Thursday, April 12, 2007

Guest Post: The Gods of Texas

Given some of the comments by Recovery Czar Ed Blakely, and the subsequent fallout in my email the last two days, I thought that this very much needed to be posted. Written by a friend, Louis Pushkin, it reminds us once again that not all of us here, or even those still desperate to get home, are mendicants or buffoons. Pushkin owns a home in NOLA, evacuated, returned for a very short time, then because his partner's corporate employers decided to bail out of NOLA and head to Houston, he has been living in exile, as he calls it, and wants very much to come home. He wants to come home for all the standard reasons that anyone wants to come home, but he and his partner are very much the kind of people that everyone can agree we NEED to come back. (No, I am not getting into the who should and shouldn't come back argument, I merely state that as evidence that not all the brain drain stuff is true of every professional.) He doesn't want to sell his home and move to Covington. He and his partner care very much about the future of New Orleans and want to contribute to the rebuilding process in a more immediate way (they've already been contributing from afar very generously.)

His big fear is that the "Gods of Texas" won't let him come home, and he wrote this piece. I felt it was important that we remember those who are trying to get home, and the sacrifices they made and will continue to make in that quest. I also love the image of him in gaudy cowboy boots with candles burning. I believe he is rethinking the longhorns attached to the grille.

The Gods of Texas

The Gods of Texas are flat-out mean-spirited.

I first noticed that Texas has a way of not letting people leave easily when my husband was able to return home six months ago, and I drove with him to Baton Rouge the weekend before he started his new job. We sat in traffic for EIGHT HOURS between Houston and Beaumont (a trip that usually only takes about an hour and a half). That's a long time to sit and wonder why you're not moving forward. Enough time to start thinking there are dark and malevolent forces at work. Enough time to think about our other friends whose liberation from post-Katrina Texas purgatory was also difficult. Two friends who skidded off the road in a torrential downpour about five miles outside Winnie. Another whose rear axle shattered as she crossed the desert headed to a new life. And then for my husband's exodus, there we were: stuck in traffic worse than the Evacuation, hungry, bladders ready to burst, and burning through the reserve tank of gas at an alarming rate. Clearly, Texas doesn't like to let go. As I contemplated whether I should just pee in a cup and dump it out the window like we did sitting in Contraflow traffic on the Bonnet Carre Spillway early that Sunday morning, I came to a horrifying realization: Texas had given all of these people a really hard time getting out, and they hadn't even done anything to anger the Gods. They always defended Texas when I would go on a tirade about how soulless and uncouth was this place that I had started calling "Helltown" early on.

The least charitable thing any of them had ever said about Texas was when D explained her snap decision to quit her Houston job and move to California by saying, "I knew I had to get out of here when I realized Texas was growing on me – like mold." And she ended up stuck at an AAMCO station in the middle of the desert for three days getting her axle replaced. I have made it my raison d'etre for over a year now to malign and sully the name of this fucking Hell Hole to anyone willing to listen (or just too stunned, drunk, or polite to flee my outbursts). Sitting in that car in the middle of the East Texas flatlands, I began to wonder what special torture the Gods of Texas would have in store for me when I finally tried to escape. I still had to sell the house, find a new job, and move all our household, never mind the actual travel – any one of these endeavors could be the perfect channel for those vindictive deities to serve me a Texas-sized platter of come-uppance.

I didn't put much thought into what I should do about my impending battle with the Cowboy Gods for several months; the date of my emancipation seemed distant enough not to cause worry, and besides, I had Carnival Season to keep me busy (note: I have been able to prove that the Gods of Texas don't impede passage if they know you're coming back in a few days.) After Mardi Gras, we put the house on the market, and miraculously, we received a break-even offer on the house we owned just over a year. There's one thing the Gods of Texas won't hang me up with. I quit my job in HellTown, and have interviews lined up in Louisiana. I don't think the Texas Gods can influence the hiring process once I am across the State line, so that's one more area in which I think I am safe. I have resigned myself to losing all of our furniture in the moving truck to some mishap, but that loss will be insured. I can pack all the irreplaceables in the car with me, just like I did when we evacuated – after Katrina, I know exactly the items I do not want to leave behind ever again.

I am actually really nervous that the Gods seem to be narrowing the scope of their attack. That makes me believe they're going to deliver a quick knockout punch. Running over one of my cats on the way out the driveway, maybe, or the car catching on fire. Very possibly a heart-attack as I drive down I-10.

In an effort to placate the Gods, I have changed my tune lately; I have learned to two-step. I bought some country music CDs. I have eaten beef barbecue. I bought a tall votive candle with the word "TEXAS" painted on it, along with a big Lone Star and tacky, stylized cowboy boots. It has been burning on my bedside table for three days now. Since so many of my worries revolve around my physical liberation and the road leading to it, I decided to make the ultimate show of good faith: I bought a pair of genuine Texas Longhorns to mount on the grille of my car. (How did we ever live before eBay?) I am little troubled, though, at the thought that I might just be digging my own grave. I can just see myself cruising East on that final sweet morning and some hair-line fracture in my less-than-professional mounting job causes the longhorns either to fall onto the raod, puncture a tire, and send me careening into a bayou, or better yet -- fly through the windshield and impale me to my seat.

I confided my plans to a friend last week who approved of my strategy to offer pennance to the Texas Gods, but pointed out that I should also notify the spirits of my beloved Louisiana that another one of their lost children is coming back to the fold, and ask their assistance. I have made a phone call to the 504 area code to get my supernatural prescription. I have burned, buried, written, scattered, eaten and fed all the right things, according to a Louisiana perspective. The last piece of the puzzle is where you all come in. I need you all to think of the people who belong in New Orleans but aren't sitting with you tonight. Remember those who need to move on, but encourage those who want to come home. Celebrate those who make it back.

The Gods of Texas are only scary when you have to face them alone.


Sophmom said...

This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing it with us. I've been following all of the discussion about Blakely's remarks with interest. It's been a fine dialogue, with many thoughtful perspectives, this one among them. I thought the long email you wrote about the brouhaha was one of the very best. I'm just catching up here. You've been hot, Slate.

Leigh C. said...

Gives new meaning to "The Eyes of Texas", don't it?