This article is part of the The Great American Reach Around series.
This week the Great American Reach Around heads from South to Southwest and tackles the mega state of Texas. The fiercely independent Lone Star State has become a symbol of America for many foreigners, something that is a source of irritation for those Americans not suitably blessed by the magnificence of Our Lord God Almighty to be living in Texas. As for the Texans, well I doubt they give a hoot what anybody thinks of them.
This week's American portion of the Great American Reach Around will be a little different than previous weeks. Because I have never visited Texas I invited natives to write an article on their home state. One gent going by the name of The Karma Crip stepped up to the challenge and will be presenting an article on Austin. I will counterbalance this with my outsider's view of Dallas, Texas. Hopefully his article on the most liberal city in Texas will suitably represent all of the yokels I will be disenfranchising with my hateful screed on Dallas!
Texans, fear not, for the unfortunate tale of your home state will be offset by the most thorough coverage yet of a foreign nation. We will be peering into no less than four cities in Mexico for a look at how America's southern brothers and sisters live their lives. José "Talas" Talamantes will give us a peek at Monterrey, Luis "Kal-L" Toscano is going to show us around Veracruz, Luis "Luisfe" Rubio Miranda has written a delightful piece on Queretaro, and from just south of the border comes Gustavo "Jesupisto" Valdez with a fascinating look at Tijuana.
Just glancing at the pictures featured in these articles about Mexico should be sufficient to blow apart one misconception about Mexico. Rather than nothing but rundown shanty towns and dirt roads it turns out Mexico has some absolutely gorgeous cities.
Our story this week begins in Texas. The second largest state in the United States in terms of area and population, Texas is probably the most iconic state in the Union. It is the home state of four US Presidents of the past 100 years, it is known for cowboys and harsh justice, and of course its oil millionaires. They don't really drive around in Cadillac convertibles with a bull's horns on the hood, but they do exist.
America's number one export of shitty TV reruns has secured the place of Dallas for years to come in the minds of viewers around the world. It is a place of big oil men and big ladies with big shoulder pads and big plans to make big money.
A fitting reputation for a big city in a big state, but not entirely accurate. In the years since J.R. Ewing guzzled his last Bourbon and Branch Houston has become the oil capital of Texas, while Dallas has transformed into a mecca for America's high-tech industry.
A friend of mine once described Dallas derisively as "America's biggest suburb," built fast and cheap with very little thought to history or efficiency. I can't say whether or not that's an accurate description, but it may have been that same quality that prompted filmmaker Paul Verhoeven to cast Dallas as the shiny corporate utopia of his underrated classic Robocop. Its featureless and sterile urbanism were well-suited to convey the downsides of future America.
Outside of the eponymous TV show, Dallas is probably best known to Americans and the world as the place that killed John F. Kennedy. Far be it for me to blame the city for the President's death, but Texas was decidedly anti-Kennedy. They hated the New England liberal and his then-controversial non-black-hating ways, although they did love native son and Kennedy VP Lyndon Johnson. In the end, maybe Dallas killed JFK to open the door for the Texan to creep into the White House like a twangy wizard.
As for Texas, America has a love/hate relationship with the state. It represents a lot of what we consider fun and adventurous about our country. The cowboys and the ranches, horseback riding in the desert with just a shotgun and some spurs between you and a rattlesnake or a drug-crazed Mestizo. It's a romantic vision of America that exists now as a series of tax-break ranches owned by celebrities and a bunch of creepy racists in tacops gear driving back and forth around the Mexico border looking for illegal immigrants to run down in their SUV.
Those of us with not to much fondness for our current President can't help but feel that we owe the fictional character he has created of a homespun good old boy in love with clearing brush to Texas. I'm not too certain what Texans think of Bush these days, but every time he swallows his New England accent long enough to stammer out some anecdote about Buddy chasing tumbleweeds around his ranch it reminds most of America of why we hope Texas burns to the ground.Texas sort of doesn't want America, never has too much, and America sort of doesn't really want Texas. We're an odd couple stuck together for the time being - like a rat taped to a dolphin - so we do our best to get along. As long as we can get at least four years away from a faux Texan finish on the White House I think the good times can probably keep right on rolling.