So, Austin. Good times, good times.
I got back this evening. Houston and Austin are about a 3-hour drive apart. I love road trips, and can drive for long periods without getting bored. Some people might require the beautiful vistas of Utah or the PCH or New England in the fall, but it doesn't take much to keep me interested. Even though it's flat and waterless, I've found the Texas landscape soothing and attractive. True it's not breathtaking, but it has its own kind of beauty.
I'm so happy to be so close to Anne, my mother-in-law. When I go to her place, I never need an agenda; it's like going home. Anne is completely chill. We shop, usually at TJ Maxx and Marshall's, her favorite stores, eat, shoot the shit at home with her roommate. Anne's youngest sister died last year, and Anne has taken in her now 22-year-old daughter, Tiffany. I'm also 22 (ahem), so me and Tiff always have a good time. She burned me some CD mixes to listen to on the drive back to Houston. They include classic R&B, which to Tiffany means R&B from the 1990s. So funny.
I love to go to Austin, let go of the reigns, and occupy Anne's world. I often wind up somewhere I never thought I'd find myself. This time, it was at the bingo hall.
I hadn't played bingo since I was in my early 20s, and then only a few times. I remember doing it out of some kind of obligation, like a community relations thing for a job or something. It was easy and fun, but definitely filled with old and wacky people. I liked it, but when it was done, it was done.
Anne and Tiffany have recently started going to a place near Anne's house. They'd been twice, and invited me for a third trip, on Saturday. They warned me about playing too many cards, and tried to describe all the bingo patterns. I didn't understand what they were talking about, because when I played it was pretty much straight across or down or diagonal. I don't know how long it's been going on, but nowadays the patterns are all fancy. You can go picnic table or layer cake or love letter -- it's pure madness.
My "dauber." I picked money green, thinking it'd help me get lucky. Not so much. (Anne won 70 bucks, using her pink dauber.)
Bingo halls are apparently models of diversity and integration. They're like the Noah's ark of ethnicity. Two of everything. Both the old and wacky contingents are represented, along with a smattering of some of everybody, primarily arriving from the working and lower classes. I can't say how things go when people in the Pentagon or the White House have a project put before them, but I'll bet they can't beat the bingo hall crowd for focus and dedication. While the numbers are being called, you can hear a pin drop. I loved that best. It's almost meditative. I hadn't concentrated that hard since I had to push Schmin through my loins. Anne says bingo is good for the prevention of Alzheimer's. I say it's the cure for ADD.
I managed to play two sheets at once. These women were playing, like, 8, plus multiple bingo computers. Plus doing lottery-style game cards. Serious multi-taskers.
At one point I said to Anne and Tiffany that only booze could've added to the fun. Bingo and drinking go together better than some couples I know. Being new to the hall, Anne and Tiffany weren't sure if drinking was allowed. They hadn't seen anyone with alcohol, so they didn't think so, but on the way out Anne stopped a group of folks (by folks I mean gold teeth, fairly animated, and carrying a mini-cooler -- our cousins) and asked if the hall allows drinking. One of them, a woman who'd hit at the end of the night and was therefore feeling no pain, gave us a look like Y'all don't know what time it is? and said, Oh yeah! We be cocktailin' up in there! The only guy in the group added that they keep it cool, because people expect black folks to get drunk and act a fool. So they casually sip the gin 'n juice out of nice cups. No throwing back forties. I thought them very classy.
And I told Anne that's it. Next time, we gon' be cocktailin' up in there too. I swear I can hardly wait.