Revelations from a trip in time to H-E-B*

“What it is?”

Man, I hadn’t heard that in a long while. I push my cart seemingly nowhere. I don’t catch full conversations. Oh, I am grocery shopping, by the way. I hear the music.

“Don’t you worry about a thing, he-eng, he-eng … “ Stevie Wonder. I bought “Innervisions” when I was a junior in high school.

Stevie has some good tunes. Some of Innervision were like the blues wrapped up in jazz wrapped up in rock and roll. The songs like “Living For the City,” that’s what I’m talking about.

 “A boy is born, in hard time Mississippi/Surrounded by four walls that ain’t so pretty … Living just enough, just enough for the city.”

Poetry of poverty turned to poetry for profits. Poetry for profits was an idea of mine that never came to fruition. It was kind of in the same category of “Mechanical Bullshit.” Yeah, that was actually an idea I had back in the 80s.

I wasn’t a big fan of “Urban Cowboy” — neither the movie nor the fad that came behind or along it. It was one of those movies I would have never paid to see if it wasn’t for a girlfriend. You all understand that, don’t cha?

Up until John Travolta came to the screen to dance again — remember “Saturday Night Fever?” — I used to pretty much dress in Western-style garb. A Western-style shirt, pressed jeans and cowboy boots. No hat, usually. I wasn’t in the cow business even though I lived in a farm-house that I rented. My only roomies were a herd of cattle on the nearly 100-acre spread.

I was going to college when this whole drugstore cowboy thing exploded, thanks to Bud and Sissy. So I quit wearing cowboy chic and started dressing, well, not-so Western. I also became pretty damn antagonistic to the fad. Thus came mechanical bullshit.

One night I stayed past closing at a favorite nightclub in town. It went through the Urban Cowboy fad, although country-western was a fact of life in Texas then as now. A friend, who is now a big city TV news reporter, was a bartender. This friend let me ride the mechanical bull as the night’s crowd left and club folks began cleaning up. Now this was not THE mechanical bull at Gilley’s, of Urban Cowboy fame, which was the Houston-area honky-tonk owned by country singer Mickey Gilley.

I must confess to having a few adult beverages. The drinks were gratis courtesy of my friend the bartender. With all of that in mind, I got on that ol’ plastic bull or of whatever it was made. I stayed on the contraption at least 16 seconds — or four, or two, at the lowest bucking level available.

Now since surviving a mechanical bull ride, a plan came busting out of my potential business idea like a bull bucking out its chute.

I devised this plan to encase a variety of nuts and bolts into a clear acrylic block, Ta da … I didn’t think long and hard about this idea because I believed the more I thought, the more I would screw up. Sorry, that was an accidental pun. But come to think about it, screws would also work as the mechanical bull scat.

I ran this idea past friend who got excited about it. We just never acted on it. You know how things go sometime.

The same girlfriend I mentioned earlier also made me see “Saturday Night Fever.” Of course, this movie brought about a “disco fever.” Well, you know, fever most often is applied to a high body temperature and that’s not usually something to tout. Still there were some decent songs from the movie’s soundtrack. I liked “More Than a Woman,” by the Bee Gees okay. Like so many songs it reminds me of a particular time in life. I recall this song upon returning from sea duty in the Pacific. I was back only a few months before leaving the Navy. We didn’t do a whole lot once our ship returned to San Diego.

I loved those few months I was on the ship in home port. I had the world ahead of me. I had a loose plan but it turned out vastly different during the following years. But for the time, I was loving California, the Pacific and the mountains. There was plenty of scenery and adventure. Included was all the fun and zest for life when you are 22 years old, and world really is your egg.

All of a sudden, I’m in the grocery store shopping and turning 60 in a few weeks.

Before checking out, I head to the aisle for razors. At the end of the aisle was a rather large woman on a motorized cart. I hear the woman on the cart ask me something but her voice is soft and I do not understand her. I have to ask a couple more times, the last with my ear cupped with my hand as if I am hard of hearing.

“What’s good for pink eye?” she asked. “Is breast milk?” She adds, saying that she was from Louisiana. Perhaps she is explaining why she comes up such an odd remedy.

“Well,” I said, thoughtfully. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.”

Suddenly, the woman who was standing and the one who was sitting burst out laughing. I give a puzzling look, then laugh, before pushing my shopping car toward the cashiers.

So much of my life gets examined in the 30 minutes of shopping. It’s like a time machine — or maybe psychoanalysis. And it only cost me $45.

*H-E-B is a large privately-held grocery chain based in San Antonio that operates in Texas and northern Mexico. The letters stand for Howard Edward Butt, son of the founder Florence Butt.