Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Part 20: Yankee Fever

Part Twenty: Yankee Fever

I'm on my third glass of wine, or is it my fourth? There's a full moon, so I feel justified celebrating this milestone with another glass of California's best export, especially from my current vantage point. I'm not in Chicago or Dallasor California, for that matterbut in a tiny village on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the height of blue-blood Yankee culture.

The Boston Bruins, the local favorites, are hoping to win the Stanley Cup tonight for the first time since those weird years between the '60s and '70s know as the "Nixon era," but as a native Texan my true interest in hockey is only slightly greater than European soccer or the Strongest Man in the World competitions on ESPN. That is to say, I'll passively watch it if it's on TV, but I won't bother to seek out a sports bar and watch the game as if my very life depended on it as I would a college football or Dallas Cowboys game. (NB: I left Dallas before the Stars moved there, and as a Chicago resident I only follow the Blackhawks when they're winning. I know, I'm a fair-weather fan. So be it. After all, what kind of sport has only three periods?)

Ever since I arrived in Boston three days ago I've had a nagging headache, which is likely caused by allergies to the local flora, and it won't go away. Of course, the three (or four?) glasses of Pinot Gris won't likely help my cause much. Perhaps I'm allergic to the slower pace of life on the Cape. Or perhaps I'm having trouble clearing my head after a hectic day, which took me through a layover at New York's dreaded LaGuardia airport, arguably the grittiest, unfriendliest, most annoying airport in America. (Miami's airport is a close second, followed by O'Hare.) I'm definitely allergic to NYC and especially to its hellish airport, and after a bit more deliberation I concludewith absolutely no scientific basis to support my conclusionthat my lingering headache is due to my two hour sojourn at LaGuardia.

Anyway, I'm out here on the Cape trying to embrace the New England lifestyle. After gorging on a sublime lobster roll and throwing back a pint of locally brewed IPA for dinner at the Chatham Squire, an authentic pub replete with nautical theme and shabby chic old money clientele that feels almost too stereotypically Cape Cod to be real, I'm watching the moonrise on the still waters of Buzzard's Bay. The moon seems larger than usual, and its affect on the tides can be heard as waves begin lapping the shore before me. The evening breeze brings a slight chill to the air and the hypnotic sights and sounds on this cool June evening are as poetic as a passage by Thoreau. We're definitely not in Dallas anymore, Toto.

Still, my headache persists.

Does my Texanism Trump my Americanism?

As a Texan I have complicated feelings about New England. I love the foodespecially fresh seafoodand I'm drawn to the rich history, not to mention the gorgeous landscape, of this region. Yet, when I think of the revolutionary period and our nation's struggle for independence my mind goes in two directions. On one hand, I think of founders and revolutionaries like Adams, Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and Hamilton in 18th century Boston and Philadelphia fighting for independence and crafting a new constitution. And on the other hand, my thoughts drift to names like Bowie, Crockett, Austin and Houston, am I reminded that Texas celebrates an independence day as well (on March 2, for those who care). Okay. I realize the two events hardly compare in the grand scale of history, and one almost certainly wouldn't be possible without the other. Still, I'm an unapologetic 7th generation Texan full of Lone Star pride. Too full, my wife and (Chicago) friends would (rightly) argue.

So this leads to the following question: am I more Texan than American? Put another way: does my Texanism trump my Americanism?

After all, Texas did start as a Republic, and unlike the other 49 states, we entered the Union by treaty. Moreover, we fly the Lone Star flag parallel to the stars and stripes at the Capitol in Austin rather than subordinate to it. And just for kicks, our constitution allows Texas to break into five separate states should we be so inclined. (Think about it: that's ten senators with oversized personalities, each with a Texas-centric perspective and a pair of Lucchese's)

Unfortunately, just thinking like this makes me sound like Rick Perry or some cooky Texas secessionist with too much gun rack and too little grey matter. Still, it's an interesting question, at least to me, and my response is somewhat reminiscent to that of the Marine's when asked about his code, i.e. his hierarchy of loyalties: "unit, core, God, country." My personal hierarchy is, in order: Texan, American, Elvis Presley fan. (Elvis, you ask? One man's "Semper Fi" is another man's "Suspicious Minds.")

In Chicago, many of my friends would claim to be American first, then Irish or Polish, followed by Chicagoan. Notre Dame alumni are the exceptions to the rule: they start and stop with the golden dome. Judging by the number of Red Sox Nation bumper stickers I witnessed on the Cape Highway from Boston, it would appear folks in this neck of the woods are Red Sox fans first, Americans second.

New England culture is so exotic to me that when I'm here I often feel as though I'm in another countryan ironic emotion considering I'm just a few miles from Plymouth Rock and no more than an hour from Boston, the birthplace of the American Revolution. Yet, foreign though it may feel, it's actually quite comfortable, except for this nagging headache, of course.

Then there's the question of sports. New England is decidedly more appealing than many regions of the U.S. with respect to its sports teams, though I'm no fan of the Pats, Celtics, Red Sox, or Boston College, not to mention the Bruins. Still, these New England franchises are vastly more palatable than so many other sports programs around the country, including every team from the Sunshine State.

The accents of folks here are frankly no stranger than those of my Lone Star brethren, though Bostonians speak much more rapidly. It's not quite as openly friendly here as New Englanders don't like to emote as freely as we Texans. Still, I think I could spend some time on the Cape and feel quite contented. I could definitely stay and enjoy a few more oysters, chowder and lobster rolls.

It's Wicked Hard Being a Texpatriate

The longer I'm away from Texasfrom homethe more comfortable I become living in strange and foreign lands. Could I live in New England? Sure...just as easily as Chicago. With time and experience I continue to become ever more adaptable to life outside the Lone Star Nation.

Except Florida and a few spots in the deep south and Midwest, I could probably live just about anywhere in the U.S. Yet, this nagging itch to return home will likely always be with me, even if I never act upon it. Likely, I will continue to sublimate my desires to live in Texas into more rambling observations in this clearly self-absorbed blog.

In the meantime, I think I'll pour another drink and try to get past this persistent headache while I gaze out at the calm waters of the Cape...