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  • Robert Farago

Don't California My Texas!

FOAD for thought

Californians know the difference between right and wrong: if you’re on the right, you’re wrong. That’s one reason Texans are about as pleased with its California invasion as Romans were with visits from Visigoths, Vandals, Angles, Saxons, Franks, Ostrogoths, Lombards and post-War German tourists. Truth be told, Golden Staters are only the Lone Star State’s most recent interlopers.

The day I moved to Texas I pulled to the side of the road to call my accountant. I looked down at my sandals and saw red ants – South American immigrants – getting party real on my right foot. “No problem,” I thought. “I’ll just brush them off.” That’s like looking at a grenade and thinking “No problem! I’ll just pull the pin.”

Fire ants are six-legged Bandidos; smack one and they all fuck you up. It felt like someone poured kerosene on my foot and lit it on fire. Only kerosene burns itself out. Fire ant poison lasts longer than Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor. Steve McQueen be damned; I’d rather watch a dozen disaster movies than have fire ants turning my foot into a raging inferno.

After subjecting my money man and the entire Texas Hill Country to the world’s loudest girly scream, I swept off my ant-tagonists and hot-footed it to the nearest drug store. I ran in, grabbed a bottle of Calamine lotion and poured it on my inflamed extremity, right then and there. “Wait ‘til you get stung by a mud dauber,” the pharmacist offered by way of consolation, referring to a wasp bigger than the U.S.S. Arizona.

Texas’ capitol city’s motto used to be “Keep Austin Weird.” Thanks to the self-exiled California coterie, the only thing weird about Austin is how all the twenty-somethings look like they were created by an AI prompt: “What would Texans look like if Whole Foods sold them?” Meanwhile, move over BBQ. CA’s In-N-Out burger has arrived – Keira Knightley to Whataburger’s My 500 Pound Cheeseburger Life.

One way or another, Texas gets its revenge on transplants. I’m reminded of this simple fact whenever I spy newbies staggering back to their car after a nature hike anytime between early May and late October. That’s when Texas is hot enough to melt a hooker’s heart – until it turns a few degrees cooler than the inside of a pizza oven. You heard about Snowmageddon? That’s how familiar Texans are with what Northerners call a cold snap.

Little known fact: Texas is a native American word for “friend.” And it’s true: people smile at each other here for no particular reason. O.K., it may have something to do with not wanting to get shot. And sure, anglo-Texans exterminated the tribe who “donated” the word to the state. But I really love this place. Whenever I meet a Californian refugee, I greet them with a hearty “Welcome to America!” Guess what? They laugh. Hmmm. Who’s infecting whom?

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