Texas, I Think We Need To See Other People
Living in Texas means belonging to a cult.
It’s become a joke that, more than any other part of the country or even the world, Texas is a state that’s exceedingly proud of itself. This state loyalty is indoctrinated at a young age. How many states have their youth pledge allegiance to its flag every morning at the start of school? How many states have multiple academic years dedicated to its own history? Texans grow up learning the names of their heroes – folks like Jim Bowie, Davy Crocket, and Sam Houston. We recite their myths and legends and even canonize the minor state deities, people like Ima Hogg and William “Bigfoot” Wallace.
I have lived in Texas my entire life. That’s why it was easy for me to fall into the cult of Texas. I grew up reading HANK THE COWDOG books and obsessing about the Alamo. I championed local brands such as H-E-B and Whataburger. I was intoxicated by the great stretches of majestic brush between the Rio Grande Valley and Houston, the Hill Country’s hidden secrets, the swamps of East Texas, and the planes of the Panhandle. I listened to songs like Ernest Tubb’s “Waltz Across Texas” or The Derailers’ “She’s A Lot Like Texas” and would find myself unironically shredding a tear of pride for my state. PREACHER, a comic book series written and illustrated by two Englishmen, made me go out and start wearing cowboy boots for a while. Texas is a part of my identity.
I was so sure of Texas’ superiority when compared to everywhere in the United States. I bragged about Houston and its diversity, I championed Austin’s cultural scene, and would, with the slightest prompt, wax poetic about El Paso’s historical beauty. Texas was the best. But then I realized I just hadn’t done a lot of traveling.
In the last few years, I have had the chance to spend time in almost every major US city and, let me tell you, there is a handful I’d rather live in than Texas. I still love this state and its geographical beauty, but I need a break. They say that separation makes the heart grow fond so maybe Texas and I just need to have a few years apart for me to fall in love with it again.
When it comes down to it, my biggest incompatibility with Texas is that I’m a pedestrian at heart and Texas is a car state. I love walking. It’s probably my favorite thing to do. Walking through a city can really show you its personality and people. You discover cool stuff and you can take in the architecture and design in a way you aren’t able to process while in a car or bus. You can zone out and just appreciate the world as it rushes by you.
Texas just doesn’t have any cities that are pedestrian-friendly. The state’s biggest pro – its wide-open spaces – is also the thing that makes me yearn to live anywhere else. I want to be able to walk to work, walk to neighborhood restaurants and shops and theaters. If I need to go someplace slightly further away, I want to be able to take public transportation. I don’t want to own a car.
It was the density of cities like New York City and Chicago that made them so susceptible to the initial outbreak of COVID-19 and it was the sprawl that helped Texas delay the big numbers that would come. But, when (if) all this is behind us, it’s that same density that I want to experience. I love Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles (not a pedestrian-friendly city either, I know – but the weather…), Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. I want to experience seasons beyond “Hot,” “Hotter,” “Not So Hot.” I want to wear sweaters for more than just a month out of the year.
But, more than anything, I want to really lean into my Texan identity in a not-Texas city. I want to wear western shirts, cowboy boots, giant belt buckles, and say “ya’ll.”
Texas is a cult and I want to be its missionary.