Thursday, January 04, 2007

On Welcome Mountain

DREAM: After a long series of adventures in Dreamland, my two companions and I find ourselves walking on a long redbrick road lined with tall old houses. “This street follows the old Chisholm Trail,” I say. “They built it so the cattle drives would bypass Austin. It was called East Avenue, later it become I-35.”

The road curves uphill. It is no longer brick, but cracked asphalt, bordered by weeds. It becomes steeper; we are traveling in a car up the western side of Welcome Mountain in Mineral Wells. Below is the Baker Hotel. On the rooftop, black men in white chef hats cook a giant hamburger, sending smoke signals to the sky. Their gold teeth shine in the sun.

As the road climbs higher up the mountainside it branches into a network of roads, all narrow and in poor repair, with hairpin curves and rollercoaster dips. We pass old ramshackle rambling houses built right into the mountainside, perched precariously over the town below, and clapboard cottages tucked away down mysterious paths … strange things are glimpsed as we bump down the roads ... a granny in a bonnet watering her garden, she shouts to a snake get out of here ... its fat tubular back slides away through the weeds and cacti … and down an alleyway lined with a broken wooden fence rides a ragged kid in a rickety goat-drawn wagon, fishing pole and worm cans rattling in the back … we reach the flat-top summit.

Here, the streets are straight, but still rough and crumbly, as are the buildings … crooked brickwork, broken windows ... faded oatmeal mural on the side of one brick building… beat-up machines inside a cinderblock Laundromat and a hyena-faced man in his underwear washing his clothes … tobacco-spattered sidewalks … cigarette butts and chicken bones … my uncle is driving us around … I point and exclaim, in front of Lucky’s Grocery Mart stand two vintage red-and-yellow dusty plastic bubblegum machines and a coin-operated flying saucer kiddie ride … everything is retro here and still in use … a collector’s paradise undiscovered by collectors … big outdoor attic of the town below … we come to the southeast side of the mountain, where it is dark.

Ahead lies a long straight road lined with strange statuary; stone bust of an Indian chief falls off its chimney-rock pedestal and crashes, barely missing us ... the road is treacherous. We are riding beachball-sized meteors through this obstacle course of falling sculptures … one of my companions levitates us backward; we ride straight up into the sky … he laughs as we go faster and faster … I think it's a bad idea that could get us killed ... I feel my legs losing their grip on the meteor … but we only go so far, then return to Earth at a high speed and I jump off the meteor, safe and sound …