One of the right-rail Bridge stories is mine this week. A couple, actually, but this is the one I’m thinking of, about Proposal 6, about bridges past, present and yet to come. In the course of trying to nail down one fact — does any other state with an international border crossing over water have a similar law to the one being proposed? — a nice lady in the Texas Department of Transportation sent me a list of the four Rio Grande crossings in private hands.
One was the Los Ebanos Ferry, family-owned, a two-minute crossing across a narrow spot in the river. Hand-operated. It rang a bell that got louder until it finally pierced the fog — a John D. MacDonald novel, but not one of the Travis McGee series. What was it called? I know I own it. A glance at the bookshelf. Yes! “The Damned,” published 1952. A group of strangers find themselves at a Mexican ferry crossing, stuck — the ferry isn’t working, so they’re free to sit around in the broiling sun and fight, love and have interior monologues. In true JDM style, they’re vivid, pulpy characters with just enough realness to keep them from tipping over into parody.
A minute or two with Professor Google, and I found this marvelous review, with lots of quoted passages, so I don’t have to retype them. One of the marooned is a businessman who, two weeks previous, had found himself poleaxed by a juicy young thing, and on impulse, bundled her into his car and took off south of the border. A couple weeks later, the erotic heat having burned off, he’s coming back home, despising the girl, disgusted by himself and wondering what he had been thinking. What a wonderful picture MacDonald paints here; you can almost smell the sour booze coming off the philanderer’s pores:
He had tried to call it a deathless romance, a great love. And the rationalization had shattered suddenly, leaving him naked. He saw a gaunt foolish man of middle years spending his savings on a raw, big-bodied young girl with limited IQ. The pores of her cheeks and nose were unpleasantly enlarged. In conversation she repeated herself interminably, expressing childish infatuations with movie actors, TV stars, disc jockeys. Her love-making was an unimaginative compound of all the movies she had seen, all the confession stories she had read. He stared in wonder at the meaty mass of her hips, at the lactic, bovine breasts, startled that he should have thought this worth the risk of destroying his world.
It turns out the ferry in this book, fictional or not, isn’t over the Rio Grande, but the Rio Conchos. Oh, well. It was a nice trip down Pulp Lane.
Watching the debate now, enjoying my third glass of wine, so we’ll see how long I last. I’m having #3 because Kate had a great bass lesson today, and I’m entitled. She took on the upright a couple months ago, and is coming along swimmingly. Such a beautiful instrument, but as I always say when we load it into the car, in my next life my kid plays piccolo.
A little bloggage for those who
The latest variety of hoo-hah from Up North: (ominous chords, organ sting) Agenda 21!!!!!!
Back to the Joe and Paul show.