Author Larry McMurtry has written some sprawling books that either take place in Texas or are about Texas or are geared towards folks interested in Texas or, simply speaking, are just pretty darn Texasy… you get my gist, I’ll put the mental sledgehammer down …McMurtry -Texas -you got it, keep it in your head, I’ll come back to it in four paragraphs…
So I certainly mean no offense to all the very extraordinarily nice Texas born folks that I have lived arm and arm with for the past 15 years and have come to know and love. The assumptions and biases I had before I moved here proved to be wrong. They are a good folk, a kind folk and a proud folk but even with all that goodness, kindness and proudness, there is one little eensy teensy weensy part about living in the Dallas Macho-plex the past decade and a half that I still find just a wee itty bitty tiny drop unpalatable. You see, there seems to be a little bit of a pervasive belief here that the world revolves around Texas. Now I’ve been a lot of places on the planet and I hate to be the balloon bursting bad news barer, because being the messenger in a shoot first ask questions later State can be dangerous, but no, the State of Texas might be known far and wide but it is not the center of all things in the universe. I’m sorry.
Look, I’m not saying anything bad here. People are ‘state proud’ all over the country. Even folks from Rhode Island are proud of where they are from and their State is really just a nub off the edge of Connecticut about as big as my backyard where people talk with a nasalier version of South Boston accent. It’s just Texans elevate it to a slightly different level. They have raised pride to an art form. Somebody from Ohio or Iowa or any other mostly land locked Midwestern 4 letter state you can find, might occasionally get a little bragy and cocky saying they are number one but if you push em’ just a little, they will cave-in and suddenly start mentioning that maybe other places have better weather or better scenery or better schools or that life in general is better over on the coasts… except in Rhode Island.
Texans not only say they are the center of the universe, they believe it with every fiber of their existence. That’s not a bad thing and I’m not just saying that because most folks here own several guns. You should care about where you are from. It’s just that since I was born and raised elsewhere, my attitude is a little different. It sometimes feels like I’m the guy in the wrong hat and jersey rooting for the visiting team at a rivalry football game.
Therefore my desire to read insanely long sprawling novels about Texas is kinda minimal these days. I would go so far as to say this New York born, Florida raised dork is about as interested in reading most Larry McMurtry Texan tomes as a Bosnian is reading Serbian love stories, or a Pakistani is reading religious poetry from India or a Palestinian is reading a Welcome To Israel sign. So again, please let me stress, if you are a Texan, Rhode Islander, Ohioan, Iowan, Bosnian, Serbian, Pakistani, Indian, Palestinian or Israeli, please, please, please, do not feel like I am being insulting, or mocking, or saying anything bad about where you’re from. Don’t go all jihad on my head; people are touchy these days. I get it. I’m just saying I am from somewhere else so my heart and head have ever so slight differing opinions.
So even with all that, there is a Larry McMurtry novel that I delved into many, many years before I moved to Texas that I still really like. All My Friends Are Going To Become Strangers is about a young man that moves from Texas to California. When he eventually comes back he realized that his world is different now but it is not the people that he left behind that are changed, it is him. He feels like he does not really belong in either place and is now doomed to feel like an outsider no matter where he goes.
I guess it’s kinda obvious where I’m going with all this. In my last blog I was talking about the places in Miami that have so radically changed since I moved away from there decades ago. Well my wife and I were up in New York this past week and if I squint, the City looks, sounds and smells the same as when I used to live there. But if I bring my eyesight back to focus, it’s all very different. Yeah, some places are unchanged, like Wo Hop on Mott St still has the exact same menu as it did 25 years ago when I used to constantly trek there (although the prices are a bit higher). Central Park is the same. The honking and street noises are the same. People kinda even look the same. But like in a creepy pod-people or time traveler horror movie, it looks like most everyone and everything I knew left and was replaced by a different version of the same thing. It’s like showing up at a family reunion to discover everyone’s bodies are the same but their faces are altered.
Just like the book, all my friends have become strangers. I know the physical stuff is different but is the real difference me? I looked up while riding the subway and realized I was the only one still reading a newspaper, everyone else was just playing on their phones. The shops and restaurants I frequented 20 years ago are long gone but what they are replaced with seems so different because I was not here to see the slow subtle changes. My friends moved away but I was not here to make new ones. Entire slum-like neighborhoods that I would not have dreamed walking in have been gentrified. Two big towers have been replaced by one. The City grows, evolves and changes. I have too but I have been down in Texas growing, evolving and changing differently.
My heart is in New York but I’m not sure I fit anymore; though I can say the same thing about Florida too. Yet I still do not reply ‘Texas’ when someone asks me where I’m from. So where do I belong? Or because of all my traveling is everywhere my home? I feel as comfortable walking down Sheffield Ave as I do driving the 405. I’m at home taking the Red line to my parked car at Alewife as I am driving the shortcut to Anna Maria. A dog at Varsity, a hike up the back of Camelback, the 6 tram to Lorrach or the street car to Tipitina’s on Napoleon. Maybe I need to focus less on where I used to live and more on how I can make myself at home everywhere. Either way, I think I will skip the Larry McMurtry books.