I'm not going to lie, I'm not completely sure of where I was attempting to go with this entry any longer. What I am sure of, though, is that I am usually a writer who edits meticulously and am affected greatly by the soroundings in which I construct my work, and the Oklahoma City Ihop where I wrote the last entry in a hurry and had to hit "send" without a second glance (just as my battery died) did not quite live up to my own personal standards, leaving me now frantically editing and floundering for theme.
Upon check-in at Amarillo, I was given a ton of options for my room, none of which I cared much about, and presented with the key to one which had two double beds, on the first-floor facing the pool, for the bare-minimum rate of an entry-level single. I'm pretty sure I was the only guest in the motel that night. The room was one that permitted smoking, as that was another option that I was given and expressed absolutely no concern for either way. I have a hunch that Texas might be the only state in America that still has smoking rooms available at all, so I certainly didn't mind, as I knew that it may be awhile before I stay in one again.
Thus, after placing my bag in the room, I wandered to the SuperWalmart behind the motel, in search of some wine to take the edge off, and something to smoke to take advantage of the peculiarities of my room. For a New Englander with a fairly strong aversion to big-box American consumerism and redneckery in general, walking into a Walmart in Texas was probably one of the most negatively surreal cultural experiences that I can recall. I felt more than a bit lost and out of place, to say the least.
My last day waiting tables in Phoenix before I headed out, I was speaking to an eccentric artist regular-guest about wine. He was informing me of Walmart's recent unleashing of the products of their private vineyards, and their attempts to drive the price-point of quality American wine down by taking inflation and demand out of the equation, much as they have done to nearly every other product. According to this guest, for the bottles they were offering for under $3, the quality was far superior to many California wines that cost far more than that. At the time, I thought that this was an interesting anecdote and something good to know, but a product recomendation and cultural phenomenon that was pretty damn repulsive. I couldn't recall the last time that I had found myself in a Walmart store, let alone purchased anything there that I would consider a politically or economically volitile, charged, or damaging product, as this new wine seemed to me to be.
Finding myself in Amarillo that night, however, I thought that there was really no good reason for me to not give this guest's recomendation a shot. After ten minutes of wandering disoriented through my slack-jawed and flourescent-lit nightmare, I found the display of the wine, and stood staring at racks of absurd numbers of bottles of three varietals; Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and Cabernet Savignon. I very rarely drink white wine, so the Pinot was out. The choice between the other two was not nearly as easy. California Merlot is nearly always bad, and low-end Cabernet, from nearly anywhere, shares that distinction. After a bit of deliberation, then, I decided to bank on my restaraunt-guest's recomendation, and hope that the Cabernet was more akin to a $20 bottle than a $3. The Merlot, based on its varietal and location alone, was not nearly as likely to be redeemed by even this. I walked to the counter with my bottle in hand in pursuit of some cheap cigars. For these, I selected a $2 pack of cherry Swisher Sweets, as I figured that, by this point, there was no redeeming the level of trashiness of my evening, and, though I wouldn't usually be quick to admit it under other circumstances, I don't mind the flavor of those nearly as much as I probably should.
Shortly later, then, I found myself sitting in a dirty Texas motel room with far more bed-space than I needed, leaning back on one of the two doubles, puffing an extremely cheap cigar and sipping on extremely cheap wine. Both the words "cigar" and "wine" are used in this context extremely liberally. The room had four tv stations, no shampoo, and no internet access. The wine, contrary to my guest's recomendation, definitely did have the pungent bite and ripping cheap tannins of a $3 Cabernet, and the Swishers, well, tasted like cherry-flavored Swishers.
In the morning, I poured the remainder of the wine down the drain, and headed back onto the road. The next night, I decided that I would drive straight through, as I didn't want to spend another evening in this manner.