Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I Love Texas...

I really do, and here’s why – In fact, dang, I don’t know that I’ve ever written about this before!

The first time the weather cools after a Texas summer, it’s as if spring has just come to the desert. All the plants that were barely holding their own breath a collective sigh of relief and start growing like crazy. The view of rolling hills, mesquites, and oaks shrouded in low fog, and the sun rising across that long, deep view is magical. When its 65 during the day and 45 at night, its paradise. Truth be told, summers suck in Texas, but there’s 9 great months in between ‘em, ya know…

Monica and I came from Washington State, and I came from Massachusetts before that. Now, people in New England are not what you would generally refer to as warm and fuzzy; taciturn and aloof might be more appropriate… People from Washington used to be quite friendly, but as the state has grown and changed, they’ve become significantly less so. Washingtonians like to present themselves as friendly and laid back, when in fact they’re really wound quite tightly. If you smile and say hello to somebody in Seattle, they move farther away on the sidewalk and assume you're panhandling, nuts, or a criminal.

And then we moved to Texas… Now, down here, people say “How are you doin’” all the time – All kinds of people – Strangers, even. They do it in stores, and on the street, and when you’re doing business with them – And they expect you to answer, because they genuinely mean it when they say it. I learned, over time, that even with the grocery checker, you have to stop what you’re doing, look them in the eyes, and say “Good thanks, and you?” because it’s the polite thing to do.

People hold doors open for other people in Texas. When somebody in a store realizes they’re in your way, they say “Oh, excuse me,” and they mean it – I had to learn to stop doing the Washington You Oblivious Idiot look to such folks, because here, they notice, and they genuinely weren’t trying to be in the way, and they genuinely mean they’re sorry. If you do the pissy thing in Texas, they will stop and get stern, and ask “Is there a problem?” Because we don’t pretend that there’s not down here…

If a routine business transaction takes longer than it should, the clerk, teller, cashier, etc, notices your discomfort, looks you in the eyes and says, “I’m sorry this took so long,” and you’re expected to say “That’s OK,” because it is, and it’s the polite thing to do.

And then there are the people themselves – here’s a helpful travel tip: Never, ever make assumptions about a Texan based on their appearance or accent. Here’s a case in point. I sold a gun recently, an AR-15 assault rifle, in fact. The buyer sounded on the phone like a tried and true Texan, (Trahd ‘n truw), and new his guns quite well. The initial phone conversation segued from the gun to the fact that George worked at Otis Elevator, and was worried not only because he was on disability with a pending hip replacement, but because his benefits were lookin’ kinda messed up too – That’s the way conversations go down here, ‘cause this is a couple of people talking, and who you are and what’s going on counts – that’s life, and we’re all in together, so be prepared to discuss it.

I met George the next evening. He was short, sporting a big ol’ paunch, bad teeth, balding, and an accent like Boomhauer on King of the Hill. He walked into my guitar shop, which is where I’d decided to do the transaction, and immediately asked if I made guitars. When I admitted that I did, he asked if I’d ever had the privilege to see Andres Segovia play live, and allowed that he had, twice, and that is was a remarkable experience. George is not a clueless southern hick elevator repair man, folks. George ran Tai Kwan Do studios with a fairly legendary Korean master here in Texas for many years. He was the road manager for Rocky Hill, the brother of ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill and the leader of the infamous Rocky Hill Band. He was a long-time friend of Townes Van Zandt and spoke with great affection for his friend. He heard my kid’s music playing and instantly recognized Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4, and very early Youngbloods. He likes jazz and classical, and thinks The Shrub is a moron. He was articulate, curious, friendly, and genuinely interesting. Before he left, he allowed that he’d “Like this relationship we started to continue, if you’re of a mind – I have a feeling you’ll want to shoot this gun again, and I’d be happy to load for ya just to see you do it.” I will and we will, trust me.

George is a pretty typical Texan, and that’s why I love it down here.

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