X. Christine Pan on San Antonio, Texas
1. One of the most thrilling and special things I saw in Texas was a dead armadillo. I saw it in the road en route to Lockhart from the airport in Austin, through the passenger seat window of our rental minivan. We’d just passed through several dramatic flash thunderstorms on the highway and were driving along a Texas road dotted with scenic rural life. The armadillo was dark, belly up, and stiff. All four legs were in the air. I can’t remember ever seeing a real armadillo before, alive or dead, but I knew it when I saw it. I alone had this privilege of encounter; everyone else was driving
or stuck in the back of the minivan. It was a beautiful welcome, and I felt blessed by the spirit of the Official Small State Mammal of Texas.
2. Our Lyft driver Christopher picked us up at our Portuguese robot hostel [a] to take us to our first San Antonio Meal™ at La Fonda on Main. A clearly experienced Lyft driver, he pried conversation out of us slowly and methodically, in a choreographed give-and-take of personal information.
We learned that he, like us, was vaguely from Connecticut; he’d followed his
wife, who was in the military, to San Antonio (Military City USA ®️); and perhaps most surprisingly, he was an architectural draftsman by trade. He pointed out a favorite taco truck and told us that our restaurant destination was widely acknowledged to be one of the best, although he had not personally been. We bumped lives briefly, and then he dropped us off and drove away.
3. By the time we made it to Garcia’s for breakfast tacos, I’d already eaten more beef on the trip than I normally eat in a year. Garcia’s Mexican Food looks like every other roadside food place in San Antonio—it’s a stand-alone building, has no concept of graphic design or consistent signage, is painted a garish-but-whimsical color, and has a lot of parking. The distinction is that at Garcia’s, the entire parking lot was full at 9:30AM on a weekday and we had to park our minivan down the block. Another distinction: at Garcia’s, smoked brisket is something that can be eaten in a taco, brisket tacos can be eaten for breakfast, and breakfast can be eaten on the hood of a minivan in front of somebody’s house. The longhorn is the Texas Official Large State Mammal [b] and to honor it, we had to continue consumption. We went back to Garcia’s for breakfast the next day.
a. The hostel is called “Sua Casinha.” The staff of two, who live somewhere in the hostel, speak Brazilian Portuguese to each other and make pancakes every single morning. The hostel is full of recharging Roombas®️. Bad music plays at odd hours from Google Home speakers mounted on the walls. The hostel is actually just a large house in a residential neighborhood with bunk beds. There are hammocks everywhere.
b. There is also an Official Flying Mammal of Texas, the Mexican Free-tailed Bat, but I couldn’t work it in.