Molly Ivins December 1
MARATHON, MARFA, ALPINE, FORT DAVIS, ETC., Texas — All those who love true West Texas naturally find the quaintification of the area somewhat painful. Not as painful as watching it dry up and blow away, however.
My hunch is that West Texas will not only survive all efforts to make it cute — it will prevail. Still, it's a little startling to go into a normal, dumpy filling station in Van Horn, for pity's sake, ask for a cup of java and get asked in flawless West Texan, "Would yew prefer a kappa-chino?" Well, cut off my legs and call me Shorty.
The trend toward wee gift shops, bed-and-breakfast joints with potpourri in the rooms and other alarming symptoms of chichi is enough to make an old cowpoke upchuck. On the other hand, it has attracted enough tourists to the area not only to create a substantial new economic base but also to cause actual waiting lines at the McDonald Observatory. A waiting line in West Texas ...
I have a theory that if West Texas were left in its natural sort of 1950's-funky state, people from Houston and Dallas would find it adorably retro ("And my dear, they have never even heard of cappuccino!") If I'm right, Presidio, the world's most unimproved place, will soon be a mecca.
Our friend Leland Beatty of Texas Rural Communities Inc., who has spent years trying to help save these poor ol' dyin' towns in West Texas and North Texas, reports the following amazing development: Word is out on the economic development circuit that if some gay people come to your old town, the first thing they do is cute up an old building real nice. And then, they go and quaint up the building next to it real nice. And before you know it, your cafe has reopened, the picture show is back in bidness, people are comin' in from miles around on a Saturday night, and your whole town is ginnin' again.
As a consequence of these stories getting around, Leland says that when he goes to hold an economic development meeting at some dying town anymore, some old rancher is apt to stand up — big old rough hands curlin' up the brim of his cowboy hat with embarrassment over having to speak in public, of course — and to inquire earnestly, "How do we get them gay people to come?"
Leland says that the first time it happened, it startled him some.
Another true Texas tale of how the people in this state will surprise you comes from John Burnett, Texas correspondent for National Public Radio.
Burnett nevertheless stands politely and says, "Hello, I'm John Burnett with National Public Radio."
The con's face lights up, and he says: "From NPR?! No kiddin'? You know, I really like the Terry Gross show."
(For those of you who are not NPR listeners, Gross has a high-toney interview program where she talks about books and music with writers and musicians.)
And I suspect the new Texas fad for dreadlocks is going to surprise some folks from out of state. What a game.
Meanwhile, for those who can stand to think about state politics, there is a cutting analysis of why the Democrats got skunked in the Dec. 4 issue of The Texas Observer. John Sharp and Paul Hobby, the only two Democrats who came close to winning, are excoriated for their strategy of trying to win with swing voters.
You might think, since they at least came close, that they were smarter than the Mauro-Mattox camp. But the Observer's take is not that Mauro dragged down the whole ticket because he never had any money but that the refusal of Sharp and Hobby to be Democrats dragged down the get-out-the-vote effort, taking them all down to defeat.
As has often been observed, it would be helpful if there were a Democratic Party in Texas — never has been in my memory, unless you count '90, when they ran as a slate and actually campaigned together. A Democratic Party could come none too soon, as the Observer also details in a chilling account of how the Republican right completely took over Van Zandt County with a mix of money and Christian-right muscle that just blew the Democrats out of the water.
If you have not previously heard the name of James Leininger, San Antonio millionaire, then pay attention now. It's a sorry comment on the Establishment media in this state that so few people have heard of Leininger, who is the single most important political player in Texas — and that includes George Dubya.
Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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