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.