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Q: I live in Arkansas but recently visited Port Aransas with my family for our summer vacation. We had never been to the Texas coast and were really looking forward to the trip, but it turned out that what could have been four beautiful days on the beach were marred by all the traffic! On the beach! Why on earth is driving allowed on Texas beaches? It’s not safe.
The Porters, Little Rock, Arkansas
Holly Johnson, Dallas
A: Yes, Holly Johnson, it turns out that you can get hitched at the grand old pink-granite statehouse. The Texanist asked, and it is indeed allowed. Actually, the rules are somewhat loosey-goosey. You don’t need written permission and you won’t have to pay a fee, but since the building is, as it happens, the seat of our state government, it is a very busy place and cannot be reserved for the purpose of your nuptials. This goes for both the interior and the exterior, which means that an affair of any real size is out of the question. Also, booze is prohibited (but not firearms!). However, the Texanist, who has now exchanged his advice-giver hat for his wedding-planner hat, has already decided that we don’t want to do the event there anyway. If it is a truly Texas-style affair that you are envisioning, which is to say possibly a little raucous, then the Capitol, even though it is itself prone to fits of raucousness when the Legislature is in session, is just not the venue we’re looking for. But there’s no need to panic! Austin is a great destination for a wedding, so before you go all bridezilla on him, the Texanist has another option to run by you. Have you ever heard of the Texas Chili Parlor? It’s a short walk from the Capitol, stays open late, and has been known to tolerate many forms of rambunctious behavior. It also has a back room, a full bar, very few rules, and hot chili; further, it’s across the street from a hotel, appears in the great Guy Clark song “Dublin Blues,” and was, many years ago, the setting for one of Gary Cartwright’s weddings. What more could you need?
Q: What are skinny margaritas, and who should or shouldn’t be drinking them?
A: Often purported as a Texas invention, the classic margarita, in its purest, most unadulterated incarnation—as opposed to the lime-juiceless margs made from sugary mixes for consumption by college students—is the best chilled tequila-based drink to ever pass the Texanist’s parched lips. Such margaritas make for a perfectly refreshing accompaniment to a hot Texas evening. An evening just like this one, in fact. Excuse the Texanist for one moment, will you? [Editors’ note: The Texanist’s first draft of this month’s column ended here, and initial attempts to reach him regarding the whereabouts of the remaining material were unsuccessful. However, thanks to an apparently inadvertent 45-minute-long message left on his editor’s voicemail containing only the sounds of splashing liquor, clinking ice, shaking, pouring, and off-key humming of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” he was finally located and brought to the office. The following “advice” was subsequently squeezed out of him, like so many drops of juice from an old and pithy lime. We offer it for what it’s worth.] Advice? You want more advice? Look, the Texanist told you that he doesn’t have any more time for advice. He’s busy with a very important project this afternoon, and he needs to get back to the, uh, lab. Pronto! Listen up, you. What if you knew that right now you were putting at risk a serious scientific advancement? Because that’s what you are doing. The Texanist is on the brink—and this is not to be repeated by or to anyone—but the Texanist is on the brink of ascertaining the precise formula for el supremo, the mother of all margaritas. ¡La madre de todos las goddam margaritas! Do you comprehende? Hey, what happened to the Texanist’s shirt? Never mind. See, traditionally you mix tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau on a 1.5-to-1-to-.5 ratio, and then you shake it, salt the rim, yadda yadda yadda. But the Texanist is working on some brand-new methods—some recipes that cannot be presently discussed. With anyone! We’re talking about variations that could revolutionize the whole idea of the margarita, but they must be tested. And retested! And yet here you are, dragging the Texanist into the office at this ungodly hour of two in the afternoon to answer what is frankly a rather silly question. What’s a skinny margarita? Nothing more than the delicious original rebranded for the modern health-conscious imbiber. Of course, calling it that is unnecessary, since a margarita should always be served as the simple, no-frills, and relatively low-calorie alcoholic concoction God intended. At least until the Texanist finishes his landmark research. Now if you’ll excuse him, he simply must get back to his work.
The Texanist’s Little-Known Fact of the Month:
The lightning whelk, the state shell of Texas, is known to scientists as Busycon perversum pulleyi. Busycon, which comes from the Greek word for “large fig,” describes the shape. Perversum, from the Latin word for “turned the wrong way,” refers to the unusual left-sided opening. And pulleyi derives from the name of the late Texas teacher, naturalist, and malacologist Dr. T.E. Pulley.