I met Ted and Selena Pendergraff while working in San Antonio. Ted was an architect and Selena, a stay-at-home mom. Paul and family moved to Pittsburgh in 1990, about the same time I moved to Houston. We’ve tried to keep in touch over the years but it hasn’t always been easy.
He had a growing family and my ass just got bigger.
Ted’s firm was and still is a very reputable one and was contracted as part of the post Hurricane Rita reconstruction effort. The city of Beaumont, right at the Louisiana line, was hit particularly hard and when offered, Ted decided he’d take the job, mainly because it brought him back to Texas. While not a native, he truly loved the state, but hadn’t really spent that much time in East Texas. It was a brave new world to this Kansas home boy.
The duration of his assignment was for just over four weeks. On weekends, he’d go back to Pittsburgh or Selena (suffering empty nest syndrome) came down.
Well, the assignment lasted a bit longer than expected and one weekend, when Selena was visiting, she and Ted decided to check out Houston. Save for a few airport layovers, they’d never been here. This was their weekend to get to know my hometown.
We were to meet for dinner that Saturday night–after they spent the day sightseeing. They hit all the spots–NASA, the Texas Medical Center. They drove downtown, through the Museum District. Drove by Reliant Stadium, Minute Maid Park and in the hours before dinner, they strolled through the Galleria and did a little shopping and watched ice skaters.
We met at an Italian bistro I liked. We were happy to see each other–it had been years. We were seated and the wine flowed immediately.
After updating each other on our lives and all that that implies, Ted relayed a very funny story.
A funny, but terribly pathetic story for my Houston proud ears.
It seems that earlier that afternoon, he and Selena somehow strayed off the beaten path. Had they stayed on the Interstate, they would’ve been fine, but Ted took an exit and somehow got lost in South Houston. He had absolutely no idea where he and his bride were. And unfortunately, it was one of those neighborhoods that my friend, Don F. would call “under siege”. Not a good idea to be there after dark.
They happened upon a fast food restaurant and that was convenient because Selena wanted a Diet Coke and they could ask for directions.
They walked inside, ordered two Diet Cokes and after the transaction, the young woman was handing them their drinks, and Ted asked her, “Could you please tell me exactly where we are?”
He then conveyed that the girl looked at him with a furrowed brow and a rather confused expression. She moved her head towards them and said slowly, as if they didn’t speak English, “You’re at Buuurrrgggeeerrr Kiiinnnggg”.
Ted and Selena burst into laughter; I buried my face in my hands.
Thanks Houston Independent School District!!!