Recollections of a Journey Through the Deep South
Part III - SAN ANTONIO
copyright 1995 by Monte Nordstrom
from issue # 20 - Cosmic Debris Musicians Magazine - Aug '95
I had spent a frantic week in Austin, Texas, taking in all
that the SxSW - convention could offer. I continued my
journey leaving the conference a day early, taking a bus to San
Antonio. This was necessary in order to connect with the train, en
route to New Orleans, my next destination. This train, called the "Sunset
Limited", travels coast to coast, from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida and
back every two days. This is also the headliner that plunged off a collapsed
bridge into an Alabama Bayou just a month later.
The connecting bus ride to San Antonio was
an experience in itself. It was a Mexican encounter
with Los Ninos climbing on my lap, mamacitas scolding the
more rambunctious ones and old folk emcumbered by the
burden of years and heavy bags, bringing treasures to family
in the south.
I arrived in San Antonio to a spectacular rosy sunset. I
caught a cab to my hotel, stopping enroute at a liquor store for
tequila. I had been nonplussed during my stay in Austin to
find that hard liquor outlets are relatively scarce, despite the
Texans' legendary prowess for drinking.
I asked my driver to take me by the Alamo. The actual
structure of the Alamo is surprisingly small opposed to it's
mythic proportions in American history. It is impressive
nonetheless. The city surrounds the old Spanish mission with
a bustling fervor. An aerial view approximated by a map
reveals a similarity to the spokes of a broken wagon wheel.
Bridges crisscross the meandering Oxbow River which bisects
the dusty metropolis. This oasis city is festive and picturesque
with fabulous shops, galleries and cafes, all accessible by river
taxi. I had chosen a motel away from the downtown core to be
closer to the train station and following a brief tour, I checked in.
Later, after relaxing for the first time in a week, I walked
a couple of blocks to a tejano restaurant called "El Asador",
to sample local cuisine. There I enjoyed a mouth watering
meal of authentic El Norte cuisine and Cervesa. Adjoining the
restaurant was a disco where I was treated to an evening of hot
fandangos, watching strutting senors and sulky senoritas
whirling the night away. Muy Bueno!
Eventually I retired to my room and awoke before dawn
to catch the morning train. As I waited for my cab outside the
lobby I was approached by a villainous looking character with
whom I avoided eye contact. He slunk off around the corner
and when he reappeared coming from the other direction, I
bolted into the lobby with all the hairs on my neck doing the
cha cha. Travel Rule (# 29-B): never wait outside at night -
you are the bait.
My cab arrived and I moved on to the station to catch the
train which ended up leaving over two hours late. I settled in
to my seat and was presently joined by a man wearing black
and a clerical collar. His nose was packed with tissue and he
didn't appear to be amused by the tardy departure either. I
thought that this fourteen hour leg of the trip could be rather
tedious but as it turned out, this nasally impaired priest was
off to take over a diocese in Birmingham. His dry sense of
humour made the long hours drift by with sarcastic wit
belying the austere trappings of a prospective bishop. I hoped
that his flock would not be too conservative. Later the priest
and I ventured into the lounge car where we encountered a
genial pair of vacationing ladies travelling from El Paso back
to New Orleans. I learned quite a bit about "Nawlins" from
these secular sisters who took to referring to the bishop as "his
unholiness". Southern repartee, all in good humour.
The trip cross the vast arid oil patch of east Texas was
uneventful. This was "coonass" country, named after the
Cajun hunters who occasionally were observed to have a
recently bagged racoon hanging over their shoulder. I had a
ceremonial toast to compadres back home as the train rumbled
through "Beaumont", Texas and rolled into the backwaters
toward Louisiana. The scenery became more exotic with fields
of burnt sugarcane shimmering in the distance. We were
rattling along through topography flatter than grits on a
griddle, approaching the Bayou country.
Viewing towns and cities from a train you see the
backyards of the common folk and witness life from an
unpretentious perspective. Crossing the Sabine river, we were
now in the state of Lousiana, rolling lazily through Lake
Charles, Crowley and Lafayette. I got my first sight of the
Mississippi coming into Baton Rouge. Cajun country and the
bayous. Witchs' hair hanging from the trees. Home of zydeco,
rice and red beans. Night was falling as we snaked past Lake
Ponchartrain. Excitement onboard was rising with all the
passengers anticipating our arrival in the jewel of the Delta.
The languid night was whispering a seductive name which
was echoed by the conductors call, "Next stop, New Orleans"!
Note: Monte Nordstrom has produced over 75 demos and has recorded 8 albums to
date (Nov '99). He performs regularly at numerous venues on Canada's West Coast.
Email Monte at:
Back To Articles List
Back To Homepage