Texas To The World Dispatch #1

“Well if you ain’t never been there, then I guess you ain’t been told, that you just can’t live in Texas, unless you got a lot of soul.”
– Waylon Jennings, “Bob Wills is Still the King”
The Night and Day-mare That Will Not End
Why is the only politician to keep his promises the one politician you wish would break them? Trump is ordering federal funds to be diverted to build a multi-billion-dollar wall on the Mexican border. What could charm our largest trade partner more than erecting a wall that says, “Keep out!” There should be plenty of cash for construction, though, after he allows the GOP-controlled congress to blow up Medicaid and Medicare. The river has never divided us (link to story I wrote called the river has never divided us: but a wall might be able to do the trick. Prepare for the Tortilla Curtain to rise.
The simplest way to end unlawful entry into this country is to fine employers that hire workers without green cards or proper identification. But that will never happen because big profits are built on the backs of cheap labor. Texans have to ask: Who built your house? Your office building? Picked the crops you eat? Mowed your lawn. Nannied your kids? Cooked your restaurant meal? And, as Tom Russell asks in this great video: who’s gonna build your wall, boys?
Pee Pee Politics
Things are apparently so perfect in Texas that the number one issue confronting our citizens is where we go pee. Actually, it’s just a big deal to our Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. He’s worried that a transgender boy might be peeking at the girls in the next stall. But we don’t precisely know what he’s fretting over. There’s no record of any crime or incident on this matter of gender assignment and school bathrooms; except in the dark urinals of Patrick’s imagination.
Hey, we may have 25 percent of the state’s population without health care, and yet another State Supreme Court ruling that our multi-billion-dollar school system is unfair to poor kids, but Patrick has made Senate Bill 6 one of his priorities. “I believe it is the biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public school,” he said last July.
Christian prayer, he means. Patrick once walked out of the state senate chambers when a Muslim prayer was used for invocation. Religion’s good, if it’s his religion.
We’ll resist all (well most) of the obvious scatology jokes about the bathroom bill since this is our first issue, but Patrick risks getting the political crap kicked out of him by the business community in this state. The Texas Association of Business (TAB) is busily pointing out that North Carolina’s potty politburo caused the NCAA to move March Madness regional games out of that state, the NBA relocated its All-Star Game, and Deutsche Bank and PayPal suspended their plans for expansions. Forbes estimated North Carolina lost about $600 million from its economy in six months. Texas could watch eight billion disappear under the wizened wand of Dan Patrick, according to TAB research.
On the Banks of the Big River
While the ice and snow blow across the Midwest, it is already spring in parts of Texas. The first location to see bluebonnets is always along the Rio Grande. The giant lupens are beautiful in January and February; especially along Farm to Market 170, known as the River Road, which runs from Study Butte, east of Terlingua, to Presidio in the West. It includes the highest elevated pavement in Texas and was named by National Geographic as one of the Top Ten Motorcycle Roads in America.
Oh, about those bluebonnets. Sniff this, North Dakota. (And as the joke goes, you’re not even the best Dakota!)
Also, why do they call it the Rio Grande River? Rio Grande translates as “river big” with the adjective after the noun in Spanish. Do we need “river big river” for English speakers too dim to not know? I have a friend who revels in how much this annoys me and frequently refers to “that big Rio Grande River.”
Speaking of Spring
You might have never heard of him because there are so many great musicians and performers from Texas. But possibly the most soulful singer of the west is Don Edwards, a man called, “America’s Cowboy Balladeer.” Texan Edwards is a guitarist, poet, singer, yodeler, and historian. He had a bit part as Smokey, a ranch hand in the movie “The Horse Whisperer,” but, if you love Texas, after hearing Edwards sing, you will forever associate his voice with the wide-open West, big sky, and high desert sunsets.
And you will always want to be in Texas, “for the roundup in the spring.” See the Texas legend in action.
“I’m from Texas and one of the reasons I like Texas is because there’s no one in control”Willie Nelson
And, Yes, Everything is About Politics
Rick Perry, the “Dancing with the Stars” guy from Texas, is being put in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal at the DOE. And he is still bungling along with high-profile, public exchanges. During his confirmation hearing to join the cabinet of the new administration, Perry was asked, sarcastically, by Sen. Al Franken, “Did you enjoy meeting me?” The Paint Creek pretty boy said, “I hope you are as much fun on that dais as you were on your couch.” (There’s really no need to try to be clever here. The clip is more world-class cringe-worthiness from ol’ Good Hair.
Which reminds us of…
Way back in 2015, Houston voters chose with 61 percent of their ballots to defeat the HERO Amendment (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance), which would have protected LGBT rights and prevented local discrimination. That prompted immediate demands from various publications and organizations to move the 2017 Super Bowl out of the Bayou City. That didn’t happen, obviously, and there’s no indication the city has taken a big PR or economic hit, as a consequence. (North Carolina might have not suffered as painfully if it had oil?)
That wasn’t the greatest fear of Houstonians, though. They dreaded the possibility that the Dallas Cowboys would be playing the big game in Houston. Aaron Rodgers and a field goal kicker whose name you can’t remember eliminated that possibility. Insult hasn’t been completely avoided, though. Jerry Jones, Cowboys owner, will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame that day of the Super Bowl in Houston. (Why don’t they do these things in Canton, Ohio? Oh, right, because it’s Ohio.)
Anyone remember when the biggest football issue in Houston was Bum Phillips deciding to not wear his hat inside the Astrodome while struggling to figure out if it was okay to spit on the artificial turf? “Mama always said, ‘If it can’t rain on you, you’re indoors,” which was the late coach’s explanation for taking off his hat while playing in the Dome. Pretty sure he spat a time or two while leading the Oiler’s. Hard to even imagine what Bum might have thought about the fact that there was an Opera created about his life and coaching career.
Houston Means That I’m One Day Closer to You
I always thought that the Houston-Dallas rivalry thing was a bit of nonsense. But it clearly exists. At the end of a week of reporting from the 1984 GOP convention in Dallas, a TV anchor in Houston asked me on the air if I had any last thoughts about the re-nomination of Ronald Reagan, and all I could think to say was, “I’m just ready to leave Dallas and head home to Texas.” A bit of unpleasantness ensued when I got off the air.
Into the Breach
I’ve always believed Austin was 35 square miles of over-priced real estate surrounded by Texas. But I love it here and have lived about 95 percent of my adult life in the “City of the Violet Crown.” There are times, though, when every person you meet either claims to have their own startup, is a struggling musician, writing a book or a screenplay, selling real estate, or managing a “small portfolio.” Who works around here?
And its growth has been a bit transformative. There is no popular mass transit and light rail proposals get voted down every time they are on the ballot. Rush hour looks like a scene from the 1962 Ray Milland movie, “Panic in the Year Zero.” Not surprising then that Austin is getting compared to its two bigger brothers Houston and Dallas. Hell, there’s a list of Ten Reasons Why Houston is Better Than Austin, and they are kind of persuasive. And it might have just been to create click bait for his work, but a travel writer posited the notion that Austin is overrated and that Houston is far preferable.
Austinites are having trouble adjusting to these descriptions of mediocrity, and even picked a fight recently with San Antonio over which city has the best breakfast tacos. Austin supposedly forfeited the contest. How that happens, we don’t know. Do you fail to bring hot sauce?
Best tacos I’ve ever had were down in the Rio Grande Valley at a little shop on Business Highway 83 called El Pato. I remember an older lady making hot tortillas and eggs and chorizo, and even the bean and cheese did something absurd to the taste buds. El Pato, unsurprisingly, went from that little walk up window to a valley-wide franchise.
The Peoples’ Republic of Austin
Austin isn’t making much of an effort at keeping itself weird, but the new sheriff in town (literally) is getting all up into the moral indignation of our governor. He just can’t stand the idea of lonely immigrants, far from home with little money, no family, unable to speak the language, having a place to feel safe. Damnit! Greg Abbott says he’s going to stop sending state money to Travis County if Sheriff Sally Hernandez doesn’t detain all illegal immigrants until they can be “collected,” (love the dehumanizing term?) by federal agents. Hernandez said suspects wanted on serious crimes will be held but that she has more important tasks for her deputies than to act as screening agents for the INS.
Abbott threatened to do the same thing to Houston and Dallas, and even claimed that he withheld funds from Big D, but he didn’t. Houston’s new police chief, Art Acevedo, is Austin’s old police chief, and he’s not exactly sympathetic with the governor, either. He will keep his cops vigilant but said, “We don’t have time to deal with economic immigrants.” Abbott has a hard time understanding since he has wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars sending DPS troopers down to protect the border and they mostly ended up handing out speeding tickets.
There are Texans living everywhere. And a lot of them would rather be back home. If you are a Texpat, let us know where you are, maybe even what you are doing, and the one thing you miss the most about living under the Lone Star. (And, please, don’t everyone say, “Mexican food.”) We’ll do some hand-waving and let people know you are out there by including you in the TTTW newsletter. And, yes, there’s a catch. You must share this with five friends. The fate of this republic depends upon your actions. Go here. Click. Share. Do it now.
We are known down here as “the home of the Armadillo,” but, apparently, Texans don’t realize the value of that critter found in the underbrush and “bar ditches” and laying across the yellow stripe in the middle of the road. (Ask a Texan about bar ditches. We are out of space here. Will get to it another day.) Anyway, somewhat further south of here in Peru they have a weird as hell tradition of rubbing the entire body with a live armadillo to bring good luck in the new year. Could also bring warts, I bet.
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“If a man’s from Texas, he’ll tell you. If he’s not, why embarrass him by asking?”John Gunther
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