In anticipation of crossing the border into Texas, we all bought trucker caps. Cruising down highway 84, we pass Texico, New Mexico, and then: Welcome to Texas. A billboard condemns Obama; yep, we’re definitely in Texas now.
After a few wrong turns, we arrive at our hotel in Lubbock, TX. I’d done my research, and found a gay bar on Buddy Holly Ave. Sounds cute, right? We get the hotel to call us a cab, and wait outside. Our driver, Robyn, tells us about her grandson, born today. “He’s got a good ol’ fashioned Texas name: Jimmie Rae,” she tells us. “A Texas name with New Mexico spelling, you see, it’s Jimmie with an i-e.” She goes on to tell us about the daughter-in-law’s miscarriage last year, and recommend that if we want some real fun in Texas, skip Austin and head straight for Dallas. “Oh, there’s so many dance bars there, y’all just have the best time in Dallas!”
She drops us off on Buddy Holly Ave, giving us her number so we can get her to pick us up later. “And if I’m out on a run, I’ll just get my husband to come get y’all!” After a large dinner, in which the barmaid confused bourbon and whiskey and we were all full after the sides, we head down the road to Heaven, Lubbock TX’s only gay bar.
There’s one block of clubs on Buddy Holly Ave, Lubbock TX. Each club has its own car park, and each club’s music spills onto the street. Heaven is not on this one block. It’s only one block down, but separated from the other clubs by huge industrial buildings. The club’s logo features a sexualised female angel. Dylan turns to me: “are you sure this is a gay bar and not a strip joint?” I’m not sure. What if it was a strip joint? As we approach the industrial tin shed building, the outside patio becomes visible. The men up there are definitely gay, it’s fine.
We pay our entry and head into a cavernous room, lit with blue light, poles adorning the border of the dancefloor. The bar is a congregation of all the types – the baby dykes who look like they definitely used fake ID, the older gay men in their crisp polo shirts, the twinks in early 2000s boy band getup, the bears, the fag hags, the sassy drag queens, and of course, the backwards-capped-frat-boy from “New York-fucken’-City!” who now lives in Lubbock “because my boss pays me a shitload to live in this freakin’ dump,” and is at Heaven because it’s the only place he’s likely to score some coke in “Lubbock-freaken-Texas!”
We take a seat on the patio, and frat-boy soon joins us. He’s shouting about drugs, and shots, and New York, and Lubbock-freaking-Texas, and we’re quickly bored. He attempts to grab the attention of one of the drag queens: “Hey! Lady!” she turns, looks him up, then down, and just wags her finger at him. “No,” she mouths, and turns away. Frat-boy looks dejected and turns back to us. I finally shake him off by convincing him that the two fag-hags in the corner are dying to do shots with him. “Shots! Shots! Shots!” he cheers as he leaves. We watch a guy in a fluoro mesh singlet brave the pole, but I’m pretty bored. The gay bar in Phoenix was cheaper ($3.50 for a vodka? Take your sky-high prices elsewhere, thank you) and had better music.
We leave, assuming that a cab is not a difficult thing to get on a Saturday night. We were wrong. Drunk drivers are speeding past in all directions – DUI laws are an infringement of civil liberties after all, and Texas is truly the land of the free – and now we’ve left the safety zone, shouts of “fucking dykes!” are echoing around us. We eventually head into a bar and get them to call us a cab.
“Aussies?!” The cabbie shouts at us. It’s clear he’s drunk too. “Are you the Aussies Robyn picked up earlier?!” I guess not many people visit Lubbock, TX. He gets Robyn on the radio. “Hey y’all! I realised y’all might not have a phone to call me on, so I did a few laps to see if I could see y’all to take y’all home!” As our current driver swerves into another lane, we’re all wishing we’d seen when Robyn was doing one of her laps.
The driver uses his elbows to drive, so he can more freely gesticulate in his conversation with us. He’s horrified we’re headed to Austin next day. “Austin?! Why would y’all go there?! Nah, San Antonio is where it’s at! It’s so much fun there! It’s like the Convention Centre capital of the world! Texas’ own Vegas!” He swerves back into our original lane. We politely agree that San Antonio sounds ‘great’.
When we make it back to the hotel, I’m genuinely surprised we’re still alive. As we walk down the corridor toward our room, I nod to the drag queens down the hall.
They’re not from here, either.