25 May 2010

Texas: an Oregonian's view

In September 2008, I left my home state of Oregon for SE Texas. Since then, I've noticed a few differences between these states. Here are the biggest ones (Their order is based on when they popped from my brain to the keyboard.):

1. Where once I saw Priuses Prii Prius cars and Subaru Outbacks, now the streets runneth over with Hummers, motorcycles (without helmets!) and Corvettes, with nary a hippie car to be seen. (Seriously, I haven't seen one Outback since moving here. Not true for the steakhouse though.)

2. Instead of your choice between 6 Starbucks, 8 hip little local chains, 11 stand-alone drive-thru shacks, and 4 independent fair trade shops with organic beans roasted in the back in a recycled barrel, my coffee choices are reduced to McCafe, the one Starbucks in town or the one independent coffee shop that will probably be going out of business soon because everyone would rather have a Sonic cherry-limeade anyway.

3. The variety that is missing in coffee is made up for in doughnuts. While College Town, Oregon could support only one doughnut shop (In ten years I witnessed the failure of three separate ventures, one right after the other, and recently the sole survivor just threw in the towel.) Our Small Houston Suburb has six and they are all fiscally sound.

4. Texans are apparently very self-conscious about their nails. I did a search on my NavCenter in my car and in a 1/2 mile radius there were 15 nail salons, not including full-service hair salons. These were strictly nail places. I honestly can not remember one salon solely for nails in Oregon. Every strip mall, no matter the size, has a donut shop and a nail salon. Okay, that's not exactly accurate, but it's surprising how many of both there are.

5. If you find a sidewalk you are one lucky critter. Most of the small, old downtowns have them and a few subdivisions, but in general, the few people you see walking are in the grass on the shoulder. The reason I'm given: It's hot. Come on people! It's too hot for three, maybe four months of the year. The rest of the time it is perfecto! For every vehicle road, Oregon has about four other ways to arrive there under your own power and without causing increased carbon emissions. And all that with only about three months of dry weather per year. This is probably the main difference between the two places that really bothers me.

6. Feelings about children - In Oregon, children are a way to ensure that someone carries on your ideals for planet-tending. You really only need one for that and it can still be a positive experience if you branch out and have two. But that's the limit. Anymore than that and you are condemning our sweet Mother Earth to an early grave. And apparently it's best to roll your eyes or glance disapprovingly at anyone who doesn't conform to your ideal in the hopes that this will alert them to their error and keep them from repeating it. In Texas, on the other hand, many people actually think of children as a blessing, something to cherish for their own sake, even in large numbers, and they appear to admire a mother who can sanely care for them all.

7. Texas is flat. Really flat. Not Kansas-flat, but compared to Oregon...flat. They have a "Hill Country," but that is, shall we say, a bit of an exaggeration.

8. In Texas, everything stings, bites or irritates. Fire ants, coral snakes, nettles, gigantic red wasps, scorpions you name it. Oregon has a lot of these things but they are the benign versions. I used to get irritated with sugar ants because they would make a trail along the baseboard of my wall. Now I have to deal with mounds of fire ants that, once disturbed, form an attack wave thousands strong. It's like they took the slightly annoying innocent bugs of the Northwest and dosed them with Venom's symbiote goo. Now they are bigger and stronger with evil intent.

9. They really do say "y'all" here. A lot. But they most assuredly do not tell me to "come back now, y'hear." I purposely say "you guys" (that's my independent streak (read: stubborn) coming through) but y'all is a mighty useful phrase and I know that my y'all-less days are numbered.

10. The sun shines most every day. I was born on the Oregon coast, moved to the Willamette Valley for college and then settled down to raise my family there. I know rain and I know overcast. Intimately. I mean, I got a degree in atmospheric science. Gloomy, gray months just meant snuggly cups of tea and lots of good books. And if I wanted to get out, I'd just understand that I'd be wet. That was life. Then I moved to a land where, on average, there are three more months of sunny skies. It's only taken a year and a half and now I'm accustomed to sunshine. We recently returned to Oregon for a few weeks and the dreariness really got me down. What!? Only 18 months to undo thirty-one years of acclimation?! Ridiculous but true.

There you have it. Our Small Houston Suburb vs Oregon College Town. I miss certain parts of Oregon, but to be honest, I love it here. (The half-the-price-of-Oregon real estate doesn't hurt.) And now our family gets to explore a whole other side of the country. It's awesome. We've met real Cajuns and have seen the sun set parallel with the beach. We've tasted fried pickles and can spot a fire ant nest from across the yard. What else is in store? I'll keep y'all posted... (I know, that was cheesy wasn't it?)