April 30, 2002 - Texas Monthly: Texas Etiquette in the Peace Corps

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By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, April 30, 2002 - 1:23 pm: Edit Post

Texas Etiquette in the Peace Corps

Read and comment on this excerpt from RPCV Kinky Friedman's latest book, Kinky Friedman's Guide to Texas Etiquette, on this experience in the Peace Corps at:

Texas Etiquette in the Peace Corps*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Texas Etiquette in the Peace Corps

Sometimes Texas etiquette manifests itself far beyond the boundaries of the Lone Star State.

by Kinky Friedman

When I was working in Borneo with the Peace Corps, I decided to take a little trip to Thailand with a few other volunteers. This was the height of the Haight-Ashbury era and, of course, the Vietnam War. In a seedy little bar in Chiang Mai, these two forces came together. By forces, I mean special forces, as in Green Berets. A group of them, on R&R from Vietnam, had been drinking rather heavily at the bar. There were four of us Peace Corps kids, all skinny as Jesus, with long hair and native beads, and one of our party, Dylan Ferrero, happened, rather unfortunately, to be sporting a flower in his hair. In the air, the sense of impending doom was almost palpable. The Green Berets, like ourselves, had been culturally out where the buses don't run for possibly a little too long. They thought we were real hippies. And they were in no mood to let Saigons be bygones.

A wiry, dangerous-looking little Hawaiian guy from this gang wandered over with a glaze of hatred in his eyes that almost wilted Dylan's flower. I remember his words quite well because he chanted them with a soft, evil cadence: "Ain't you cool." A bar in Chiang Mai could be a godless, lawless place in 1967, almost as lawless and godless as a lonely road outside Jasper in 1998. But it was just at that moment that I thought I heard a familiar accent—a Texas accent. The deep, drawling tones were emanating from the largest man I'd ever seen. He was sitting with the Green Berets, watching the ongoing tension convention at the bar. With a sudden confidence that must have come from deep in the heart of Texas, I walked over to a table of cranked-up Special Forces. With my beads and Angela Davis Afro, it would have been the stupidest thing I'd ever done in my life if I hadn't been so sure that Goliath was from Texas. Texas saved me.

In a matter of moments, I had learned that the guy was from Dublin, Texas, and he knew my old college friend Lou Siegel, who was also from Dublin. The next thing anybody knew, the invisible bond of latent homosexual Texas manhood had transcended all the other human chemistry in the bar and the world. Years later I thanked Lou for being spiritually in the right place at the right time. I never saw Goliath the Green Beret again. Maybe he just got Starbucked into the twenty-first century like everybody else and is sipping a decaf latte somewhere and reading the Wall Street Gerbil.

I wish I could say that Texas etiquette really exists. Maybe it's like God or Santa Claus or brotherly love—something no one's ever seen but just might be there after all. Years ago my mother had a little sign on her desk at Echo Hill Ranch, a summer camp for boys and girls. It read: "Courtesy is owed. Respect is earned. Love is given." That may be as close to Texas etiquette as any of us will ever get.

From the book Kinky Friedman's Guide to Texas Etiquette, by Kinky Friedman, which will be published in October by Cliff Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Kinky Friedman. All rights reserved.

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