Friday, March 18, 2005

Wicked,Twisted Road, Part 3-Fishing Licenses, Dinner and the shows

Once we checked in and threw our stuff in the room, our plan was to buy our non-resident saltwater fishing licenses so we wouldn't waste valuable fishing time Saturday and Sunday doing that. I had a book on redfish with a list of flyshops and guides that gave me the name of a shop called Gruene Outfitters on Airline Dr. I had done my Mapquest searches prior to leaving and had directions from the airport to the flyshop, from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the flyshop. We made a couple of passes without seeing a sign so we decided to forego our inate male navigational skills, swallow our pride and ask directions. Scott ran into the open door of an art gallery and was told "that place hasn't been here for some time." Plan B-find a Wal-Mart. Airline Drive is outside the main downtown area but surrounded by strip malls, fast food joints-the landscape almost screamed "there's a Wal-Mart close-by." It took a few minutes but we spotted that familiar blue sign and made our way toward it. For some reason, there seemed to be no access to the damn thing. We cut across a field and down some pothole path and ended up at the garden center entrance. Jostling our way through the crowd inspecting flats of tomato plants we got to the main part of the store, took a right and found the sporting goods section. We were the only ones at the checkout except for the cashier. We told him what we wanted-a 2 day, non-resident saltwater license. It was $30.00- 22.00 for the first day and $8.00 for the additional day. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has established a statewide centralized computer system to make the license process quick and easy. The last sentence is true except for the last eight words which are damn lies. The computers and the terminals are state of the art-the only thing wrong is they obviously were placed in thousands of locations and not one freakin' clerk was given a second of instruction on how to use the damn things. My Wal-Mart transaction went like this:

Clerk: "May I have your driver's license?" (I comply and he punches some numbers into a machine and hands me back my license).
Clerk: "What is your Social Security number?" (I cheerfully give up my 9 digit code and he punches the numbers into the machine). He then stares at the machine for what seems an eternity but was actually only 15 minutes. He looks puzzled and doesn't look up except to wave to a blue-smocked co-worker who keeps walking by and shaking his head as if he knows something we don't. Another request-
Clerk: "What is your phone number?' (Thinking this is the final bit to the license puzzle I give it up). He types it into the machine and another interminable wait begins. Scott and I trade puzzled looks. The clerk keeps tapping more keys on the machine). Then we regress.
Clerk: "May I have your driver's license again." ( I grudgingly give it up for one more try)

The entire above scene is repeated. Same exact demands, same exact puzzled look, same co-worker walking by shaking his head. Again, nothing comes out of the machine. His next next words bring out the smart-ass in me.

Clerk: "May I have your driver's license?"

Me: "What are the chances that if I give you my driver's license this time, it will actually do any freakin' good." He is honest.

Clerk: " Not very good. I really don't know how this machine works." Thanks, chief! We're out of here.

We go back to the motel hoping the clerk there can direct us to a license dealer. He says that all the Circle K stores have the machines. It's getting close to 3:30-we haven't eaten lunch yet and we haven't licensed-up yet but at least we're not pressed for time. We decide to cab it down to the Executive Surf Club where the music will be, and on the way, we can have the cabbie run us by a Circle K to get the fishing licenses. The cabbie picks us up and heads downtown. We tell him the plan and he takes us to the Circle K. We go in and I am again the license "guinea pig." I step up to the counter, make my request and a call goes into the back. A woman I assume is the license clerk comes out after about five minutes. At the time we go in there is one guy in there buying a drink and he is waited on by the regular clerk. By the time the woman comes out of the back to wait on us, the regular line has grown to about 20 people. Cars are pulling in and out of the parking lot like it was Penn Station at rush hour. There are about 6 clerks behind the counter. Four of them are doing absolutely nothing. The regular clerk is busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest with his line growing by the minute. Our woman takes my license, asks for my SSN and my phone number and pounds the numbers into the machine. Nothing happens. The meter on the cab is chewing up minutes and money. She again asks for my SSN and phone number, having kept my license the first time and again she types something into the machine and waits....and waits. I ask her for my license back and she pretends not to hear me. I finally have to raise the stakes-"Listen, I've been paying a cabbie to sit in the lot for 20 minutes while you play with that machine, give me my damn license back. When she hands it back to me and before I leave, the regular clerk looks at says "I don't think she knows what she is doing." No shit!
It's back in the cab-he's a good sport and we jokingly accuse him of being in cahoots with the Circle K wench to run up the fare. Two minutes later we are at the Executive Surf Club where we meet Sue who runs Surf Club Records-she is the one who has our concert tickets on hold. Sue is a 53 year old, five-foot tall redheaded spitfire of a woman who loves the fact we flew out from the east coast to see Reckless Kelly. We get our tickets and go next door to Water Street Oyster Bar for our first meal of the day.
First order of business-"2 Shiner Bock Drafts!"
"Dressed?" the waitress asks.
"What does that mean?"
"It means it comes with a lime and the glass rim is salted." Sounds like a beer margarita. We bite and order two. Never again- I can't think of a quicker way to ruin a good beer. Maybe there's a special trick to drinking it like a tequila shot, but I doubt it would help much.
We order the pecan-encrusted fried oyster appetizer. Scott gets a regular salad and I get the "Wedge." one-quarter of a head of iceberg lettuce with tomatoes and dressing. I get mine with red wine vinaigrette, something the waitress has never seen ordered before. It's big and pretty, the dressing gives it a distinct orange hue- a color I had not seen often but would see too often the next day. For entrees, Scott gets a pecan-encrusted fish of some sort and I get grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon. Excellent food but we're too excited about the show to eat all of it. Three more regular Shiner Bocks each later and we're out the door. It's about 5:30-one hour before showtime.

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