Back in 2006 I was sent to Texas for a work project, it was the first time I'd ever been to the state that eventually became my home. Four of us were sent to a company located in Bryan, TX that our company had just purchased. We were sent to assist with migrating a number of servers to a new data center that was located in an old bank. It was the coolest data center I've ever been in. The equipment to process all of the access cards was located in the vault, and if you're picturing the old-tyme brass door that's 2 feet thick, then you're in the right ballpark.
Downtown Bryan was amazing, it was this small strip of businesses, with a movie theatre called 'The Queen' which was under renovation at the time. Everything made it seem like you'd traveled back in time. There was a hat store near the edge of 'downtown' where an old man would use steam to make a cowboy hat fit your head. I know this because I'd promised my uncle I'd bring him home a real, authentic Texas cowboy hat.
The heat was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. Our hotel was also located on this downtown strip, in a very old building, that had each room decorated differently, with a small coffee/bakery shop on the ground floor. That heat was incredible though. The thing is, the four of us were quite the troupe. A Russian, a Ukrainian, a Woman, and me. The heat seemed to be kicking my ass more than any of the rest of our troupe, and I'd lived my whole life in Cleveland up to that point, where the humidity in the summertime causes the air you breathe to become visible, it takes on a murky hue, and can usually be cut with a knife because chewing thoroughly, and then finally inhaled. That Texas heat was just flat-out kicking my ass though, and any chance we had to get indoors was quickly taken advantage of.
The company we'd purchased (which I won't mention, because ultimately, they ruined the company I worked for, and I have nothing but contempt for its owner.) was also in the process of moving into a larger office space, which, again, was located in one of those old, historic buildings. We'd gather there with their local folks that were our technical counterparts. One day, I was talking with one of the Texans, and this good old boy came in, and I'm not kidding or exaggerating about any of this. This guy strolled in, where old denim coveralls, and a big old cowboy hat, and was probably six foot five at a minimum. He had a small group of children with him and they were grabbing the totes that the local office folks had packed their desk contents into.
I thought 'Oh my God, that dude is using child labor to move this entire office, that heat will kill them!' I said something to my group to that effect, and we all watched as the backs of those kids bent over and started lifting totes, two at a time.
'Damned, they're strong!' said the Ukrainian. He wasn't lying, we'd seen plenty of those totes packed to the rim.
We sat there having our reality of Texas re-shaped before our eyes. One of the kids turned around with his two totes, and I saw he was sporting a thick black mustache. Another turned around, and he also had a mustache, not the kind you sometimes, rarely see in Junior High School, nope, these kids had the real deal. He had pressed jeans, boots, and a huge belt buckle. I must have been staring slack-jawed.
'Mexicans.' the Woman said quietly.
I'd never seen a Mexican before, and now, in front of me, it became obvious that this big old White guy had a crew of Mexicans working for him. They were the size of kids, but strong as Oxes. Now, obviously, not all Mexicans are short like the ones we saw that day, but there were so many little things, subtle things about Texas that just completely surprised me.
We were driving back to Houston for our return flight at the end of our stay, and we'd decided we wanted 'authentic' Texas steaks, because Texas, and steaks, you know..
We stopped at a roadside restaurant that seemed to fit the bill, and when we walked in, the loud, brash waitress/hostess confirmed we'd found exactly what we were looking for. She had us sit wherever we wanted and when she took our orders, mine came last 'I'll have the 'cowboy' medium-well.' (each steak had a name, example: the cowboy was a ribeye steak)
She looked up from the little pad she was writing in, after taking the order from a Russian, a Ukrainian, and well, less surprising, a Woman and asked 'You're not from around here, are you?'
I laughed out loud and told her that she'd taken the orders of two guys that very, very clearly were NOT from 'around here' and she asks me this question.
'None of them asked to have their steaks burned.' she said with a snarky grin.
Touche ma'am.. touche..
I remember flying back to Cleveland and already missing Texas. It took a few more years, but I finally moved there. It's been the state that I've most connected with, and I've lived in both South Texas, and North Texas, it's home, well, it's become home. We're currently just across the border from Texas in Oklahoma, but we'll be moved away by May. Texas is calling, and I want to move back there, but early this year, we took a road trip that took us through Arizona, and that's been in the back of my mind as well.. The Grand Canyon did something to my brain. I want to go back to Arizona, and spend a week there, maybe that will become home. But I know if that fails to impress, The Lone Star State is 20 minutes to the south and will be waiting for us.