Don Reddick
The Travelogues

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McAllen, Texas

Charlie is Mexican-American, and sits next to me. Doc's Bar has its share of straw cowboy hats and overweight women in tight jeans who seamlessly switch from speaking English to Spanish. Statistics in the local paper states that McAllen is 85% of Hispanic descent, and a full 75% speak Spanish at homes. Charlie grew up in El Paso, near the banks of the Rio Grande. He is intimately familiar with the Spanish culture of the area.

"When I first take this job, I go up north and I meet Irishmen from Boston and Swedes and Norwegians in Minnesota, and I think to myself, 'What da hell is this? This isn't the America I know...'

"Look at this beautiful sky and this clean air. You don't get that in an office. In an office you have four walls containing, and you don't see the day of light. Or the other way around, ha! The light of day."

"What is it, you say, that guides in the sheeps?"

"The sheeps?" I reply. "I don't know...sheppards guide in the sheeps."

"No, no, the sheeps, what is it that guides in the sheeps?"

"I don't know, they have sheep dogs, canes, I don't know..."

"No! No! The sheeps, the sheeps!"

"I don't know! Shepards guide in the sheeps..."

"The sheeps! The sheeps!"

"You mean the ships!"

"Yes! That's what I'm saying! The sheeps, the sheeps!

"They're making a new beer in the Middle East," I tell Charlie. "Call it Mecca-lobe..." The man ignores me.

"I just want to buy an orange grove, a big orange grove, and build a house right in the middle. And maybe grow some avocados. And someone comes along, says, can I have an orange? I say go right ahead, help yourself. I don't sell them, I give them away.

"From way up above, all our problems are very little. If you are a bird - see those birds just fifteen feet above the ground? - they look down and we are so little. All our problems are so little.

"When I am in charge of this world, I will do two things. I will kill all the old people. They don't want to ever die. And I will kill all the ugly people in this world. Think how good the rest can live with so many less people. Probably eighty percent of every race is ugly. And I feel this so strongly, I will even volunteer to be the first to go."

Perhaps it was being tired, having a few beers, and suddenly grasping those elusive thoughts that coalesce under such circumstances. Charlie's words, his distinctly different view of life, a view I can admire and enjoy but don't exactly share, ferment in my mind. I grabbed the two empty beer bottles and placed them between us, grabbed the salt shaker, the coaster, and an ashtray, and carefully placed them about, saying "here, here, here, this is what it's all about, Charlie!" Charlie, of course, dubiously surveying the strategically placed condiments, then in his slow, methodical way, "Well I'm not sure what it is exactly you're doing with all these things..."

"Don't you see?" I exclaimed. "It's my philosophy, and I didn't even realize it! Don't you see? It's the Honky-Tonk Bach! Yes! Honky-Tonk Bach, the combination of the best of all worlds we're lucky enough to see...look!" I point now toward the old Spanish men with their straw cowboy hats, and the heavy-set women in tight jeans. "Look at that! Listen to what's on the jukebox! One day we're in Montreal drinking Molson and eating snails, the next in Texas eating barbecue and watching this! Don't you see? I listen to Brazilian music, Irish music, bluegrass music, I eat barbecue and snails and empanadas, I've gambled in Lake Tahoe and Vegas on the same day, I've seen the Atlantic and the Pacific on the same day dozens of times, and I take the best of it all, the classical songs of Bach and this Honky-Tonk we're listening to - "I'll never smoke with Willie a-ginnn...- "this is it, this is my philosophy, and I didn't even realize it! Listen to your philosophy of life, I get it, I accept it - in part! It's Honky-Tonk Bach - that's it! - that's my philosophy, Honky-Tonk Bach!"

Charlie looked at me, looked at the empty beer bottles and coasters and salt shakers I kept moving around as I explained my thoughts. Rolled his eyes and made a face that combined feigned interest with total skepticism, as well as an endearing, shrugged acceptance.

"So this is our new philosophy?" he said to me, "Honky-Tonk Bach? Well sure, okay, why not..."

"They're making a new Mexican beer for philosophers," I tell Charlie. "Named it, Des-Cates..."

Two weeks later I rise from my hotel room bed, and open the curtains. I turn the chair and sit so that I can look out into the dawning grey day. I have heard that Charlie gave his notice. Perhaps the rumor that he is separated from his second wife is true. Perhaps the stress got to him. Perhaps he just had too much trouble wrestling machines. Perhaps he has embraced a philosophy of life that does not include working in printing plants so loud you cannot hear yourself shout during the day, and enduring the utter silence of living alone in hotel rooms at night. I hope he has taken the best of all his worlds, and discerned a better path. I hope he adheres to Honky-Tonk Bach.

I stare out the window. I get up and get dressed, and go to work.