Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pictures from a Small Town

I'll make you a deal: I'll quit going off-script when awful things quit happening.

I don't live in West, and I don't have any family there.  Still, it's strange.  Our waitress at IHOP told us about the explosion late last night, and my first thought was, "wait, that can't be right - West is a real place."  (It's funny how you can intellectually understand that everything on the news is actually happening somewhere in the world, and yet all those faraway places still look a little bit like set pieces from a Jerry Bruckheimer film.)

Anyway, everyone knows the drill by now: there's going to be pictures of fireballs and flattened houses and crying people for days to come.  So since you're going to be saturated with the disaster-movie version regardless, I thought it might be nice to put up some pictures of the way the real West looks to most of us here in Texas.

See, West is basically the road-trip capital of east Texas.  Our cities are a neighborly minimum of three hours apart, and the view between most of them doesn't change much.

For the most part, the road could be any road,

but there are a few things that you could only see in Texas.

When you get to West, your essential destination is the Czech Stop.  (West is a tiny town, but they are huge on their Czech heritage - I keep meaning to go to Westfest and see the dancers one of these days.)

It's essentially a giant combination convenience store, gas station, and bakery, and the parking lot is always hoaching.

Anyway, the inside is piled up high with gas station snacks and souvenirs.  (It's actually two buildings in one - the one on the right is the Little Czech Bakery.)  Everybody loads up on kolaches here. 

The Czech Stop is right off the highway, so most people get right back on the road without seeing much else of the town.  I tell you what, though: there is a whole beautiful little world tucked away back there.

That's the place that really matters, and one that pass-through drivers like me can't tell you much about. 

I'll tell you one thing, though.  When I look back through these pictures, they could mostly come from anywhere in the US.  But there's a detail in almost every one that anchors them to this single place and time: the "Bar B" plaza, the Texas plates, the Dairy Queen sign, the UT and A&M flags, the little mailbox on the side of the street.

For all the mythology we've built up around it, I don't believe there's any such thing as Anytown, USA.  No matter where you go, there's something that can't be found anywhere else.

I think that's the part that makes movie-towns and news-towns feel flat sometimes: the people behind the camera control what we see, and fix our attention on the characters, the action, the wreckage, the special effects, the Big Ideas.  It's only when you take your own self out to a place like this that you have the freedom to take your time and turn your head, and to see the things that make it more than just a place for something to happen.

Anyway, thanks for looking through these with me.  (And for the rest of you Texians out there: think about giving blood in a week or two. Carter BloodCare is tweeting that they are good to go for the time being, but you can do a lot of good by helping to replenish their supply after the immediate crisis is over.)


  1. Alex and I just saw this post, just now, and he says, "... wait.. did she just go to West? Like just now? WHY DIDN'T SHE TAKE ME WITH HER?! I am genuinely mad about this."

    That said... did you just go to West just now?? To take awesome pictures and make this awesome post? Because you are awesome. Well played, lady. And thank you for checking on the Czech stop for us, and for delivering the same sentiments we all think but aren't clever enough to express.

    1. Haha, nah - even if I had the time and the wherewithal to road-trip on the spur of the moment, I wouldn't go down there. Got to keep the roads clear for the lights-and-sirens folks, donchaknow. These pictures are all from years back - you can tell because the pictures of the Czech stop from this week have their new fancy lit-up sign, like here:

      We do need to find an excuse to pack our fearsome foursome in a car and Do Something, though. It must be!

    2. Ha! Well played, lady. And yes, group adventures are a must.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting - I hope you get the chance to see it someday!

  3. A fascinating glimpse into a side of USA we foreigners never get to see. Thanks for sharing.

    Look forward to the rest of your challenge posts!
    Damyanti @Daily(w)rite
    Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    AZ blogs on Social Media

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by - I am looking forward to returning the favor!

  4. Hello, just stopping by to let you know that I've nominated you for a Liebster Award :)

    Rebeccah Writes - Liebster Award

    1. Argh, Rebeccah! You can't nominate me on the week that I've been a total shut-in failboat and not visited anywhere! What kind of message does that send?!

      ...well, I guess it means I'll just have to live up to the honor - thanks so much for thinking of me!

  5. I don't think I could handle 3 hours between cities lol Are there a lot of 24/7 joints in the area? I am a night owl and need that kind of activity to be optional :) Thanks for sharing the pics! I am curious about that pastry. It looks pretty good.

    ACK! I hope you know you have to do BOTH awards, Sucka! No way out of that... don't go thinking I've forgotten lol

    dun Dun DUN... Go ahead and try to pinky rate yourself out of this one! ;-)

    1. Hahaha, oh snap - you noticed! A shame: now you know too much. Mine will be the last pinkie you see...

      And yeah, as far as night owl activity: the Czech Stop's open 24 hours during the week, so I guess you could loiter there. Otherwise, your best bet is probably 10 miles down the road at the Bellmead Wal-Mart. The list is endless!*

      *the list has ended.