Inevitably though, something will happen to remind me of a great story lying in limbo and I'll think, "Damn, I should've written about that! That's a GREAT story, why didn't I write about that?" Smack self in forehead. My linear mind wants to write them all down one by one, as they happen. Pretty little food stories all in a row. But my real mind jumps around. I remember certain things, forget others - only to remember again in a flash much later when I'm lying awake at 3am. Or doing laundry. Or listening to the radio. Which I guess is what a blog does, jump around, offer some insight into how a person's mind can work.
In any case, something happened this week which reminded me of a great food story that happened TWO YEARS AGO. I hadn't even THOUGHT about it until now. It took Jay Thomas on his Sirius/XM radio show to remind me of it. It was just one statement, but the minute he said it, my mind reeled, flashing back to a sunny day on London's Portobello Road. Jay said, "Chuck Norris wants to become President of the United Republic of Texas!"
And there it was. The United Republic of Texas. That statement sent my head Wayne's World reeling, complete with flapping hands and Doodle-do noises, flashing back to an image of two scruffy, grizzled, elderly gentlemen in dirty suits, one brown, the other gray. They wore brogues on their feet, fedoras atop their heads. Sitting outside a pub on Portobello Road on worn wooden chairs. The table in front of them has been gouged with pocket knife carvings and is covered in pint glass water rings. One is strumming a guitar, the other it is humming and playing drums with the tabletop. Both are drunk, guzzling Guinness like it is water. Guinness for strength! It was like a scene out of Ironweed.
Hubby and I had headed out that afternoon to meet friends. Telling them to meet us at the corner pub, we grabbed the only two chairs left on a busy happy hour Tuesday. Two chairs immediately adjacent to said grizzled guys. Humming, strumming, drinking along without a care in the world. Waving to anyone who looks and generally being genial in a "I'm drunk and cannot really harm you," kind of way. Most people would've maybe chosen a seat inside, but I figured, what the hell. We're traveling. Let's make some friends.
So we sit. Offer the gentlemen a Guinness which they gladly accept. Small talk is exchanged. And that's when it happens. The older gentleman of the two, his face covered in gray frazzled beard, his eyes just on the verge of rheumy, but jolly all the same, his teeth yellowing, reaches into his jacket and offers me his card.
A business card. Handmade. Like something a child who was just learning computer software would create. The edges were dirty, like he had fingered its edges many times, offering it to people to look at, but never keep. The words were typed in mismatched fonts, the map below was badly pixelated and some of the words were misspelled. It said, in all caps:
PROUD CITIZEN OF
THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TEXAS!
With a colorful map of the Republic underneath. Mr. Grizzled then began a long diatribe about how he came to be a proud citizen of this Republic, and in his American accent (getting slurrier by the minute) talked about what brought him to that stretch of London on that particular afternoon. Or day. Or month. Or year. It kinda didn't matter. Mr. Grizzled Two just sat and strummed his guitar and grinned. Grinned like he'd heard this speech many times before. Too many times to count, so why not just strum the day away. Playing nothing in particular.
I think I may have actually whipped around to make sure that 1) I wasn't dreaming and 2) ol' John Singer wasn't about to come walking around the corner because right then I was sure I had somehow dropped right into a Carson McCullers novel.
But no, Mr. Grizzled was real. And he was passionate about his cause. He talked and talked about why this Republic needed to happen. And why it needed to happen NOW. I wanted to ask if he was so passionate about it, then why was he sitting on a London streetcorner instead of protesting down the Main Street in Dallas, but he kinda wouldn't let me get in a word edgewise. It's as if the card was attached to an invisible string which led to his sternum, and once it was pulled, he would talk until that string rode back up inside him. However many hours that took.
Our friends arrived a while later and so we left these gentlemen. One strummed, and one talked. Even as we stood to leave, Mr. Republic of Texas just smiled, waved, and kept spewing his passion all over Portobello Road. Later on that week we saw them both, one strumming, the other just sipping, this time seated at the front of a different pub on a different street in the same neighborhood. I caught the eye of Mr. Texas and he just smiled. Pointed his index finger at me like it was a gun and with a wink of his eye pulled the trigger. But in a genial way. Like we had shared a secret joke.
So is this travel story accurate? For the most part. But like all stories you file away in a drawer for a year or two, it is probably the victim of embellishment. Maybe forgetting for a while makes it better? Maybe not. Nevertheless, it definitely makes it mine... Tweet