Just after seven a.m. on January 6, as Texans awakened to one of the coldest mornings in years, an email and social media alert went out from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas: “Reduce electric use now. Risk of power outages exist throughout Texas. Power warning in effect.” The last time a hard freeze gripped Texas so tightly, in February 2011, power blackouts rolled across much of the state as ERCOT, which operates the state’s power grid, struggled to meet the demand.
In April, when Google announced that it had decided to bring its superfast Google Fiber Internet service to Austin, you could almost hear the city’s population toggle over to Facebook en masse and click “Like.” Two years earlier, after more than a thousand communities had entered the contest to be the first to get Fiber, the so-called Silicon Hills had lost out to, of all places, Kansas City, Missouri.
J. C. Penney is the stuff of American business legend. Founded more than a century ago in a small Wyoming town by a man with a name tailor-made for retail—James Cash Penney—it built a reputation for quality and value, weathering the Great Depression and becoming one of the country’s preeminent department stores. The chain, which relocated to Plano in 1992, is the largest Texas-based retailer in the country. It has 1,100 stores nationwide, $13 billion in annual sales, and 116,000 employees.
If you pass through Van Horn, you might be surprised to encounter the beautiful and historic Hotel El Capitan, which was purchased in 2007 by Lanna and Joe Duncan—the same couple responsible for the El Paisano Hotel in Marfa—and renovated to the tune of $2.5 million. Unlike Marfa, whose quirky charms have made it a popular tourist destination, Van Horn is a sparse town with a population of under 2,000. It's within a few hours of both Big Bend and Carlsbad Caverns, but there's little that makes Van Horn, whose per-capita income is $13,775, an obvious location for a higher-end hotel with an upscale restaurant/bar on its ground floor. But if you spend an evening in the Hotel El Capitan bar, you're likely to get your first clue: There will probably be some contractors who work with Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin aerospace company enjoying steaks and watching basketball, before heading out in the morning to install, say, a liquid nitrogen system at the "Corn Ranch" facility that Blue Origin operates nearby.
Bezos owns 290,000 acres of West Texas property just outside of Van Horn. On the one hand, that's awesome: Space exploration is fascinating and if a multi-billionaire wants to spend a bunch of money figuring out new and better ways to go to outer space, well, there are a lot of less interesting things he could be doing with that money. Science is cool and there's something nice about the fact that five decades after the Apollo Program began, the home of space exploration is still Texas.
On the other hand, here's a 2006 story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about what Bezos is like as a neighbor:
Here's how a person get recruited into the world of gay porn, according to a completely bonkers story about one such recruit—a 26-year-old man from San Antonio named John William Snavely—from the Houston Press:
He was stripping at several gay clubs in his hometown of San Antonio. One night, an older customer sidled up to the stage where the young Sylvester Stallone lookalike was gyrating in a baseball hat, sneakers and underwear. ...Soon Snavely found himself talking to the stranger's associate: a South Florida porn recruiter named Justin Caro, better known as Baileey.
Baileey was himself a former gay-porn star who now excelled at enticing young hunks from across America into similar careers. Listening to his pitch, Snavely was polite but confident, asking questions about how much money he could make in South Florida. "John knew how to sell himself," Baileey says. "Whether it was stripping or porn, he knew what his best attributes were."
It would take several months of flying to San Antonio for Baileey to persuade Snavely to appear in gay porn. Despite dancing for men, Snavely insisted he was straight. But Baileey nonetheless saw in him the makings of a star.
"I've been in the business for 21 years, so I pretty much know what people are looking for," he says. "John had a universal look: good-looking, clean-cut, white guy, no tattoos, well-endowed. That's exactly what the industry wants."
In the end, the offer was too tempting for Snavely — a poor kid from the wrong side of San Antonio — to ignore. He flew to Los Angeles for his first porn shoots. Then he moved to Fort Lauderdale in early 2010, staying in what Baileey called his "model house," a low-slung three-bedroom home in Searstown.
Snavely's not the subject of a longform story strictly because the world of gay porn and how a person enters it is so compelling—though it certainly is that—but because the life that he found himself living once he got to South Florida led him to genuinely shocking and horrifying situations—of which, according to police, he was the perpetrator.
As I Pay Dying