H-E-B 101

I will never be “a Texan” like I was “a New Yorker.” Not that I wouldn’t want to be a Texan. I’m simply not allowed to be.

Of course, that’s not exactly true, as many on Quora and elsewhere point out. Being “a Texan” is more a state of mind that, for instance, compels the non-Texan to say, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could!” It’s a willingness to identify.

Perhaps I’m experiencing Statehood Dysphoria.

People who come to the Big Apple, on the other hand, consider themselves New Yorkers after some quirky milestone or major event, such as:

  • They find themselves no longer looking up at the buildings.
  • They take the subway more often than they take cabs, and they never take the bus unless forced to, because it slows you down.
  • They find themselves annoyed when tourists who are walking on the sidewalk drift left or right out of their “lanes” and into their paths. (So annoying. “Get the F@#K out the way!”)
  • They lived through 9/11.
  • They fold their slice of pizza lengthwise and eat it while walking, quickly, careful to avoid the drifting tourists who are busy looking up at the buildings. They never order pizza with broccoli or pineapple on it.
  • They got mugged and still renewed their lease.
  • When going to their parents’ house outside the city for the holidays, they return to the city, throw their keys onto the coffee table, flop on the sofa and think, “it’s good to be home.”

There is a length of time or an event or series of events that will cause the transplant to say one day, “I am a real New Yorker.” Some of these will stay; some will move. Of those who move, most will cease to call themselves “New Yorkers.” They might opt for, “Oh, well, you know—I’ve lived all over.”

For a non-Texan to move to Texas, it’s like a foreign word coming into the French lexicon. It happens seldomly. At least not without a full background check on pedigree or certain qualifying attributes (one was born here but as an infant was whisked away criminally, etc.). I mean, “Le Breakdance” really doesn’t sound French now, does it? Is it possible that occasionally the State agencies at work might make a mistake and let in a forever-foreign element? I worry.

When I first came to Texas, I apparently needed an introduction to the way things are done. Or, more to the point, what real grocery stores look like.

My fiancée at the time, Karen strolled me up and down row after row of copious food and copious people. Our cart was the size of a Chevy Suburban. The aisles’ end caps were wider than the span of Bevo’s horns. Karen recalled and lamented the narrow New York City grocery store aisles with shoppers inching toward each in a slow-mo game of “chicken,” and then we came to the dairy section. In front of us was a forty-foot long refrigerated case filled to the brim with Pillsbury products. Orange rolls. Croissants. Grands. Etc. and etc. I imagined a polite, red-shirted stockboy must have come every couple minutes to replenish the inventory. Labels were facing out. The case itself was clean and humming.

“Now this,” she pronounced with a sweep of her arm, “is a biscuit aisle!”

Jimmy Dean sausage, rarely found in New York City grocery stores, plentiful in Kerrville, TX.

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