The City is Us and my sort of vacation in my Texas homeland
By Royal Hopper
The day I left Vegas for the rustic confines of my native Southeast Texas. I drove past homeless guys, abandoned buildings , corny expensive tourist attractions and thought _ at least I will get away from this. I will miss my city but I will get away from this for a few days.
Outside the Rose City Baptist church there is a sign that proudly proclaims 97 years of community service and counting. Across the street nestled among badly trimmed trees and patches of weeds green even in December are railroad tracks my 72-year-old mother picked blackberries at when a young child. Mom or Mama as us southerners say, reported that more than once she had to scoot off the tracks as a freight train barreled thru the rural community on their way to the myriad oil refineries in the area.
“ I was baptized here,” my mother explained telling the story of the old church sandwiched between the rural exurbs around her home town and the southeast Texas town she grew up in.
In some ways it this old church is the polar opposite of the the city of Sin and in some ways it reminded me of a casino I worked at until a few moths ago. They were both old by the standards of their environment _ full of history, leaks and mold and a feeling that this was a place people came to do things.
Of course the church didn’t smell like alcohol, dog pee , fake tan spray and weed in any of its parts which older casinos especially those who allow dogs often do.
When I worked at the Riviera, when it was open, a man left his backpack in the casino. It was full of primo weed _ a two quart jar full of it _ and he got very angry when we (and by that I mean casino security which I have done off and on for 15 years) would not give him back his weed. He actually called the police to complain about us not giving his weed back to him. I never heard what the Las Vegas PD told him as he used the phone we lent him to call the police about his confiscated Chronic but he left without his weed and threatened to sue us if he had a seizure which the Mary Jane ( ask your older friends what that means) was used to treat. Right…
The church on the other hand smelled like hundreds of weddings and sermons and thousands of baptisms and church picnics and memorials for lost loved ones and all those things we associate with the living and celebrating of life and the mourning of its loss. It wasn’t decadent. It was just old, moldy and in need of new carpet and new appliances.
People said eloquent things in that church that day _ things mostly from the heart. I am not a religious man but that day eloquence was the watchword of the day and I learned my beloved nephew is more eloquent in speech than I have ever been and the kind of man I would want my son to be if I had one.
In Vegas _ the City of Sin there are sign holders everywhere. In SE Texas and SW Louisiana I thought for sure there would be none. Then on a rainy day driving down a feeder road in SE Texas town I saw a single lone sign holder sitting on the pavement in the one place local police would not notice _ sitting in the rain on the median in the middle of a feeder road holding a sign. The rainy haze if that days bad weather but I saw a car stop and the driver give the man a dollar. Later that week I parked at a corny but interesting tourist attraction across the river in Louisiana and saw buildings and houses that had outgrown their usefulness rotting behind a wall of brush or trees.
I visited a place this week on a vacation_ one I thought was very unlike my beloved city _ the City of Sin and is was different _ and very much alike in so many ways. As I have often said the City of Sin is not an aberration. Its flaws are our flaws ..It is us regardless of where you are from _ It is us _ all our flaws and issues blown up a thousand time and written across the desert skyline in huge neon letters. The City of Sin is in fact 50 years of neon greed, lust and fairy tales.
That’s life in the City of Sin bro.
I’m back Sinners
Love you guys