It was a bright, clear morning when we rose to go visit that holy shrine to Texas independence, the Alamo. I was in a good mood, because I knew that there would be far more fun than my family even dreamed of.
After all, two hundred good men didn’t die to make a crappy tourist attraction.
We walked there from the hotel, whose proximity to the Alamo is its sole redeeming feature. Along the way my family asked me questions about the battle of the Alamo, such as:
“Will we see Davey Crockett’s skeleton?” this from the boy, eager to see still-warm bodies and twitching limbs.
“Is the Mexican army still around here somewhere?” this from the girl, slightly nervous.
“Do you know where the hell you’re going?” this from Wifey, slightly annoyed.
I answered all three of them with a firm yes, and because I am the father, they all believed me. Except for Wifey, who has known me long enough to have developed some skepticism about my ability to navigate strange cities.
I swear I heard the GPS speaking from time to time, but I never caught her looking at it, so I can’t prove anything. But I have my suspicions.
Upon arriving at the Alamo, the first thing you notice is that it’s not very big. But upon reflection you realize that it shouldn’t be: after all, two hundred guys held out against over a thousand Mexican troops for two weeks. If it was a big fort, then the Mexicans would have found an easy way in and won in a few days.
The second thing you notice is that the Alamo is totally funded by donations and does not charge admission. You notice this because there are signs everywhere and there are dozens of people trying to sell you extras to enhance your visit: souvenirs, audio guides, bottles of Crockett piss; you name it, they have it.
I skipped all that and went straight into the Shrine. It’s just awesome inside, one of those rare places where you feel history. There’s a big sign telling you to be quiet and for men to remove their hats. I did both, because reverence is one of the things that separate us from the animals.
Plus, I’d seen the guy in the baseball cap writhing on the sidewalk with a bootprint on his stomach who had spoken loudly into his cell phone with his hat on. I didn’t want to be like that guy.
Inside the shrine there are flags from all the states and countries of the defenders, with a pennon telling you how many people died from each location. Tennessee is the winner, with 30.
Davey Crockett, as the rock star fatality of the battle of the Alamo, of course has many items on display inside the shrine, as well as considerable information about his life and works.
Did you know that Sam Houston, another important figure in Texas history, was governor of Tennessee? So you could say that Texas owes Tennessee its statehood and very existence. As a Tennesseean I demanded reparations, or at least a discount, and ended up getting ejected from the shrine.
Finally we reached the gift shop, and my faith in reality was restored: coonskin caps and rifles, even in pink for the girls. Each child chose their cap and weapon of choice (a rifle modeled on Crockett’s Old Betsy for the boy, a pink pistol for the girl).
For the girl it was sort of a ho-hum thing; I’d promised them to her, so she took them. A simple souvenir transaction. But for the boy it was a transformative experience: having a rifle and a coonskin cap meant that he was, in some small way, Davey Crockett.
It took us a moment to sort out that he was not allowed to shoot at everyone he saw and yell “Die, Mexican!” Particularly not the frightened Japanese tourists who turned over their wallets to him.
He was also disappointed not to have received a bayonet, or at least a Bowie Knife for hand-to-hand fighting. I’d never felt closer to him than right at that moment.
Once we’d purchased rifles and caps, an interesting thing happened: the other parents, seeing our barbarism on full display and our Young Davey rushing about defending the Alamo, inquired where they, too, might indulge their second-amendment souvenir rights.
“In the gift shop, under the big ‘RIFLE’ sign,” was our typical response.
I have to say that the picture of the boy, posing beneath the giant Davey Crockett on the cenotaph out front of the Alamo, holding his rifle and hat, is extraordinarily cute. I think we probably sold ten more rifles just by posing him that way and having passers-by remark how cute he looked.
But demand a Tennessean discount and you’ll be escorted out of the Gift Shop and ordered not to return. There is no justice in the world.
Then it was time to go. If I had it to do over again, I’d spend another day in San Antonio. Nice city. And I would really like to go see what’s in that Ripley’s museum. Do they still have the two-headed goat?
We checked out of the Hilton, which was no mean feat when the guy working the desk speaks a dialect that is not quite English, not quite Spanish, and is spoken through a mouthful of chewing gum. I either checked out, signed up for the Hilton Hhonors program, or agreed to represent Paris in her next public nudity hearing.
Or possibly all three.
After that we were on our way. As we made the loooooooooooong drive out of Texas, we passed through several areas that had the best road sign ever:
“PRISON AREA. Please do not pick up hitchhikers.”
You know what? That’s pretty good advice anywhere, and in prison areas doubly so. But next door to the prison area was often a gas station and shoppette. Do you get hazard pay for working the night shift there? I certainly hope so.
The children entertained themselves pretty well, playing with their Pokecards. They might be a plague upon my house, but at least they were finally finding some kind of use. Only, eventually it became a little bit complicated. The boy asked where pokemon came from.
"Well, first the female pokemon lays an egg," said the girl. "Then the male pokeom comes along and fertilizes it."
"How?" asked the boy.
"He takes his penis, and then he uses it to fertilize the egg," she said. "Only, since it's a pokemon, maybe it's a poke-penis. And if it's a mammal, then the male would take his poke-penis and stick it in-"
"HOW ABOUT A MOVIE?" I yelled loudly enough to drown out whatever the horrible ending to that sentence was.
We drove for hours and hours, all the while completely safe with our miniature Davey Crockett in the back seat. We knew we were safe because he kept shooting the gun every five seconds, either taking out Mexican soldiers, bears, or raccoons.
“I am so glad you bought him that damned gun,” Wifey said to me. “I’ll have something to shove up your ass when he drives me crazy with it.”
“How about a movie?” I asked the kids.
“Okay!” said the boy. “Do we have any Davey Crockett movies?”
I don’t suppose that I need to tell you that this is not conducive to intimacy.
As we rocketed through the darkness, at one moment we heard the children begin an argument.
"Stop picking your nose," the girl said.
"Hey!" he protested. "That's not your job! That's mommy's job!"
"Well, mommy would tell you the same thing," said the girl. "Don't pick your nose."
"I know I'm not supposed to pick my nose," he said. "But you're not supposed to tell me not to."
"Don't pick your nose," I said. I figured that would end it.
"It's not your job, either." The boy said. "Only mommy can tell me not to pick my nose."
The car was silent for several seconds. "Tell him to stop already," I finally asked Wifey.
"You're not the boss of me," she said.
We had a long drive to Arkansas, where we planned to stay at Little Rock. We’re on a tight time schedule, and I’d planned to go to a water park the next day. So it was very, very late in the evening when we finally reached the hotel, tired, cramped, and wondering if Davey was ever going to run out of stuff to shoot at in the car.
Plus, the roads had been crawling with cops, so I had to do the speed limit. Because I was not at all in a hurry to explain my out-of-country license to some highway patrolman itching to give a massive ticket to some dumbass out-of-towner.
We stopped at the North Little Rock Holiday Inn. I chose this hotel for two reasons:
It was water-park adjacent.
It was not a Hilton.
Inside I found the staff to be quite helpful, even producing a discount ticket for the water park we planned on visiting. We were quickly settled into our room with a minimum of fuss.
Ah, sweet competence. How I’d missed it.
Tomorrow: a slight miscalculation.