I was re-reading Sarah Bird’s The Boyfriend School when a section about the character’s unreliable boyfriend somehow set me thinking about life in Waco, Texas, when I was in my early 20s. In particular, the flea market, near the traffic circle, home of the Health Camp, home of the milkshakes that I saluted in In Big Trouble.
I bought Fiestaware at that flea market, among other things. Still have most of it, too, except for the inevitable breakage. It was always hot, hot in a way I don’t think I could survive anymore. (I drove a brown Ford Escort WITHOUT air conditioning my first four years in Texas.) We roamed the dusty pathways among the stalls, filled with that twenty-something certitude that stuff, the right stuff, could change our lives. Fiestaware. Antiques. Old metal signs. Bowls. (For some reason, I loved mixing bowls. Still do, although I seldom cook.) A themometer shaped like a bottle of orange soda*, although I found that in Gatesville, Texas, not the flea market. It hangs on my kitchen wall, along with a sign for Foremost Ice Cream, which includes a menu of flavors, including the still-mysterious (to me) Holiday Pudding.
And this somehow brings me to an interview I did with the newspaper at a local juvenile detention facility 10 years later, the too-much-in-the-news-as-of-late Hickey School, when it was part of my beat. The young reporter pressed me on the reason for my visit to the school. No reason, I said. Just looking about.
This appeared in print as: “When asked what she was looking for, Ms. Lippman could give no answer.” That sums me up as neatly as anything written by any journalist, anywhere.
*(The themometer advertises Suncrest Soda, although I could not have told you that without going downstairs to look, any more than I could have listed all the flavors on the Foremost sign, nor repeated the slogan: “It’s not just good, it’s Foremost.” But I remember the shop on Avenue B in San Antonio where I found the sign, remember Avenue B in all its alley-like, shadowy glory, and the strange little amusement park at the foot, the dusty wonders of the second-hand bookstore, the restaurant smells drifting over from Broadway. It was another place I ‘trolled in my young life, looking for myself.)