Texas never struck me as a place I’d miss when I moved. But I blame the Houston Rodeo. Yesterday as I wove through traffic around Reliant Stadium, I got sad. People were going to the big cook-off. All had donned clothing fit to make any Midwesterner cringe: regular pearl snap shirts, Texas-flag-themed pearl snap shirts, big buckles, boots and hats. Yes, we really wear cowboy hats. And to the chagrin of many I know in Chicago, I will miss them. I’m not going to miss the tacky clothing, per se, but the purpose behind it. The feel of it.
For some reason still unexplained, Texans own this weird obsessive pride. What are they proud of? Well…Texas. I don’t know where the pride came from, but it makes them write songs about it, wear hideous pants and tear up when talking about their truck. At bars, I’m gonna miss raising a beer and loudly beginning, “The stars at night are big and bright!” because a chorus of barflies will yell back, “Deep in the heart of Texas!”
Texans that don’t fit the rodeo crowd are proud in their own way. The “Dirrrty South” pride you can hear from 20-inch speakers in the back of a Cadillac four blocks away. Urban youths who can’t relate to school or a stable family atmosphere are proud to rep’ their ‘hood. The streets of Houston they grow up on become their eventual sense of self-worth, inducing rap songs and neck tattoos galore. Try telling a kid with 713 under his chin to work on his self-esteem. You’ll get shot. The urban outcry doesn’t manifest in violence or gang propaganda only. There are the hippies and starving political artists who live by the rise of Montrose, the small Houston art and music community. Go to any local punk show to find rabid Houston enthusiasts.
Everything I’d found to be proud of in Texas was ingrained over a lifetime of living nowhere else. Of course I’ll find reasons to miss it. Texas is all I’ve ever known. But here’s a chance to discover the things that keep hoards of people moving to the Windy City every year. It’s in the vibrant Pilsen architecture, it’s in Wrigleyville’s violent Cub enthusiasm, and it’s in the Columbia students’ fresh-faced ambition and possibility. It’s in the bars in Boystown, littered amongst the flamboyant regulars. It’s Chicago pride. The same thing we have at the Rodeo, in the back of Cadillacs, and painted on cardboard boxes along Westheimer road. It’s just a different flavor.
I’m going to try and take as much pride with me when I move. Not for Texas alone, but for life. Maybe it will be infectious, and I won’t have to say “y’all” in order for people to notice something different about me. And honestly, I can’t find out soon enough.