Did you know that I have a huge readership from Russia, the Ukraine, Europe and Britain? Numerous other readers from all around the world? I understand places that speak or read English fluently producing readers of this blog, but I am amazed and charmed by a large readership from other locales. Is it the lure of the exotic? The shadenfreude of someone else’s problems? Texas is one of those places – so often inaccurately depicted in movies and tv – that it has a mythic quality. People are curious, or maybe they fantasize about what it would be like to live here - just as Americans fantasize about living in Paris, Tuscany, or Fiji. We want to have a picturesque lunch in a small café in a place that's not too hot or cold, with really great food, a lovely view, then stroll about and look at art or shop. What do people fantasize about living in Texas? Do they want to be cowboys and ride the range?
Thing is – none of that stuff exists any more. Hardly at all. Here is what living in Texas is really like.
People lived like this 150-200 years ago. But one of the key differences between the New World and the Old is that American cities don't generally keep their old stuff -buildings, especially - as they grow. Sure, we have some "old" (for us) buildings in Boston, New York, and the South. "Sunbelt" (so called bc they comprise the southern half of the country, from coast to coast) cities - those that really grew after WWII - never had that much old architecture to begin with, and generally it was in a dilapidated state. When people finally invented autos and air conditioning and started moving here, they just tore all the old stuff down and started building fresh.
This is how we get to work each day. Each of these cars probably only has 1 person in it. Public transportation ? What's that? Terrorists blowing up trains, subways, and large crowds of people is a very remote idea to us. Sitting for hours in traffic jams and generating tons of pollution, all bc we want to be alone in our cars with the air conditioning and radio turned up full blast, is comforting and familiar to us.
We do have real cities, but the transition from urban to suburban/semi rural is sudden. Notice there are no people walking on the streets? That's bc it is too hot here. Imagine Rome in August or Calcutta anytime and that's what we have about 9 months of the year. Complete with mosquitoes. In winter, it's just gray, rains a lot, and ices over. No fluffy snow. No one walks anywhere. We drive.
But don't be fooled by this seemingly empty photo - there are 6-8 million people living in the D/FW (Dallas and Ft. Worth) "metroplex" (statistical urban area). It's 4th largest urban area in the country; made of of lots of smaller cities, that used to be 100,000- 300,000 people, and were 30 miles apart, then grew and grew till they all intertwined with each other. It is not uncommon to have one school district or city government presiding over that of another city or even county, as well as it's own.
Lots of movies depict Texas as having mountains, or the kind of desert with a large saguaro cactus growing. That's bc they filmed the movie close to Hollywood, in California, Arizona, etc. Texas is bigger than France, so it is huge, over 1000 miles in each direction, and 1000 miles from the East or West coasts of the USA. Texas has several different geographical regions: Desert-like canyons in the far west (El Paso area). No one really lives there. Flat treeless plains, windy irrigated farms in the northern Panhandle area (part that sticks up, near Oklahoma). Central Texas has rolling fields and creeks, with large old oak trees and cows and wild flowers. For a brief moment, in the spring, it is lovely. East Texas is thickly wooded, like Alabama and Georgia, with pine, and has a "southern" culture to match. The coastal areas and south Texas are humid, rain a lot, are warm all winter long, and in many places swampy like Louisiana or Florida.
Most of the population of Texas lives in cities. Dallas/Ft.Worth, Austin/San Antonio, and Houston form a triangle that is verging on a "mega-city" larger in both area and population than London or any of the larger cities on earth. I often describe Texas as "hot, flat, brown and ugly" bc for most of the year, it is. Developers tend to plow down the mature older trees to make way for new homes and streets, then plant new little twig-sized baby trees that are only a few inches tall.