I think I finally have a handle on Texas – or at least as good a one as I am likely to get. After touring the State Capitol today and seeing the Texas history museum yesterday, it now seems to me clear that the reason Texas is so different and so – shall we say – chauvinistic, is that it was once actually a separate country, the Republic of Texas. I always kind of glossed over that time, thinking about it as a mere holding period before they hooked up with the good old United States, lucky things. But I think here it really matters and sets the tone for the need to be so outstanding. It is not merely one of 50 states – it is the one that was an actual self-governing COUNTRY that fought its own war for independence, just like the American colonies, resisting an equally unjust oppressor. So I guess the din over Texas specialness will just be unrelenting and no amount of putting your hands up and saying “I get it! Texas is the best!” will ever stop it.
We toured the Capitol and heard all the stats comparing it very favorably in height and depth to the U.S. Capitol – again, positioning us as two different countries, this one far more superior. The building is lovely, despite what you may think of what goes on there. Don snapped me with a portrait of the most-recent past governor and my old buddy, George Bush. Mere words can never adequately express my feelings about him, so I won’t attempt to say what ran through my head at that moment. And please don’t get me started on Rick Perry. However, I was surprised and intrigued to hear our guide pointedly refer to LBJ as “our only full Texan president.” Hmm, all may not be as it seems here. At any rate, a lovely building – let’s leave it at that. Outside is a tribute to the Confederacy, reminding us all that the war was strictly about states’ rights.
We did our strolling around town, which included the old and beautiful Driskill Hotel, where LBJ and Lady Bird had their first date. We also made a pilgrimage to the Iron Works restaurant, where “official Texas” barbecue reigns. Someone told me to take Texas slow to appreciate the culture. While we can’t spend too many more days here, nice slow-smoked BBQ has to be a part of the experience, and it was outstanding.
Other parts of Austin include the hopping music scene, another city where youngsters come with their dreams and their guitars, and patronize the wide variety of food trucks. (I doubt that they are buying the piano and guitar-shaped toilet seats, though.)
Now that I understand I am in a different country, I can appreciate the energy here in a new way, and smile like the foreign tourist that I am.