53

“I’m bursting, Jerry! I’m bursting!” Mr. Costanza would say.

Crept into Amarillo not long ago. By “crept into” I mean I’m in the seedy-looking outskirts—not yet downtown—which actually don’t seem to be seedy at all, but instead, the buildings backing up into quiet neighborhoods beyond, there is a peaceful happiness, and a sense of contentment, that all is well. They, or at least this area, could very easily be defined as the S.E. Asia district. I’ve never seen so many Thai, Lao, and Vietnamese restaurants and grocers in one place. My curiosity and fascination are peaked (and my hunger has been so).

I’m at a Pho restaurant in which men are gambling away at machines in one corner while a family, or two? (I can’t tell), or, perhaps, various friends sit in a group and converse amongst themselves. Toddlers are roaming around, climbing over chairs, over people, dancing on the pool tables. There is a man at one of the tables occupied by the group smoking a cigarette. A television is on in a corner, tuned to CNN. An old woman sidles over to me to inquire as to how my meal is, and offers me an ice tea. I surmise that she cooked my meal. Also, this seems, based on other cycle travelers’ blogs, standard treatment in S.E. Asia for guests, and, especially those traveling in lesser style and comfort, depending on how you define that, such as yours truly.

The restaurant (/gambling and games hall) is a huge space, plainly and sparsely decorated in the fashion of so many excellent Asian restaurants. Large, clay tiles make up the floor. Spartan, white walls. Cheap masonite tables and office chairs. Poorly taken photographs of food, stuck to the walls. Poster-size, laminated beer list (extremely short) with prices—Miller Lite $2.50, Heineken $3.00, Dos Equis $3.00, Smirnoff $3.00—tacked to a wall. Table cloths on some tables, or not. Four pool tables, one of which with the aforementioned children playing atop it. A little girl two chairs next to me playing with a phone. A general air of merriment, happiness, family, joy, love, fun. The meal was fantastic, and even more so for the generous discount I was given.

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