There are reasons for not particularly enjoying residency in Texas; beginning with the brutal summer heat, and working down through the serious lack of good mountains, distance from the seacoast, the brutal summer heat, highway interchanges that look like the planners just threw a plate of spaghetti at a wall-map, self-chuck-holing surface roads, the brutal summer heat, a distressing tendency for citizens to drown in urban low-water crossings, a high percentage of drivers of large vehicle who completely spaz out when it rains (as if they had never, ever seen such a thing before!), the brutal summer heat, urban downtown areas (I’m looking at you, Houston!) which look like Calcutta had thrown up on Los Angeles…. And the fact that everything is bigger applies to the insect life as well. You wanna see a garden spider large enough to snag small birds? Check out my back yard… but bring along a baseball bat. And did I mention the brutal summer heat?
Against those considerations, though, there is an even longer list of reasons to relish living in the Lone Star State… look, flyover country is not cultural Siberia. We’ve got the bookstores, the boutique cinemas, the museums and opera companies, and the whiney self-centered artistes to prove it. In no particular order of importance, we also have…
Wildflowers; square miles of wildflowers; For months in spring the highway verges and the empty lots, and the hillsides look like paintings by the better sort of early impressionalist painter.
And given enough rain, the countryside looks really, really quite pretty. Not spectacular, mostly of a gently-rolling variety, cut across with green rivers and creeks. The Hill Country is rather more enthusiastically rolling. West Texas is really, really rolling, but not very green most of the year. More medium crispy, and not to everyones’ taste… but this being Texas – where everything is bigger – there is more than enough of it all to go around.
Fields of grazing cows… very restful to look at, although in some places this program is startlingly varied with flocks of llamas and other exotica.
The HEB grocery chain. Statewide powerhouse, having sent several national chains running for the borders with a matchless combination of quality, excellent service and attention to detail. Quite simply, if it isn’t on the shelf at HEB’s Central Market, you probably don’t need it anyway. There are whole sections devoted to local salsa, hot sauce and BBQ sauce.
Austin local music scene; not that I know much about that first hand, other than seeing “Austin City Limits” on PBS but Cpl. Blondie does, and she made me put that in.
Local history: a rich mine containing many solid gold nuggets. Like Churchill once remarked about the Balkans, Texas produces almost more history than can be consumed locally.
Breakfast tacos; the food of the gods… oh, ye who only know of this marvel through the medium of Taco Bell should hide your faces in shame, and make a pilgrimage to San Antonio on your knees. I solemnly swear that every block on every main avenue has a breakfast-taco place on it somewhere. Many of them also offer drive-through service.
And Texas also has a most exuberant sense of being a distinctive place. Utah is the only other place that has anything like the same strength of identity, of pride in a shared and unique history. I suppose it comes from both states having been politically independent and separate entities during their respective founding decades. Sometimes this sense of identity strikes new visitors as rather overstated, but after a while it’s kind of endearing, and makes other places feel a little bland in comparison.
And finally, this is only a personal and purely anecdotal statement… but I do believe that out of all other bodies of human beings in the world, a substantially higher proportion of Texans will slide out of this existence and into the next, breathless, exhausted and whooping triumphantly, “Day-am! What an incredible ride!”