Irving, Texas – Landed about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Dulles Fort Worth Airport. Weather is sunny, breezy and a comfortable 72 degrees.
Limo driver, Stan, hovered and chatted with me while I put my bicycle together.
He was in his early 60s; worked himself to death by choice. He regularly put in 14-hour days but seemed to thrive on it.
“I don’t want to name drop, but I’ve driven Steven Spielberg,” he said about the movie director. And the I’m-not-bragging list continued.
“Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler, Michael Douglas, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, …..”
He did his best to offer me some direction on Texas roads, but bicycling out of the airport was something new and he was understandably flummoxed.
Pedaling out of the airport was rather simple. Within eight miles I was in Irving – a small town, south of the airport.
I had a backpacker’s hostel lined up for my first night.
I swung over to the Dallas Irving Backpackers Guesthouse – it was a little sketchy.
A simple white house on 6th Avenue, on the edge of a business district.
There were a pair of hand-written signs on the door and a beat up van under the car park.
Instructions to visitors were spelled out in black felt marker. “Pick up phone on the left and call number listed.”
If that option didn’t work, visitors were instructed to ‘walk around the side of the building’ and see if anybody was inside to ‘let you in.’
It seemed inviting and homey, in a Jeffrey Dahmer sort of way.
The phone ‘on the left’ was a desk phone resting on the porch with a hard-line cord pinched between the closed front door. The white phone, now a tinge gray, lay under a clear plastic sheet – similar to something you’d use to tow a pile of leaves to the curb.
I peered around the side of the building and thought twice.
I managed to secure a couch in the youth room at Irving First United Methodist Church. Pastor Sean said he’d trade out the space if I’d give a brief speech to his 7th and 8th graders about my tour.
Irving, Texas has a lot of small-town charm.
Historic homes with gabled entrances and a wing-architectural style, popular in the early twentieth century.
The home of Eugene and Mary Ann Beaufford is on Main St. and part of the Irving Texas Centennial tour. It was one of the oldest houses in the community, constructed in May 1904 the property was used as an irrigated truck farm.
Another notable home belonged to Fred Joffre. An early contractor and carpenter, Joffre designed and built a California-style airplane bungalow in 1919.
A rusty, black wrought-iron fence was set along the sidewalk. A half-circle gravel driveway led to the entrance of the home which featured two simple armless rockers and a porch swing.
Pioneer Dr. Franklin Monroe Gilbert and wife Dorothy purchased the home in 1939 and for nearly 30 years patients came night and day as they knew help was available for examination, medication and emergency treatment.
Up the street was the Irving Park Veterans Memorial.
“Can you take my picture,” said a man standing alongside one of the bronze military statues.
“I need a picture to update my profile on match.com.”
His name was Tim. He was tall, a simple man with a figure of a mashed potato and I say that in a warm non-judgmental way.
Dressed in baggy blue jeans, a black Michael Jackson t-shirt tucked in his pants and cinched tight with a black belt whose front end hung out about a foot.
A green cloth bag from the Irving Texas Public Library sat on a cement bench next to Tim. It was packed full of dog-eared spiral notebooks, a half-empty plastic bottle of water and a box of Kool Aid Twist juices.
I took his disposable Kodak camera and snapped a couple photos.
“I need a full-body shot,” said Tim. (head nod to Jon Heder and Napoleon Dynamite.)
“I need my feet in the picture because the head and shoulders I’ve posted so far haven’t worked.”
Tim was a sharer and looking for love.
Some may say Tim’s picture request was a clumsy attempt at flirting. I say he was seriously set on posting an updated photo and I was the closest help available.
After the photo shoot, we talked. And when I say ‘we’ I mean Tim. He laid out the combo platter that was his life.
Tim talked about working 23 years at K-mart in Michigan, getting sacked, wandering a bit, living in homeless shelters, and his job driving a box truck.
Tim blamed the demise in that endeavor on a no-good partner.
“He was in a lot of trouble because his wife caught him cheating with her sister,” said Tim.
“I won’t tell you his name, because you might figure out who he is.”
All the while chatting, Tim kept his arm wrapped around the shoulder of the bronze statue. It was the same pose he held in his soon-to-be-published photo.
EAT AT JOES…
Took off first thing Thursday morning to Joe’s restaurant on Irving Boulevard.
The menu featured Texas Chili omelets, ‘delicious homemade biscuits, and Big Bird pancakes with two eggs, hash browns and bacon or sausage.
After putting in a watching-my-figure order of bottomless cup of coffee, two eggs, and salsa on the side – I had regrets.
The couple at the booth next to me ordered the hot cakes; they came with a pail of blueberries dumped over the top.
Texas – does it big. Everything is big.
– A man I met at Joe’s restaurant in Irving sent me an e-mail. Ramey Faries wrote: “Met you at Joe’s this morning. I meet Uncle Dick every morning for breakfast at Joe’s. Just wanted to say you were a breath of fresh air, always great to meet interesting people. It was funny to walk in and see someone sitting with him at the table. I hope this finds you having made it to Waco safely. I noticed on your blog many pictures from your adventures. If you have a favorite you should send it to me; I do oil-on-canvas paintings and would love to do one of something important to you.
– Stopped at a small church outside Arlington to fill my water bottles and met Bill Dunn. He was the only man amongst a group of women playing dominos.
Bill had black, round, super sized Harry-Potter glasses, a small tuft of white hair on his head and another on his chin, and he reminded me of the Colonel from KFC.
Bill was also an Army veteran. “I was in the Cold War and over in Germany in 1961,” he said.
Stationed in the artillery division Bill talked about how the Germans would break into communications. “They’d play the German National Anthem; it sounded like a funeral dirge,” he said.
And although it was more than five decades ago, Bill still lamented missing Elvis during a USO show.
“We had only 30 minutes to try and see him,” said Bill.
“I had to pull a shift and couldn’t get there on time and went back to duty.”
Bill and the church group invited me to stay for lunch. They dumped the dominoes and spent the next hour talking about whether their Governor Rick Perry would run for president, how few of them voted for the referendum for the new Dallas stadium, and there was a lot of disagreement on the concealed carry law.