Wednesday, April 7, 2010
April 7, 2010
My kind of weather today in Abilene. Overnight it got down into the 40s, perfect for sleeping, and during the day it barely reached 70 under a bright blue sky. Everywhere I went people were complaining about the "cold spell."
Abilene was named for Abilene, Kansas. The connection was that they were both cattle towns. Abilene, Kansas was the last stop on the Chisholm Trail and home to a stockyard. It was also famous as the place where Wild Bill Hickok had briefly been marshall, and where several notorious outlaws, like John Wesley Hardin, had lived. The Texas Abilene was started in the 1880s as a cattle shipping point on the Texas and Pacific Railroad. If its ambition was to be as big as its Kansas namesake, it succeeded brilliantly after a slow beginning. Today this Abilene has a population of over 120,000, while the one in Kansas has about 6,500 folks. It has three universities--Abilene Christian, Hardin-Simmons, and McMurray. It's also home to Dyess Air Force Base. (The Walmart where I'm staying is crawling with uniformed service personnel.)
And oh my God. Abilene is the hometown of Jessica Simpson. She's the one I was picturing in my mind as I entered that town in northern Louisiana where Britney Spears was from. So now I've come full circle, sort of. Jessica Simpson is the one whose skin had to be tamed--to be disciplined by Proactiv, the acne cream. I hope to God her skin has learned its lesson by now.
I did have a rather odd experience at a place called Books A Million, which is what passes down here for a large chain bookstore, although if you took out the sections on Christian literature, inspirational books, Christian fiction, and various editions of the Bible, you'd be left with a bunch of copies of the Twilight series and a few hundred Harlequin romances and not a hell of a lot else. I went in for a World Almanac, and when I went to the front desk to ask the cashier (a big and energetic young man) where they were, rather than just telling me he left the register and walked me all the way to the back of the store to the shelf where they sat. I grabbed one and walked back up to the front to buy it. But he hadn't returned yet, so I stood in front of the register to wait. After a few minutes he walked up, and I said, "Looks like I beat you up here." He looked at me with a puzzled expression, and rather than go behind the checkout counter he came and stood in front of me for a few seconds. Then suddenly a light seemed to go on in his head. He said, almost under his breath, "Oh, for a second I thought you said something about beating me up," and went back to the cash register to ring up my order. I was tempted to suggest to him that with his particular skill set he might be more suited to being a bouncer in a bar than a bookstore employee. It does illustrate how delightfully ambiguous our language can be sometimes.