The city of Baytown, Texas was in full swing. The entire town was decorated for the occasion and most people had taken the celebration even further by adorning their own homes with festive lights and tinsel. Many even cut down pine trees and hauled them into their living rooms. They bought gifts for one another in my honor and attended special worship services.
All this preparation turned out to be convenient, as they were able to leave the decorations up for Christmas, which occurred only three days after my arrival at Baytown Memorial Hospital.
Apparently, I gave my mother a bit of trouble coming into the world and we were visited by a parade of doctors, all of whom insisted on picking me up and inspecting my “vitals.” Although they were obviously all a bunch of perverts, they were also perceptive and wise. The first doctor strode in, snatched me up, and proclaimed,
“This boy will one day be a great surgeon!”
The second doctor came through and pronounced, “Yon wee lad’ll be a famous comedian!” Then he whacked my rear with a shillelagh.
A third doctor walked into the room, took one look at me, and said, “Wow. This kid’s gonna be fat.”
All three have proved correct. I am now an obese sadist who cuts off people’s legs and laughs about it. (1)
Settlers first arrived in the Baytown area in 1822 and played an important part in Texas’ struggle for independence. Namely, they stayed out of the way. In 1908, oil was found in the surrounding area and marked the beginning of a vast right wing conspiracy (not to mention large donations to the 2004 Bush re-election campaign) that is currently headquartered in Baytown. To this day there is only one liberal with a Baytown mailing address and that’s only because he is too busy caring for homeless, starving orphans and driving old ladies to their Pilates classes to worry about politics.
In 1919, the hilariously named Humble Oil & Refining Company built a refinery in Baytown. Not only did this provide hundreds of new jobs, but it also corroded the lungs of each new employee and their families. Fortunately, the HO & R Company cared about its workforce and every worker who was forced to quit because of health problems received a complimentary fruitcake.
Although Baytown has many things about which to brag, the most impressive part of its heritage is a 1,000 year old oak tree that stands in the center of West Texas Avenue. (2) Nobody is quite sure which was there first: the tree or West Texas Avenue, as they’re both in pretty bad shape. In either case, the denizens of Baytown can take pride in the fact that not every town in America has a tree. And those that do certainly didn’t have the imagination to grow them in the middle of the street. Well done, Baytown.
It was but a few days after my arrival on Ye Olde Sod that my parents decided to leave town. (3) This was not, as some of the more tasteless historians have suggested, directly resulting from my birth, although the crazed mob surrounding the hospital did make it necessary to leave by a little known exit, namely, leaping from a third story window onto a strategically placed trampoline.
We all survived, it seems, although there are rumors of a third sibling who mysteriously disappeared during the episode. I’ve tried to uncover the mystery of this long-lost family member, but the only unbiased eyewitness to the affair was a man named Elmer, who is now ninety-six and suffering from a mental disorder that causes him to exaggerate historical events. When I interviewed Elmer about the facts of that day, he gave me some rambling discourse about open manholes and never quite answered the question.
Besides fleeing for our lives, there were other reasons for leaving town. My father was a pastor, a man o’ the cloth, a minister, and a circuit-ridin’ parson. (4) He had recently accepted an offer to pastor a church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and, knowing how many heathens there were in the North, he felt it was his duty to accept the call. We rented a moving van from U-Lug and within the hour were traveling up US-59 N toward Grand Rapids.
The trip was not particularly smooth. We had 1,249.52 miles to go (5) and only fifty miles into the trip my dad started whistling. It wasn’t that he is a poor whistler, but it's a sure sign things aren’t going smoothly. In other words, Whistling=Bad.
“What is it, dear?” my mother asked.
“What sort of engine trouble?”
“Perhaps it’s a loose belt or dirty spark plugs."
“No, I mean it’s missing. As in gone!”
It was true. Apparently, U-Lug had given us the worst out of a bad fleet of vehicles. The rusted supports had given out and the engine had dropped out of the bottom of the van. (6)
“When did that happen?” asked my mother.
“In our driveway. Turns out these vans are so terrible that they drive equally well with or without the engine.”
Having averted one crisis, we continued on our way...
1. In reality, I can’t stand the sight of blood and I’m not really that funny. One out of three ain’t bad.
2. This proud fact can be found on the official City of Baytown website, www.baytown.org.
3. The actual date for our departure from Baytown was January 20, 1981. The facts have been altered slightly to benefit the plot. However, the basic story concerning the mob, the leap from the third story window, and Elmer are all completely true.*
4. Scratch that last one. I just threw that in because I like the word “parson” and circuit-ridin’ sounds hilarious.
5. I love MapQuest.com
6. Don’t tell me this isn’t possible. I was there, dammit!