Each June, the gay pride parade surges down Westheimer Road, packing more than 200,000 celebrants into Montrose, the Houston neighborhood that nurtured and sustained the gay community when it was young and embattled and just emerging from the shadows.
A steady stream of books about Texas is published every year, yet to date no one has written a history of the transformations that our cities have undergone in the past forty years. But perhaps no one needs to. That history can already be found in the archives of this magazine. Looking through the first 480 issues of Texas Monthly in chronological order, one can witness the profound shifts of the past four decades in vivid detail.
A great capital city, most everyone would agree, should be representative of the state or nation over which it presides. It should be preeminent not only in size but also in learning, power, and wealth. You might say a capital should be a state or nation’s one indispensable city, the sort of hub that back in the Cold War days was on the short list of places the Russkies would nuke if they had only a few warheads to toss our way.
In Texas, that city is not Austin.
In 1968, five years before this magazine was born, I published—with Bill and Sally Wittliff’s elegant, Austin-based Encino Press—a slim book of essays called In a Narrow Grave, a title derived from a well-known range cattle ballad, “The Dying Cowboy.” No New York publisher had the slightest interest in the book. The dying cowboy of the lament asked his comrades to fling a handful of roses o’er his grave and pray the Lord his soul to save.
Yesterday, The New York Times featured a story on a new breed of bars popping up around the United States: charitable bars. The newspaper noted that a “new generation of beer halls dedicated to something beyond the cash register is cropping up around the nation and the world, with proceeds going not into an owner’s wallet but to charity…”
One of the philanthropic bars mentioned in the story included the Original OKRA Charity Saloon, which opened in Houston last month. Every month, the bar allows patrons to vote which Houston-based charity should receive the bar’s proceeds from that month.
It may not come as a surprise for many of you who spend hours every day stuck in Austin, Dallas, or Houston traffic that a recent survey by Men’s Health magazine listed these cities as having some of the country’s most dangerous drivers.
The March 2012 issue of Men’s Fitness includes the magazine’s first “America’s Fattest Cities” survey since 2009, and yes … Houston, we have a problem. (We hate that cliché, too, but Men’s Fitness itself already claimed the stock “everything’s bigger” joke.)
As Nate Millard’s feature (which is not yet available online) began:
I walked into Underbelly the other night and straight into a bear hug from chef-owner Chris Shepherd. And I wasn’t the only one. Every woman that the extroverted Houston chef had ever met before, plus random strangers who were looking a little jealous, also received a hug. I’m not sure what male customers got, maybe a fist bump, possibly a headlock.