Everything is not that big in Texas but it’s still pretty big
The tortilla chips are the size of your face. The landscapes are mostly flat, even in hill country, and they go on forever. Steaks, more than ample. Everything in Texas is one vast horizontal bosom just lying there waiting. Sure you can try, but you can’t ignore it.
Even the emptiness is big. In a place so empty with space, there is nothing left to consume. Around every turn there is more and more of nothing around you. And if less is supposed to be more, then less can’t be nothing, and so you decide to exhale your last long breath at the end of the year. And the landscape helps you feel the pull of the horizontal line and you become more and more relaxed, because being vertical would take such a monumental effort.
And you notice there is a big “x” right there in the middle of the word Texas. Which makes you think they don’t really want you here, but really, they are very proud and nice and always wave.
The story goes like this…on our way East, we really tried to avoid Texas, but the darned thing jutted its little tip right into our path. We spent a few days in Amarillo, but then rehitched the trailer and got the hell out of the flatness, heading East towards the mountains as quickly as possible. “Godspeed through Texas,” as they say.
Heading back West, it was a whole different story. Sure, we stopped in Lumberton where they had recently been hit by hurricane Harvey, and the state park had flooded to the point of being mostly closed, save for the campsites which were useless with no nature to be able to get swampy with. Apparently, we were very close to Louisiana.
I’m not going to lie, our love affair with Texas, it had a slow start. Trying to get vegetables in Lumberton was, no exaggeration, a shit show. It may have been the recent flood, but technically several months had passed. It was probably just that the town was already dead. Pineapples were so dried out and petrified that they had become potential architectural details. Searching for greens was like a fishing expedition through green sludge along the bottom of plastic clamshells. So cheese and crackers and cured meats it was. Welcome to Texas.
And then things got really weird.
It might have been an accident, but we did meet someone who believes the earth is flat. Well, not flat, but a disc with a 200 foot ice wall around it that keeps the water in. Weird, huh? So what’s on the other side of the wall? Enough resources to restart the earth of course. But before they restart the earth, they need to wait until the human population gets down to about 500,000. I am still not sure who “they” are supposed to be.
Meanwhile, they’re slowly killing us with chemicals sprayed from specially outfitted passenger airplanes. (Seriously, google it.) And if you make it all the way through the freezing cold to the ice wall you’ve got to get past the men guarding it with guns who will shoot you if you try to hop over and see the other side. (Remember this is Texas.)
Try to prove the earth is round by sending space ships into the sky. Fake. Moon landing? Fake of course. Although I did find that this is completely believable if you spend a little time hiking around the rocky surfaces of some of the canyons nearby.
But I don’t actually think everybody in Texas thinks the earth is flat. I just think Texas is really flat, and it gets a little confusing where you’re at sometimes.
Of course, then you have Austin, the blue dot of Texas. It’s been that way for a while, maybe since the beginning. (The beginning of Texas, not the beginning of Earth.) And flock to this growing metropolis they do, the cool kids with their hipster tattoos sipping Google fiber by the megabyte. There is no big warm “Welcome to Texas” in Austin because this is one of the fastest growing cities in the US and people seem to have forgotten what state they are in and how they’re supposed to act.
At night the roads in Austin are vague and dimly lit. The highways are wide and the cars make dotted red and white lines on either side. The best thing to do is just relax your fingertips around the steering wheel and let out one long breath and go along with it. You are in Texas after all, and remember the grocery stores are big too.
Out in the distance the wild boars roam in the shrubs like mini linebackers grunting and foraging by digging their hooves into the dusty earth. The snakes are sleeping, but you know they are out there, coiled up waiting for the next bit of warmth to unwind. And you look out into the vastness of nothing, where underneath the calm of endless space even the plants grow spines to keep their distance from you. And this quiet sort of fear actually feels good and keeps you safely on the path.
A thin loose dust travels over the entire state and the ground is hard and dry. Houses are colored many shades of beige and they hunker down, staying low to the ground to evade the eventual heat. The grasses that cover the hills and the flat parts seem to be perpetually a pale yellow, that almost same white blond as most of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. The plants show almost no signs of life. Green is just a brief moment in time. The rest of it is just waiting for the next event.
It’s a place where the old ranchers wear the stories of every cow they’ve raised on their faces.
In Texas, we shed away traces of our former lives into the sparseness. We exhaled our last breath of last year into the remoteness. And from this state where hats are simultaneously tipped while saying hello, we watched a new year unfold over a vast horizon.
Texas Trailer Steak
This recipe actually came from our first experience staying in a trailer in a small trailer park in Long Beach, Washington. We have fond memories of staying in that trailer, wondering why people would pack so much when they were traveling, not knowing that this type of living would eventually be our home.
Serves 2, with leftovers for steak and eggs for breakfast
2 large steaks, any size, T-bone preferred
1 head garlic, peeled and left whole
salt and pepper, to taste
drizzle of good olive oil
1/2 stick butter, preferably unsalted
1 lb broccolini, or any other greens that look good
1 cast iron frying pan
Heat the cast iron on high and then drizzle with the olive oil. Toss in the garlic and move the pan around quickly. Push the garlic to the side of the pan and add the steaks, flipping about once per minute until desired doneness.
I like to use my palm to test doneness. Feel the palm of your hand, just inside your thumb.
- Rare is how your palm feels when your thumb touches your pointer finger.
- Medium-Rare is how your palm feels when your thumb touches your middle finger.
- Medium is how your palm feels when your thumb touches your ring finger.
- Well-Done is how your palm feels when your thumb touches your pinky finger.
Once the steak is done, move it to a plate to rest. Add the vegetables to the pan and toss for 2–3 minutes. Toss butter in the pan and stir until it starts to brown. By now, the garlic should be good and carmalized, soft and sweet.