The backstory behind how I ended up in a Roadway Inn in Waco, Texas is pretty boring. But it still happened. Every city – no matter how large or how small – has “rough” areas. And I drive through Waco about 4 times each month, sticking strictly to the interstate. Not out of fear, but because I usually don’t have to make a urination stop until Belton (when I’m heading south) or Grandview (when heading north).
And while driving through Waco, it is always during the day. The true test of a locale comes at night. Or from its history.
People moving out, people moving in
Why, because of the color of their skin
Run, run, run but you sure can’t hide
I’m currently reading Stephen King’s “11/22/63“. It is typical King – riveting, engaging, enthralling – all the “ing”s. And part of the story takes place in a favorite haunt of King’s: Derry, Maine.
Derry is a fictional construct by King, though some accounts say that he based the town on the real city of Bangor, Maine. And in the novel I’m currently reading, King goes so far as to describe it as evil and foreboding, all from the eyes of a gentleman from the future.
It’s a place where people look away from evil, and residents learn to cope with it (by ignoring it). It’s a place where corruption is rampant, and where people feel trapped by their present circumstances. It’s a place where locals are distrustful of outsiders, though some wear the veneer of politeness.
But most of all, it is a place that harbors a malignant undertone, a silhouette of a shadow that is always out of sight yet slowly creeping into the collective psyches of the locals. It makes the weird seem normal, the horrific seem inevitable.
In other words, Derry, Maine is Waco, Texas.
Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation
There is just something weird here. An aura, though an unpleasant one.
Perhaps it was brought on by David Koresh and the Branch Davidians? Or maybe from the notorious biker shootout at the breasteraunt known as Twin Peaks? Or maybe from the Baylor University “scandal” in which football players got a free pass at sexual assault from their coaches, school administration, and even law enforcement?
I wonder how many of those officers who looked the other way in regards to “kids being kids” (who happened to be big time football players having their way with young women) also held bikers at the jail without proof that the incarcerated had actually committed a crime. Unless being in the wrong place at the wrong time is a punishable offense.
Many (most?) of the bikers at Twin Peaks that day were there for a meal, a few cold ones, and locker room banter. Yet most of the survivors were detained – 171 of them – for several weeks on $1million bond without proof of the arrested actually committing a crime.
The head coach of the Baylor football team ended up leaving the school (mutual decision?) for his part in looking the other way when some of his players were treating the fairer sex as toys. He now has a consulting job with an NFL team.
In Waco, football is king and outsiders – especially those on bikes (who, in fairness, just happened to be present at a shootout) and college women who might put a bowl bid in jeapordy – are disposable.
Ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today
So here I am at the Roadway Inn. And I had no intention of writing tonight, let alone writing about Waco. But I’m in that city and the feeling of angst it gives off is just as palpable as what Jake Epping felt while in Derry, Maine in the King novel I’m reading now.
And I just made the short walk to my Jeep (which is literally right outside the door) to get a pack of cigarettes and was presented with a snapshot of “what could go wrong”. But it wasn’t after 2am. It was dusk.
There was a car pulled up in my corner of this L-shaped hotel (in a no parking zone) with a woman sitting silently in the passenger seat as the male driver did who knows what. I silently nodded to the driver and made my way to my vehicle for my smokes, while also warily noting a group of about a half dozen dudes staring at me from about 50 yards away.
I grabbed my cigs and made the short retreat back to my room, never looking over my shoulder. It has been several days since I’ve shaved, so I was hoping I looked like a nobody. And once back in my room, I engaged all the extra locks on the door – including the latch that feels like it could fall off the wall and into my hand at the slightest jostling.
Good thing I have a dog with me. And I made sure all those ne’er-do-wells saw my viscous 8 pound guardian. I may have even called him “Spike” or “Hellhound”. (Hey, it worked at a seedy hotel in Las Vegas.)
Because Derry = Waco. And vice versa.
So why am I here?
For writing purposes, I guess.
So, round and around and around we go
Where the world’s headed, nobody knows
– The Tempataions, “Ball of Confusion”