Just about everywhere I go these days, when I see someone I know, they invariably ask me “How’s Texas?”
If that person is from Texas, they ask the question with a rising, excited intonation, hoping that I will respond glowingly.
If they are from just about anywhere else, the question is asked in a very soft voice and almost apologetically, as if I had been taken hostage or were a prisoner of war and they wanted to know how badly I was being treated.
Invariably, I answer the same way: “Honestly, I am disappointed. Really disappointed. I really wanted to hate it, but I just can’t.”
The Texans laugh, and say something to the effect of: “See? It’s not so bad, is it?”
The others (who, I will admit, are either from one of the coasts—other than family, I really do not know anyone in a fly-over state) awkwardly laugh, praying to their modern version of god that I am not transforming into a *gasp* Texan (or maybe they are just worried that I am packing heat).
So what are the positives about living in Houston?
Well, there are a few:
- For the first time that I can remember, I live in a house that is not at risk of creaking, squeaking, or leaking, which can not be overstated. We lived in a 120-year old house in Philly and I am relieved to no longer have to experience its “character” when it rains.
- The weather. Yeah, yeah, I know. I am writing this in the middle of May and I need to wait a few more weeks. Yes, June through September can be fairly sticky, but the other eight months? Fantastic. I already have ridden more miles this year than the last two years combined in Philly. My mother was sure that I would miss the seasons. Nope. Not even a little bit. Going to the outdoor pool on New Year’s Day is the new normal.
- People are really nice and I am pretty sure it is genuine (although there was that guy yesterday that yelled at me when I rolled through the stop light three seconds too soon: “Obey the traffic laws or don’t complain when I run you over!” Yeah, those two things are just about the same thing. Still, he was only the second person who has yelled at me in eight months—heck, no one has even honked at me on my bike. In Philly, you couldn’t go even eight blocks and say that.)
- Cowboy boots are really comfortable.
- Food is really cheap and really good—the beef counter at the local grocery store is a thing of beauty (unless you’re a vegetarian or a cow, I guess).
- You can buy wine pretty much everywhere and, perhaps most amazing, the stores actually want to help you! (While this might not be a revelation for many, my dear friends in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania know exactly what I mean).
There are also a few things that took some getting used to:
- The Texas flag is everywhere. Texas was its own country for ten years (from 1836 to 1846) and boy do they let you know it. The kids not only have to learn the Pledge of Allegiance to the (U.S.) Flag, but they are also had to learn the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas State Flag.
- Texans love products from Texas. There are huge sections in the supermarkets dedicated to Texas made items. There are even pick-up trucks and S.U.Vs that are “Texas Editions.” It is pretty crazy.
- People in Texas rarely use their car horn. Driving in Philadelphia, people usually have at best one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the horn, ready to honk at even the slightest perceived (or even anticipated) transgression. The other day, as I was tooling along on a highway service road, some clown sped past me on the left (I was in the right-most lane), dove in front of me, then slammed on the brakes to turn right. All of this happened in less than fifty yards of pavement at 45 miles an hour. So I laid on the horn. For a while. I also did the double-back look, expressing exactly what I thought about his cognitive abilities. He looked back at me as if I had several heads and a lengthy tail. He also probably had a gun.
- I need to disconnect my car horn.
- It seems as though all women, once they have kids, start wearing white jeans and wedges. All. The. Time. You would think there is some dress code.
- They don’t call them “Speed Bumps” but “Road Humps.” That always makes me laugh.
- Houston is a city of highways. It is really no joke, they are everywhere. Not only that, but each one is at least four lanes wide and has a four lane service drive that runs the length of the freeway on both sides. If you are looking for a new career sell concrete in Houston. You could retire in a couple of years.
- Perhaps not surprisingly, there are churches everywhere and also no shocker, they are huge. And people talk about going to them a lot. I am going to have to figure out what to do about that.
- Even though it is an open-carry state, I have only seen one gun so far. And I am pretty sure he was a cop. But I didn’t ask—I mean he had a gun.
There are, of course a few negatives as well:
- Houston is a pretty ugly city. Sure there are some nice areas, but overall it is just one big strip mall.
- Houston is flat. Really flat. I can go for a 40 mile ride and only gain 30 feet in elevation. As a buddy of mine back east said, his driveway has more elevation than that.
- No one walks. Anywhere.
- As the owners of two Priuses, it is blatantly obvious that everyone else has either a pick-up truck or an S.A.V. (Suburban Assault Vehicle) and those things are ginormous.
- Speaking of cars, people in Houston love to tailgate, it seems. In fact, I am pretty sure they would prefer to tailgate over changing lanes to go around you. Much to my surprise, the more feminine the driver, the bigger the S.A.V, the blonder the hair, and the whiter the jeans, the more aggressively they drive.
- It is technically illegal to ride a bike in certain neighborhoods, but that has not stopped me. Yet.
- Just about everyone says “y’all.” And if I hear one of my kids say it, well, that might get ugly. And if my wife ever buys a pair of white jeans….