Sunday, April 13, 2014


Did I tell you about the time I met LBJ? Because there was an event to honor the passage of the civil rights act this week I've been thinking about him.
My dad sold Lincoln Mercuries at a dealership owned by the mayor of Austin. I think he sold a few to LBJ. Dad was adamantly Democrat but not actually politically aware. One year my grandmother and two aunts took a road trip to Texas to visit he and my half sister. He knew Grandmom in particular would be thrilled to meet the President. We drove out to his ranch but who ever was supposed to be there to give us a tour was not. We hung around on the lawn while sheriffs with big ol cowboy hats and mirrored sunglasses kept their eyes on us. I'm not sure if I remember it clearly but I think Dad was irritated and embarrassed. Grandmom and the aunts were hot and cranky.
My half sister and I were mostly bored. She was about 12 or 13 at the time and had taken to wearing a hair piece intended to make her hair seem long and straight. She wasn't that good at attaching it and it didn't really match her hair color so it looked somewhat odd. I was in my Teen Magazine phase so in photographs I am always posing and never looking directly into the camera. None of really ever are looking into the camera. We look like shoplifters who are trying not to be noticed.
There was a tourist shop in the nearby town. Plates, ashtrays, shot glasses, t-shirts, all with LBJ on them. There were jars full of grass clippings from the ranch.
A few years later Dad bought a ranch of his own and some quarter horses. He raced them on the weekends. We were often at the track. Our family now included a new wife and a step sister. The sisters dressed in matching cowgirl outfits. I wore patched and ragged blue jeans, a tye-dyed t-shirt, no bra, mediation beads and a rosary hanging from my hip, peace sign button another that read: Frodo Lives.
The president was at the track one weekend. Dad introduced us. Two good American daughters and me, the freak. That was actually pretty cool of Dad.
Like so many others, I didn't really think in terms of The Great Society as I shook that hand. I thought in terms of the Vietnam war. My memory may not be clear but it is one of a weak-fingers-barely-touching-not-really handshake. Neither one of us wanted to get too real. Listening to all the speeches this week I think I could have been nicer.
These memories come in the context of my last post and current thinking and continued frustration with the arch of justice.
It's been interesting to watch Mom, who raised me to believe there was "no difference" but married two men who used a word that we only mention by the first letter. And bought me panty hose in flesh tone with no thought about the colors of flesh that they would not match. She doesn't like to think about the things that aren't easy. She likes the narrative in which it all works out if you work hard and play by the rules.
In the book I am reading (Thank you Kristina) a character says: That is all there is -- perception and memory. But it's ragged.     
I think of these scenes in which I am a point of view. I am a point of view in a group of others. I can only imagine what they saw. In fact, I can only see my self back then in light of all I'm thinking now.
But there are clear facts.
I met LBJ.
I wish I'd purchased one of those jars of grass.

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