by Sam Hutchins
Okay, I’ll say this in the nicest way possible: f*ck Texas. F*ck that entire godforsaken excuse for a state. If it weren’t for the abundant natural resources I would mount a one man campaign to give it back to Mexico. Actually, Mexico probably should still govern Texas were all right and just in the world. If Mexico were in possession of the territory they could capitalize on the natural gas and oil fields and our economic imbalance would be lessened. The Battle of the Alamo would stand as an earlier, lessened version of Vietnam, potentially forestalling future military misadventures. On that note, no Texas means no Bush family dynasty and no Iraq war.
This may seem a lot to extrapolate from the mere act of scouting locations in the state but you didn’t experience what I did there. The entire matter was simply awful. To begin with, we were in the early stages of our national excursion in Iraq and I was in the company of two Frenchmen. As much as I tried to avoid politics it inevitably came up. Being rather patriotic, I felt the need to at least attempt to argue the American perspective. Further, I believed then and do now that the French objection to our invasion had more to do with their unhappiness at not being consulted in the matter than anything else. They are an argumentative people by nature and we were foolish enough to give them good reason to object. So yes, part of my antipathy towards Texas is based in the fact that I was obligated to at least attempt to argue a pro-invasion perspective unwillingly simply due to being in the state.
Even worse, it is by and large an ugly and desolate state. We were in the depths of our misery at not finding anything remotely interesting to photograph or scout. Driving back roads in Texas means you are really on back roads. Even the average rancher commutes by small plane in that corner of the world; we blew across the horribly ugly landscape at 110 miles per hour for days on end without seeing a single interesting thing. It was flat, ugly, and went on forever. At least the other drivers were courteous. On the rare occasion we overtook someone they invariably pulled over and drove on the shoulder of the road. That was nice of them, however I have to suspect it was a byproduct of driving in such a heavily armed state.
Another in my long list of grievances about Texas involves the Super Bowl. The night the game was played we were busting ass across west Texas looking for the remotest sign of civilization. Even my pampered French pals would have crashed in a dumpy roadside motel. We couldn’t even find that; there was nothing but sagebrush and stars. This was the first Superbowl I didn’t watch since I was six years old. I had bet a bundle on the Steelers laying six and a half when we passed through Vegas and had a vested interest in the outcome. I wound up frantically searching the airwaves, finding and then losing station after station carrying the game feed. No shortage at all of apocalyptic preachers raving about the democratic menace though. The NFL is so media savvy you can probably catch a radio broadcast of the Super Bowl on the moon, but not in west Texas.
One of the smarter things I did before setting out cross-country was researching great roadside restaurants. Not to scout, mind you, but to eat in. If I could find someplace that served amazing barbecue I was going to get us there. This was a once in a lifetime experience; when else are you going to get to a legendary rib joint in Prairie View, Texas? So we did, and the food was worth it. The day after the Super Bowl I was celebrating a nice payday and insisted on detouring out of our way to a barbecue shack I had read about. The ribs were indeed spectacular, but holy God I wish we had never had the conversation we did with the waitress. Generations of Frenchmen will be told of this talk and scoff at America for having heard it.
Our waitress was a cute girl, maybe 17 years old at best. A pale-skinned, freckled west Texas gal. The confusion began when Stephane decided to order a corn dog.
“What ees thees, ees eet corn?”
“No, silly, it’s a hot dog battered and deep-fried. I don’t know if there’s any corn in it. You talk funny, where y’all from?”
“We are both French, we come from Parees.”
She sucked her breath in sharply.
“Oh my, I am so proud of you for coming to America. Was it hard to escape from there?”
“Escape, what do you mean escape? We are allowed to travel freely.”
“Well I know that is not the fact. They taught us in school that foreigners are held captive, like in Iran and Korea, and that only the lucky ones escape and make it to America. Was it hard getting here?”
“No, we got on a plane.”
At this point I was sinking progressively lower in the booth. I’d like to tell you that the waitress was an idiot but she was not. She was well-spoken and alert, she was also a frightening example of what is happening in America. I was able to steer the conversation back to the menu and we ordered, but she could not stay away. Shortly after putting in our order she drifted back to our table.
“Is it true that they make you have abortions if you have a little baby girl?”
Darius responded this time.
“No one forces you to have abortions, you are free to have one anytime you need to.”
He may as well have slapped her.
“What? That is a sin. Babies are innocent and killing them is wrong, you go to hell for that.”
Fortunately, for once, he backpedaled.
“I have never had one.”
A look of relief crossed her face and she meandered away. Shortly thereafter she brought our food and it was indeed amazing barbecue. Unfortunately she stuck around for some more chit-chat.
“I met another foreigner once, he was from Jamaica. Is that close to Paris, France? He said it was always hot there. I think he was a drug dealer. Is it hot in Paris, France?”
The conversation went on a bit longer but it’s too painful to even relate. Even now, reading the words on the page, it’s hard to believe the sheer level of ignorance we encountered but it’s all true. I sat and wailed at the cosmos, finally understanding just how creationism had become a mandatory science class. We needed to get out of that state. Even the most amazing barbecue wasn’t worth this.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE SCOUTING LIFE.
Sam Hutchins has been working in film production for twenty years. He started as overnight security on the set of “Working Girl” while attending film school at NYU. Since 1995 he has been a location manager for some of the top names in the business. He’ll be blogging from a unique insider’s perspective on the filmmaking process, as well as speaking to his colleagues in the production community to share their experiences with you.