Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at at time.

Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at a time.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Travel the world without leaving Texas

You can see the world and never leave Texas.

Yep. It’s true.

There are nearly 100 towns in Texas named for someplace else.

Wanna see Europe? It’s possible.

There’s Italy, Texas. And if you’re all about all things Mediterranean, you can visit Roma, Rhome, Ravenna, Naples or Florence. Love Switzerland? We have Alpine and Swiss Alps, Texas. France? How about Paris or Savoy? We even have a Riviera. Into the Benelux countries? There’s Nederland, Holland and Waterloo.

Germany is represented, and not just by the German communities of New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Gruene and Boerne. There’s also Berlin, New Berlin, New Ulm, Weimar, Muenster and Sachse, all of which are named for actual Germanic municipalities. And it’s not quite Austria, but we do have Vienna.

If Scandinavia is more your tin of pickled herring, visit New Sweden.

Prefer the United Kingdom? There’s Dublin, Argyle, Aberdeen, Midlothian, Edinburg, Scotland, Newcastle, London, and New London. You can even go to the Highlands. Trivia sidebar: Scotland is home to two Texas cities; Dallas and Houston. They are, however, significantly smaller than their Texas sisters.

Missing Puerto Rico? Yes, there’s a San Juan. Love the Caribbean? Trinidad awaits, minus Tabago. Jamaica Beach and Nassau Bay are here too.

Love Argentina? We have Pampa.

Russia is represented by Moscow and Odessa.

Looking for something more exotic? There is Orient, China Grove and Tiki Island. Athens, Egypt, Karnack, Iraan, Cypress, Carthage, Corinth and Palestine are here. However, Iraan is pronounced “Ira-Ann” and Palestine is “pal-uh-STEEN,” not “pal-uh-STEIN.” Get it right before you go.

You can also stay a little closer to home and go Canadian. It’s the Oasis of the Panhandle, by the way.

If you’d rather travel within the United States without leaving Texas, that’s possible too. I’d recommend you start in Texas City before you leave, then venture to cities on or near the east coast of the U.S. but right here in Texas. There’s Albany, Buffalo, Boston, New Boston, Pittsburg, Yorktown, Roanoke, Shenandoah, Georgetown, Mt. Vernon, and Atlanta. You can even visit Princeton. Whether you’re from Oregon or Maine, you can go home to Portland.

Fans of the Buckeye State will appreciate Columbus, Cleveland and North Cleveland.

Those from the Show Me State will be happy to know that, yes, we have a Missouri City.

The South is covered too, with Shreveport and Mobile City.

Michiganders can visit Saginaw and Detroit.

Even Nebraskans can find Omaha.

Moving west, there’s Santa Fe, Reno, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, San Diego. And for our Colorado brethren, there’s Colorado City and Denver City.

Yep, just about everybody’s home town, home state or home country is represented in the Lone Star State. I guess that’s part of why “friendship” is our state motto. If I’ve missed any, I apologize and leave you with this: for those looking for something truly out of this world, it is possible to visit Venus, seek Utopia, do your Veribest, Prosper, find Sanctuary and eventually end up in Paradise…all right here in Texas.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Great Place remains great, not just because it’s in Texas

I wrote this column the week after the November 5, 2009 shooting at Fort Hood.

Fort Hood is The Great Place for many reasons.

Before recent events, we were known for our size and our place in this global war on terror, among other things. I mean, this is Texas after all. How could it be anything but The Great Place?

Then, we made national news in a way I reckon for which we’d rather not be remembered…but there it is.

I got to thinking why this post is called “The Great Place.”

Fort Hood has always been a great place to work. In the more than two years I’ve been here, I’ve loved coming to work every day just to be here. I still do.

The Great Place is great not just because of Texas or the Texans that work and live here, but because of ALL the people here that make a difference to our nation.

I’m not blowing smoke or being all sun-shiny when I write this. I mean every word.

I look forward to seeing our gate security guards. We’ve gotten to know each other a little bit in the few seconds we interact each morning as I drive into the main entrance. We call each other by name, wish each other a good morning and manage a little small talk now and then.

Our daily exchanges are comforting to me…especially now.

Every day, I see the women at the little III Corps café, either for breakfast or lunch. Ms. White and Ms. Harris know what I’m ordering before I order and they always take care of me.

The morning after our little world here flew apart at the seams, our Soldiers who guard our building had to search my personal belongings, but they did it with grace.

“Any candy we find is ours,” one said, joking with me. It eased the blow of our sudden loss.

Here in Public Affairs, we all had some fairly unpleasant things to cover. Our television program, Fort Hood on Track, was especially difficult to produce in an emotional context. We had to do stories involving our friends. We had to be one more media outlet in a long line of media entities interviewing our Directorate of Emergency Services personnel. The folks at DES were, as they always are, gracious and accommodating even though they had reached the point of exhaustion a long time ago.

The people in this public affairs office were truly awesome. In the organized chaos of dealing with reporters, every one of my colleagues took a moment to pray for or silently grieve with our Army Families. Public affairs detachment Soldiers poured in to help us shoulder our own burdens and earned my respect even more than they already had. Not one writer, producer, reporter or editor complained about long hours. The only question asked was, “What can I do to help you?”

Speaking of media, several news agencies sent us emails commenting on their experiences at Fort Hood. All were complimentary. One wrote, “Please extend my thanks to all the (Public Affairs Office)s that helped me and others to the best they could under ugly circumstances...I appreciate all the team's efforts to help me get the photos...I am leaving with the impression you all did as much as you could. ...we had all we needed.”

I know that it wasn’t just us who made a terrible experience positive for our visitors. It was all of us, from Army civilian employees and contractors to Soldiers to post residents to our Fort Hood Families.

My hat is certainly off to the Resiliency Center. The timing of having that resource in place could not have been better. If you need it, take advantage of it. I’m contemplating it myself. I’ve come to know a whole lot of folks on this post. Every time I have a question or need a favor, y’all are here. You have a great attitude about everything, which is sometimes hard to muster when times are tough.

Our Central Texas communities stood up to the challenge, too…as we Texans are just bred to do. We’re born for it. It’s deeply embedded in our Texas culture to be kind, gracious and generous, especially when it’s hard. The very best of this nation is right here in one location.

Putting Texas and the United States Army together the way it is at Fort Hood would naturally result in our being The Great Place. We have a lot of healing to do in the days and months to come, but as one of our own so perfectly put it, “Fort Hood will go on.” And it will because of all of us who truly make this the Great Place.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Friendship, not xenophobia, is Texas motto

Texans are noted for being friendly.

Our state motto, “Friendship,” bears this out.

But folks, I’m going to out my fellow Texans on an issue of which I am not proud. There are some Texans who are so adverse to outsiders that they qualify as being xenophobic.

Xenophobia (pronounced, “ZEE-no-foe-bee-yuh”) is a dislike and/or fear of that which is unknown or different from oneself.

There are two kinds of Texans; the first kind is the genuinely kind and gracious person who is actually glad to see you and wants to get to know you. The second kind presents a hail-fellow-well-met façade when he or she greets you, but you’ll never, ever get an invitation to their inner circle of friends for any reason, let alone an invitation to a barn-burning.

The “Second Kind” are the way they are because, in their minds, outsiders don’t belong. You can live in the same home town with ‘em, but you will never, ever be a part of the social strata. You will forever be the “new kid” in town, even fifty years later…and even if you are a native Texan, six or seven generations back. To them, you will never be truly from (insert small town name here) and that’s that.

I can’t stand these folks. Anyone who acts like this and treats people this way has no business calling themselves Texans.

It’s one thing to be suspicious of strangers; that’s just survival and not a bad way to be, considering the way of the world these days. But when you’ve been neighbors for fifteen years and never so much as had a cup of coffee together and a real attempt to learn the names of one another’s children…well, shame on ya. That’s not the behavior of a real Texan.

A real Texan lets you know exactly where you stand in her or his personal cosmic scope. If they don’t like you, they won’t be nasty about it (unless you are). You’ll just get a bit of a frosty reception with little attendant chatter. If he or she likes you, you’ll get more than just small talk when you meet. You’ll get a play-by-play of her or his family’s latest adventures.

You’ll get diatribes about politics and the price of gas. And you’ll get invitations to be a part of their social arena, whether it’s to a church social, the wedding of the first born child or a frog gigging.

The Second Kind is not all made up of snobs; they just don’t see the point of getting to really be friends with an “outsider.” After all, “outsiders” can’t possibly be able to put down real roots in a community. They just moved to (insert town name here) from a town 25 miles west; how can they relied on to be here when the next century comes around? Shoot, if an “outsider” marries a local gal, he might just make her move to the next neighboring town and she’ll never be seen again!

Folks, this is how jokes about in-breeding get started.

I grew up in a city so socially closed that not even the wealthy families mixed, depending on how long a family had its wealth. There are, to this day, two country clubs in Tyler. Willowbrook is for the “old money” and Holly Tree is for the “new money.” The two seldom, if ever, socialize.

Even the bourgeoisie follow the same lines; if your family wasn’t in Tyler by 1930, forget ever being invited to hang out on their party barges at Lake Tyler.

Tyler schoolteachers can tell you that parents will come in for a parent-teacher conference, shake hands and make pleasant conversation. But do not ever acknowledge them in the grocery store unless you are a part of their caste. You are not to be socially friendly; only in a professional context may you address one another.

Is it any wonder I didn’t just move away, but that I ran away screaming?

“How do you do…who are your mama’s people,” is a standard greeting issued to newcomers. I was, for a time, a member of a service league in Tyler via my ex-mother-in-law, but not without a pedigree being presented first. An exception was made to allow me membership, since I was, at the time, married into a family considered acceptable by the establishment, my father was a well-liked professor at the university and my maternal grandmother had had a business in Tyler since 1952.

Never mind that I was five and six generations of old Texas family on my father and my mother’s sides, some of whom had helped settle and build much of North, East and West Texas. No. What mattered here was Tyler, and not Texas.

As Groucho Marx said it best, “I don’t want to be a part of any club that would have me as a member,” and certainly not one that cares more about bloodlines than people.

So if you meet a Texan and you get treated like an alien after the first three friendly gestures you’ve extended to them, don’t take it personally at all. You’ve just had a close encounter with the Second Kind.