Friday, March 30, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
My father likes a good quote. “Whiskey’s for drinking; water’s for fightin’ over,” for instance. Or, “The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
When I was growing up, I remember him saying more than once, “If I owned Hell and Texas, I’d live in Hell and rent out Texas.” He didn’t credit this paraphrase of General Phillip Sheridan’s 1866 observation, or otherwise contextualize it as anything other than a great turn of phrase. It occurs to me now that his relish of the phrase might have been influenced by his military training at Fort Sam Houston, but that was something else he didn’t elaborate on—except to say that he was surprised in the service to discover that people still read comic books; he hadn’t seen one in years and had sort of assumed comic books went out of print some time after he grew up and stopped buying them.
As a person who now actually does rent in Texas, I feel I should say, at the very least, that it is better than living in Hell. I have deep affection for other places I’ve lived—for the garden apartment I swore I would never leave unless I had to leave Chicago itself, for my Iowa walk-up with north-, east-, and west-facing windows—and this Dallas apartment is no slouch. It is, in fact, the only apartment I can remember looking at that already had the walls painted in anything resembling a color that improved the place. Likewise, the only apartment already hung with floor-to-ceiling curtains, and certainly the only one with a chandelier.
Of course I can’t speak to Hell. Hell may have more cabinets and more counter space. Hell may be closer to the grocery store and major lines of public transportation.
While it probably speaks to nothing so much as the challenges of governing a young state in the early years of Reconstruction, I used to wonder if the Sheridan statement was really about the choices one makes as a landlord. In that reading, maybe Sheridan’s point was that he would sacrifice the more comfortable and attractive situation if that property happened to offer a better return when put on the rental market. Because who would rent Hell? Unless Hell comes with in-unit washer/dryer. I have never seen so many Laundromats as soak and wash and spin right here in my current neighborhood. Some people might prefer not to make the trip.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Dustin is my reason. For a lot of things, really, but certainly for Texas.
He was finishing up a PhD in Washington state while I was midway through an MFA in Iowa when he called to say he had an offer from a lab in Dallas. Dustin had never set foot in the Lone Star State, maybe never even crossed its airspace, and I’d spent exactly enough time passing through to know that, unlike my native Pacific, the water in the Gulf can be the color of Horchata and warm as a bathtub. But I already knew I wanted to join him there, wherever “there” might be, so when we hung up I turned to the internet to rustle up some concrete reasons to get excited about my new geographic destiny.
At the time, the Google search terms “Reasons to love Dallas” yielded exactly two results that weren’t just random combinations of the words. The first was a satirical list by a guy who was clearly tremendously pleased to be living 4 hours away in Austin. The second was D Magazine’s “119 Reasons to Love Dallas”—I stopped reading when I got to “Because we have manners.” I’ve since returned to the list, and I find it sort of charming, really kind of smart, that Dallas didn’t confine itself to the physical world—plus it turns out manners is nothing to scoff at—but at the time I was disheartened by a town that seemed so short on genuine things to love that right off the bat it was groping around for intangibles. And if that first list gave me a seed of doubt, a year of casual conversation confirmed it.
If I said Dallas, everyone, almost everyone I talked to, had grown up there or gone to school there or had a relative there or something. My flight attendant on an Iowa City to Dallas flight started telling me all about his sister and her family and everyone he knew in Dallas. “So what’s your favorite thing in Dallas?” I asked. “Oh no,” he was quick to say. “I don’t know it like that.” A lot of people seemed quick to keep their distance. In a year of asking what people liked about Dallas, I got only a handful of positive answers, and that’s counting the popular “It’s not that far from Austin” as a positive answer. It’s got to be better than that, right? Of all places, Dallas needs a cheerleader. I'm here now. I'll tell you what I find.