Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's A Nice Girl Like Me...

Playing in the background: The air conditioner. Yep, it's summer again.

Why Texas? Good question. I actually hadn't thought about that in quite a while, but somebody asked me on Twitter why a nice liberal lesbian Buddhist-Lutheran on a mission to end suffering in the world would want to move from California (God's country) to the buckle of the Bible Belt and be the only person on her block who voted for Obama. (Well, that's not completely true; the folks across the street had an Obama sign on their lawn.) Part of the answer is simple. Joan got a job here, so here we are. The rest of the answer is more complicated. I mean, it wasn't my choice to move here (though I was all in favor), but thus far, it's my choice to stay.

See, we lived in San Diego, which is a nice town, beautiful weather, fine people and all that, a little conservative by California standards (lots of retired military folks around), and very very very very very effing expensive. I mean unbelievably pricey. Joan made really good money at her job there. I really didn't, but that wasn't unusual; salaries in San Diego tend to be about 20% lower than salaries everywhere else in California even though prices are comparatively higher. We used to call this the paradise tax. It's no joke, though. I was getting around $35,000 a year as a legal secretary. I could have made $42, maybe even $45,000 in L.A. doing the same work. But between the two of us we were bringing in more money than God and still starving. Well, not literally, but it was getting silly. When you're just shy of six total figures and you're still having to charge your groceries at the end of the month there's something seriously wrong. So when Joan got fed up with the powers that be and started looking around, the Midwest was an obvious choice. (Believe me, if I'd been unemployed in San Diego, we'd be living in a cardboard box right about now. With Internet access. Well, a girl can dream.)

It was almost Lubbock. I kid you not. You know that tall pointy part of Texas that sticks up into Oklahoma near Nebraska? Lubbock's kind of in there somewhere. There's not much there apart from Texas Tech, where the job was. But I was willing to give it the old college try. I mean, you know, Bible under one arm, shotgun under the other, shellin' peas on the front porch and all that, what the hell. Still, I was really relieved when it turned out to be Dallas instead. I mean, Dallas is a big town (that thinks it's Chicago, but I digress). There's a lot going on here. And yeah, there's the rednecks and the Bible belters and the far-right whackoes, but they have those in California, too. Yea verily, even in San Diego.

So again, why Texas. Well, here I am. We have a nice little house here. It costs about a third of what we were paying in SanD for an 800-square-foot condo. We have good friends. I have (had) a good job, and will have another. But, really, the best thing about Dallas? People. Everybody's really, really, really nice.

I mean it. You won't get this until you come here for a while and then leave to go elsewhere. I went to visit my sister in Las Vegas about six months after we moved here and was taken aback at how rude everybody was. From the waiter at the posh casino restaurant to the guy next to you in line at the airport, the whole town seemed to have a massive chip on its shoulder. I asked my sister about this and she said, "No, they're not rude. Everybody in Texas is just nice." She's right. By comparison, Mother Theresa herself would seem a bit abrupt.

Now, there are those cynical folks out there who might argue that Southerners (and Texas is part of the South, however much it might think it's really Montana) are only nice to your face and shred you behind your back. I ain't sayin' one way or another. But there's a whole lot of value in being nice, even if it's just surface niceness. Niceness makes other people feel good. When other people feel good, they are nice to others who in turn feel good and are nice to others and and and. It's all very Buddhist-y, in a way.

Don't get me wrong. Texas has its Issues. Hell, we have the whole back run of the subscription -- governors who want us to secede from the union, otherwise-intelligent folks who still think this is a good idea, don't get me started about recognition of gay marriages, and the list goes on. But ya know, niceness is a good place to start. I'd rather live in Dallas than New York, howdya like them apples? And I've never even been to New York, except to change planes once. Which was pretty cool.

Side note: If the new flu has genes from both pigs and birds, it's kind of misleading to call it the swine flu, don't you think? We ought to call it the "pigs with wings flu." I'm just sayin'.

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