2014-07-22

Home, Part III

I mentioned last week that a move to Texas makes perfect financial sense. This is true. You would be hard-pressed to find a location within the United States that has as many economic opportunities coupled with such a low cost of living. Texas has much to offer to anyone seeking to get the most for her cost-of-living dollar.

But I also mentioned last week that wealth is of little value if it leaves a hole in your heart, and it would be a poor bargain indeed to make a move to strike it rich, only to discover that you've traded every other good thing in life to get it.

So, how does Texas fair at feeding the soul?

Let me begin with a caveat. There will always be an escape-hatch available to anyone hell-bent on rejecting the pleasantness of something. No matter where you live or what you like, someone could always come along with a trump card of sorts. "What, you live more than five blocks away from your local barber? I could never live in such a place!" "Isn't there one, single Azerbaijani restaurant of even medium quality in your entire home town!? Preposterous! I just couldn't live there!" "It takes you more than twenty minutes to get to the nearest petting zoo? P'shah! Not for me, thanks!"

For the most part, I believe this comes from a good place. When people say these things, they're not so much disparaging other people's homes as they are expressing their enthusiasm for their own home town in a roundabout way. Someone might choose not to live in Texas because it lacks the grandiose, purple mountains that form the backdrop of the inter-mountain west. Another might opt for the urban splendor of Manhattan over the suburban landscapes of Houston.

These are fair choices to make, based on personal preference. My purpose in writing these blog posts is not to claim superiority, but to hopefully articulate the finer features of life in Texas, in hopes of helping the reader come to a better understanding of his own preferred locale.

All that is to say, Texas does not offer everything, and if you're secretly baiting your breath in hopes that your primary criterion will make a cameo appearance in this post despite your own best knowledge, I would consider revising my expectations if I were you.

But what does Texas offer in the way of local pleasantries?

People tend to either prefer rich, walkable urban landscapes or the great and unpopulated outdoors, and the good news is that Texas has you covered, no matter which preference more closely matches your own.

Texas is home to four of the largest and most vibrant metropolitan areas on North America, each with its own unique charm. All of the amenities you might want from urban life - designer shopping, fine dining, the arts, parks, and so forth - is available in spades. As an added bonus, the warm weather here makes those walkable urban landscapes walkable all year long. It's never too cold to hit the pavement and walk to the nearest coffee shop, if you live downtown. And while some may argue that the summertime heat is a bit too intense for walking, it is certainly no more so than the wintertime cold is in other nice urban locations. In short, if it's urbania you want, urbania you will find in Texas.

And yet, with the great expanses of wilderness, natural wonders, preserved nature, and boat-able reservoirs, even the most avid outdoorsman may find his bliss in Texas. From beaches, to deserts, to prairies, to plains, to the incomparable Texas Hill Country, there is a near-limitless array of natural beauty of which to partake in this state. While most lakes in Texas are man-made reservoirs, they offer ample opportunity for water sports and recreation. There are plenty of natural rivers, and extensive beaches along the Gulf coast. Camping is to be had virtually everywhere. There are plenty of trails on which to get your hiking and biking fixes. And of course, Texas is home to a long list of professional sports teams, NASCAR tracks, and so forth.

So whatever form of entertainment you prefer, Texas has it. The most discriminating judge, of course, may counter that Texas shopping pales in comparison to 5th Avenue, our outdoors don't offer as much as what you'd find in Boulder, CO, or that our nightlife can't compete with that of Las Vegas. That may be true, but even if so, Texas offers enough of each kind of entertainment to ensure that you won't miss out anything in particular, unless your interest is in experiencing the best-in-class.

However, let it never be said that Texas doesn't offer its own set of best-in-class cultural amenities. With world-famous barbecue and steak, and vast stretches of restaurants offering the finest in Southern cuisine, Texas does Texas-style cuisine best. We even have our own unique spin on southwest cooking, called "Tex-Mex," and while it truly isn't authentic Mexican food, it belongs in its own category. If you're into cars, you'll find any kind of car imaginable here. I personally have seen vehicles on the road from Maserati, Tesla, Astin-Martin, Rolls-Royce, and so on. If you have a dream car, you'll find it in Texas. The spacious Texas-style mansions that line the landscape here are also in a class of their own, offering uniquely Texan architecture, and commonly containing swimming pools, ranch space, outdoor grills, and so on. If building a large and well-equipped home is for you, I'd argue that there's no better place to build it than Texas.

Finally, the arts scene in the state is both vibrant and unique. Texas country and Texas blues are to be considered sub-genres of country and blues, respectively, and a thriving "Red Dirt" music scene - which combines the best of rock, blues, and country - has become the signature local sound. Visual artists inspired by not only the American Old West and Mexican Norteno aesthetics, but also the flavor of the local indigenous people, have made their impact on all aspects of artistic life here.

Now, I'm not going to argue that Texas culture is bound to appeal to everyone, but I will say that Texas has a strong and thriving cultural landscape. For those of us who like to live in a place with its own vibe, Texas provides much to feed the spirit.