One of my favorite bands is Thrift Store Cowboys from Lubbock. Listening to their songs I pictured a quaint Texas town with serious but sweet cowboys, rolling tumbleweeds, and sprawling farms.
What I got was strip malls, aggressive drivers, and McMansions.
Lubbock is a city of about 250,000 and growing, so I don’t know where I got the idea it was quaint. (Quaint has size limits.) But it has streets named after Martin Luther King Jr. and Mac Davis, so I thought, it can’t be too bad, right? Plus, driving from Amarillo to Lubbock it was all gorgeous red rock mesas and trees and cotton fields:
I thought any place with adorable, fluffy loaves of cotton nearby must be worth visiting.
Note to self: No expectations, no disappointment.
Let’s start with my favorite thing in Lubbock, which happened to feature a young, talented man who died a tragic death. Fun!
Buddy Holly was from Lubbock, and there’s a terrific museum dedicated to his much-too-short life. The Buddy Holly Center ($5 admission) has a big collection of memorabilia, including his guitars and BH-inscribed guitar strap, Buddy and Bob business cards (the group he performed with in high school), handwritten letters and lyrics, lots of photos, and a complete timeline of his life.
Which wasn’t long since he died at 22 in a plane crash. (17-year-old Richie Valens also died in that crash, along with the old man of the group, 28-year-old Big Bopper.) But in Holly’s 22 years he managed to generate four top-20 hits and so many other great songs. (Odd fact: his first gig was opening for Elvis in Lubbock.) The eeriest part of the collection was Holly’s iconic black frames – no lenses – found at the crash. Sad.
Lubbock seemed to have a lot of sadness, in the bland architecture, the concrete loops and highways and onramps everywhere, the people. Witness: Waiting in line at the store to pay for groceries, the five people in front of me all looked like mistreated puppies.
I don’t know what it was about Lubbock’s vibe, but if I lived there I’m certain I’d immediately morph into an obese alcoholic. (As I typed that I looked out my trailer window to see a huge woman carrying a six-pack and a bag of Doritos. I am not making this up.)
I thought I’d shake off my blues with a dose of nature, so I went to the Lubbock Lake Landmark (free). It has a small interpretive center with bones and rocks, and a few of my beloved dioramas:
There’s also a four-mile loop trail if you’re in need of exercise, which I was:
The most scenic thing I saw was a guy on a giant riding lawnmower who waved as he rode by.
Then, luck struck. My friend called to say he had tickets to see Supreme Court justices Scalia and Breyer at the Civic Center for the Sandra Day O’Connor lecture series. What an opportunity!
The night was all about Scalia vs. Breyer and letter of the law vs. intent. Scalia was vaguely condescending, and seems to see the world in black and white. But he said, “I don’t like to be called a literalist; words should be interpreted reasonably.”
Breyer talked about the discipline of interpreting the law vs. personal opinion. He also made a point of saying he and Scalia have more in common than people realize. Breyer got the biggest applause of the night when he said “the constitution is a miracle” in that it’s worked for 200 years for 300 million people, and second loudest applause went to Scalia for mentioning state’s rights.
Though it was a privilege to see two brilliant minds bantering for an hour, it left me exhausted. One man preached to one choir, the other did the same. I doubt anyone left with his or her mind expanded.
So still, I wasn’t happy. And what do you when you’re not happy? You go to happy hour! In Lubbock the locals go to the “O-Bar” (Lone Star Oyster Bar). Two guys next to me discussed who they knew working at Hooters, and the guy on my other side complained how his kids never want what he makes for dinner. “They won’t eat meatloaf, potatoes, and peas, and I tell them: I’m not a short-order cook!”
I watched the bartender pour light beer after light beer, and asked him why everyone but me seems to drink it.
Him: It tastes better.
Me: Come on.
Him: Okay. You can drink more.
So for one dollar and more second hand smoke than I could shake an oxygen tank at, I had a refreshing 20 oz. Bud Light.
And internet, I was happy.