Texas Proud

I’m a Texan. By all accounts (or just the more reliable ones) I’m a “proud Texan”.  I was born here, I was raised here, and if my lack of motivation and drive persists, I’ll die here.  I’m good with that.  As a Texan I was indoctrinated at an early age to love Texas – the good and the bad.  A bit like I love my momma, apple pie, baseball and Chevrolet.  Ok, I don’t actually care one way or the other about Chevrolet – I’m indifferent – that’s the word! They’re fine and all, I’m sure.  I mean no offense to anyone driving one.  Oh, and while we’re at it if we could turn apple pie to some sort of cobbler and maybe replace baseball with tennis, that would be swell.  Now the love of my Momma still stands, except let’s call her “Mom” or “Mother”, that would be more fitting.  Whew.  Got all of that out of the way.  I love Mom, peach cobber, tennis (if I have to pick one) and car companies ending in “a”. And Texas! Don’t forget Texas.

As a Texan, I get to defend Texas to my out-of-state friends more times than I’d care to.  Yes, in education we rank among the lowest, but many of us are fairly state-aware, despite what you were taught in whatever place you came from. And hey, we rank low in a lot of areas! TEXAS PROUD! We’re # (shoot, I don’t have that many hands)!

I feel like I’ve beaten this dead horse before, but let’s face it, I’m too lazy to link back to some post where I defended Texas.  It’s out there.  I’m sure my ire was up.  I probably typed a few sentences using heavy, angry keystrokes. No, I won’t link those two adjectives with a contraction, and I’m aware that I’ve now ended a few sentences with prepositions, but that’s how I’m rolling today. I’ll make 32 other egregious grammar errors before I get through this post.  Blame the Texas education system and a poor attitude.

Here’s the thing – Texas is my family.  I can pick on it, but God forbid someone outside of it start – thems fightin’ words.  Until last week…

Normally, I don’t like to get into my politics on my blog.  I ust like to throw random anecdotes at you until you cry for mercy. Those cries herald an extended blogging sabbatical while I wait for the next thing to inspire me.  Normally, I shrug off what comes across the national news about my state.  It’s rarely good. It’s never an “atta boy, Texas” with no trace of sarcasm. Normally, I don’t cringe.  Did I mention, “until last week”?

Let’s talk about Operation Jade Helm 15. You know that thing where Obama was planning to come to Texas to institute martial law.  I think we were going to be rounded up into Wal-Marts and then who knows what would happen next.  That story.  The one where Governor Abbott sent the Texas National Guard to keep an eye on the US military.  State officials from both sides of our state government sent the Governor notes basically saying, “what the…?” This played out in the media for a bit.  Towards the end of last week we were notified by Gov. Abbott that he’d been briefed by the Pentagon and he now felt assured we Texans were not in peril.  Whew! I’m not a huge fan of Wal-Mart.  Bullet dodged!

I was gobsmacked..

I can handle being called out for my drawl.  I can even handle my out-of-state friends being stunned that some Texans have had book learnin’ and can keep our drool from spilling down the front of our shirts.  But this… this… I’m at a complete loss of words.

So, where I normally would avoid politics and in turn avoid posting other people’s thoughts on politics, I felt I had to be called away from couch sabbatical and post something – sometimes – other people’s words – people who are better at expressing themselves about this lunacy than I.

Strong Language Warning:

From the Stonekettle Station Blog:”Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas”

“Paranoia is a mental Illness, not a super power.”

And Jon Stewart, who is always brilliant:  You can start at 4:45 if you just want to cut to the Jade Helm chase.

I’m such a proud Texan….

Don’t Let the Door…

I’m a Texan – 5th Generation, which puts part of my family here some 30 years after the state gained its independence – an independence hard won through the sacrifice of some of my family (if you really stretch the term “relative” and ignore some basic genealogical truths, but I digress (or I rant, one of those)).  I grew up Texan.  I will die a Texan.  And the truth is I don’t understand how not to be a Texan.  I can’t throw on your Idahoan shoes to see things through your Idahoan eyes, and in truth, as a Texan, I imagine there’s not much of a perspective there.  (And that my friends, is what it’s like being in a Texan’s brain – that pride or arrogance or that hubris, if you prefer.)

And it’s not that Texas doesn’t deeply embarrass me on occasion.  There are times now and again where I’m not actually bursting with pride.  For example, anytime Texas makes the news, I know it’s going to be cringe worthy. When Brian Williams comes out and begins with, “In Texas today…” it’s not going to be because we did something awe inspiring.  In fact, those words often herald some announcement that at best will place us barely above Arkansas or West Virginia in some awful competition for “worst” in something and at worst, well… let’s just say it can get ugly.  Then there’s those wonderful times when one of us escapes the borders to find a microphone and a national listening ear.  That’s usually time to grab a maple leaf pin and say, “what buffoons, ay?”  But by and large, despite the headlines, my Texas soul remains intact, even if it’s a bit dinged around the edges.

Plus, there can be those moments that make me proud – where we as Texans surprise even me and I can take pride that we did something better – something right:  Any time we can say, “in your face, NYC!” is a good (albeit rare) day.

Now we as Texans are all different.  We hail from different regions with distinctly different cultures. We’re not exactly a hive mind unless you’re talking about our pride.  And despite our difference, the truth is if you’re going after a Texan for a Texas thing and you’re not from here, well I’ll stand with the Texan every time.  We “get” that you don’t get it, but we’re not joking when it comes to our feelings about our state. We’re not playing. Make a light-hearted jab about our pride and you’ll hear a room go very still.  You probably know about Texans and their notorious love for football.  Well, swap out “football” for “state pride,” and you might begin to understand where we’re coming from.

We also take small (and by “small” I mean “gigantic”) exception to the idea that we’re a gigantic pack of bumpkins, especially when you talk about how great it would be to do a bumpkin study on us to measure just how deep our bucolic bumpkiness goes.  Always keep in mind, we have urban areas, too – some with more than two major streets. Many of us grew up away from livestock and have never ridden a horse. Heck, did you know we even have some of them schools fer book learnin’?  And there’s a pack of us who made it through all of the grades and have us-selves one of them fancy de-grees. I heard tell that some even have advanced de-grees from them prestigious schools that y’all are so proud of.  Our men don’t always swagger and our women aren’t always politely demure. If you want to see a Texan get all Texan on you, make the generalization that we’re all backwards idiots stuck in a 1950’s mentality.  Save that for your friends in your other state that you can’t say you’re even proud to be from.

All of this started rattling around my head recently when I was sitting outside at a local pub daydreaming (I mean, paying close attention) while some non-natives were mocking Texas in some way.  Well, my go-to reaction whenever this comes up is “leave,” but I suppose curiosity won out and well, I do like them despite their obvious poor breeding, so I listened.  The gist of it was “even when Texans take a crap, they think it’s better.” My knee-jerk reactions to that: 1) Do you kiss your out-of-state mother with that mouth? and 2) Ummm… is there a question in there? Despite the crassness, I would say we don’t “think” it’s better, without any doubt we “know” it’s better. As I thought those words, and may have even lent them a voice, I knew I believed in the truth of that statement 100%.  We have no doubt that everything is better, even when it’s not. Call it a “faith” of sorts. The conversation continued and danced around my statement being a perfect example of the sheer obnoxiousness of our state’s natives, so I had to follow with, “it’s not my fault your state didn’t raise you with any sense of pride.”  It’s not my fault that you don’t have anything to be proud about. Hell, if I came from Ohio, I wouldn’t mention it either. They don’t even have a proper flag.

I don’t know why we have that pride.  Maybe it’s all of the classes we have to take on Texas history and Texas government as we work our way through the one room school system.  Maybe it’s subliminal messages from some insidious Texas PR firm, or it could be something in the sweet tea or possibly the BBQ, but it seeps in at some point and it grows (no, it doesn’t “fester”, it “grows” – sheesh).

I saw a movie the other day depicting the door to a Navy Seal’s room who was from Texas.  On the door hung the state flag.  That one small attention to detail rang so true to me,  Texans I’ve known away from home displayed the Texas flag, wore their Texas shirts, and donned their cowboy hat as a way to let everyone know, “I’m a Texan”  We wear our pride.

It’s a way we let you know that despite its flaws and sometimes its history, we stand proud – Texas proud.  And so I’m just here to say that…

I’m a Texan, from the best state in the country! (Especially if you steer away from studies and the news and such.)  If you don’t like our state, you’re welcome to leave – ain’t nobody stoppin’ ya.  Don’t let the door…

Oh, and let’s end this with a song from a Texas boy who they just announced would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with his band, Double Trouble

Rant: Accents and Intellect

I’m a Texan.  On any given day, I could say that as a boast or mutter it under my breath in shame.  (Which, incidentally, I just typed “Shame” as if it were a place.  That tells you something about my state of mind.)  For the most part, I like saying I’m a Texan and I like being a Texan and I wear it as a source of pride.  However, some of the things that make Texans stand out from say New Hampshirites are things that can make us a little embarrassed at times or peevish at others. (I had to look Hampshirites up, because no one actually knows what they’re called, because no one calls them.  This is a fact.  I just made it up.)

Accents

I have one. You have one.  The only place you don’t have one is likely around the people you grew up with.   Even then, you might still have a distinct accent.  For example, my friend who grew up in Decatur, Texas sounds nothing like his family.  (Jers, that’s my shout-out and I love the sound of your voice.)  My aunt also sounds nothing like my Dad or the rest of her siblings.

Here’s a really great map where you can see just how varied our accents are across the United States.

Huffington Posts: Dialect Map of US Shows How Americans Speak by Region

But let’s get back to being a Texan and our accents (yes plural, look at the map).  As a Texan you get to hear a lot of people on TV and on film take a stab at their impersonation of a Texas accent.  It’s usually cringe-inducing, because it’s almost always heavy-handed and sprinkled with a lot of “Howdy’s” as if we “Howdy” everything as we swagger from the doormat to IH-35.  I don’t “Howdy”. (Nor do I swagger, ride a horse or play with tumbleweed.) In fact, I can only name one bona fide Howdier.  You see, no one “Howdy’s” here that often and if they do they’re trying to sell you something. They’ll probably call you “hon”, too. Don’t trust them.  For the record, I also don’t know anyone name “Pardner” either.  If I saw that as a name, I’d assume it belonged to some kid whose California parents thought the name would be “cool” or “ironic”.

Now the problem is that usually when I hear that pregnant TV/movie Texas accent, I know it’s an overture heralding the movie/show poking fun at how backwards Texans are. I’m rarely disappointed.  You add “reality” + “any place in Texas” and now you’re in for some good ol’ fashioned, ratings-winning, hillbilly shenanigans.  Yee haw! So, let me just say: some people do sound that way depending on where you are in Texas and some people don’t – it really all depends on where you pullover and how big the town is.  The best popular examples I can give where you can hear what I think of as a true Texas accent (and realizing I grew up in a real live city free of cattle stampedes) are those of Tommy Lee Jones and George Eads.  Of course, they’re from areas that I grew up around.

Tommy Lee Jones – The Fugitive:

George Eads Interview:

When you come into my state from wherever the heck you’re from and declare, “you have an accent”.  Remember this: Son, I don’t have an accent in my state.  You do.

Dialect = Intellect

Here’s where the crux of my beef lies – that ignorant assumption that because I have a Texas accent, I am somehow less intelligent.  It’s worse for my Texas brethren in deep East and far West Texas, but still the arrogance gets to me.  It’s as if my dropping the “g” in any given “–ing” word cost me 30 national IQ points.  I have a related story you may have heard me tell before.  Out of college (I gots me one of them degrees and it din’t come in the mails and it ain’t in agriculture or home ec) I started my first full time job where I met this guy from Ohio.  One day I asked him how he decided to come to Texas, because as a Texan I am somewhat arrogant (especially when I forget how we’re depicted in the media) and I was fishing for some story that would make Texas sound like a promise land – that maybe a little halo appeared on the map and angels sang when he was choosing places.  Instead, he said out of college he worked for some company selling some thing and was given a choice of three locales.  He chose Texas because he knew people here were stupid and therefore would be easier marks.  My jaw dropped.  He failed in sales here, by the way.  I can’t imagine how that happened. (Sarcasm) I just stared at him and asked, “you honestly think I’m stupid?” “No, you’re smart.  In fact, you’re the smartest Texan I know.” Such an honor. (Err, sarcasm again – it doesn’t translate so well in writing.) As I became more appalled, he backpedaled and I want to say at some point he doubted that I was actually a Texan, which was his form of a compliment.  “I said you weren’t a Texan.  That’s like the greatest compliment EVER!!!” His brain couldn’t reconcile that someone could be both smart AND a Texan.

I’ve had people, based on my accent, question my education to my face. Rather bold.  Also, rather rude.  I kindly offered to compare our educations – mine, here in Texas to theirs in wherever the fuck they came from – let’s dance, monkey! They became disinterested in the subject.

So let me state again: Dialect does not equal intellect.  In other words, a drawl does not determine your IQ. Words flowing slowly don’t always mean a slow mind.  However, it shows a lack of intellect and really a lack of exposure to a wider world if you fall for that.

This is getting overly long and you’re about to drift off, but just one more tiny rant.

The Right Pronunciation

I distinguish “pen” from “pin” when I speak.  I can say “Harry” in a way that doesn’t invoke an image of fur, while my long “o” sounds would make a Canadian proud. My “get” is questionable, but on most days if I’m awake or not mad there’s more “eh” to it than “ih”.  Do something embarrassing on my front lawn and then you might hear, “git in this house right now before the neighbors see you”, because whatever it was you did shocked the “e” right on out of that word. Now growing up everyone around me said “Chester drawers” (I thought it was a type of drawer you put your clothes in, like a Chesterfield is a couch). It was a huge shock to see “chest of drawers” in an ad one day and have my world rocked.  But the most distinguishing thing I drawl are “oi” words (unless I’m traveling or making an effort). Oil, boil, roil, foil can be said as one syllable.  It’s a one syllable word.  I’ll bust it out occasionally to make my friends laugh, because you see not everyone it Texas says it the way I do.  Did I mention that map of dialects? Go back to that.  I’m ok with the way I say it, but here is my major pet peeves when pressed about it:

“That’s not how it’s pronounced.”  You want to know how I pronounce that? Oh, I pronounce that: BULLSHIT.  It’s pronounced that way in some parts of the country. In fact, there’s some argument that I’ve seen made by linguists that it is actually more correct than the more popular version.  So, let’s just say this.  You find me the person who originated the word, any word – whether it’s Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, Germanic or in this case Old French and let’s see how they pronounce it.  I’m guessing neither of us would be close, which would make you just as wrong.  Don’t tell me it’s not how it’s pronounced and produce a bunch of people I don’t give a shit about and say “see, they don’t say it that way”.  Well, neither do a lot of people, but then again, so do a lot of people and unless you’re that French guy who originally spoke it, I don’t care.

Always keep in mind that you have an accent, too. Remember, that we backwards little Texans have our own stereotypes about you and they’re not always “Oh, he’s not from Texas?  He must be that brilliant Messiah foretold in our ancient cave drawings that will lead us out of ignorance into the glory of books and a new age of reason. I can finally stop drooling. Praise be! My degree won’t be signed in crayon!”

Oh, and that accent of yours that you find to be so swell and hold above mine?  Well, it’s not so pretty. Texans aren’t dropping to their knees in worship.  In truth, the prettiest accent I’ve ever heard comes from a Russian friend of mine who speaks with a hint of a French accent.  Unless you’re her, your accent? Not so great.

Iced Tea

It’s been said that Dr. Pepper is the table wine of the South, but if that’s the case (and I’m not arguing against it) then iced tea would have to be the water.  Every meal is usually accompanied by a cold glass with its condensation building up and slowly dripping down to form a nice ring around the bottom.  If you’re coaster-less, a bit fidgety (like me) and find the conversation dragging, you can also use it to entertain yourself by creating interesting watery patterns on the glass or table.  There’s rarely a meal that goes by, especially when we’re out dining at a restaurant, that my companions and I won’t order a glass.  In fact, the bigger the glass the better.  I’d even be ok if you just set the pitcher down in the middle of the table so we don’t have to trouble anyone for refills.  Heck, just throw a straw in that thing.

I remember standing in Manhattan once having just ordered tea and being completely befuddled as to why someone handed me coffee.  I didn’t feel like fussing about it, but I did wonder what to do with this rather hot small cup.  It took me a long moment before my brain clicked in and said a few things: You’re north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Tea also comes in “hot”, too.  I think you forgot your overalls, Bethy Sue Bubba Jean.  I was later able to nearly duplicate this same experience by sitting in a restaurant in Greenwich Village and specifically asking for an iced tea.  Ok, it wasn’t exactly the same.  I got a look like I was trying their very soul with my request and eventually I got my iced tea. I still marveled that the refills weren’t coming.  I mean, surely there were pitchers of it lying around nearby like the restaurants at home, right?  No honey, you’re not in Texas anymore.  This was the early 90’s and that’s when I fortunately discovered Snapple and used it as my Northeastern tea substitute.  It was nothing like tea (at least the flavors weren’t back then when you were just a twinkle in your parent’s eye), but it also wasn’t like coffee, hot tea or soda; drinks I wasn’t interested in at the time.  No iced tea, but you have Snapple up here?  That’ll work.

Earlier this week a friend of mine took me to a new favorite restaurant – a nice little Cuban place that had received great reviews from the local paper.  We sat down and they handed us a menu – one menu.  The waiter apologized and explained there was only the one menu for the entire restaurant.  Since we were the only customers (clearly because we were ahead of the lunch crowd) we rolled with it.  When we opened it up we found the menu was hand-written.  No problem.  The writing was legible.  My co-worker apologized and explained that the last time he’d been to this place, they had several menus and they had in fact been printed.  We chose one of the nine items listed and that’s when our iced tea arrived.

The waiter sat down the pint glass and I literally just stared at it unable to speak for a long while.  I worked through my mental checklist: Did I order beer?  Specifically, did I order Bass? Am I still in my own city? Could I be on vacation?  When every question came back with “no”, I pulled the glass over to me to investigate the contents more closely.  The liquid was a lovely amber, there was no ice in it (thus, in my mind it couldn’t be tea) and the glass let on that the contents were room temperature.  I threw a straw in it and had a sip.  Mmmm nasty, but it definitely had its roots in tea – maybe a great grand leaf had once made a lovely tea and this was its idiot offspring, bless its heart – grand leaves these days, you just never know how they’re going to turn-out once they head down the wrong path.

My co-worker was appalled and offered to leave upon seeing my expression (sometimes I lose control of my face).  I decided we should stay, because this had the making of some sort of adventure (it turned out not to be). Plus, the food was what had earned the praise not the tea.  The food was actually fine if you had Tums and something to bludgeon the rice out of the hardened square shape (it was molded to look like the first step on a Mayan terrace – at least I’m pretending that was the artistic motivation behind that thing).  By the time we left, having still been the sole customers in the restaurant the entire hour we were there, our waiter had never come back by nor had my co-worker’s tea been refilled.  (I didn’t have that problem; it was gross. No need to refill my glass, thank you.)  We vowed never to come back and that was largely based on the bad “iced” tea experience.  You see here in the South and Texas, which is South-lite, iced tea is a fairly serious matter; it’s our water.  If you screw it up (like say, you don’t put ice in the “iced” tea or ever refill the glass) then it might kill your restaurant.  I’m not saying that’s why there were no customers, but I do have my suspicions.

Flags of Our Fathers (and Mothers)

My family fought in the Civil War under the Confederate flag and we lost, if that’s how you want to look at it.  Personally, I don’t see it that way.  My family comes from the south – from South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and eventually landed here in Texas.  Our family stories from that time mostly focus around the aftermath of that war.  They tell of hidden blood-caked swords, of Andrew Johnson’s “Reconstruction Plan”, of Carpetbaggers and Scalawags, of former Union soldiers being run out of town by an angry great-great grandfather.  A lot of the ire that continues to persist through the generations can be tracked back to the years that followed the Civil War.  It’s why the South continues to stay mad.  We lost, you didn’t and we’re still sore about what happened afterwards.  That ire is perpetuated by stereotypes – the ones that we Southerners and those of Southern decent encounter every time we run into Northerners, flip on the TV or go to any movie that depicts one of us.  The one that bugs me personally is the perception that the clip of a person’s speech is some how directly related to intelligence.  We have a drawl, our speech is a little slower, therefore it follows that we must be a bit simple. Bless our hearts. I remember a co-worker from Ohio once told me he came to Texas to sell some product here versus some place up north, because he knew that we were less intelligent and therefore more likely to buy.  When I balked, he claimed I was the smartest Texan he’d met in a failed attempt to appease me.  (It’s a sad day when I rate as “the smartest Texan”, trust me.)  Mocking us in the media, is like pouring salt into an open and festering wound.  We’re not actually all dimwitted toothless cousin-marrying yokels wandering around barefoot while clad in overalls   Not that we don’t have our share, but I suspect you can find that kind of person in any rural area of any state.  Plus, never forget that we have our own ideas about Northerners that are a tad unkind, but I digress.

Before my family fought in the Civil War, we fought for Texas Independence and before that we fought in the Revolutionary War.  We were the first pilgrims who arrived on ships long before there ever was an Ellis Island or a Lady Liberty to welcome us to these shores.  We were Huguenots escaping France.  We were French, Prussian, Scots, Irish, Swedes, Welsh and English long before we were Americans.  A melting pot of nationalities who lived, fought and died under many different flags.

Of all the flags we’ve lived and served under, the one that bothers me the most is the Confederate flag. This controversy recently flared up in our media thanks to a group who want to honor Confederate Soldiers from Texas by displaying it on a license plate.  An argument that has been used is that the Buffalo Soldiers are also applying for a license plate and certain regiments of theirs were responsible for the genocide of the American Plains Indians.  “Why is that less controversial?” I do get this argument, but it’s still not the same in my mind. The confederate flag is no longer the symbol of a fight for states right, if it ever truly was to begin with. It’s a symbol of something completely different now and to put it quite simply, the places that would fly that flag are not places I want to be near.  If you came for a visit, I wouldn’t take you anywhere near those places either.  By that same token, I don’t think that the people who would buy that plate would be doing it solely to honor those who fought in the Civil War.  For many, it’s a very clear statement about race and when it flies in the South (or near South as we are), you’re making a very clear and deliberate statement about your beliefs.

I can honor my ancestors without a license plate and without that flag.  I can believe that what they fought for, they believed was right. I can imagine that part of why they fought had more to do with where they lived and being swept up in the emotions of the time.  And I can appreciate why they held such anger in the aftermath of Reconstruction. I can truly think of them as fallen heroes who died on the wrong side of a cause.  And if you could transport me back in time, I would go out of my way to find and spit on Sherman, out of respect to all of my relatives who wrongly suffered in Atlanta.  Hell, I’d shoot that man if I could get close enough and you can thank my family’s legacy for that thought, but I will never fly that flag.

However, that being said, I am French and German and Scottish and Irish and Swedish and Welsh and English and Southern.  My family lived and served and died under many flags – no one flag more important than the other.  No one flag that I feel more compelled  than the other to represent me or my family’s odyssey through time on a license plate.  I am proud of the entirety of my heritage (even you French genes, get over here so I can ruffle your hair) and there’s only one flag that really represents who I am today.

(Unless a certain someone becomes President and then I may have to don a tuque and embrace a more maple leafy flag.)

Mad

I’m mad at the weather, which is a completely ridiculous thing to be mad at since the weather likely doesn’t care.  What’s got me riled up? Well, you may have heard that we here in Texas (and apparently some other states who don’t get to be Texas) are in the middle of an extreme drought.  We’ve apparently been in a drought for the last three years, but thanks to some lovely meteorological phrase called a “heat dome” it’s gotten worse.  We have low cloud cover, the angle of the summer sun, a large amount of humidity in the air and soil reflecting the heat back to thank for this misery;  Thank you.  Cheers for that.

The impact to the state is disastrous.  Where I’d normally cheer the demise of mosquitoes, who are nowhere to be seen, we need them.  (May I never have to say that again.)  Mosquitoes feed things that feed herbivores that feed omnivores that feed things I actually like that are doe eyed and fuzzy, who in turn provide lovely snacks for carnivores.  (I’m sure you don’t really need me write in-depth about the actual science involved when it comes delicate ecosystems, do you?)  Basically, bugs are dying, and because of that animals that eat bugs are dying and because of that so are the animals that eat other animals.  Water is in short supply. The cattle industry, what Texas is known for, will not recover for decades.  Ranchers, no longer able to afford food and water, are forced to sell off their herds. Water gives us hay and other feed as I’ve mentioned, we don’t have any of that as lakes fall to record lows and stock ponds, streams and creeks dry up. The drought will actually permanently ruin a lot of small family ranches and farms across the affected states.  I’m mad.

You may have recently seen in the news that a wildfire broke out near Austin.  There have actually been hundreds of fires across the state destroying thousands and thousands of acres.  As of yesterday, the one that broke out nearly two weeks ago is still not completely contained; it’s really close. Maybe you’ve heard that one of the great things about Austin is that it’s “the biggest small town”.  With close to a million inhabitants, you’re still hard-pressed to go anywhere where you won’t bump into someone you know.  What that means in terms of the fire?  You can’t escape knowing several people who lost their homes.  You tend to know people who were friends with one of the two people who were killed in the fire.

The news broadcasts informed us that the people who died weren’t “public safety personnel”.  I guess they were only people whose family and friends cared about them. Big deal.  The news seemed to say we could stop caring about those who died since they were only two ordinary people.  No one special. I should have reminded my friend who attended the funeral to buck-up, as she talked about how devastated the family was – how the guy’s fiancé sat nearly comatose staring into space at the wake. She had waited for her fiancé down the road expecting him to return to her at any moment with two of their dogs.  At least he wasn’t “safety personnel”.  He was just a guy who was desperately trying to get his terrified dogs out from under the house so he could get out of the area  and then was quickly overwhelmed by the fast-moving fire.  The woman lost her fiancé, her house, her dogs and her job (the place she worked burned down) on that day, but she should be comforted knowing that at least her fiancé  wasn’t “public safety personnel”.  Whew.  The way the news shared that information was a slap in the face to those families.  It hurt them as much as the loss of their brother, their son, and their fiancé. I’m enraged.

Early this week I awoke to the sound of distant thunder and I was instantly angry as it taunted me with its false promises.  A bit of Shakespeare floated through my head – a thunderstorm off in the distance “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. I lay awake growing madder and madder thinking about all the times dark clouds rolled near our house over the summer only to quickly dissipate and blow away.  I knew this one would, too. What is the point in hope? We now water our lawns not to keep them lush and green, but to keep the trees alive as the earth cracks away from them.  Last week, our front yard was completely covered in leaves, like it was suddenly winter.  Our trees’ way of letting us know they’re struggling, like every plant and animal around it.  I’m angry.

My iPhone has a weather app and there I see a cloud with lightning coming out of it.  There were several of those decorating my iPhone last week yet no rain came.  Each displayed storm cloud was an unfulfilled promise. The weather man merrily chirps, “less than a 20% chance of rain this week” like Christmas has come early.  My app and those men make me want to scream.  I don’t want to hear about rain chances unless it’s falling directly on my head. I’m tired of getting excited about unlikely prospects.  I’m tired of people presenting these non-existent weather chances like I should stand up and applaud, because it’s not going to rain.  It’s never going to rain. I’m livid.

I broke someone at work because of this attitude.  As he stood at the windows and noted with glee several weeks ago, “a front is rolling in – look at those clouds!”  I shrugged and turned my back grumbling, “it’s not going to rain”.  The man protested, attempting to coax me out of my mood with his enthusiasm over nothing and I continued, “it’s just a dark cloud – it will go away.”  Finally defeated by my weathered despair, he dropped his shoulders, lowered his head and slunk off turning back to give me the stink eye, “Beth, there’s nothing wrong with a little hope.”   Yes when it’s a false hope.  It’s a pointless hope.  I’m bitter.

Global warming is a myth? I don’t understand why this is even a question.  Why are we divided on this based on our political affiliations?  This is science not the crazed rantings of an insane researcher who spent too much time with rats and mazes proclaiming, “The sky will poop ponies in 2012!”  Man has an actual impact on our environment.  We can agree that if we spill poison in a pond, animals will die.  Why is it a leap then that if we belch poison into the atmosphere the ozone dies?  I get that we don’t want to give up our cars and our factories, but then let’s say that.  Let’s say “we know it has an impact that we choose to ignore and it doesn’t matter how many polar bear cubs drown in the arctic, we don’t care.  The long-term effect on our planet? We don’t care.  It’s not NOW.  Burn the rain forests, melt the polar ice caps. but don’t expect me to give up on fossil fuels.”  That’s at least honest.  What’s not honest is a belief that we have no impact on our environments.  I’m disgusted.

Until the sky opens up, I will remain angry.  But, on that day I will stand outside with my face upturned letting the rain run down my skin.  As it soaks my hair and clothes I pray it dilutes some of this unbridled rage I feel at the weather, which is a ridiculous thing to be mad at, but here I am, mad.