After Mexico 17, 5th December 2004

So what's happened since my last email 2 weeks ago? Not a lot. I'm still at Micki's, sleeping in the balloon repair shop. I quite like it, it's sort of surrealistic, in a way. Some 8 years ago, on an earlier tour of the US, I stayed with Christine Kalakuka and Brent Stockwell, they live at the side of their repair shop near San Francisco, their lounge/dining room is actually one corner of the repair shop. I thought that was great too.

Anyway, here I am, and I am enjoying being here. What have I been doing? Well, I've been sorting out the van, washing and repairing curtains, fixing seats, generally cleaning around. I've been trying to help Micki and Adam around the workshop, probably hindering more than helping, although I did manage to replace the faulty pressure gauge on a burner which, coincidentally, had been bought from Brent. It's a small world. Latterly I've been working with Adam rebuilding a basket. I've not done wickerwork before, it's interesting to learn.

I've been arranging my return to Europe, I've booked my flight back from Dallas on the 10th December to the UK, my flight from the UK to Cyprus on 18th December to see my son Daniel and family for Christmas, then I return 4th January. I've got the balloon booked to go back to France, by sea $355, plus customs clearance about $200. Micki is going to take me to Dallas for my flight and drop the balloon off at the shippers in Dallas. My friend Jerome from Maintenon is going arrange for someone to collect it from Le Havre. We have to find a pallet - Micki's husband, Tony, has actually found one - then the balloon needs to be packed on the pallet.

The lap top battery I ordered didn't arrive after 2 weeks so I chased it up. It's been put on back order, they told me, for shipping 20th December. The scabs! They might have told me! I ordered from another source, $1 cheaper, I've got it now and it's installed and works perfectly. I bought another mouse, I didn't have my glasses so could not read the instructions, I was told it had USB connection. It did not, so I had another 12 mile round trip to change it. The new one is black and grey, matches the lap top. Smooth!


A couple of people who had earlier asked if they could have him when I left now could not, but he now has a home promised, at a home nearby, with a big garden, an acre in size, a big house, and a little girl who, like many others, has fallen in love with him. He'll be free to roam, and will not be de-clawed.

Thanksgiving came, Micki and family went to Austin, 200 miles away, to visit with her sister. Another sister, Susie, who works part time with Micki here, invited me over to her house for Thanksgiving and a super turkey dinner.

Of course I've been doing some local sightseeing. Lake of the Pines, Caddo Lake again, several local museums, Marshall Pottery. I discover there was a steamer giving trips around Caddo Lake which sounded fun, when I phoned to check times, the trips had stopped for the season. Only the day before! I still have to make more tours of the Christmas lights, Marshall is famous for these, there are almost 10 million lights around the town, on trees, buildings, special decorations, etc.

Just around about Marshall by the way, it is not possible to fly, reasonably. There are almost no places to land, it's all woods, just solid woods, almost no cleared areas, even the houses are built under the trees, and the roads mostly have power lines running alongside

I found out that it was not possible to download Goin' Home, still my favourite jazz tune, from my web site, presumably because there were illegal characters in the file name. I've fixed that so if you are interested it is now possible to download it. The link is on my first Mexican page, the one with all the page numbers, but you have to scroll down the page to find it. The words are particularly appropriate just now, now I'm leaving here, and leaving behind my little companion these last 6 months. The laws are such that I cannot take him back with me to the UK. You can actually download the tune by clicking here without going to my web page. It's about 3 Mb and of course you have to be on line to get this link, or the Kahunas link below, to work.

I've fixed a parking spot for the van, at Tim's place, where my van was fixed recently. If you need a good auto repair shop at Longview Texas phone Kahunas Tel (903) 643-0778 and ask for Tim and mention my name. It won't get you any better service, you'd get tip top service anyway, but it will make a change from talking auto problems!

A couple of days ago I travelled on the balloon truck at the Longview parade. The parade runs in the early evening ie it's dark. Just imagine 13 baskets strapped together on a semi trailer

with all their burners going at the same time. That's Adam on the left by the way, wearing his new Christmas underpants Superman style, on top of his jeans. The heat is so intense everyone makes heat shields above the baskets. Venture outside and the heat knocks you back. Very pretty it all looked too with all the basket uprights decked out in silver foil and Christmas banners.

The silver foil on the edges of the baskets are not decoration by the way. It is to stop the leather being scorched.

I reckon we get the awards for the most heat, the most light, and the most noise - the truck had awe inspiring air horns, the loudest I have ever heard, and he honked these almost continually. In the rare gaps between it was possible to hear the burner songs - and 13 of those are pretty noisy too.

Best regards

David Barker

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Good auto repair shop Longview Texas Kahunas tel (903) 643-0778