Texans are naturally friendly folks. When we moved from California to the Lone Star State we were absolutely shocked by their welcoming natures. Couldn’t believe it. It was just too good to be true. We were constantly on guard waiting for the moment when we would finally figure out the scam they seemed to be perpetrating on us.
Let me explain in my typical way — with a long, overly-wordy story that seems completely unrelated, but really isn’t.
On our first day in Beijing, China we got a little lost while walking from our hotel to the Forbidden City, so we stopped on the sidewalk and looked around for a someone who looked likely to help. We spotted a young Chinese woman standing nearby and I said, “I think a younger person would be more likely to speak English, so let’s ask her.”
Jamie approached her and asked if she spoke English. “Yes,” she said. “Are you Americans?”
She told us she was headed in the direction of the Forbidden City, and asked if she could tag along with us and practice her English. We said we would be delighted to have her company.
She quickly told us that she was an artist. “My art is being shown in an art gallery today,” she told us. “I would be honored if you would come to see my work.”
We didn’t really want to, but she had been kind enough to lead us toward the Forbidden City and we didn’t want to be rude, so we agreed to accompany her.
We entered the gallery and the young woman introduced us to her “art teacher,” and then disappeared into a back room. He immediately began a high pressure sales pitch, telling us how much we could help this poor student if only we would just purchase one of her paintings at an exorbitant price.
It was clearly a scam. As soon as we looked disinclined to make a purchase, she emerged from the back room into which she had disappeared. We quickly realized that she was a shill and had probably painted nothing in the gallery. So we thanked her very much, told her that her work was beautiful, but that none of it would really work in our brand new house in Texas, and made our escape.
The next day we were walking in the same neighborhood when I asked a young Chinese man for directions. He immediately said, “Are you Americans?”
For some reason, maybe it was just the way he said it, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I knew that we were seeing an instant replay of the previous day’s scam.
Without giving him a chance to go into his spiel, I went on offense and said, “Are you an artist?”
“Yes,” he said. “How did you know?”
“Because I’m also an artist. I’m a writer. And I always know another artist when I see one. I could just tell that you are an artist.”
He was blown away. So was Jamie, but in a different way. I could see her giving me that what-the-hell-are-you-doing? glare.
Since I was on a roll, I kept going. “Yes, you’re an artist. I think maybe you’re a painter.”
He was officially freaked out by this.
“Yes. Yes. I’m a painter.”
“Of course, you are,” I said, “I can always recognize another artist. Is there somewhere nearby, maybe a gallery, where we can see your art?”
He was dumbfounded. He must have thought he had just reeled in the biggest suckers of the year.
“Yes. My art is in a gallery just around the corner.”
“Oh, I wish we could see your work today, but we’re just so very busy. Could we come and see it tomorrow?”
“Yes, you can. It’s just around the corner. I will give you the address.”
“That’s wonderful,” I said. “We will be there tomorrow at eleven o’clock. Will you be there? Yes? Oh, good. Very good. We can’t wait to see your work.”
I pulled out a pen and a piece of paper, handed it to him, and asked him to write down his name and the address of the gallery — which, of course, was exactly the same gallery we had been in the day before — and promised him we would be there the following day.
Of course, we did not show up.
The point of all this? The Chinese were all exceptionally friendly, but always seemed to be selling something.
But Texans are completely different. They’re happy. Friendly. Smiling. Cheerful. Eager to do anything they can to help you and expect absolutely nothing in return.
I am, I admit, a cynical son of a bitch and it’s unlike me to gush needlessly. But after six years in Texas, I think I’m safe in saying that the state is beautiful, but the people are even more beautiful.
We’ll be home on June 19. See y’all.