Later this summer I will be visiting Texas. More than likely, I’ll be wearing a cowboy hat, wandering in and out of shops, and carrying on with the kind of loopy, carefree attitude one expects from someone suffering a heat stroke. Six of the hottest cities in the U.S. are located in Texas, which is why, on an average day, an estimated 15,000 armadillos attempt suicide on Texas highways — in many cases, by strapping old Dixie Chicks CDs to their backs in order to increase their chances of being run over.
I actually lived in Texas for six years. I am familiar with its August atmosphere. Which is why I have been preparing myself by breathing directly from the end of a hair drier each night for the last six weeks. I can now last a solid 15 minutes on “high heat” which, during an average day, is longer than most Texans spend breathing air that isn’t being piped through some type of cooling system. In fact, the majority of hustle and bustle in downtown Dallas isn’t caused by a steady exchange of commerce interacting to sustain a thriving economic base. No. It’s actually made up of people frantically hurrying from one air conditioned building to another, trying to avoid prolonged exposure to the sidewalks, which could potentially melt the soles of their Justin ropers, and reduce their $800 ostrich skin boots to a pair of decorative shin guards.
So, knowing all this, why am I going to Texas? For the same reason many of us find ourselves doing things we wouldn’t normally do, at least not without liberal amounts of beer or the promise of buried treasure (Or, as is often the case, both): I’m talking, of course, about friends.
Dallas and Waco, two of the six hottest cities in the U.S., are home to long-time friends, all of whom have been asking me to visit since the 90’s. And by that I mean the last time it got below 100 degrees. You see, we coastal Oregonians put on flip-flops and tank tops once the temperature reaches 65 degrees. At 75 degrees, we instinctively move to a shaded area and remain there, in a fetal position, until help arrives. Several years ago it actually reached 85 degrees along the Oregon coast. As expected, many people panicked and dozens were treated — mostly for frostbite — after climbing inside the freezer displays at local supermarkets. To this day, I still can’t reach for a frozen Popsicle without the image of Bill and his frozen…
Well, never mind.
All that matters is that he is now happily married to Annette, who proposed right there in the freezer aisle.
Yesterday, my friend called from Dallas to confirm my arrival date, run through a list of things we could do during my visit and, most importantly, let me know it was 104 degrees — which, after factoring in the heat index, meant he needed to hang up because his pool boiled over. Like most Texans, he met this crisis with the concerned demeanor of someone reading the ingredients on a bag of flour. My theory is that heat is the main reason for the distinctively slow Texas drawl; when it’s that hot, even your mouth is too tired to do anything but look for shade.
That isn’t to say I’m not looking forward to this trip. In the end, no matter hot it is, paying a visit to my friends in Texas is long overdue. The trick, of course, will be making it back before I’m overdone.