Friday, April 29, 2011

Caught Up In The Moment

We're pedaling through miles of  open land at the LBJ ranch. Just us and a couple of herds of  meandering cattle and skittish deer and antelope.  It's a storied land in Stonewall, Texas, visited by the dignitaries and movie stars of my youth.

I keep reminding myself that I'm actually here, here on the ranch, when suddenly, around the curve, I see it. The House. The Texas White House.

We park our bikes and queue up for a guided tour inside the house. Inside history. I'm so excited.

Our guide, a park ranger named Ben, who knew Lady Bird personally, leads us to the porch.

And there they are. The rocking chairs.

The ones I clearly recall from my youth. The ones in the famous picture of Johnson and Nixon.  We walk by and I yearn to touch those chairs.

The first room we enter is LBJ's office, with period pieces from the '60s, the phones, typewriters and a new  gizmo called a remote control for the TV. I'm time traveling. 

Suddenly, I smell cigarettes. Just a whiff. And I see ashtrays on all the tables. I know LBJ smoked incessantly, but could the odor linger nearly 40 years later? Hmmmm.

The ranger feeds my curiosity by saying often, at night, when he's locking up, he feels something in the room. And he thinks about all the powerful people who passed through here, about the Kennedys, Nixon, J. Edgar.

When the tour ends, about 25 minutes later, I'm still back in the day. And I want to thank the park ranger for taking me there. So I walk around the corner and find him, smoking a cigarette, crashing my time machine.  

I giggle privately, and head back to today, where odors don't linger for 40 years and where my bike awaits the ride home.

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