Friday, February 25, 2005

Into the Belly of the Beast

I had the pleasure of spending two days in Ft. Worth, Texas this week. It was only the second time I've made landfall in Texas. (The other time was a two-day trip to Dallas for a wedding when I was 18. I went with my then-girlfriend, who was also my first girlfriend, because it was her brother getting married. I really don't remember any of it, because all my conscious energy was absorbed my the terrifying anxiety caused by spending a weekend with a girl's family. Here's an amusing anecdote from that trip: We had driven from Kansas City with my girlfriend's parents. On the way back, they let me drive a leg through Oklahoma. The car -- probably a mid-80s Oldsmobuick -- had a digital speedometer and cruise control. My girlfriend's mother was obsessive about maintaining the speed limit, and I decided to push her buttons a little by setting the speedo at precisely 56. [All highways were 55 at the time.] She insisted I was going to get a ticket. I didn't. Ha ha.)

Before heading to Ft. Worth this week, I'd come to see Texas as a God-forsaken repository of all that is evil in America. where the darker aspects of American culture are made embarrassingly obvious. When I arrived, to my surprise, I found I was exactly right. My cab driver was a Middle-Eastern man. (I felt too self-conscious to ask his nationality.) We established after a few moments of friendly banter that neither of us had any kind feelings toward our President. So he shared with me a few interesting liberal-bonding stories. The best was a story about the French woman he chauffered from the airport. After learning she was French, the cabbie advised her not to tell anyone in Texas she was from France. He told her it wouldn't go over well. She laughed. A few days later, she called the number on his card for a ride back to the airport. When he picked her up, he saw she had a red abrasion on the side of her face. He asked what happened, and she explained that she had been out at a bar with some friends. Some men sitting nearby overheard her accent and asked where she was from. "I didn't take your advice," she told the cabbie. After telling the men she was French, a heated political discussion ensued. What exactly transpired next is detailed in a police reports, and concluded with one of the men striking her hard enough to cause a strawberry patch on her cheek.

There's probably more to the story than that. (Maybe she pulled a gun on the man. A French gun.) But even a small amount of truth would still be pretty repulsive. That story colored my whole trip. The hotel seemed dirtier and browner than it otherwise would have. The people seemed fatter and more SUV-loving. The neon steakhouse signs seemed more garish. I was glad to go, back to good old wholesome Washington, DC, where I can safely mock the President without fear of being attacked by eavesdropping ruffians.

I will mail a shiny quarter to the first person who can substantiate one claim the cabbie made to me. According to my cabbie, 8% of Americans moved to Canada after Bush was reelected. I wasn't sure how to react to this. You don't want to tell the man in control of a 3,000-pound steel box containing you hurtling down the highway at 70 m.p.h. that he's full of shit. So I said, "Wow. That's incredible." It did make me wonder a little about the French woman with the bruise, though.


Blogger tequilita said...

repository of all that is evil??!!!....nah, just some of it. kinda like another God forsaken city, um, like D.C...nothing evil ever happens there.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Joseph K said...

Yeah, but the evil in D.C. is no quite so banal. Mandatory SUV ownership (or so it seems in Texas)? A banal evil. Phasing out Social Security? A more meaningful evil. I like my evil robust and meaty.

Does Austin really count as part of Texas? I vote no.

That said, there are obviously some cool folks in Texas, its evilness notwithstanding.

1:03 PM  
Blogger tequilita said...

there are some pretty evil republicans here, but texas is still the best nation on earth. don't be jealous. ;)

1:26 PM  
Blogger Spiral Stairs said...

Kimberly: After I posted this, I wondered whether you, as one of our most loyal readers and possibly our only loyal Texan reader, would say that I'm all wet. But you quite reasonably acknowledge that Texas does, in fact, contain at least some evil.

DC does too, of course. And I grew up in another place that collects its share of insults: Kansas. It is a perfectly reasonable approximation to say that about 50% of strangers who learn I am from Kansas make a joke involving the Wizard of Oz. To them, I say, "You're lucky we're not in Texas right now, because if we were, I would pull out my concealed handgun and give you the business!"

3:13 PM  
Blogger tequilita said...

the evil makes us spicy...that's why the mexican food here is so good. hope that doesn't piss off any texicans.

5:57 PM  

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