a night when we learned that we were survivors of a loss of 33% of our colleagues, some of us found our way to the office basement for survivors drinks.
That was where the Channel 2 TV news crew found us, later than we’d normally stay. Not just us, and so even better for them, the reporter had found me. A bleary-eyed foreigner who still had a job in the oil services industry when so many Houstonians and Texans did not. I never saw the broadcast because I didn’t get home until after the news. Some said, the next day, that I might indeed have been quite bleary eyed. All I know is that I struggled to address the primary question which came as the video lights blinded me, and the reporter with baseball-sized microphone were literally in my face to overcome the C&W music that was thumpingly loud: ‘How does it make you feel to know Exxon just laid off 10,000 people?’
A few years and many beers later, my memory of our friend visiting from Ireland in 1988 is her surprise at what the dancing customers did. The boys had been crowding the bar, the gals standing around necking their free beers while awaiting the return of the boys with yet another beer. One large cohort suspended their beer action and before you could say ‘Merle Haggard’, they were line dancing; seriously organised line dancing while the rest of us carried on necking our beers.
Strangely fascinating to see for the first time, there was a collection of expensive stetsons and diamante denims doing what comes naturally. The wearers were in opposing gendered phalanxes, four abreast, two deep and all sixteen doing the Texas two step. After a while the dancing women were all holding broom handles. They put them between their legs. Which got stranger when the lady dancers attempted to poke their brush butted, thigh clenched, forward protruding handles into toilet roll cores which the men had magically produced. They held the cores tight between their thighs squirming and gyrating to try to snatch the tips.
It was great fun to watch an exaggerated role reversed, dancing joke. The handles being measured in feet not inches created a physics experiment with angular velocities and momentum rarely encountered in normal doctrines and practices. Southern Baptist evangelicals were likely not present.
Goodbye FitBit 2
If you read my journals regularly you’d know of my annoyances with my FitBit. My 2018 Xmas gift died about 750 days after I received it. Here’s a post I lifted off the FitBit community boards from user MancUKHR2 because it’s exactly what happened yesterday. And this after I finally received new straps.
Suddenly in the middle of the night battery went to zero charge. Left it on charge for 30 minutes and says 100% charged. Within 5 minutes, back to ZERO charge. Repeated the process several times, same result. Tried full re-set. Same result. Guess there is a battery problem.
Gift or no gift, is it worth replacing if the next also costs 13 cent per day? And then I got an email announcing that FitBit has become part of Google.