A Short History of Road Lizards, Narcissists, Presidents, and the Best Steak House in Texas

At a South Texas watering hole way up north of the Texas Gulf shores of Gilchrist Beach, but still near all the urbanity of Houston, some friends and I decided to go way up north to Bill’s Steak House for some longnecks and some good eatin’.

Yep, we decided to go for the 2- pound sirloin at Bill’s Steak House up north of Humble and the San Jacinto River crossing on Farm to Market road TX 494. Each plate full of steak was a wonder to behold, both sides of the inch-thick, medium-rare beauty, big-slopping over the sides of the platter and just the right roll of pure fat on the edges. Covered with greasy orange-brown fries and tinct with a touch of Texas flavoring, the luscious smell and taste reminded you of all the Tex Joy seasoning Cajun cooks ever sprinkled on buttery barbecued crabs at Sartin’s Seafood House just down the road a piece to Beaumont.

One of the regular patrons of this quaint study in mama-slappin’ Texana beef good-eatin’ places, Jim Bob (his real name) said he wanted to axe us a question (his verb, not mine).  So right after each of us had kicked back and had taken the first deep pull on our Lone Star longnecks, we waited for the kickoff of the usual discussion. It could be anything.  You could say whatever came to mind.  And Jim Bob was up at the plate.  He asked the entire group of us at the pulled-together red and white checkered oil cloth tables:  "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?" His blue eye twinkled.

“Oh, shit.”  said Buford.    “A damn shrink question here at Bill’s Café, wouldn’t you just know it?”

Jim Bob paused then said:  "Wait for it…….  Just one. But the light bulb has to want to change."  He was almost overcome by his own mental swagger.

A chap named Barney piped up:  “Well kiss my ass, Jim Bob.  Here you know we are in Texas the week before Spec season opens on the Guf, and all and you got to give us shrink questions to open up with?”  He was an oilfield equipment salesman who played fantasy league football and who belonged to the NRA and Ducks Unlimited.  TV was one of his favorite ever inventions.

“That’s right.”  Buford added.  “Let’s talk the important stuff.”

“Like what?”  Jim Bob asked.

“Like fishin’.”  said Barney.

Geez, Louise.  A row almost broke out over Jim Bob’s foolin’ with all them Texas hunters and bayou bunch of sportsmen. So then a heavy equipment salesman, nicknamed Bulldozer Pete asked Jim Bob how many shrinks does it take to change a Narcissist like George W. Bush.  Deep “Here-we-go-agin” guttural moans and snickering exuded from the right end of the long shiny table.  Bill’s tavern sat just a stone’s throw from the railroad tracks that crossed Kingwood Drive. These guffaws came from Bush supporters who would dissent about anything that sounded anti or un-Bush.  They were Bush’s fabled “have-more” wannabes in training I reckoned.  They were not unlike their hero, the self-proclaimed Decider who squeaked excitement sometimes and let his voice go up the scale a full octave following his Adam’s Apple all the way up to his chin. That happened whenever a Democrat or some other liberal sumbitch dared to question him on might near anything he said or did.  He knew damn well what was right and what a good decider should do.

But at Bill’s Steak House just touching the West edge of Kingwood (now a proud annexation and part of Houston proper) you could say your mind and talk trash if you wanted to on either side of a question or the aisle.   Bill's was the perfect place to bone up on your politics and talk trash amongst and to your friends and foes. You could even sling cow chips at Hillary and quote Hannity or Rush to make it sound credible. She was fair game ‘cause it was a known fact from some of the bunch that she wonted to castrate all Texas boys who had long guns in the back window of their pickups, and many a Billy Bob knew she meant bidness.  Pete liked to stir the pot.  With a peench of Skoal in his lower lip, he started throwing the cow chips:  “Let’s examine some of Bush’s “my-way-or-the-highway” policies and attitudes during his 8 years in the White House for fun, just to see if the “Narcissist” shoe fits.” Pete liked to keep an air of intellect in how he presented his talking points, and he liked to intimidate any and all Republicans that might be lurking about so he spoke with force so they would all hear.

Jack, an old buddy that went way back was smiling like a Possum. He knew Pete would rankle up some neck hairs on any Bushites within a hunert feet or less.  Jack knew the fur was about to fly. He did not like Republicans much at all.  He was 100% for the working man and had retired from the Exxon Refinery in Baytown.

This was the point at which some of the more passive and introverted friends, fishermen, and strangers sucking on a longneck fidgeted and began to yawn and roll their eyes up at the dirty Styrofoam ceiling.  With every comment they seemed to go all glassy-eyed and had to order more beers to cope before their steak came. Others looked to the door to see if it was still there in case they wonted to make a fast escape. I felt a strange sort of empathy for them that they felt the need to get away from something much in the same way a paramecium will drift and flagellate away from a small amount of electric voltage, just because it preferred homeostasis to pain.

How could you blame them, either the one-celled creature or the multi-celled humans who drank lots of beer to kill all the collective pain or irritations of the spirit? We had seen years and years of promises turn into lies from both parties, promises they all made in order to get elected. Pre and post Bush and including Obama's first go at the presidency, packs of promises followed by passels of unfinished commitments to voters.  After all Bush had promised prior to his being elected (or chosen by Scalia, your call) that he would not engage America in nation-building of any kind, nowhere, no how.  Yeah, right, and Bush’s IQ of 92 is the highest of any president before him.  Maybe even higher than Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin, but that is not unlike comparing the IQ of a Pecos striped road lizard to a Pecos Roadrunner dinged in the head just yesterday by a westbound I-10 Peterbilt on its way to Tucson.

And see here, that silver-tongued devil Obama bashed Bush and promised reform it all if we would vote for him.  Don’t look now but didn’t he strengthen Bush’s liberty-suffocating Patriot Act instead of snuffing it down as he promised?  He never did restore our right to habeas corpus, either, did he?  You know that old right everybody had because they were human beings?  The one that Bush slaughtered like a feral hog in his prized Crawford cornfield.  And by the looks of it Guantanamo ain’t closed down as he promised us. God knows we still got all them enemy combatants locked up tighter than Dick’s hatband because we caint seem to come to the point of offering them any rights, you know?  Changing the right to a fair trial and all bit the dust and nobody wonts to give it mouth-to-mouth, do you love it?  So we got two sets of laws just like Enron had two sets of books and cooked them both.  And if all that ain’t true, Cheney vowed to give a million dollars to the cause of reducing air pollution by coal-fired electric plants so that Texas trout and bluegills don’t have to swim in all that mercury.

Jack began to egg Pete on about the “bite me” policies and “bring it on” diplomacy of George W. Bush who from the git-go would just soon as attack Iraq as any other country. What were we thinking?  “Ain’t that the epitome of a bleedin’ Narcissist what would go ahead on and attack Iraq for no good reason?”  Jack put the question to the group.

At this point, I admit I was ready to talk fishin’.  The steaks came one platter at a time ‘cause it was all the waitress could lift, and everybody forgot the political trash talk just long enough to salivate at each platter that passed them ’til it came their time.

Pete took the football and lit out with it in a fast run. “More narcissistic than anything,” Pete began, “was that maybe Iraq had more oil, and maybe it didn’t even matter that Saddam Hussein never hated Osama bin Laden and never hung out with him or was in cahoots with him in crashing airplanes into the Twin Towers in New York on 911.” That always did, I admit, stick in my craw.  Was it just me or did it appear that Bush and Cheney were trying their best to dress up the wrong target, Iraq, like in putting lipstick on a Blue Tick Hound dog?

Shucks, what did it matter anyhow? Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld looked right at the camera and said that Iraq would make a better target anyhow, and up and said so, plain as day.  Years later the boys at Bill’s Steak House all seemed to think Bush made a mistake in attacking Iraq, though.  It all seemed to be a bloody prologue to blood in the streets, namely, Wall Street that followed.  Stocks tanked.  Americans lost their jobs, their houses, and their sense of well-being and safety.  We were now at the mercy of unseen terrorists who killed us and then disappeared.  And caused us to let Bush and his lap dog Congress borrow and spend more trillions than the Democrats ever did. Only the money went to finance a war against an unknown terror that had weapons of mass destruction pointed at us.  But it was not who Bush said it was in his presidential address to the world.  It was not Saddam Hussein.  Ask Joe Wilson.  Or his wife, Valerie Plame.

But all the good old boys sure did get a kick out of when Toby Keith up and run over a bunch of the Dixie Chicks CDs in his pickup ‘cause the lead singer Natalie Maines said she was ashamed that Bush was from Texas. But time does fly, and people forget.  They forget a bunch about the things that really happened and the things that didn’t happen, but were lied about.  Like when Rummy said:  “Of course we know where Saddam has hidden his weapons of mass destruction.  Around Baghdad, Tikrit, the usual places.  We know where they are all right.”  By the way did Colin Powell really show the UN and the world artists’ drawings as proof of WMD activities and locations?  Did we really buy into all that? That bunch of Bushites in D.C. what with all their “Shock and Awe” rhetoric acted crazier than a bunch of peach orchard boars?  The rest of the world went all slack-jawed in disbelief.

Jack rubbed it in real good at all the Bush supporters who thought it was okay for their commander-in-chief to borrow trillions of dollars off budget to fight this war in Iraq, not to mention Afghanistan, and to use Reserve Armed Forces, our very own soldiers, you know, to fight in combat. Jack wanted to know where Bush got off by using and abusing Reserve forces for such crap and how Bush came to be able to sell us on the idea that a National Emergency allows the president of the United States to do that sort of thing. Attacking a country what did us no harm.  Not to mention sending them soldiers back on 2nd and 3rd tours of duty.  He made Jim Bob choke on his second big bite of steak just before he was going to add something for good measure, and we thought we might have to run him down to the hospital.  But he coughed it up and made us all reflect on how it might just be better if we talked fishing at the table than politics.

All considered the truth don’t matter much anyhow, even all these years later, does it?  Now Spain might collar both Bush and Cheney and take ‘em in to a World Court or somethin’ to be tried for war crimes, that is, if they just happen to go to Madrid to see a bullfight.  But that’s about as likely as the Taylor Ducks or the Hutto Hippos beatin’ the Texas Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl.

Finally, how many Presidents does it take to change America and the world, forever?  Only one. Maybe two if Obama keeps acting like Bush, the unitary executive who knows what is best for all of us, dang it all.   Is Obama in essence another great Decider, a closet Narcissist who continues to flaunt his power over the prescribed FISA Court laws made to protect us?  You know, wiretappin’ us without the legal protocol and permissions from the courthouse?  We now shudder at coming to grips with that reality. What are we, a bunch of vigilantes?  So how many Shrinks does it take to change a Narcissist? Only one. But then Bush has to want to change. And the sun is gonna rise tomorrow on Cut-and-Shoot, Texas before daylight ever even gets to Miami and Key Largo. And Obama must change his ways.  If he intends to ever deliver all the stuff he promised.  Hmmmm.  But (sigh).  Some things never change.  Like Bill’s Steak House where you can get the best steak bar none this side of Amarillo.