Secrets of the Universe Revealed

Writer to the Stars

Writer to the Stars
Dallas, Texas, USA
August 15
Writer to the Stars
A long-time freelance writer who was fated to live in Dallas, Texas and marry a tall photographer. And who did. 31 years into it now. It seemed to be working. And then the whole damned roof fell in. But we've both been to the rodeo before, even this one, and we know what to do. You cowboy up.


Writer to the Stars's Links

AUGUST 4, 2010 4:43AM


Rate: 47 Flag

Nature isn't playing games. The heat is unvarying, and brutal and we're only three days into August. August is always the worst month in Dallas. Sometimes we have an awful crappy winter and you don't know which is worse: January or August. At its very best, January will always be bleak and brown, offering endless vistas of barren uglies. But me, I put my money on August for the cruelest month. That's when I understand the dark emotional underpinnings of a Sam Houston remark, "If I owned Texas and Hell, I'd rent out Texas and live in Hell."

August is when someone goes batshit a block or two over, down where the meth houses are. The batshit asshole will hole up with a bunch of guns and take his own family hostage for a couple of twelve hour news cycles. You might as well go check it out. It breaks up the sweltering day, walking over a couple of blocks to view a lunatic. At one saggy house, you'll spy a heavy confused bare chested guy flashing his man-tits at an open window and threatening to shoot his toddler in the head for max horror. Maybe you can howl right back at him, like some onlookers are doing: Go rat ahead n' shoot at baby 'n you'll be graveyard dead in a New Yawk minute, on accounta half a us is carryin' concealed. The cops frown and caution, Easy now. As for us, the ghoulish onlookers, we're just hanging out, waitng for the shrink and hostage negotiator to show up and offer this creep lots of pizzas and Cokes, then send in SWAT to save the family and get this cocksucker the fuck out of that fucking house. All done without the traditional Death by Cop.

But mostly, everyone stays inside during the day's blistering heat. The gristly guys aren't drinking 40's, talking smack, or chaining cigarettes in front of their garages. No one's hunched in plastic chairs in the back yard next door: formerly an entertaining scene full of excited yelling and threats. There's a weird deserted High Noony echoey feel to the neighborhood.

August is when everything is finally nicely fried. No matter how tenderly and illegally you water your lawn, it's still gonna look like you're growing potato chips out there. You've given up your yard guy because, fuckit, why? Everything that's supposed to be green has quit growing and, instead all plant life just concentrates on wilting and shriveling. The yellowy grass crunches when you walk on it and you begin to have depressing Malthusian notions. Glancing around, you see your whole little swatch of outdoors in terms of what's gonna make it. You look at your aged shrubbery and think, Okay, that's not gonna make it. But, you're not conned by any diva stuff either. Keep a hard eye on the vincas. Those cheap little drama queens'll faint over the edges of their pots if you miss a single watering.

August is when you start thinking about putting in an Arizona-style yard, one like the weird balding guy has, that guy with the guns and the burglar bars over on San Juan: it's all gravel and cow skulls and napolito cactus at his place. But those yards really look incredibly lame in Dallas. It's because this is North Texas, mofo, and we have us four distinct seasons, whether they're recognizable to Yankees or not. So by October, when the leaves have not changed color but turned dead and brown, the cactus, the old wagon wheel, and those coyote skulls look like cheesy stage props. Or worse, it looks like you're a hoarder in the making and this ruined Old West bullshit is your starter yeast. Just fucking give up the Arizona thing, you tell yourself, but that small bad idea still comes a-knocking every August.

So far, we've had day after day of 105 degree heat. The local TV weathermen lecture us like parents: bring the pets indoors, better bring in some of those plants too, and no watering until 6 PM. Towards evening, when it comes down to ninety, you have this utter delusion that cool air has arrived. During the day, only those species that predated mammals stay outside. This mostly boils down to lizards and bugs.

Afternoons, when you walk outside, the heat itself seems like the only lively thing left. It socks you in the chest with the force of a fist, and you never get used to it. You notice how utterly still it is: no bird songs, no dogs barking, no cats skittering. If you didn't see an eyeball blinking in the ivy, say, you might think there was no fauna left alive. But one night, you leaned over to water your deiffenbachia and spotted an eye blinking somewhere in the foliage. It was a toad nestled down in the pot, enjoying some of that fine deiffenbachia camo. The toad barely breathed. Like the survivor he is, he'd made a toad hole right in the potting soil and in it he sat like a shrunk down Buddha, still as a stone, hoping you'd take your ass somewhere else.

Last Sunday, when you took out the garbage, you saw another blink, then the fast whip of a tail, then spied a little lizard sitting on your dark gray garbage can lid, turning dark gray himself: an exact Pantone match. You tapped your finger on the lid and it zipped over to the chainlink fence, sat on a discolored rail, then changed to a dull silver. Then, panicky, the lizard bounced onto an ivy leaf, the last green thing in the yard, and turned a handsome deep emerald shade before your delighted eyes. It made you think of your much, much younger self, when you were a chameleon too. Remembering now, you take a fast  breath of self-forgiveness.

Like the little lizard, there was you with your quick switches of haircuts, makeup and clothing changes,your instant preference for rock n' roll over cool jazz, and your impulsive swaps of boyfriends, colleges, and majors. Bless you, darlin', you were trying to survive. You melted into whatever the background was, praying not to be noticed but not to be ignored either, and wanting some dates besides. No wonder you felt nuts. Much older now, you're pretty purely yourself and it feels okay. Some days you're even better than that.

You glanced over to where the chameleon had been; now he was perched on a bright aluminum fencerail. He'd turned pure silver so when he raced along it, he looked like a quick flash of moonlight zooming through sunlight.

Tips for surviving a Dallas August: eat a ton of watermelon chunks, hose yourself down when you water the plants, and remember to notice small survivors.

Like that mud dauber wasp, now busily building an  interesting domicile on your porch. You observe how every so often the wasp flies over to the door handle, lights there, and takes a tiny breather. Then back to daubing. 

 Pay attention. That bug is a fellow traveler, as are we all.


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Crap. Hate to say it but here it is: I'd nver been to Hawaii, never wanted to. Live in Mexico fulltime since Bush got re-elected. (And after I stopped sobbing.)

I've been in Maui for months now, working, and while I initially was unimpressed, predetermined to not dig it, here is where I am now: Why does not every American citizen move the fuck to Hawaii?

Really. I am deadly serious.

Quit bitching about where you live, the heat, the freezing weather, the lack of jobs, and move the fuck to Hawaii.

We will be heading back to Bumfuck, Mexico in mid-September, and I am here to tell you that in the back of my mind, in the front of my mind, I will be thinking about making a life here........

There are little towns and big towns scattered all over these islands, and folks DO live here. And work here and raise families.

I might......
And, also, I am a huge fan of your writing. You are wonderful.
Just last night I told my husband that I could not complain about the heat because then I would feel shitty when I turned around and complained about the cold weather and I hate the cold so much worse. And now this perfect description -- not complaint -- of our conditions.
Oh, those blinking eyes. Hunker down and wait it out. Be the toad... yup. I know that cool shade of the pot amidst the unbearable heat.

These layers of worlds, these tiny noticings, the narrowing focus, from the large, crazed man, down to the wasp daubing mud. This is why I read you.
Fabulous writing. Loved all of it.

Wishing you a blast of cool Arctic air.
I will look at everything a little differently now, thanks to your superb take on August. Fellow travelers, survivors.
Another secret of the universe revealed; will be more likely to think kindly of the critters in my yard. Always a treat to read your writing!
I read this nodding yes, and yes . . . I pray to the air conditioner, I hose the dogs down after our walks, and I keep the bird baths full.

Just this a.m. passed a truck with a bumper sticker: "It's Time! For Concealed Carry!" The driver a saggy faced old white guy with pre-cancerous looking wattled skin, and maybe he's somebody's nice grandpa, but he had a mean look. He was probably already carrying.
Fantastic post Writer. I'm next door in Fort Worth, enjoying the same 'warmth'. I can identify with so much of this post. I truly enjoy reading you. I've lived in Arizona, and you are so right - the deserty look is out of place in Dallas. It can be pulled off west of Fort Worth, but just looks out of place in Dallas. Peace and coolness to you.
Brilliant writing, should be a cover. I haven't read many pieces that have described heat as perfectly. (I was sweating in the aircon.) And your tie-in with the chameleon, wow.
I envy your writing, but not your temps. When I think about how hot it is in Florida this time of year, all I have to do is think of Texas and I feel cooler almost instantly. Bless those little critters and their abilities to survive. They truly are some marvels of nature.
Had a brief fling with the Texas heat; drove my non -AC K-car on the 66 on the way to the coast and the Dallas dj says it's a buck 16. Couldn't get out there fast enough.
Heat is not my friend. I hate the summer, but I like you.
This is a top-notch piece of writing.

I feel hot and dessicated just reading this! Dallas in August is where we should send all those who scoff at Global Warming, I think. best idea, make them live in a trailer without AC. THEN we'll see if they still scoff.

I'm with Sam Houston. Another wonderful post, Ashley. Keep cool, sister! I'll try to send you some San Francisco fog.
red hot rated.
I love your style of writing, brutal and beautiful. An odd combination that works for you because your heart shines true. (And I'm with you on the vincas.)
Fabulous writing. I read this piece earlier today but didn't have time to comment. The fact that it's not on the cover is a grave injustice. As I melt here in the hottest summer on record in this area, your words will be with me. Thanks.
you are a wonder, dallas woman. i start reading one of your pieces, and every time i think it can't be as good as the last one. and it's always better. i'd rate it just 'cuz it's you, but i especially love growing potato chips, the Pantone match and the fast breath of self-forgiveness.

let's not be trying too damn hard to blend in, hey? good. i thought so.
Your writing is brilliant. The description of the batshit neighbor is worth the price of admission.
I thought it was hot here in D.C. ..._r
R for writing - makes me feel every degree...
I like how your writing is smart and tough but with that buddha underbelly. (r)
This one makes me swoon, but it ain't just the heat off the sidewalk but off the page...R
The beauty in your writing is paying attention to fellow travelers, in this case the wee ones, chameleon, bug, and how we all relate to the watermelon in the crisp.
Having just MOVED from Hawaii I'll tell you why everybody doesn't live there. It's frickin' expensive, you're paid low salaries and you are always at least 3000 miles from everyone you know. But it does have the best weather on the planet, free beaches and parks which make up for it.

I lived in Euless, TX for 3 years and couldn't take the weather. Can't go out in winter/summer. 2 good weeks in spring, 2 good weeks in fall. Yeah, maybe you should move...Colorado's not too bad.
Can't relate to the heat at all (PNW) but I must say I absolutely LOVE reading what you write - "Writer"
See? I knew Texas is hell. Or at least a lot like it.

Now that I've read this, do I have to stop complaining about the humid 90's up north here that are, I swear, killing me? (Probably won't.)

Please tell me you have a/c.

Too many brilliant layers to pull them out for specific comment. As always. rated
As always, you write like you mean it. R.
Wonderful, dear Writer to the Stars. Intense climate always reminds us that we each are part of a much bigger organism. Our functionality, our form, our entire idea of a pristine, separate self changes with the times, the tides, the seasons.
Planning to pay better attention.
whoa...I don't think I'd last 10 minutes down there in texas. Love this piece though, & love the frog.
Star, nicely done. I don't have any drama queens in my flowerpots this time of year...mine are more like strung-out meth addicts. But otherwise, our little patch of hot desert sounds suspiciously like yours.
I want to scream at my lawn. DO NOT DIE but it's already given up the ghost this poor beleaguered patch of misery. it's easy to tell it expected pleasant heat and gentle rains but instead got blitzed with six weeks worth of relentlessly hot downpours and dry baking heat.

crab grass is the roach of the lawn world, showing itself as thriving, irregular patches of iridescent green amongst the brown.

insects and I may be fellow travelers but they are not allowed on my side of the love bus. I have RAID.

love you, you blond bombshell.
I have a mutual non-aggression pact with stinging insects. Trouble is, they don't always keep their end of the bargain.
You're so gritty and cool!!!!
Silver lizzards and Ritas on tap. Midnight specials, o yeah.
I used to live in Dallas and I know exactly what you're dealing with. It's like wearing a hot, wet blanket...for a month. Also, your words ooz with richness. Very good writing.
This is one of the best pieces I have read about the oppressive heat of the South. It makes me want to move very slowly. the images you paint are so clear, hot, and original. I loved this part:

"You glanced over to where the chameleon had been; now he was perched on a bright aluminum fencerail. He'd turned pure silver so when he raced along it, he looked like a quick flash of moonlight zooming through sunlight."

I think you are an amazing talent, and your example brings us along w you. thanks for writing on this forum.