Special to The Tribune
BROWNSVILLE, Texas - When I fell from the upper reaches of rock 'n' roll stardom, thanks in great part to my addiction to Cocaine, my friends here said I'd be able to live-out my life in relative quiet. It hasn't happened. Gone is the noise in my ears. Now, however, I find myself addicted to this mess over in Harlingen, where, if I look at it all sideways, I start thinking about my days of boozing, using and, well, feasting on groupies.
What's with Harlingen, I asked my neighbor yesterday afternoon, when I spotted her setting up a Hibachi outside her apartment. "What?" she said at first, before handing me a rather in-depth analysis of the town up the highway, over toward McAllen or somewheres out there in the western hinterlands of my beloved Rio Grande Valley. Then, while she dropped a New York Strip on the hot grill, she sat me down on the concrete balcony and went at it, telling me about how awful it was back when she'd been a high school kid in Harlingen.
"Rough?" I asked, sorta knowing.
"We were so bored we'd go to Rio Hondo and yell at those Rubes," she said next. My eyes were on the steak being grilled, yes. But they cut across her nice legs as I panned the scenery. I love those loose-flowing gym shorts young women wear today. They remind me of so, so much...
Anyway, we talked some more and then she said her meal was ready and wouldn't I like to share it? The steak was one of those for-one steaks, so I declined. She got up, slapped at her butt to wipe off the dirt and then reached for a plate and tongs she'd set on a small fold-up chair alongside the grill.
"Why so hung-up on Harlingen?" she asked while holding her steak in a plate with one hand and the metal tongs with the other. Her eyes radiated true interest in my response. I could tell she was genuinely concerned that I was concerned. I'd heard from a friend who'd heard from someone who'd heard from someone else that newcomers to the Valley shouldn't get so involved with local politics.
"I take these long sideways looks at it and I tell myself things can't be that shitty anywhere," I replied, finally.
She nodded, said something about maybe sharing a bottle of wine later in the evening, and bolted for her apartment. I went into my place, threw on a pair of faded jeans and strapped on my boots before reaching for my favorite, black Henley shirt. Then I drove downtown and saw a crowd of people in 1950s clothing staring into store windows featuring 1950s appliances, TVs and Art.
Reading stuff about Harlingen does that to you - blows you into a backwards Time Warp to places and events that colored the world in grays and blue-grays and charcoals and fog...