home state of Texas has recently become a national punching bag for
politicians and pundits after Mother Nature gave the Lone Star State
a giant frozen wedgie in the form of a week-long record winter storm
that caused widespread suffering from power outages, water shortages
and the closure of most Mexican restaurants.
Speaking of Mexican food, much of the problem stemmed from the failure
of electrical utilities managed by an organization known as ERCOT,
which is also a noise I sometimes make after I've had the Burrito
Supreme Combo meal from Taco Bell. Apparently, the power grid couldn't
find its rarely-used long underwear in time to avoid the embarrassing
ravages of lingering frigid temperatures usually restricted to more
arctic regions-like Oklahoma.
And as CNN has gleefully made sure you've heard by now, Senator Ted
Cruz inadvertently provided more ammo to Texaphobics by making a politically-damaging
escape to Cancun with his family during the crisis, presumably to
keep from going completely Jack Nicholson-bonkers as the lone representative
of the dude gender trapped in the house with his wife and two pre-teen
daughters. As a father of three teenage girls myself, I must admit
that after a few days of witnessing their boyfriend withdrawal symptoms
and acute TikTokaholism, I caught myself fantasizing about stowing
away in Ted's carry-on luggage.
On the coldest night in my part of the state, the temperature reached
an unprecedented -5°F (that's Fahrenheit to readers not familiar with
the biblical temperature scale). And although the good Lord spared
my family from any real harm, we did experience frozen water lines
to two sinks and one commode in my daughters' bathroom, which meant
that my own private restroom time was constantly at risk of interruption
by a mob of pets (as usual) and various adolescent girl children.
Since the roads were iced over, and I don't own a vehicle designed
for navigating harsh terrain to retrieve a deer carcass, we were relegated
to domestic pursuits-namely eating. Fortunately, I had joined the
frantic hoards at Walmart in the days leading up to the storm, stocking
up on necessities laden with carbs, artificial flavors, nitrates and
In defiance of the freezing weather, we shamelessly indulged in comfort
foods like chicken n' dumplings, fettuccini Alfredo, biscuits and
gravy, Belgian waffles, and cheese enchiladas. Then we sat around
the roaring fireplace will full tummies, enjoying our family time
together and listening to the gentle sound of our arteries hardening.
Because we eventually ran out of milk and eggs (and we wanted to see
what frostbitten nostrils feel like), my wife and middle daughter
joined me on a treacherous trudge across the East Texas tundra to
a nearby grocery store. What began as a diverting adventure soon turned
sour, though, when we found the shelves empty of just about everything
other than almond milk, Coke Zero and those giant clear plastic jars
of cheese balls. To make matters worse, our daughter suddenly realized
that we also had to walk back home, and there's nothing crankier than
a teenager walking uphill in the snow and ice with a shopping bag
full of imitation dairy beverages.
Hardly a week after the extraordinary winter storm began, the melt
was on-sending temperatures flirting with a humid and armpit-ravaging
80°F. Texas definitely took a somewhat understandable black-eye over
its response to this once-in-a-generation weather event, sending the
political posturing and investigations in full swing. But maintaining
their usual sense of resiliency and exceptionalism, Texans pulled
together in countless ways to help one another survive.
I thank God that I live in the USA-and especially Texas. It ain't
perfect, and there's always room to improve, but anybody who has vacationed
in Cancun (or anywhere else beyond state lines) will tell you, "There's
no place like home-even when it's -5°F."