Saturday, September 8, 2012

Texas: where it's at

If Texas is a country, then certain cities and regions are states.  I live in Austin, which (if I can just beat this metaphor to death here) is like the Texas of Texas. 

What I mean when I say that is not that Austin the quintessentially Texas - it's not. It's quite the exception, in fact.  

Think about it as one of those analogy questions you see on a if you've read the assignment (a previous post) it will make sense and you'll get an A.  Texas is to the United States as Austin is to Texas.  Get it?  Austin doesn't follow the rules of the rest of Texas. It's its own kind of place. Austin is the state capital, and has an enormous capitol building to prove it.   (A post on the capitol is forthcoming...and believe me when I say it is NOT what you are expecting. You will not learn anything about the capitol and you WILL laugh and possibly blush at the photos I show you.)

Not only is it the capital of the state, but Austin is also the Live Music Capital of the World.  (I'd get in trouble with the locals if I didn't capitalize that.) It has a tremendous music scene downtown and it's WAY cooler than I will ever be, therefore, I can't tell you much more about it than that. It's not my scene.  What I can tell you is Austin is full of unique people... they can be earthy and hippie-cool, or they colorful and expressive with their hair color, body art/tattoos, piercings and wardrobe choices - did you know skinny jeans can be cut-offs?  It's true. They pair particularly nice with a shock of hot pink hair and Converse.  Part of this element of the culture can be attributed to University of Texas at Austin, with over 48,000 students.  The other part is "just Austin" - and like the outsider in school, don't ask them why they are so different - they might not tell you to go to hell, but they will slap you with a Keep Austin Weird sticker.  

A mere three hours east (and a little south) you'll find Houston.  The first thing you'll notice about Houston is the traffic; second thing will be the humidity. You know how it feels when you walk into a bathroom where someone is taking a really long, hot shower, and you say, "Hey...turn on the exhaust fan in here!"?  There's no exhaust fan in Houston.  It's just that steamy.  The upside is that they actually get rain and so it's green there.  Houston is a big, real city.  It has sports teams - one of which is so mighty they just call themselves the need for a moniker like Astros or Dynamo - they are just the Texans - which if you think about it, is SO very Texas-ish.  What other state has a professional sports team named after them?  Exactly.  

Three or four hours north (and a bit east) is Dallas.  Dallas is incredibly flat and spread you never know when you've left Dallas, except that maybe people are slightly less dressed-up once you aren't as close to the city.  The stereotype about Dallas women, in my experience, is true. They do dress up. Dallas is incredibly proud of itself and they are glad you've come to visit.  Like most places in Texas, people are pretty nice - Dallas folk are just a little nicer.

My drive across Texas when I first moved here gave me a glimpse of West Texas, and subsequent conversations with actual Texans have confirmed what I concluded in less than a day - you don't want to go there.  My theory is that there's too much space between cities, none of which are significant in size, so there's an overall sense of seclusion and isolation. That's accented by proximity to the border, which adds an completely different it isn't a destination for anyone east of there.  In fact, the people I know who live there (from my work) never even try to get anyone to come visit.  You'll never hear someone from El Paso complain that you haven't come out to see her.  She gets it. Anyone east of there prefers to remain east of there.

Speaking of other part of Texas takes a bashing like East Texas. Ask anyone in my office - when we have to travel to the area offices throughout Texas, no one wants to go east.  I've been there and I can't fact, it's safe to say that I really like East Texas. My drive there took me through Davy Crockett National Forest - and I haven't been in an national forest since I left Oregon.  (With good reason...according to the USDA Forest Service website, there are 13 National Forests in Oregon, and three in Texas.)  The people there were very nice...even nicer than in Dallas.  And their accents are the best in Texas - think Matthew McConaughey - so it's easy to see how one could fall for East Texas.  Yes, I did see a very large man in very large overalls hanging out at a gas station just outside of the town I visited.  Yes, there was a ceiling fan in my hotel room, and yes, there was only one Starbucks within a three hour range.  But still.  Something about East Texas stole my heart and makes me smile.

The funny thing about each of these places is that they all consider themselves "Texas" despite the differences between each one. That leads me to my next observation of Texas as a place.  The highway system that connects all of these places has some serious Texas Pride going on. Here are two examples of what I'm talking about: 

Look closely at the tops of the's the Texas Star.
So really, at no time while you are in Texas will you forget where you are. But just in case you do, there will always be someone like this next to you on the highway to remind you:

Can you see the back windows on the car?  They have big Texas map outline on them. I know what you're thinking...and no, it's not an official car. It's a suburban mom's SUV. I've seen her a few times on the road.  She just really loves Texas. 

I can't mention Texas roads without the notorious armadillo.  You are probably saying to yourself, "No, Wait, Renee.  Armadillos are animals and you should include them in your post about wildlife."  Well, I wish I could, but the fact of the matter is that I've NEVER seen a live armadillo.  They have always been dead on the side of the road.  I considered including that picture, but here's a better one instead.  I stole it off the internet, so props to Google Images and whoever took this picture.  To me it's a mystery as to HOW they saw one upright and alive.

This concludes your lesson on Texas as a place, or at least until I see more. 

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