Tuesday, June 26, 2012


My wife and I have had a subscription to Texas Monthly for some time, and we read it with great pleasure; it is very good to get a little taste of home every now and again.  In the July 2012 issue, though, there is something with which I find myself annoyed.  Specifically, it is a comment in Nate Blakeslee's article "Drawing Straws."  In discussing the haphazard and minimally effective proposals for water use in the state, Blakeslee remarks that "The state water plan is to planning as chicken-fried steak is to steak."

I gather that the remark is meant to disparage the state plan, but the analogy is a faulty one.  While it is admittedly true that a steak is supposed to be a good cut of meat, cooked well (as in adverbially good rather than internal temperature and color of meat) and served to the pleasure of the diner, so that it is a good thing, chicken-fried steak is in no meaningful way inferior.  Sure, it may come from less favored cuts, but when it is tenderized, breaded, fried up, and served with cream gravy, it is a gustatory delight of exceptional quality--and, indeed, quintessentially Texan (particularly the Hill Country).  So to use it as a parallel for a bad idea is, well, a bad idea.

And for those of you who have not had the pleasure of eating a chicken-fried steak, you have a problem that needs fixin'.

Monday, June 25, 2012


As I was writing in my journal recently, I made a comment about my family that prompted a fair bit of reflection.  In the comment, I framed relations with my family in postcolonial terms, and it surprised me a bit that I did so.  I decided to give some thought to why it happened.

Part of it is that I have put a fair bit of time and effort into work in postcolonial discourse.  It was the first major school of critical thought to which I was introduced in anything approaching a serious fashion; my undergraduate thesis rolled around (ineptly, as I now realize) in it.  My master's thesis and some conference papers I have presented worked in it, if not exclusively so, as well, so I can say that postcolonial discourse has occupied a large chunk of my academic life.  That it has, that I have become accustomed to applying that particular filter to my perception, makes sense.

Unfortunately, as I thought about the matter a bit more, it occurred to me that the comment implies that I exist as an entity colonized by my family, which has unpleasant overtones.  I do not think they are entirely accurate.  My family does not exploit my position.  (Economically, this is certainly true.  There is some deployment of the social cachet of my having a doctorate and teaching college in New York City, but I am not giving anything up to allow my family to do so.  I am not convinced, therefore, that there is any "exploitation" going on.)  Nor am I certain that I am "removed" from the centers of power in the family; I maintain close ties with the people I love, and the structure of my family is not entirely so centered as to have a specific "core" in relation to which I can exist as a "periphery."  (And, to be as arrogantly egotistical as I am accustomed to being, I am one of the centers of power in the family.  So there.)

Although I do not, upon reflection, see myself as colonized, I do in some ways act as a colonizer.  I have, in fact, gone out from the gathering of my people into distant lands to take for myself and my own benefit the resources I have found in those places.  From the Texas Hill Country, I went to southwestern Louisiana, from which I derived an education and (damned little) funding.  I also ended up taking a wife from the people I found there, which, if not necessarily "going native," and certainly not against the wishes of the other person involved, does in some ways mimic aspects of the colonization of the Americas by European "explorers" (the more so since my wife grew up a lot closer to southwest Louisiana in many ways than she did to the Hill Country).  I also came to The City, where I used the available resources to complete a degree and to financially enrich myself.  In that, I am very much reenacting on the micro scale what has been and continues to be so destructive on the macro--as are a great many people who go away to school and to work.

Does it then make of us evil folk that we do so?  Are we being as destructive in our small ways as more overt, obvious colonists have been and are?  Or is the reduction in scale enough to make what I and others do in our personal lives not an ill?

I obviously have some more thinking to do.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Everybody complains about the weather...

Summer has definitely arrived in The City.  The past few days have seen high temperatures in the upper 90s--that would be the mid- to upper 30s for those of you working in Celsius--and that range counts as "hot" even in the Texas Hill Country and southwest Louisiana.  Like the latter, the humidity has been up, as well, so it has hardly been the most pleasant of times to be outside.

The problem is compounded by the lack of good air conditioning in The City.  Many of the buildings are older--indeed, "prewar" construction is eagerly sought-after--and I well understand that it is prohibitively expensive to retrofit such buildings with such amenities as central air.  But new construction all too often lacks it, as well, and I continue to be boggled by it.

Even so, this is one of many times I am glad to have lived as long in the South and into the Southwest as I have.  Growing up there exposed me to the kind of heat that is happening now and that flusters New Yorkers as a matter of course, and for months at a time; I am, as much as a person can be, used to it.  (Indeed, while I was at graduate school in southwest Louisiana, I would often be outside on campus in collared shirt and dark pants, and I was not inhibited by it.)

I get along fairly decently here.  But I do so largely because of my experiences elsewhere.  Despite what many native New Yorkers believe, there is much that is worthwhile outside of The City.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I know that it has been a long time since I last posted.  Holidays for both parents have passed, along with a few other events.  While I am not certain whether or not anyone has missed reading what I have to write, I am certain that I have missed writing it.  So here it is.

A few days after I made my last post, I headed from The City to Lafayette, Louisiana, where I formally received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English.  My beloved wife went down with me, and we were joined by my father-in-law and his wife, one of my uncles, one of my great uncles, one of my grandmothers, my brother, and my parents.  It was good to get to see everybody, and I was very happy that they could be with me to celebrate.

From Lafayette, we dispersed, with my wife returning to The City, my in-laws heading back to Arkansas, and my uncle and great uncle heading back to the Texas Hill Country ahead of my parents, my grandmother, my brother, and me.  I spent a couple of weeks in the Hill Country, relaxing and reminding myself of the circumstances in which I grew up.  It was helpful to reconnect with my upbringing, as it helped me understand better the person I am--a bit cliche, I know, but as true as I know how to tell it.

From the Hill Country, my parents and I went to visit my other grandmother in central Iowa, leaving just before Memorial Day.  There, I continued to relax, and I was introduced to parts of my heritage with which I had only been passingly familiar.  Family farms are still viable in that part of the world, and much that is held to have been only theorized by a great many people in my acquaintance are striven for and in some cases realized.

It is not wholly a bad thing.

I very much enjoyed my time away.  I rested much, did a few things, and ate both well and abundantly.  I was also very glad to get back home, to sleep in my own bed.

And now, even though I am on leave from work, I have things to do.