The Alone Star State
It turns out people drink tea without ice and call hamburgers barbecue?
By Jenna Ramsey, Seattle University
The best way to understand the type of homesickness I get every once in a while since moving for college is to watch the episode of Spongebob Squarepants where Sandy yodels sadly about missing her “20 acres, barbecue and pecan pi-i-ie” back in Texas.
My family doesn’t own that much land, but everything else applies.
I moved from Austin to Seattle almost two years ago under the impression that the two cities have a lot in common, and that adjusting from one to the other wouldn’t be too difficult.
I was right about that in some respects, and I’ve quickly grown to love Seattle. The coffee is perfect, the “heat” rarely climbs past 80 degrees and the number of dogs wearing raincoats I’ve seen far outweighs any negative aspects of living here.
But going home, most recently for spring break, always reminds me of the best parts of living in Texas—things I didn’t even think I’d miss much until I left.
What’s so great about dumb ol’ Texas? Here’s what:
The Sun (But Not the Heat)
As I’ve told nearly every person from home who unfailingly asks me the same question about moving to Seattle (“Does the rain bother you?”), I actually enjoy the cloudy blanket that covers the city for three-fourths of the year. And the rain itself—usually a light drizzle that barely necessitates flipping up the hood of your jacket—didn’t take long to get used to.
But coming home and finally seeing my cheeks flush with color again reminds me of the importance of Vitamin D.
There’s something to be said for waking up to actual sunlight coming through the window rather than just a slightly lighter shade of whatever gray the sky was overnight. This Portlandia sketch illustrates that feeling well.
The Music Scene
This one is pretty Austin-specific. I moved from a music-loving city (home of Willie Nelson) to yet another music-loving city (home of Nirvana), but the vibe of the music scene in Texas is almost tangibly different from that of the Pacific Northwest.
Over my break I got the surreal, last minute chance to see one of my all-time favorite musicians, Robert Plant, tape a performance for Austin City Limits at The Moody Theater downtown. ACL tapings are an experience totally unique to Austin, and the image of the city’s skyline behind the stage reminds you the entire time of where you are.
Generally, I found myself going to a larger amount of cheaper concerts when I lived in Texas, and because the sun is nearly always out at home, there was an added benefit of going to a lot of outdoor shows.
It’s hard to look at the lineups for ACL Fest and FunFunFun each year and refrain from booking a weekend-long trip back to ATX. I could do without South by Southwest, though.
The Ice and Air Conditioning
Getting ice in your drink is normally a request you have to make, not an unspoken understanding between waiter and customer, in places like the Pacific Northwest where temperatures are mild year-round. Iced tea is barely a thing.
This surprised me, but not as much as the fact that most people in Seattle don’t have air conditioning units. At all!
In theory, this makes complete sense, as they aren’t battling blisteringly hot summers—or autumns, or springs or winters—up here. But I’ve quickly learned that when it’s anything above 75 degrees outside and there’s no air circulating inside, it’s hot.
The Southern Hospitality
It’s a real thing, y’all! This isn’t to say people in Seattle or anywhere else outside of Texas are rude, but no one here has called me Darlin’ or has given me the bright, seemingly genuine smile I receive on such a regular basis from total strangers at home.
There’s definitely a familial vibe in the south that, whether it’s plastered on people’s faces out of societal obligation or not, is nice to see. Forced kindness is a step up from a frown, I guess.
One thing there’s a serious lack of in Seattle—and most metropolitan areas, really—is space.
Excuse the cliché when I say that everything is bigger in Texas, but it’s true, and I do miss it.
Restaurants and stores are bigger, and parking lots are wide expanses instead of narrow, ten-story mazes. There are benefits to having everything squished together, like being able to get practically anywhere on foot, but wide-open spaces are underrated.
Another Austin-specific thing I miss is the special brand of weird that the city has cultivated and kept alive through the “Keep Austin Weird” motto.
It’s easy to forget the strangeness of the city when you live in it for 18 years, but things like the Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow and being able to watch the world’s largest urban bat colony fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge are genuinely cool oddities.
The Food…Oh God, the Food
This is easily the most important point on my list and I’m probably going to start tearing up as I write about it. Texas has the monopoly on incredible Mexican food (interior and Tex-Mex), southern home cooking and the best barbecue in the country.
I’ve had to explain to multiple people here what a breakfast taco is, and the response I get most often is “that’s the same as a breakfast burrito.” No, no it isn’t.
Who knew the beautiful simplicity of a taco—whether a breakfast, lunch, dinner or spontaneous 3 p.m. taco—would be so impossible to replicate outside of the Southwest? I also now live in a place where barbecue means hot dogs and hamburgers instead of brisket and ribs, a fact I’m still struggling to come to terms with.
I’m glad to be where I am, but I’m also pleased to know there’s always a trip to Texas in my near future. Appreciate the sunshine and ribs while you can.